This makes the 3rd blog in a row I do about music and their steady strong relationship with videogames. Boy howdy! Perhaps it's time I vent out all my need for blogs of this type (ya know, for the sake of variety) by just doing a long, though relatively straightforward, editorial on a good handful of my favorite videogame tracks of all the time ever.
I've searched through the inmost parts of my soul and YouTube to bring you one hell of a list that you will either enjoy or absolutely love. I'm here to invade your ears. All your senses are belong to me. So grab some pop and candy, open that bin of Vaseline and, for the love of God, turn up your speakers.
"Horses Steppin" - Hotline Miami
Upon hearing this track start up, I thought "Videogame, what the hell are you doing to me? What's up with you? I can't read your title screen, the colors are fucking tripping me out and I'm hearing what sounds like something I'd hear coming from my neighbor's back porch. That guy does a lot of hemp.".
Astoundingly, 10 plus minutes... of whatever this is keeps me interested throughout. It doesn't deviate much from that initial bass riff and drum loop, but the intricate layering is where this song shines. Ambient vocals, infectious synth chords, echoing guitar licks and anything else the artist(s) can throw in there. It all seems to click and it's interesting at the least. You could argue this song sticks too close to the cheap mindset of "Give it tons of echo/reverb and it suddenly sounds totally deep and beautiful.", but I personally find it genuine.
I would've put Silver Lights here instead if that smashing bass line hadn't ended so soon.
This is the only song on this list from a game I have yet to play. While Persona 4 seems like an interesting game, it also seems like the kind of game I'd risk finding incredibly boring. Despite, I'm working my way up to finally taking the plunge. Soon enough it will be mine.
But, for the time being, I'm greatly enjoying the music. This particular song makes incredible use of melody and harmony. Oh, especially the harmonies. Where some singers use harmonies ad nauseum to hide their imperfections or just make their voice sound more "awesome" than it really is without any concern as to whether or not it suits the song, the harmonies here only serve to have the vocals carry a real fine weight and tone. Combined with the catchy rhythm and melody, it's impossible not to sing along.
Given that I have an obnoxiously deep voice, I try to keep that shit private.
"Glass Window" - The Witness
Bandwagon? Too early?
Fuck naw. This song is pretty as hell.
It's starts off fairly simple. Nothing too radically different from what I've heard from some other flute ditties. Pretty soon, though, the song adds in lovely vocals harmonizing with a xylophone. Then bass and acoustics. Then a subtle, but hard drum beat.
You could definitely say this song has excellent build-up and how the song breaks up this continuously expanding depth of sound every now and then for even just a second at times, it helps it all not get too overwhelming too quickly. Again, this how you successfully build up a song to it's grandest moments, to then leave you with something special. Within the context of The Witness trailer, it's even better.
And yeah, I know, it's a licensed track. Get used to it. There's a couple more coming up!
"Curse of the Bloody Puppets" - Devil May Cry
I swear to you that Devil May Cry must've been originally conceptualized as a survival horror classic before turning to action. The fixed camera angles, the examinations of the environment, the puzzles, the broken lock-on combat that would've at least somewhat worked with a much slower pace, and then even some of the music like you see/hear above.
The second it starts up, I'm frightened. Deep piano strikes and other strange, ominous effects, every single one making my nerves quiver. It's as if to say "I'm going to murder you and everyone you care about.". And then when that orchestrated section comes in, it's strangely pleasant. Oh, but it gets evil once again. Even more intense than before.
TURN IT OFF! TURN IT OFFFFFFFFFF! *sobs*
"Eternal Rest" - Silent Hill
Speaking of survival horror classics, Silent Hill has such a delightfully twisted and interesting soundtrack. For obvious reasons, the songs seem to be concerned with adding to the atmosphere and horror aspects of the game much more than they are concerned with being conventional songs. Which, sometimes, ends up working in their favor, now potentially free of their original context.
The track linked above, for the most part, stands on it's own. It's one of the few songs on the soundtrack that sounds close enough to an "actual" song, yet it still sounds so fresh. It's slow pace and overall subtlety, but heavy-hitting effects make it one of the more out-there tracks I've found myself headbobbin' to.
Silent Hill's soundtrack was one of a kind. Distinctly to itself, even from the rest of the franchise. Less than ordinary, but more than merely enjoyable... it's awesome.
Oh and "AHHHHHH this song is too short!".
