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.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

The Importance Of A Good Soundtrack

When was the last time an ad for "the next big hit" from "the next big developer" raved about the music?  Most of the time when people read a review for a video game pending release, you don't see anything regarding the soundtrack.  This bothers me simply because music is an immensely important thing to video games.  Apart from being visually stimulating, there is also much enjoyment to be found in the various beeps and tones found in our favorite stories.

mario 3 overworld 
Imagine what this screen would have been like with just white noise.

Music plays such a large role in digital storytelling that the premise of some titles (and even some missions/quests individually) are largely based around melody.  Think about it: the various instruments in almost every "Legend of Zelda" game, composing the tadpole symphony for Toadofsky in "Super Mario RPG", making sure the band plays just the right ditty in "Final Fantasy VIII"... I could go on.

marin singing 
This game itself (The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening) revolved entirely around one melody.

The anthems and arias we hear while on our electronic adventures can be notes in the background or tools for situational and mood conveyance.  For example, overworld music tends to be upbeat and adventurous, underworld music is generally dark and menacing, and battle music conveys a sense of urgency.

final fantasy vii victory 
Can't forget the 'job-well-done' feeling of victory fanfare! Makes me feel warm and fuzzy.

To capitalize on situational conveyance (I think that's a fitting name), think of a piece of music in your favorite game that left a profound impression on you.  A couple of examples that come to mind for myself are the adrenaline rushes I suffer from almost drowning in "Sonic the Hedgehog," or the anxiety-ridden moments encompassed in the orchestral drama that is "Heavy Rain."

heavy rain 
"Maybe I'd feel better about this if the music made it seem like fun..."

Simply put, while music may not always be essential to the story, it is a charming and crucial aspect of video game culture.  I am continually impressed when music is used in unique ways, gameplay or otherwise.  A perfect example is "Fallout 3" where you wander the post-apocalyptic wastelands accompanied by the swinging sounds of the '30s and '40s.

fallout 3 sheeshkebab 
"You know somethin'? Maybe I do want to set the world on fire."

While the soundtracks do get some attention, I hope appreciation for in-game music, chiptunes and orchestral compositions alike, will continue to grow and gain a stronger foothold in the bigger picture.  Let us raise a glass to the composers who made us feel triumphant for starting a new adventure, and to those who make us feel like jackasses for failing!

chrono trigger victory

If you've got a piece of video game music that you would like to share your feelings about, let me know below!


*Header and preview images courtesy of Zelda Elements.*


The placement of “An End, Once and for All” in Mass Effect 3. It helped make the ending the most moving video game experience of my life.

I will say though, the soundtrack version of the song is absolute crap. The way they bring the song to an abrupt and jarring conclusion, is out of sync with the rest of the song (and the game for that matter).

Shaun, you might be interested to know there’s a version of that song that cuts out the fast-paced ending and replaces it with a softer, more appropriate finish.

Tom, and there is a download link!!

Congratulations, you just unlocked a new achievement, “Hero Status”.

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