Video game music is a very important part of the overall atmosphere. The right music at the right time helps evoke the right emotion, boosting the intensity of the scene and providing a necessary layer to the story-telling.
High-quality music is almost the norm now. Even brilliant composers from other sectors are crossing over and adding a much needed breakthrough in the average quality. Music is a very important part of weaving an exceptional tale.
Some of the most sonically stimulating game music of all time.
Oblivion - Sunrise of the Flutes
The entirety of the Oblivion soundtrack is just fantastic. In fact, Bethesda does a bang-up job with the entire series, from Elder Scrolls: Arena all the way to Elder Scrolls Online. But Sunrise of Flutes is particularly mesmerizing. It's peaceful with and gives a warm sense of well-being. Jeremy Soule, the composer of this, really out-does himself this time. Have a listen:
Xenogears - Bonds of Sea and Fire
Doubtless you've enjoyed a number of the tracks that have come from the folks from Squaresoft and Square Enix. The game music created by them and their composers is pure aural magic. Xenogears exemplified that. Bonds of Sea and Fire captures the general feeling of sadness and hopelessness while still helping you feel the need to explore, to find out the truth. Yasunori Mitsuda does an amazing job with this track, as can be expected.
Dark Void - Above The Canopy
Dark Void may have gotten mediocre reviews as a game, but the soundtrack was extremely well received. This was the first foray into game music for composer Bear McCreary who is famous for his work on the reimagined Battlestar Galactica and The Walking Dead. The overall tone is very much similar to the action-packed percussive tunes of Battlestar Galactica. Above The Canopy is an absolute beautiful work of art, giving the feeling of freedom.
Killzone 2 - The Madness Begins
Killzone 2 had a true soundtrack that accurately described, sonically, the events taking place before you, one better than a lot of movies. Joris De Man provides more than just background noise, but instead gives the wings for a true emotional journey through space and time. The Madness Begins plays through the cut-scene just before one of the last parts of Killzone 2, and strikes a very dramatic and electrifying tone just before you meet your fate, and help decide the fate of an entire species.
Mechwarrior 2 - Pyre Light
Though this is certainly much older than some entries here, the soundtrack to Mechwarrior 2 still continues to amaze. Gregory Alper & Jeehun Hwang have created what is quite possibly one of the greatest video game soundtracks of all time. Pyre of Light is almost the definitive phonic representation of science fiction. Also, the re-imagined version by Timothy Seals is very well done too.
Hitman 2 - 47 Makes a Decision
If you don't know who Jesper Kyd is, then that's quite unfortunate. His mastery of all things musical has led to some very fine soundtracks for the various games he's worked on. 47 Makes a Decision in Hitman 2 ihelps to define a pivotal moment in Agent 47's career, one where you have to decide either to go forward with an impossible task at the Malaysian Tower, or turn tail and run away. Can you guess what he does?
Quake 2 - Rage
The music to Quake 2 was quite the surprise after the first game. The whole thing was a surprise, really. But Sascha Dikiciyan, AKA Sonic Mayhem, is another master of the musical arts. The adrenaline charged track titled Rage helps get you into the frame of mind to survive at all costs behind enemy lines on planet Strogg.
The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time - Gerudo Valley
The Legend of Zelda has one of the most iconic soundtracks of all time, and that was made even more so when Ocarina of Time came out. Koji Kondo evolved the general feel of the music to be similar to the originals yet much more rich. The theme for Gerudo Valley is incredibly nostalgic and has such a sort of majestic quality to it. The light and airy strings are always fantastic to hear.
Wild Arms - To a New Journey
Wild Arms was a revolutionary game when it was released back in 1996 for the original PlayStation. It had 3D battles for crying out loud, an industry first. What it also had was a very well done soundtrack that competed with many big names of the day. Specifically there was To the End of the Wilderness -To a New Journey, the track that plays at the end of the game. Michiko Naruke's composition is very well done, giving the impression that there will indeed be another adventure for your band of misfits. Emotionally it helps you move-on, and stands as one of the greatest game music tracks of all time. A surprise for sure.
There are a lot of fantastic game soundtracks out now, and several classic games that continue to please even today. These are just ten tracks out of several that bring game music into the forefront of peoples minds. Game music doesn't have to be a specific genre, either, and can encompass many different types and styles of music. Game music is maturing to be something fantastic to enjoy, not just background noise.
What soundtracks are some of your favorites? Anyone else also enjoy a good game soundtrack on it's own from time to time?