"The 'Splode Beneath My 'Splosion" - 'Splosion Man
If you knew me well enough, this song being here shouldn't be a surprise. Ever since time began it's beginnings and the universe started to become bloated with rocks and shiny stars, I've jammed this track hard. Whether on vinyl, cassette or my Sony Walkman, I must've played this wondrously cheesy cheese hundreds of times. Maybe thousands. No, millions.
Inspired by all your favorite 80's synth hits, not only does this song impress on so many levels but so does the video. Look at that Lonny. His keyboard tie, the 'stache, the huge set of Nike's. He's legit. He's the epitome of legit. His beautiful face and soulful voice will guide you to places unseen by normal human eyes, lifting you higher than you can possibly imagine. This song is just awesome.
And thank God it's not too short.
"Muda Kingdom" - Super Mario Land
Alright. Let's start getting the Mario songs out of the way. You knew there was going to be at least one, right? It's no secret that the Mario games have good music.
Perhaps unless we're taking about the Super Mario Land games, which are undeserving of their overshadowed nature in both their gameplay as well as their music. With that said, this one is one of the best 25 second loops you'll hear. Short, sweet, Mario. 8-bit tunes will always be infinitely charming and, for me personally, I think this one also just so happens to carry a bit of nostalgia.
Although, I think it works a good deal better within the context of the game. Because whenever I think of water stage music, it's usually very calm or ambient.. or nerve-wracking. Never so damn happy. That's cool!
"Bowser's Lava Lair" - Super Mario Galaxy 2
THAT. FUCKING. INTRO.
There's so much history behind me and this track that I don't know where to start.
I mean, this might very well be my favorite videogame track of all time. It has an amazing arrangement and I can never not think of my first time with the first Bowser stage in Super Mario 64 when I hear it. It made everything in that level so much more intimidating. Bowser's laugh was no longer cocky, but monstrous. Every obstacle was some insane test of courage and platforming prowess.
I was 7 years old and loving it. I'm still loving it. Undeniably one of the best videogame tracks of the 90's.
However, to this day, I prefer the Super Mario Galaxy 2 version of this classic tune. Not only is it actually made considerably more epic thanks to the increased production quality and new orchestrated recordings, but the stage featuring it (as is the case with most of the levels in the Super Mario Galaxy series) was great.
This is such an unforgettable track. Damn, it feels good to be a gamer.
"Title Theme" - Paper Mario: Sticker Star
The last of the Mario tracks.
Ignoring the astonishingly uninspired title, this one has quickly become one of my favorites. So quickly, in fact, that it honestly scares me a little. I already feel as if I've been attached to this song for years. Not because it actually just sounds like something I did hear a long while back, but.. I don't know, really. It's something unique only to this song. Weird, man.
Beyond that, the melody and soul the horn section brings to this track is another reason why I love it so much. It doesn't sound overly produced at all. It feels as if there's so much heart put into every note. So happy, yet so mellow. I get stuck at the title screen every freaking time because of this song.
On the real, the entire game has great music and it was tough picking just one. However, 3 Mario songs is enough, I feel. It's time we part from this inspiring legacy for now.
"Mission to the Deep Space" - Star Ocean: 'Till the End of Time
I have literally never heard a progressive metal song with a horn section. This deserves a spot on this list for that alone. It's as if you told Chicago to do a Dream Theater impersonation.
Unfortunately, this track goes through so much in it's 3 and a half minutes that it feels a little too condensed at times. It's too short, but for a totally different reason than some of the above. But, ignoring that small gripe, this has some very impressive and plain awesome instrumentation with tons of variety. I'll tell ya, once again, when the sax and everything else meet.. rockets to the moon, dude.
I wish I could say I remembered this track better. I played this game a ton way back.
"Main Theme" - Max Payne
Jesus. I get it. It's the song that plays at the start screen. Give it a name! Be artsy, artists!
Never will I be able to say for sure which version of this theme I like more. I love the slower, orchestrated intro bit of the Max Payne 3 one which also has a bigger payoff towards the end, but the OG theme just has this extra bit of "coolness" to it. Like "Hey kids, that other guy is total Dragsville. Check out my BAWOWOWOHHHHH geetarrrrrrr!".
It fits the mood of the game so perfectly. And I always appreciate it when someone does a dark as hell song right by making it sound so, dare I say, beautiful.. classic and sincere. It's the reason why I deeply respect bands like Alice In Chains so much. They're not try-hard, "edgy" dark, they make it sound all so real and melodic.
The song makes me wish I wasn't neck-deep in my gaming backlog. I wanna see Max's bright and shining, shit-eating smirk once again. And try out that Matrix mod I keep hearing so much about.
