Catherine’s Soundtrack Renaissance

Catherine's Soundtrack Renaissance

Spend an evening with your favorite game, listening not playing.

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One of the benefits of buying games from Good Old Games is that they often come with a soundtrack, some of which are quite fantastic.

The idea of a soundtrack adding hugely to a game is something that has been part of gaming for some time, you only have to look at the likes of Monkey Island or Quest for Glory to see the way that music can add to the atmosphere of a game. Not to mention the quality of the soundtracks for the Doom and Quake games.

I also appreciate those that make remixes of old game soundtracks, and none are bigger and better than the community over at OC Remix. Well worth a look.

Sierra games music
Lucasarts games music
OC Remix
Fallout remastered sountrack (Mark Morgan)

I too enjoy Assassin's Creed 2 soundtrack from time to time. "Ezio's Family" is my favorite track. Some of the other games with original soundtracks that I enjoy are: Metal Gear Solid, GUN (so underrated), Oblivion, Morrowind, The Witcher, Hitman, Dragon Age, God of War etc.

I do really enjoy the soundtracks to some games...they really do put alot of work into them, and some just seem to get washed under a carpet

I enjoyed the soundtrack from both of the Bioshock games, both Gary Schyman's score and the official soundtrack. They fit very well in the story line, as well as listening to them on their own.

I love game soundtracks, infact they are probably the only things I listen to (apart from film & anime soundtracks).
My favourites are FFIX, Folklore, Dragon Age, Silent Hill, Ass Creed, Kingdom Hearts, LBP & Star Ocean. There's probably more I just can't think atm :D

Favourite game soundtracks? Hoo boy... Chrono Trigger, Beyond Good and Evil, Jet Force Gemini, Metroid Prime, Time Splitters 2, Snowboard Kids, Jet Set Radio (and Future), P.N.03, The World Ends With You... I really could go on a lot longer.

As for sharing the music with non-gamers, well, I haven't had a lot of luck getting my girlfriend to listen to game music, but my Dad enjoyed listening to the Beyond Good and Evil soundtrack when I played it during a long car trip.

Game People:
Catherine's Soundtrack Renaissance

Spend an evening with your favorite game, listening not playing.

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As a composer, I'm a little confused... you reference using sourced music in WipeOut then talk about scoring in Assassin's Creed II. So are you referring to using sourced music (i.e. music created outside of the game context and then used in the game) or underscore (music created for no other purpose than to be used in game)?

There is a large difference between a "score" and a "soundtrack."

I'm a massive fan of the Bioshock soundtracks, so I was very glad when they packed them both in with the Bioshock 2 Special Edition

Pokemon Gold/Silver and Wario Land 3. I recorded them myself off an emulator (not an easy process, let me tell you), and I haven't regretted it since. Amazing music.

I adore the music in Phantasy Star Online, but after around eight years of playing I don't desire to hear it outside the game anymore. Though I just got through listening to the Wangan Midnight Maximum Tune 2 OST, done by Yuzo Koshiro. I remember him stating in an interview that it was his first real attempt at a trance soundtrack and he was worried about how it would come out. I almost wouldn't believe it's his first after listening to it, considering how good it is.

I actually don't even listen to trance music normally (though I don't mind touches of it like the ones Calvin Harris employs) and I liked it, which speaks to Koshiro's skill in electronic music. "Go Straight" from Streets of Rage 2 (the first level's theme) is still one of the best video game tracks I've ever heard.

Some game sountracks are just really good, and not just by soundtrack standards. Some games (like Okami or Shadow of the Colossus) can hardly be differentiated from their soundtracks.

Personally I got into Armored Core because of the soundtracks. Later I introduced that music to some friends and they loved it. Also, my sister listens to Final Fantasy soundtracks and never ever plays games.
Hell, I listen to the World of Warcraft soundtrack but never touch the game.

Some of my favorite soundtracks, that I listen to quite regularly:

Metal Gear Solid (all of them)
GTA Vice City
Armored Core: for Answer
Knights of the Old Republic
Assassin's Creed
Shadow of the Colossus
Final Fantasy (X stood out for me)
C&C: Red Alert 2

Paul Romero and Rob King have done some fantastic work for the Heroes of Might & Magic series.

Strangely, the first thing that popped into my head reading this was the score from the cult-classic Outcast. It had the whole symphony-thing going for it, and it worked marvellously.

