Last month – Jesus, it’s already April – I did an “on rotation …” for movie soundtracks and realized that I could 100% do an entire post on video game soundtracks. There is just something about being swept up by a rousing score as you’re trying to beat a level, especially one where you’re fighting a baddie (or several). Even though story is definitely the most important part of a video game for me, the music plays a huge role in whether it truly resonates, and sometimes, it even makes the game for me. Like, Call of Duty is fine, I suppose, but the music doesn’t grab me like it does in, say, Halo (see below). Both are FPS, and arguably, COD has more plot – but Halo is always going to attract me more.
And it’s because of the music.
1 – MASS EFFECT 2
I figure let’s just get this one out of the way, since I’m sure you remember I did a whole blog challenge about this video game series, but this particular set of soundtracks from the trilogy still gets regular play from me, the whole way through. Even the DLC has great music, as you can see below!
Yeah, this game has a lot of soundtracks, from their atmospheric album to unreleased tracks, so … go to YouTube and check them all out. I’m not going to list them all here. The track I’ve listed is “Death from Above” from the Stolen Memory DLC.
2 – HALO 2, VOL. 1 & 2
This is one of the first video game soundtracks that I ever listened to (and pirated off of Limewire) after I played the game, and I’m actually fairly certain that I bought the discs at one point from Tower Records? Ahh, the good ol’ days when CDs were like $25 plus tax. This is still a kickass album, though! (NOTE: I also loooooove the soundtracks to Halo: ODST and Halo: Reach, so be sure to look at those, too.)
Tracks: Volume 1: 1) Halo Theme (Mjolnir Mix feat. Steve Vai), 2) Blow Me Away (Breaking Benjamin), 3) Peril, 4) Ghosts of Reach, 5) Follow (1st Movement of the Odyssey) (Incubus), 6) Heretic, Hero, 7) Flawed Legacy, 8) Impend, 9) Never Surrender (feat. Steve Vai), 10) Ancient Machine, 11) 2nd Movement of the Odyssey (Incubus), 12) In Amber Clad (see video above), 13) The Last Spartan, 14) Orbit of Glass, 15) 3rd Movement of the Odyssey (Incubus), 16) Heavy Price Paid, 17) Earth City, 18) High Charity, 19) 4th Movement of the Odyssey (Incubus), 20) Remembrance, 21) Connected; Volume 2: 1) Prologue, 2) Cairo Suite, 3) Mombasa Suite, 4) Unyielding, 5) Mausoleum Suite, 6) Unforgotten, 7) Delta Halo Suite, 8) Sacred Icon Suite, 9) Reclaimer (feat. Steve Vai), 10) High Charity Suite, 11) Finale, 12) Epilogue
3 – CELESTE
I don’t know if I’ve ever mentioned this soundtrack before, but seriously? It’s so good. I have been obsessed with Lena Raine ever since I heard her work. Now, I haven’t played the game because it looks hard (honestly, all the old school platform games like it are deceptively difficult), but this soundtrack is incredible. The remix album that Lena Raine did is absolutely perfect, too.
Tracks: 1) Prologue, 2) First Steps, 3) Resurrections, 4) Awake, 5) Postcard from Celeste Mountain, 6) Checking In, 7) Spirit of Hospitality, 8) Scattered and Lost, 9) Golden, 10) Anxiety, 11) Quiet and Falling, 12) In the Mirror, 13) Madeline and Theo, 14) Starjump, 15) Reflection, 16) Confronting Myself (see video above), 17) Little Goth, 18) Reach for the Summit, 19) Exhale, 20) Heart of the Mountain, 21) My Dearest Friends
4 – FE
I accidentally fell in love with this game. My sister got into Ori, which has a similar feel to this game, I think, but there’s something about the little bipedal fox creature having to vocally harmonize with the rest of the forest that just gets to me. A big part of the draw to this game is definitely the soundtrack, so I highly recommend giving the whole thing a listen – not just what I post below – and FYI, it’s great falling-to-sleep music.
Tracks: 1) Gläntan, 2) Skogen, 3) Floden, 4) Trädet, 5) De Tysta, 6) Jätten Del 1, 7) Jätten Del 2, 8) Ruinerna, 9) Träsket, 10) Havet (see video above), 11) Fjället, 12) Grottan, 13) Nästet Del 1, 14) Nästet Del 2, 15) Fe
5 – FALLOUT: NEW VEGAS
My favorite of the Fallout series, New Vegas‘ soundtrack has that Wild West feel to it, slightly different from the ambient music of Fallout 3 but still very clearly in the Fallout universe. Even though the radio stations are pretty great – I unironically listen to “Big Iron” by Marty Robbins pretty frequently – I find myself turning them off to enjoy Inon Zur’s work.