"Purification of the City" - Flower
Any Flower fan remembers Lazy Daydream. And I almost put that on here, until I caught glance of this track. "Purification of the City? .... oh that part! Is it.. *plays*.. YEAH!". I could picture everything as if it were yesterday. Colors, pedals and an overwhelming sense of joy.
Fuck. I really have to replay Flower.
If you're having a bad day, have this 12 plus minute epic play in the background of your computer doings. You will find it impossible to be mad or stressed at all. You may even start to nod off as something in the back of your mind whispers to you "Everything is going to be just fine.". This medley of concentrated beauty and elegance impresses me more than any other orchestrated number of it's kind. It leaves you hanging just long enough for you to actually appreciate the grand rises and changes just when it starts getting the least bit uninteresting.
I really really gotta replay Flower. I know what I'm doing this weekend. Screw the backlog.
"Sexy Marimba Madness, Zelda in A for AWESOME" - Legend of Zelda (but not exactly)
Another "not really a videogame track" addition, and this one technically hasn't even been in a trailer!
Not content with just simply covering the main theme, they make it their own. Not just by hammering the marimba (and various other instruments), but by the way they structure the song. It dramatically changes at 3 points, making it feel almost like a medley.
It's super clean, well-edited, and (if I may be so bold as to say that) it's better than any rendition that even Nintendo themselves have done. It's how the theme should be played from now on.
"Nate's Theme 2.0" - Uncharted 2
The soundtrack to ultimate discovery. Second only to the original Halo in best orchestrated videogame themes ever, the Uncharted theme was a classic right from the get-go.
Harkening back to other pop culture classics such as the Indiana Jones and Superman themes, it goes beyond your average videogame theme song. You can just feel the adventure that lies ahead. There's no filler to speak of, not a single instrument played is played for the sake of just giving it a part, and that's not something I can say for a lot of orchestrated pieces I hear. A lot of them, quite frankly, phone it in. Or they just don't seem to try hard enough.
The Uncharted theme is recognizable not just because of the popularity of the franchise, but because they did such an excellent job making it stand out while at the same time not being overly complicated. It's no small feat. It's... awesomely accessible.
"Freedom" - Thomas Was Alone
The first track you hear, during the main menu. I just wanted to sit there and listen. But, I somehow felt I had to pretend I was busy. I was playing a game, afterall. I fiddled with the options without paying attention to said options, I pondered at the Scenario Select like I didn't know what the hell that was.
If I had payed 10 dollars to hear this song, in that moment, I didn't mind.
It's such an inspirational-sounding song with it's piano and strings, yet it has this playful overtone with those digital pings and sweeps. What an incredibly calming song. I can picture all the little variated squares and rectangles popping in and out on a blank canvas in my mind. The stars of Thomas Was Alone, the most charming tale of overcoming the odds, following your dreams, and friendship you'll likely ever experience. The great music is merely a small part of it.
"Gangsta Bitch" - Saints Row 2
A gangster rap about a girl as hard as the rapper himself. A desire for true love (or as the optimist in me likes to think). A desire.. to gangster boogie.. with a true gangster bitch.
How I miss the golden era of hip-hop/rap.
If you knew this crackerjack beat before Saints Row 2, you are far cooler than I. It's totally synonymous with the game's main menu screen along with other solid tracks such as Jeezy's I Luv It and Beanie Sigel's What a Thug About. The many many times I logged on into Saints Row 2 engraved every bit of this song and more into my head, and yet... the only hip-hop track I truly know by heart is Ice Ice Baby. I'm as white as the white on rice.
"Jumper" - Castle Crashers
Argh! I desperately wanna put The Factory on here because it's sooooo good an-.. annnd stuff and there's this one part that harkens back to an original Donkey Kong Country track that's also about factories and.. and it's cool.... but as I am beginning this section of the blog, I'm tired and keeping myself going via means of hot cinnamon jelly beans.
SO, I need something catchy. But not just catchy.. happy. Annnnd not lacking substance. Jumper shall do. The whimsical melody is emphasized so much by the dancing bass that I can't help but... dance. Then again, that could be the sugar from the jelly beans.
Have you tried these? They are delicious.
"Danger Arena" - Fable
There's something so incredibly ferocious about this one. Each powerful percussion strike and string scrape brings a smile to my face. I'm fully aware of the potential in this track an- ohhh... there it is. I swear that's Mothra at around 54 seconds in.
"Danger Arena", indeed. I wouldn't wanna be facing off against anything that brought about this ghastly anthem. Let's say we turn those strings into a tambourine and then I might be okay.