In addition to that, some favourites includes:

Final Fantasy VI through IX
Persona 3 & 4
The Witcher

bah, some others. Lists suck anyway; no one actually reads them

I always loved the Zelda soundtracks, Koji Kondo is great at creating pieces with wildly varying styles to fit the themes of each area you're in. Gerudo Valley was turned from an uninteresting dessert to an awesome jaunt because of that piece, and the overworld themes really get me in the mood for adventure. Other soundtracks that are awesome are any of the metal gear games from 2 onwards, Any of the halo games (the only interesting part of those games to me), Shadow of the colossus of course, and Mario Galaxy really nailed it with it's ecclectic mix of synths and full orchestra. How can you not listen to Gusty garden and smile? I dare you...

I have a number of tracks from the Half-life series on my iPod - mostly the odd breakbeat things. A lot of it is a bit poor when listened to out of context but other parts are quite good. Plus they're all about a minute long so you don't get bored of them.

Rogue 9:
Favourite game soundtracks? Hoo boy... Chrono Trigger, Beyond Good and Evil, Jet Force Gemini, Metroid Prime, Time Splitters 2, Snowboard Kids, Jet Set Radio (and Future), P.N.03, The World Ends With You... I really could go on a lot longer.

As for sharing the music with non-gamers, well, I haven't had a lot of luck getting my girlfriend to listen to game music, but my Dad enjoyed listening to the Beyond Good and Evil soundtrack when I played it during a long car trip.

Good. I'm not the only person that loved the Jet Set Radio soundtracks.

The first game to make me sit up and take notice of the soundtrack was Myst 3: Exile. Some beautiful tracks on there.

I detest lists, but here we go.

-Zelda: Everything Zelda has been on a CD that I either bought or made at one point or another.
-ACII: Has music so good I put the entire CD on perma-loop while writing a 10 page essay (I got a B+, I if remember correctly).
-Devil May Cry: The lyrics may be basically unintelligable 80% of the time, but it fits far to well, and is just plain awesome.
-God of War: This is what I used to prove to my musician father and step-mother that, yes, games have excellent music, it is real, get over yourselves.
-(Every) Megaman series (Megaman, Megaman X, Megaman Zero, etc): All beyond excellent.
-Actually just stick most Capcom games on here.
-Castlevania (series): Gonna have to import that massive multi-CD thing.
-Many many more.

The next one is perhaps most important.
-Touhou Project: Everything, and I do mean everything that ZUN composes is utter gold, and I'm still surprised that a company hasn't snapped him up to make music for them.

Eh, it must be because he loves Midi (and he really loves horns), and only composes using Midi-music.

Here, have several examples. Note that if you want to open them in new tabs, only "right-click->open in new tab" will make the links work properly. Other shortcut keys (like control-click) mess it up, for some reason.

I could keep going, but I have other stuff to do. Like play more Touhou.

There's a few composers that stand out for me with regards to videogames, Kevin Manthei and his work on Sacrifice was just amazing.

Ben Houge's compositions for string quartet for Arcanum, sadly the soundtrack download on the official site no longer seems to work, but as far as I know you can still download the scores. Here's an alternative too:

The music behind Painkiller was similarly memorable and appropriate to the setting to boot, with one the most metal soundtracks you're likely to hear in a game. And of course, the Valve Studio Orchestra never fails to delight the ears. :3

I am a big fan of video game music of various kinds. Seriously, a lot of the musicians in the industry have some seriously good talent. However, I have a special kind of admiration for those who manage to produce good music with either outdated or less capable platforms. This is not to say that music made on technically superior platforms is worse, just that it is a challenge to produce good music for less capable ones.

Here are some examples of where musicians really outdid themselves when creating music for technically less capable platforms (by this, I mean older consoles, handhelds etc.):

If you haven't noticed, I am a big fan of music from Super Robot Wars. :P Also, Uematsu (composer of tracks for most of the older Final Fantasy titles) is a genius.

Surprised no one mentioned the soundtrack of Heavy Rain. Love that music

I'd say Peter McConnell's work at LucasArts was awesome. The Grim Fandango soundtrack is out and away one of the best soundtracks ever (that includes films). The delightful mixture of beebop, surf music, jazz, mexican folklore and even some ethereal sounds is just amazing. Homeworld 2 I really like too.

For a strange place to have excellent music, the Descent 3 and Descent3: Mercenary work by Jerry berlongieri is very original electronic music with some cool experimentation in between. Beyond Good and Evil and Okami have very good music.

Gabriel Knight games have amazing music. Robert Holmes is master. I mean, for GK2 he wrote a freaking opera, for real! You can't get much more than that.

