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The Top 40 Game Soundtracks of All-Time (Part Two)
Post by KostaAndreadis @ 05:11pm 02/02/18 | Comments
Where we continue counting down the music you need to listen to before the inevitable zombie apocalypse. Or, if you simply enjoy a good tune.

Continuing on from Part One. Here we countdown 30 through to 21, which covers a wide range of titles from a classic arcade racer to one of the most influential console shooters of all time. Plus, another Bonus Track. An ambient electronic piece that you'll definitely want to listen to with headphones on.

30. Outrun

    Platform: Arcade
    Year: 1986
    Composer(s): Hiroshi Kawaguchi

According to creator Yu Suzuki, Outrun should be referred to as a driving game first and foremost. And not, a racing game. This is an important distinction to make and one that rings true for the mid-1980s arcade classic. From the third-person perspective showcasing the sleek Ferrari Testarossa, to the ability to set the radio station before you begin – Outrun is all about the drive. And with Hiroshi Kawaguchi’s Caribbean by the way of 80s neon soundtrack, Outrun remains one of the coolest bits of sun-drenched 80s pop culture that still sounds great today. If the pulsating funk of something like Passing Breeze doesn’t make you pine for a beach-side drive in the seat of a luxury Italian motorcar, then nothing will.

29. Starcraft

    Platform: PC
    Year: 1998
    Composer(s): Derek Duke, Jason Hayes, Glenn Stafford

When it came time to record the soundtrack to the classic sci-fi RTS (real-time strategy) game Starcraft, clearly no one at Blizzard told the musicians to turn down the reverb. In fact, if someone did bring it up the response would have been something along the lines of “Dude, we’re in space. We need as much reverb as we can get. Because if they can’t hear you scream they sure as hell aren’t going to hear my guitar. Unless we pump up the reverb of course.” Which is a good thing too, because the very clear overuse of reverb, seemingly added and then re-added to every instrument, is what gives Starcraft its unmistakable sound. And when you add in the wonderful acoustic guitar melodies, synth work, and orchestral flourishes, it’s no wonder Blizzard has a reputation for creating peerless and iconic music for its games.

28. Grandia

    Platform: Sega Saturn
    Year: 1997
    Composer(s): Noriyuki Iwadare

When it comes to a diverse range of sounds and instrumentation, the RPG genre often leads to standout soundtracks and scores that are as varied as they are musically thematic. Grandia is no different, and although it may not be one of the most well-known Japanese-developed RPGs of the 1990s, it too tells a story of friendship, adversity, overcoming odds, loss, and visiting strange and wondrous locales. Noriyuki Iwadare’s score is nothing short of astounding. Like a Broadway musical, you can get a sense of the story and themes just by listening to the 1970s-style orchestrations full of energetic strings, brass, and drums. Wonderful melodies, surprisingly funky detours, thematic flourishes and repetition, genuinely emotional compositions dealing with loss and grief, Grandia’s soundtrack is reason enough to seek out this relatively unknown gem.

27. Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy’s Kong Quest

    Platform: SNES
    Year: 1995
    Composer(s): David Wise

When the original Donkey Kong Country was released it featured graphics that at the time looked like something from the distant CGI-dinosaurs-from-Jurassic Park-powered future. They were ground-breaking to say the least, and Rare composer David Wise took it as his opportunity to push the SNES sound hardware further than many thought possible. The original Donkey Kong Country featured a broad and often brilliant soundtrack but the sequel, Diddy’s Kong Quest, takes everything one step further. From ambient soundscapes, jazz, funk, and even a small dose of disco, it’s the sort of soundtrack that could only belong to a platformer. One that also happens to be one of the genre’s best.

26. Ace Combat 6: Fires of Liberation

    Platform: Xbox 360
    Year: 2007
    Composer(s): Multiple

The Ace Combat series has always featured a grand operatic story with a cast of characters, factions, and locations with ludicrous names. Ace Combat 6, possibly the best entry in the series, saw the fictional countries of Emmeria and Estovakia take to the skies to settle their beefs. With jets. And much of it above the fictional city of Gracemeria. Funny names aside, the tone and scope of Ace Combat 6 was epic. Which is reflected in the soundtrack. A mix of orchestral motifs and tribal drums, the theme music alone should be enough to make just about anyone interested in the fate of the Garuda pilots and the city of Gracemeria.

25. Rez

    Platform: Dreamcast
    Year: 2001
    Composer(s): Keiichi Sugiyama, Tomonori Sawada, Koji Sakurai, Masafumi Ogata

Okay, let’s be clear. Rez is a game that simply couldn’t exist without its music. The whole experience is built around the interaction of the player and the simple progression/combination of the techno music playing in the background. And the trippy visuals on display. As Rez is considered an absolute classic today, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the soundtrack is right up there too. With players having some control over the music in the game (usually in the form of additional percussion or melodic stabs), the layered tracks that make up each of the game’s levels also work surprisingly well as 10-minute techno workouts. And the Rez soundtrack is very much classic techno, from driving drums, layered percussion, acid lines, and long breakdowns.