Tracks: 1) Main Title, 2) The Doctor Is In, 3) Howdy Pardner, 4) Wasteland Justice, 5) Mutant Massacre, 6) No Rest for These Bones, 7) Industrial De-Evolution, 8) Not My Vault, 9) Primm and Proper, 10) Knock on My Cazador, 11) Jacobstown Ladder, 12) CCC Doesn’t Work for Free, 13) Marcus Needs a Favor, 14) Mountaintop Movement, 15) Beneath the Streets, 16) Garden of Evil, 17) The Courier Walks Softly (see video above), 18) Under the Stars, 19) TCB in Freeside, 20) Out of Business, 21) Subterranean Meltdown, 22) Rubble of the Forgotten, 23) The Gangs of New Vegas, 24) Junkies in the Trunk, 25) Boys and Ghouls, 26) The Two-Headed Bear, 27) Battle for the City, 28) Rocket to Repconn, 29) Thorn in My Side, 30) Blood and the Bull, 31) Hail Caesar, 32) Righteous Republic, 33) The Viper’s Sting, 34) Monsters of the Mojave, 35) Dam Nation, 36) Begin Again, 37) Home on the Wastes, 38) New Vegas Valley, 39) Streets of New Reno
6 – STARDEW VALLEY
I’ve realized that I kinda like 8-bit style music? Maybe it’s because of nostalgia from before video game soundtracks got all orchestral? I dunno, but I guess it doesn’t matter: this is the second soundtrack styled like that on my list. Stardew Valley is one of my favorite games and these songs fit the game perfectly, giving you this homey feel. I even have the song from the video below as my alarm (it’s such a pleasant way to wake up!).
There are 70 tracks on this soundtrack and I don’t want to type them ALL out. So hop on over to ConcernedApe’s bandcamp and enjoy! Drop them $5 (or more!), too, for all their hard work. The track above is “Echos (Sebastian’s Theme),” and yes, I know it’s actually spelled “echoes,” but that’s how they spell it.
7 – FINAL FANTASY XII
Yes, I love this game, and I don’t care who knows that it’s my favorite of all of them. I had a huge crush on both Basch and Fran (still kinda do?), and honestly, this is another video game that has inspired a lot of my writing. But anyway, this music – and the game, too – is just so damn well done that it’s unfortunate it doesn’t get as much praise as other entries in the FF universe do. And OMG, I just found out it’s available on Xbox, so guess what this girl is going to be playing when she isn’t studying.
Okay, and this one also has like five billion tracks, so if you wanna see the names, head on over to Wikipedia. The track above is “Eruyt Village.”
8 – DRAGON AGE: INQUISITION
Now, I didn’t play Dragon Age: Origins or Dragon Age 2 until after I had already completed a DA: I campaign, so for me, Trevor Morris’ was the music I was introduced to, and I must say, I’m not as much a fan of the older games’ scores. I mean, they’re fine? But nothing particularly special, which I know will rile some people up, but hey, I stand by my opinions.
Tracks: 1) Main Theme, 2) Escape from the Fade, 3) The Wrath of Heaven, 4) Calling the Inquisition, 5) Champions of the Just, 6) Lord Seeker, 7) In Hushed Whispers, 8) Sacrifice, 9) Alexius, 10) In Your Heart Shall Burn, 11) The Dawn Will Come, 12) Journey to Skyhold, 13) The Western Approach, 14) Siege of Adamant, 15) Adamant Fortress, 16) The Fall, 17) The Place of All Fears, 18) Nightmare’s End, 19) Val Royeaux, 20) Wicked Eyes and Wicked Hearts, 21) The Inquisition Marches, 22) The Lost Temple, 23) Death on the Bridge, 24) Guardians of the Past, 25) The Well of Sorrows (see video above), 26) Call His Wrath, 27) The Lie in Which You Linger, 28) Battle in the Sky, 29) Tooth and Scale, 30) Let the Skies Boil, 31) Doom Upon All the World, 32) Orb of Destruction, 33) The Scar, 34) Return to Skyhold, 35) Epilogue, 26) The Elder One Theme, 37) Orlais Theme, 38) Thedas Love Theme, 39) A World Torn Asunder (gameplay trailer)
9 – SUPER MARIO WORLD
Although I’m firmly in Camp “Super Mario Bros.2 Is the Best of the Old Mario Games,” I have to say that the soundtrack to Super Mario World is probably the most recognizable of all of them for me. I remember going over to our neighbors’ house to try and get a few minutes of riding around on Yoshi before they would take the controller back. Like … why invite us over if you were the only ones who were going to play it? I’m still a little mad about it.
Head on over to YouTube, where there’s like 60 or so tracks, in a helpful little playlist! The track above, though, is “Star Road,” probably one of my favorites.
10 – GEARS OF WAR 2
Yes, I know this is a meathead game, and I don’t really care. Jablonsky does a great job establishing this epic feel – probably why Michael Bay wanted him for the Transformers movies – and you don’t get to tell me you don’t feel pumped up hearing those strings, drums, and horns build and build. Jesus, so damn good. This soundtrack was also pretty emotionally diverse, which kind of surprised me; since I’m going with “Armored Prayer” below, you really should check out “With Sympathy“ if you get a chance. It’s a beautiful, heart-wrenching song.
Tracks: 1) Return of the Omen, 2) Hope Runs Deep, 3) Green as Grass, 4) Expectations, 5) Finally, A Lead, 6) Armored Prayer (see video above), 7) Hold Them Off, 8) Derrick Chase, 9) Building Thunder, 10) Hell Breaks Loose, 11) Bedlam, 12) Breakneck, 13) Landown, 14) Racing to Extinction, 15) If They Can Ride ‘Em, 16) Hollow, 17) Unexpected Changes, 18) Marche of the Horde, 19) Highway, 20) Denizens of the Deep, 21) With Sympathy, 22) Insurmountable Odds, 23) Bump in the Night, 24) Frenzy, 25) Outpost, 26) Finale, 27) Autumn of Mankind