'Tis the season!
It's the most wonderful time of the year! And I truly believe that. While Thanksgiving is easily my favorite holiday, Christmas is a close second, and I've always made an iPod playlist with tons of holiday music that I roll out the day after Thanksgiving.
Recently, I had people ask me what kind of music I put on my Christmas playlist, and I realized I had a lot of game tracks! So what better way to kick off the Christmas season than with ten of my favorite holiday themes from videogames!
As usual, we can't include everything in a short top ten list, so feel free to chime in with some of your favorites as well, and together we'll hopefully have a pretty sizable list of music to enjoy this Christmas season!
Ahhhh, let's start with something measured and relaxing. A lot of the music featured on this list will be upbeat and sticky sweet, but this track from Xenoblade Chronicles captures the whimsical essence of the holidays while retaining a mature sound, making it one of my modern favorites on this list.
And off we go! This is easily one of the first songs that comes to mind when I think about Christmas-appropriate music from videogames. The icy strings and playful tambourine create a perfect backdrop for what's really a pretty jazzy Christmas theme. It's actually so much more soothing outside of the game, as I can't help but be reminded of the slippery road and those damn penguins always getting in my way!
Well, let's just say that Koreans know how to write Christmas music. All of the Korean titles featured on this list (there are four in all) had numerous tracks that were theme appropriate, but I wanted to spread the love and give other games some rep.
"Snowfield" is jubilant and poppy, working in elements of "We Wish you a Merry Christmas," which should go a long way towards helping those non-gamers around you accept your "weird" music preferences. At least, that's what my friends and family call my unhealthy obsession with game music!
This one is near and dear to my heart. I absolutely adore Ragnarok Online and its soundtrack, composed by Korean sound studio soundTeMP. I remember playing the game when Lutie was first added to the servers and being instantly blown away by this track as well. Now it's just not Christmas without hearing it regularly on my Christmas iPod rotation! I appreciate that this one is rather subdued and doesn't beat you over the head with the holiday atmosphere.
There aren't many tracks out there more appropriate for this list than "Jeuno ~Starlight Celebration~," a song that accompanied an in-game FFXI event to celebrate the holidays. This one opens with jingle bells and jubilant brass before icy bell tones and a funky bassline roll in, remaining upbeat and classy at the same time.
What kind of list would this be without Christmas NiGHTS? To go along with the game's vibrant visual appeal, there's a flashy arrangement of "Joy to the World" with some great improv work. It's jolly, funky, and a great way to get into the season!
I have to shamefully admit that I've never played Shenmue, but that hasn't kept me from loving the music from the series. This track is so warm and encompassing while also sporting an icy quality that captures both the winter cold and the essence of the holidays all at once. It definitely has me wanting to bundle up and play through the game this holiday season.
Surprised to see Parasite Eve? You shouldn't be! The game takes place around Christmas, and there are actually several great tracks that could have made this list. This one in particular is a little jam session featuring several composers at Square Enix. It has a loose jazz structure with a lovely xylophone melody and some snazzy rhythm guitar.
While there was a lot of talk as to what should be on this list, we all agreed that this minimalistic track from Secret of Mana was a must. It's so pure and beautiful, a perfect accompaniment to a chilly winter morning. And even though it's the oldest piece of music on this list, I still think it withstands the test of time thanks to its minimalism.
A few years back, Jinbae "ESTi" Park posted this track on his Twitter account as a Christmas present to his fans. As it turns out, it was a track from his work on TalesWeaver, and it remains my favorite Christmas theme from any game. The original "Feliz Navidad" is such a fun Christmas song, and ESTi takes it in a more serious direction with a full pop treatment.
As I mentioned, there are several tracks from the above titles and more that we wanted on this list, but alas, we had to pick just ten! Here are some others you can check out, and please also chime in to let us know which of your favorites didn't make the list. Maybe we'll put together a round two for next year!
Bar Oasis 2 - "Silent Night"
Chrono Cross - "Dimension Breach"
Lord of Vermillion - "Spiege Snow Plains" (for the hardcore winter experience!)
Super Mario Galaxy 2 - "White Snow"
Valkyria Chronicles II - "Winter in Lanseal"