On the other hand, I can picture myself as an on-looker. An audience member. The track builds tension in the beginning and gets better and better, like the approaching climax of a great fight. I smile maniacally at my laptop screen, the strings so convincing in their musical imagery. Then as the song ends, reality rears it's ugly head and now the only thing I can do is hope that Fable runs well enough on PC. The Xbox version is just awful.
"Mr. Sandman" - Stubbs the Zombie
"Built with the Halo Engine!" said the front of the box. My 14-15 year old mind thought that meant this was going to be a surefire winner. And to the best of my recollection, it was! But more than the game itself, I remember the music.
The first of which I heard was this one, a cover of the 1950's classic "Mr. Sandman". There is nothing more pure in music than a song such as this and this cover more than just does it justice, it surpasses the original. The pounding drum intro and chugging distortion guitar chords are such delightfully awry compliments to the lyrics and vocals which still retain their calm manner.
And is that... A THEREMIN SOLO?!
"The Battle of Lil Slugger (Extended Cut)" - Super Meat Boy
Take an already awesome song, add a little extra flavor. Danny B was so right and so awesome to do this. Even more opportunities to show off my amazing air guitar skills!
The catchy but intricate drum line, the absolutely awesome and mind-melting synth guitar, those heavily dark bells in the second breakdown, the totally new and super cool outro bit, do I really need another paragraph's worth of text to tell you why this song is so great? Do like your mother told you and just LISTEN!
"Wild One" - Tak and the Power of Juju
Last of the licensed tracks.
Were you watching Nickelodeon at any point around the early 2000's? Then you'll remember this. So you'll then remember the above track, yeah?
For the sake of this blog, just pretend you do if you don't.
Growing up in the 90's and into the 2000's (which would make me roughly 1,922 years old), bands like this were the cool thing to listen to if you weren't into the metal scene just yet. Blink-182, Sum 41, Good Charlotte, they were some of the most awesome bands in my day. This track doesn't stray at all from that fun, alternative/punk edge and would be a guilty pleasure if I felt at all guilty for listening to it. They're not concerned with upstaging Beethoven, they're just trying to have a good time.
Yeah dude. I'm a wild one. Rebel without a cause.
Where the heck's my Capri Sun, mum?
"Apotos - Windmill Isle (Day)" - Sonic Unleashed
Nothing says "I'm speeding like a bullet through a tropical paradise." better than this song right here. Those drums are frantic as hell, everything else so hyper-chill.
The drums are actually played far more subtly than I'd expect, emphasizing the strings to a strange degree. Almost to where I can ignore the fast pace of the drums enough to where I fully appreciate the softer parts, but not too much as to not take notice of the fresh beat. One never overwhelms the other.
And screw the haters. I really enjoyed this game. Werehog Sonic and all.
"Northern Hemispheres" - Donkey Kong Country
The vibe from this section of the game is extraordinary. The music is all too appropriate, but unexpectedly intimidating.
Like the peanut butter/chocolate-esque combo of Windmill Isle, a similar situation happens here. The echoing melodies and the tone of every note go perfect with the snowy layout of the level with the choice of notes accentuating the difficulty. Or perhaps it's difficult merely because you're so focused on the music, it tricking you into a state of helplessness and desperation.
You lose Diddy or Donkey and, as far as you're concerned, it's already Game Over.
"Que Sera Sera" - Katamari Damacy
I wish I could've picked a more interesting choice from the Katamari Damacy soundtrack, but I can't deny that this one is my favorite.
Playing the game along to this is jarring. But in a good way. Not because of the tone of the song clashing with the tone of the game, because during the early sections where this song plays, the game's pretty easy-going and calm. Rolling up building blocks, candy and pets and such.
But then you hear the lyrics "I wanna wad you up into my life. Let's lop up to make a single star in the sky." as you are doing exactly that at that very moment. It's a soothing love song that's somehow relevant to Katamari Damacy of all games. It blows one's mind to hear this for the first time. Has been a favorite ever since.
Oh my. Never has a videogame track made me feel like this song makes me feel. While an extended version of most songs would be taking away from them more than anything else, but I'll make an exception for this track.
I don't often say this, but this song is just... captivating. To me, that's a very big word. The sounds of track make my body feel like body jelly, then at some point my jelly body starts to sink into my filthy carpet, but I don't care because the song is still playing and I just wanna relax. That stupid little wavy hand motion that some people make when they're really buzzed? I do that on occasion with this one. I don't even realize it sometimes.
Beautifully-crafted 8/16-bit arpeggios, with some of the most relaxing melodies I've ever heard.