Majority of my music collection is video game music (I'm weird like that), I just don't give two shits about lyrics so I end up listening to instrumental stuff and video games have a massive wealth of this. Music is one of the things I first take notice to and really love it when it's done well...unfortunately VG music these days isn't as memorable as days of y'old. The music is even better when it can be listened to and greatly enjoyed without ever having to hear it in its proper context; Final Fantasy is quite amazing at this.

Some of my favorites would be:

FF series
Guilty Gear (kicks more ass than a drunken Friday night a an Irish tavern)
Blazblue (see Guilty Gear)
Chrono Trigger
Halo (except that breaking Benjamen shit)
Gears of War
Melty Blood
Mega Man series

The list goes on.

Only two games have entranced me enough to put their music on my playlist: Katamari Damacy and Beyond Good and Evil.

Kefka's Domain. It is the CD soundtrack to Final Fantasy 3 (6). To my knowledge, it is the first album made from a video game score; at least it was the first to truly warrant it. It's even more spectacular when it is remembered that the instrument was a SNES.

Glen's Theme from Chrono Trigger still stirs me, too.

Game soundtracks are often what gives a game its mood. I love listening to them, even as I'm blasting the bad guys or conquering the world. The original Civilization 3 and Age of Empires always set a nice tone for me, their tribal songs were very rythmic. For an FPS there was Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter 's soundtrack, both solemn and heroic. Game soundtracks are amazing.

Maybe it's just me, but I never once took notice of the soundtrack while playing AC2.

But I love the Oblivion soundtrack.

It's great to see game soundtracks getting some love, they're overlooked far too often to my taste. As an avid game soundtrack listener (and I have been for some 15 years), I've quite the collection, but I tend to organize them by composer, rather than by game. And since Ms. Spencer asks, here are my favorite, with a few links to the tracks which I feel best characterizes the composer's music (I chose to link rather than embed, because this is turning into a lengthy post).

Mark Morgan - My all-time favorite game music composer, he's worked on Zork: Nemesis, Zork Grand Inquisitor, Planescape: Torment, as well as Fallout 1 & 2. The haunting themes he created for Zork: Nemesis are just permeated with the dark, oppressive ambiance of the game and contributed, beyond the shadow of a doubt, to the atmosphere of the game.

Jeremy Soule - A very close second, his works include Icewind Dale, The Elder Scrolls 3: Morrowind, The Elder Scrolls 4: Oblivion, Guild Wars, Neverwinter Nights, and "Star Wars - Knights of the Old Republic". There's no denying he's one of the cornerstones of the game music industry, and his reputation is well-deserved. I'd be hard-pressed to pick my favorite out of all the albums he composed, but his work for the Elder Scrolls games is probably the most well-known.

Michael Land - He has mostly worked with LucasArts and composed the soundtracks to the Monkey Island games (my favorite being The Brimstone Beach Club, it truly gives off this "tropical island" vibe), but also the Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis, The Dig and Star Wars: X-Wing.

Jack Wall first came to my attention in 2001 with his stunning soundtrack to Myst 3: Exile, and since then, he's done nothing but deliver. With the scores to Myst 4: Revelation, Jade Empire, Mass Effect (both 1 & 2), he not only proved his brilliance, but also his incredible versatility. It's difficult to select a single track which best portrays his style, as he has composed so many different scores, so instead, I'll just point you to first track which ensnare me, the opening track to the Myst 3: Exile soundtrack.

Peter McConnell is another artist who worked a lot with LucasArts, and he even worked hand in hand with Michael Land on a few games. The soundtrack that stands out, however, is Grim Fandango, as shiajun already pointed out. The entire soundtrack is a masterpiece, ranging from mayan flutes to jazzy saxophones, but my favorite is High-Tone Fandango. Incidentally, this is one of the rare game soundtracks that my non-gamer friends enjoy.

Inon Zur has been getting a lot of publicity recently for Dragon Age: Origins, but he's been active a lot longer than that, and for while, I was beginning to think that he would be forever known as a composer of what I dubbed "sequel soundtracks" (in the sense, that he would compose soundtracks to games that were the sequels of a game which had a powerful soundtrack composed by someone else; am I making any sense?). Icewind Dale 2, Syberia 2, Baldur's Gate 2: Throne of Bhaal, "allout 3 and EverQuest 2 are the ones that stand out, but all of his work has been near flawless, and I'm glad he's sharing some of that limelight.

