Here are a few of my favorite things: Nintendo, Penny Arcade, The Legend of Zelda, Mario, Pokemon, Harvest Moon, Fallout, Dungeons and Dragons, books, dice, Professor Layton, Shadow of the Colossus, Minecraft, and so much more. I'm going to talk a lot about video games, I sincerely hope you don't mind.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

The amazing influence of music in gaming.

Everybody loves music. You'd be hard pressed to find someone that doesn't. (There was a brief period in my life when I didn't, but I was ten years old.) There's something magical about music, something amaranthine and intangible. It's a universally relatable experience to hear a piece of music and immediately be transported to a different place and a different time, with memories dancing vividly in our mind's eye. Science even proved that it's a real thing.

But how many people share the same song with a similar emotional state or memory? I'd say that in the geek culture it's a prevalent occurrence, which just adds to the list of what makes our community so amazing.

Take the original Mario theme, for example. We will collectively remember happy times, frustrating times. I'm willing to bet that the majority of us will see World 1-1, with that first Goomba just waiting to trip us up. I can't help but smile and feel that all of life is simple and good. My mind quickly jumps to Super Mario Bros. 3 to World 1-2, where I was unable to successfully pass that level until I was in my teens. I remember the first time I crouched down in 1-3 on the white platform and ran behind the scenery to triumphantly obtain the warp whistle. Now I can hear the flying ship music and the cannons blasting.

Those two Goombas got me every time. Image via nesmaps.

I think of my sister next to me laughing and narrating as she jumps around 5-1,  pretending that Mario is in a bizarre pet shop. We take turns and she lets me play 5-3 because she knows how much I love Kuribo's Shoe. I could go on, traveling up through Super Mario World and watching my sister successfully make Mario fly with his yellow cape while I repeatedly fall softly to the ground. Now we switch to Mario 64 and backflipping into the paintings, and my sister simply cannot manage to beat Bowser.

I would love to conduct an experiment that contains two strangers who have both played the original Mario: place them in a room together, play the music and see how quickly they are able to bond and have a conversation. Music in gaming is so valuable! Who else out there feels the need to dance and throw their arms up and down when they hear this?


The importance of orchestral music in gaming is becoming more prevalent along with realistic graphics.  Many people feel that it should be a necessity with all new Zelda titles, and I respect their opinions. Personally I have no problem with computer, 8-bit, midi sounds. If it comes together beautifully and compliments the game then I am happy. However I can also absolutely appreciate the heightened value of an orchestra.

My favorite orchestra soundtrack in gaming has to be Shadow of the Colossus. It is beautiful, so so beautiful. Have you heard it? Here's the opening song.

Excuse me for a moment, I'm watching the opening scene in my mind's eye.

I just adore this soundtrack. To me it's the perfect example of complimentary, magical music. The entirety of Shadow of the Colossus is silent aside from ambient sounds. The only time the player hears music is during cut-scenes and battles. This is my all time favorite track from the game:

I literally, no joke, get goosebumps when I hear this song. That first striking note about seven seconds in is so powerful. But more than that? It's the emotions, thoughts and memories that come flooding into my mind, nearly knocking me over. I played this game hard for months on end. It consumed me and presented an unusual change to my regular gaming repertoire. It called to a part of me that had only been touched by ICO before it.

Sometimes in the middle of other intensive tasks I hear this song in my head. It's a power boost. I hear this song and I am immediately clinging for dear life on the furry back of a Colossus, my sword swinging wildly as I keep my eyes trained on its magical blue weak point. And now I want to play. I've got the shivers.

This would be a good time to talk about a different gaming soundtrack before I lose interest in this article and wander to my PS2. *ahem*

Don't you just want to jump on it? Image via wallpapervortex.

How do you feel about orchestrated versus computer made soundtracks? Do you feel that with available technology all games should strive to have a fully orchestrated soundtrack? Does anyone feel that a game with a phenomenal story and graphics is brought down by a computer based soundtrack? Can I end a fourth sentence in a row with the word 'soundtrack'? Oh look at that!

It's not something I've ever really bothered myself with. If the music is good then I'm not concerned about how it came into existence. Of course, orchestra music is very classy to listen to, so there IS that.

Who out there has a favorite track? I mean, hands down, best in your opinion? I've been pondering mine, and I don't think I can come up with one. Here's a list for you.

-I'm drawing a blank... but really any song from Ocarina of Time.

If that list demonstrates anything, it's that I love Zelda. But more than that it shows that I am in desperate need of a video gaming soundtrack expansion! Please, give me your suggestions! I want them!

Also, does anyone have any stories about gaming music and strong memories? Any songs that you just love, that take you to a special place? I would love to hear them! 



Kingdom Hearts - all of the music from one and the theme from two. They bring back memories of when I played more ps games than I do now. Especially the Traverse Town them. Makes me want to trundle right back home and pick up where I left off. I've been trying to play them with a walk-through since the first couple times I played I was, well, I missed a lot.

Beyond that, I love Terra in Black and the Halo theme. I have remixes of those that are just gorgeous.

The Halo theme is pretty fantastic, and I'm not a fan of the game. It has some power to it. The other one I haven't heard of!

I never played Kingdom Hearts 2, and I didn't get very far into the first one before I got frustrated and quit. I never did go back... I'll definitely listen to the soundtrack though! :D

There are dozens, upon dozens of creative game music projects. One that has become particularly popular since hitting the big time at PAX East as well as PAX Prime is the hardcore, ass-kicking phenom, Video Game Orchestra or "VGO." These guys bring hard core rock into perfect harmony with a classic symphony setup. From face-melting electric guitar solos to fantastic flights of the flute section, VGO brings the house down every time.

I'd also point out one of my personal favorites as a Zelda fan: ZREO (Zelda Re-Orchestrated) Very cool covers of the soundtracks from each title and a very active community working collaboratively to bring out new twists on our favorite ocarina tunes.

and finally, you can't talk about game music without mentioning OCRemix (Over-Clocked Remix). This community covers the entire gambit of video game soundtracks. From Baldur's Gate to Banjo-Kazooie, from Megaman to Morrowind; They re-imagine and re-create those shared experiences for us. Whether you're interested in reminiscing on your childhood or rocking out to the new releases, OCR will continue to bring out the best of the creative side of the gaming community.

I've heard quite a few songs from ZREO and I've always been impressed.

Thanks for the links! So much new music to explore.

I love the music in Super Mario Galaxy, fantastic orchestral tracks which really capture the mood of the galaxies. The Gusty Garden Galaxy track is epic. I have a lot of the tracks on my iPod and if I feel way more epic if an adventurous one is playing and I'm walking along.

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