Top 10 games with the best music
I’m going to be honest with you – I love music but, as a rule, I don’t like game music much. I’ve nothing against in principle, I just think it’s normally not very good music and isn’t usually used very well. If a game just has some kind of looped theme for each level or each location, or a selection of 20 licensed songs that it just plays again and again and again on shuffle then I’ll turn the music off because it’s just there for no reason, as far as I’m concerned.
However, when game music is exceptionally good and/or used especially well, then I love it. So I’ve made a very personal top ten, which doesn’t include any JRPGs because they’re the worst culprits when it comes to the aforementioned inane looping and I don’t get why people love their music so much, and doesn’t include any music games – much as I love the soundtracks of most Guitar Hero and Rock Band games, I just don’t think they count. So here goes…
Grand Theft Auto IV
Just for the sheer quantity and diversity of music on offer to start with, GTA IV deserves to be included in this list, but for me personally this soundtrack didn’t get really good until The Lost and Damned came along. Extreme metal artists like At The Gates, Entombed, Sepultura put the icing on a cake that already includes such delights as Sick Of It All, The Smashing Pumpkins, Black Sabbath, The Stooges, Queen, Thin Lizzy and ZZ Top. I could go on, but I won’t.
Conan The Barbarian has the greatest orchestral soundtrack of any movie but THQ decided not to license it for their 2007 Conan game. And unfortunately composer Basil Poledouris died in 2003 and was therefore not available to come up with something new. However, Mike Reagan (who also scored the God Of War series) does a fantastic job of recreating the feel and tone of Poledouris’ compositions.
Tony Hawk’s Underground
Every Tony Hawk’s game has had an awesome licensed ssoundtrack, but this one for me stands out as the best, mainly because I absolutely love Orange Goblin, but also because of Entombed, Fu Manchu, Queens Of The Stone Age, Bad Religion, Refused, Stiff Little Fingers, The Clash and not one, not two but three tracks by KISS. Damn, I love KISS.
Media Molecule faced a huge challenge when, using a limited number of tracks, it had to cater for every mood LBP creators might want to generate in their levels, but for me it got it right on the money. It’s a diverse selection but all suitably quirky and atmospheric. Stand out track for me has to be ‘My Patch’ by Jim Noir. Such aggressive lyrics, but such cheerful melody.
Does Electric Eel Shock’s ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll Can Rescue The World’ have anything whatever to do with huge, heavily armed mechanoids duelling each other to fiery death? No. But it’s one of the best songs ever written and it’s in Phantom Crash so Phantom Crash is in this list. The rest of the soundtrack’s pretty cool too.
This classic Amiga sci-fi RPG is on this list because it has the first game music I remember really enjoying. It sounded like proper music – especially when pumped at high volume through a hefty set of stereo speakers – and that counted for a lot after years of games with inane beeping that barely even sounded like music.
Obviously this is the ultimate game soundtrack for any fan of classic metal, and I am just such a fan – it even has my favourite band, Manowar, in it. And of course, the music is accentuated by the artistry of the environments and the humour of the story. I also love how there’s no health bar and you instead know you’re getting hurt because the music goes quiet and tinny. Genius.
Split/Second has the best audio design of any game I’ve ever heard, and the superb dynamic soundtrack is a huge part of that. The way it fades out and queues back in with pinpoint timing when Powerplays are set off (and even when you pause the game) is ingenious, as is the way new layers of intensity are blended in as each race goes on. Honestly, there’s an insane mastermind at work here.
Street Fighter series
Every single piece of music from Street Fighter II is a classic – it’s that simple. My personal favourite is Guile’s theme, but then Ken’s is an absolute monster as well. And I love Ryu’s. And the menu music.
The only game soundtrack albums I own and listen to on a regular basis are Katamari Damacy and We Love Katamari. So diverse, so bonkers, so damn catchy. Who knew that such a wide variety of songs could be composed on the subject of rolling things up into a big ball? The Japanese, they knew.