Michael Hoenig - Speaking of Inon Zur's work has led me to chilling realization: I forgot Michael Hoenig who gave us the soundtracks to Baldur's Gate and Baldur's Gate 2: Shadows of Amn, which were absolutely epic, suiting perfectly games that were also epic, and set the benchmark for all RPGs to come. Here's the main theme for Baldur's Gate 2: Shadows of Amn. 'Nuff said.

I've still a few on my list: Bjørn Arve Lagim (The Longest Journey), Tor Linløkken (The Longest Journey), Paul Romero & Rob King (Heroes of Might & Magic), Mark Griskey (Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic 2: The Sith Lords), Jesper Kyd (Assassin's Creed 1 & 2, Hitman), Chris Brayman & Mark Seibert (who worked on many, many Sierra games; see Andy_Panthro's post), Tim Ebling (a few Ecco the Dolphin soundtracks come to mind, perfect for working or relaxing), Leon Willet & Simon Poole (for their work on Dreamfall)... The list goes on and on, but I figure I've taxed the reader's patience as is. Anyone who's read this far gets a cookie though!! image

Diablo II

You will not find a more awesome soundtrack.

Funny, I can't say I'm all that impressed with game music.

In fact, I find that the best use of music tend to be the licensed soundtracks like GTAs and Fallout 3. In those cases, it's kind of a partial/optional musical interlude.

I much prefer that to the system in most games that's a bit obtuse for any sort of extended play. Games like Dragon Age and Infamous have very intrusive and distracting music that isn't even programmed to function well in the game, like playing exciting/battle music in inappropriate moments. When the dragon age soundtrack wasn't being dejavuingly cliche, it was just trying too hard to be noticed. The Infamous soundtrack had the same problem where it was trying too hard to be noticed. While I did like the Infamous soundtrack on it's own; at least I liked it better than the Dragon Age soundtracks, many of the effects started to sound like gunshots and other things I was looking out for. Kind of annoying.

As someone who's been trained in music since I was a baby by a family where every member knows how to play at least one instrument, I have an appreciation for all types of music but I've also realized that for most people, music is a deeply personal thing that you can't force on them; something that many recent soundtracks do. I think the game industry had to do two things:
1-Keep in mind that it should all be Background Music; except for games like rockband and singit of course.
2-All games/consoles (except for titles like rockband of course) should have the option of playing mp3s off the user's hdd.

Grim Fandango's Soundtrack needs to be mentioned too. It's the only game soundtrack I have in full on my iPod. It consists mostly of tiny snippets of bigband and bossa nova, but is it ever great.

Check it out:

This is a topic close to my heart. I immediately clicked your article when I saw the title soundtrack "Renaissance".

But your article seems to suggest the notion of music gaming being relevant is a new phenomenon.

This is simply untrue. One of the defining characteristics of the 'golden' age of gaming, from about 1994 to circa 2002, encompassing the zenith of 1998, was the soundtracks.

All the greatest games had great, suitable, catchy, atmospheric soundtracks - many of them good enough to listen to independently of the game, many just brilliant at being good background music, so they are not out of place at a party or study session.

Yet more great games were merely good, but were uplifted by their soundtrack.

What am I talking about? Terminal Velocity, Warcraft II, Command and Conquer, C&C:Red Alert, System Shock 2, Half-Life, Diablo, Zelda, etc, even Mario, all had awesome tracks that got remixed and replayed by artists years later.

Some others people mention in this thread like Grim Fandango, Diablo II, and the Descents are all valid examples - from this golden age era.

Games like the 7th Guest/11th hour, Myst IV and Eve were average games given true power over the audience due to their amazing soundtracks.

In recent times - since the early 2000s, really, game soundtracks have had facilities earlier games could only dream of - every machine having on-board hi-fi surround chips, games with budgets for full philharmonic orchestras at every release, acceptable pc-speakers and headphones cheaply available. Yet I can't recall the music from a single game I have played in the last several years, with the single, and only barely, exception of Dragon Age.

Westwood studios is an excellent example. The original C&C games had brilliant music and the developers knew it was core to the experience. These original titles all had in-game play-list managers that you skip and select the tracks being played in-game, and their special and collectors editions were among the first to have soundtrack CDs. Fast-forward to the EA-Westwood games, from Generals onward - the music is forgettable, bland. They did not bring Frank Klepka back for C&C3 or C&C 4. His part was second only to Kucas' in terms of importance, to my mind.

I would like a return to game soundtracks where the heart and soul was put back in.
That would start to indicate to me that maybe I could stop sighing at the mediocrity of new titles like bloody Yahtzee.


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