24. Doom

    Platform: PC
    Year: 1993
    Composer(s): Robert Prince

An iconic shooter that revolutionised a genre, featuring fast-paced action and violence that pushed gaming to its most brutal and visceral limits. Yep, we’re talking about Doom. And suitably, the soundtrack is heavy metal through and through. Albeit, MIDI-metal. At the time of Doom’s release in 1993, PC sound hardware varied from person to person. This resulted in the in-game music and sound effects sounding as good as what you had under the hood. But even so, Doom’s gritty, heavy metal, MIDI-soundtrack was unlike anything else at the time. And with the right hardware (let’s say a $300 sound card built primarily for computer music production), it sounded absolutely amazing. And menacing.

23. Deus Ex

    Platform: PC
    Year: 2000
    Composer(s): Alexander Brandon, Dan Gardopée, Michiel van den Bos

One of the most iconic shooters of all time, Deus Ex represents a post-terror world where control and freedom are a luxury. In fact, thematically speaking almost the entirety of the freedom in Deus Ex is placed directly onto the player. Where one gets to approach the role-playing, action, stealth, objectives, and exploration in a manner that best suits them. And when other titles, especially those looking to immerse players in rich first-person worlds, began switching to pre-recorded music to accompany on-screen action, Deus Ex kept things MIDI. For the most part. Like the game itself this meant music could seamlessly change from ambient to bombastic depending on what was happening at any given moment. And all without losing a sense of purpose or pacing.

22. Halo

    Platform: Xbox
    Year: 2001
    Composer(s): Martin O'Donnell, Michael Salvatori

Unconventional, yet completely iconic and timeless. That would probably be one way to describe the soundtrack to Bungie’s Halo. Another would be to simply call it a soundtrack that is cinematic through and through. But whatever your feelings are towards the soundtrack, or the game, it would be hard to imagine the experience of playing Halo without music. From the kind-of weird individual elements that include ethereal chanting, sweeping orchestral strings, and militaristic drums, by combining all three during the score’s numerous crescendos, it sounds nothing short of epic. The music of Halo is an important part of the experience and so chock full of themes and motifs that it’s as instantly recognisable to fans as a single glimpse of Master Chief’s helm.

21. Final Fantasy VII

    Platform: PlayStation
    Year: 1997
    Composer(s): Nobuo Uematsu

Operatic would be the best way to describe the music of most Japanese-developed RPGs. Mainly because each scene or story beat usually features its own piece of specific music. Orchestrated in such a way to accompany and illustrate what’s happening in the story ‘right now’, as well as convey a character or group of characters’ feelings in that specific moment. In terms of grand operatic RPG stories along these lines, Final Fantasy VII shouldn’t need an introduction. Nor should its music, as each piece in the game from composer Nobuo Uematsu not only serves each important story beat but helps define and illustrate each of the main characters in such a way as to feel integral to the experience.

BONUS TRACK – Mirror’s Edge

    Platform: PS3/Xbox 360
    Year: 2008
    Composer(s): Magnus Birgersson

Ambient electronic music may not sound like the right fit for a first-person parkour game, but the soundtrack to DICE’s Mirror’s Edge is as sparse and minimal as the visuals on display. Underneath a thick yet unobtrusive layer of soundscapes, sweeping synth pads, and simple percussion, lies a rich melodic structure that suits the calming-by-the-way-of-frustrating nature of the game to a t. And just like the game, the combat and chase music feel a little out of place. But when talking about the game and the soundtrack, Mirror’s Edge shines brightest when things slow down, and ideas are given time to breathe.

Part Three: Counting Down 20 - 11

Latest Comments
Posted 04:31pm 03/2/18
But even so, Doom’s gritty, heavy metal, MIDI-soundtrack was unlike anything else at the time.

Many of the tracks were ripped off wholesale from metal tracks of the time. Still a cool soundtrack, though :P
Posted 05:35pm 03/2/18
Ahh I meant in terms of music for games.
Posted 07:57pm 03/2/18
Figured but I couldn't help pointing it out :D I'm not a Metallica fan and when I first stumbled on that guitar riff I was wait a minute@!@!@

Really top notch article btw. Really great range of games and some extensive knowledge about those games on display. Thoroughly enjoyed reading it :D
Posted 10:06pm 03/2/18
i prefer the soundtrack for doom 2016.

Posted 10:46pm 03/2/18
thanks fpot! that was the aim... I'm a big music nerd so loved researching for this feature...

I'm not really a metallica fan either and couldn't place the riff... might have disqualified it if I knew... thanks for pointing that out too...

oh and rav... plenty of room left for doom 2016 to make the cut
Posted 03:30pm 04/2/18
Number one predictions are always fun. I have a feeling it's going to be ChronoTrigger.
Posted 09:10pm 04/2/18
glad mirrors edge made it, that game has a sweet soundtrack
Posted 07:25am 05/2/18
Number one predictions are always fun. I have a feeling it's going to be ChronoTrigger.

AKA "Look at me, I'm edgy and play import games!"

Christ it wasn't even that good a game, it was merely popular because you couldn't buy it here. Even Secret of Mana was a far better game.
Posted 07:28am 05/2/18
Yeah Chronotrigger is a real niche game I'm surprised you've heard of it actually.

No wait, it is one of the most popular and played games of all time. I'm not going to argue whether it was good or not due to the whole personal taste thing. I thought the soundtrack was especially memorable.
Posted 11:54am 05/2/18
It was niche in the sense that it was only available as a JP or NA import. It was never released in the PAL markets.
Posted 12:03pm 05/2/18
Maybe not originally on the SNES, but its been re-released since then on DS and mobiles and stuff so I'd say its safely gone beyond niche by now
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