There are times where the musical genius hidden behind a video game is the atmospheric drive as we get lost with the story and the visuals created by the developers. However it’s easy to forget how empty a video game would be without the music; the atmospheric lift as you walk into that dark cave, the dissonant, sharp violins as you’re running for your life in that all too immersive horror game, or those sombre orchestral pieces that bring those upsetting moments much too close to home. Throughout the hundreds of video games i’ve played growing up, and hours and hours of deep thought thinking about the ranking order, here are my top 5 video game soundtracks.
1. Kingdom Hearts
It could be argued that this is dangerously bias and is most definitely an extremely close contender to 2 & 3, yet out of sheer childhood and hours listening to this soundtrack, Kingdom Hearts would definitely has to be first for me. Composed by Yoko Shimomura and orchestral arrangement Kaoru Wada, the original Kingdom Hearts soundtracks have been released on three albums worldwide. With a beautiful opening soundtrack, Kingdom Hearts creates this atmosphere throughout the Japanese fighting mechanics that creates a link like no other. With clever musical progression as the player travels from world to world, the Kingdom Hearts soundtrack adapts to the key and style of the music the Disney world has already developed, for example The Coliseum – Hercules has a brass and bold musical piece, in comparison to Alice in Wonderland composition, very strings and woodwind based.
2. The Last of Us
After receiving 10/10 for the original and the remastered, The Last of Us could arguably be the closest game to a ‘masterpiece’ the gaming industry has ever seen. With an incredibly addictive guitar riff, Gustavo Santaolalla composed a minor musical score that is impossible to forget. Being his first experience within the video game industry, he used a very loose string orchestra that heightens and grows throughout the outstanding story Naughty Dog tells, making one of the most iconic moments in the game (that I won’t mention as of spoilers) simply jaw-dropping. To celebrate the release of the remastered version on PS4, “The Last of Us Live” was held in July where Gustavo performed with a small orchestra that I would highly recommend watching for any fans of the game, you can find the performance here.
3. World of Warcraft
World of Warcraft has been growing since 2004 with expansion after expansion so here i’m going to post the original opening soundtrack from 2004. The musical score screams to fantasy fans world wide, with a very stylistic percussion section that makes this music stand out like no other. Throughout the expansions, the music has grown to change the atmosphere that comes with the new surrounding of Azeroth. Wrath of the Lich King brought a cold, undeadly world that the music adapted as the players explored Northrend to represent this, yet Cataclsym brought fire and destruction to Azeroth where the music grew vicious and aggressive. One of the most iconic factors of the soundtrack is how the different composers throughout the expansions stay true to the familiarity of symbolic instruments to represent each race, like the war drums for the mighty Orcs of Orgrimmar or the ticking clockwork and kazoos for the Gnomes of Gnomeregan.
Focusing in on a specific Pokemon soundtrack is practically impossible for any fan of the series, so i’ve decided to go with the classic retro sound of first generation Pokemon Red/Blue/Yellow. Released in 1996, yes….that made me feel incredibly old aswell don’t worry, Pokemon Red still stands the test of time as being one of the catchiest video game soundtracks of all time. From the incredibly frustrating music of Viridian Forest and Mt Moon, after being lost for hours because you really couldn’t be bothered to buy that one more escape rope, to the music of the Pokécenter because you accidently pressed ‘A’ too many times and ended up talking to Nurse Joy 50 times over, this is still one of the most favoured video game soundtracks of all time.
5. Child of Light
This final soundtrack is very unusual, yet somehow I found myself having to include it because this soundtrack drew me into the game so much more, leaving me wanting to discover more music by these composers. Child of Light released earlier this year by Ubisoft Montreal, musically composed by Cœur de pirate. Track 07 – Dark Creatures was one of those atmospheric moments where the music aligned perfectly with the situation of the game I was in. With a beautiful graphic style, the music really brings justice to the atmosphere Child of Light can bring.
Another close contender that I was going to include in this list was Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag, purely because of the shanties sung throughout the ship sailing parts of the game, however after looking into the soundtrack it only features 3 of the 35 shanties sung in the game. Other contenders were Ni No Kuni, Halo 3 and Fallout 3.
After much shouting at your screen disagreeing with my decisions, I would like to hear your top 5 video game soundtracks of all time! Do they feature some of your favourite songs? Or are they childhood triggers to incredible memories you had growing up? Be sure to comment below!