A couple interesting facts about me: my seven-year-old self demanded on several occasions that my mom put my hair in Chun-Li-style ox horns before I went to school, and I’ve spent an embarrassing amount of my pre-adult life neglecting my hygiene for days at a time with a console controller glued to my hands. Although I’m no longer quite as fanatical about video games nowadays, they definitely still have a special place in my heart. When working with a medium as immersive as video games, the key to making a truly unforgettable game is to have a memorable soundtrack. Here are some of my favorites.
5. Jet Set Radio
With a premise that involves inline skating around an caricature of Tokyo on a quest to cover graffiti from rival punks with your own, Jet Set Radio needed a soundtrack that was equally quirky. Sega enlisted the help of Hideki Naganuma who fused funk, electronic, and turntablism to create what has remained one of the most catchy and eccentric video game soundtracks ever created.
Since I’m on team PS3, I never got to play Bastion when it was first released for Xbox Live Arcade. I did, however, get to play it soon thereafter when the iOS version was released. Given all the hullabaloo surrounding the game’s reception, I was fully aware of how awesome the game experience would be. What I wasn’t aware of was how beautiful Darren Korb’s soundtrack, which draws elements from old Westerns, would be. I’m was and am still particularly enamored with Zia’s theme, “Build That Wall,” which features Ashley Barret’s soothing vocals over a stripped-down guitar melody.
3. Final Fantasy VI
I’ll probably get some flack from FFVII fanboys everywhere for snubbing their fervently adored game in favor of its predecessor. To them I say this:
I’m admittedly biased seeing as how FFVI still remains my favorite video game to date, but that doesn’t discount the loveliness of its soundtrack. Famed series composer Nobuo Uematsu was so proud of FFVI’s soundtrack that he’s stated in interviews that upon its completion, he felt he could have quit doing music with no regrets. Tracks from FFVI’s soundtrack are emotionally evocative, range from soothingly serene to chaotically deranged, and orchestral in quality, a feat that pushed the relatively simplistic 16-bit Super Nintendo to its limits.
2. Guilty Gear XX
Fighting games as of recent have made a habit of featuring dull, uninspired music, but the Guilty Gear series has effectively whacked that trend in the face with an electric guitar. Given that the Guilty Gear series is littered with rock/metal band references (Characters named Slayer, Venom, and Zappa? Check. A special attack called the “Iron Maiden”? Check.), it’s pretty obvious that music has had a huge influence on series creator and composer Daisuke Ishiwatari. His metal-heavy compositions for Guilty Gear XX are an in-your-face reflection of that, and they are as heart-pumping and hectic as the fast-paced onscreen action they were intended for.
1. Chrono Cross
Yasunori Mitsuda’s first job as a bona fide video game composer was for the much-beloved Super Nintendo game Chrono Trigger, a job that he worked on tirelessly to the point of developing stomach ulcers. Upon its release, the game and soundtrack were met with near-universal acclaim and subsequently launched the career of the then-unknown composer.
Mitsuda was once again slated to take the composing reigns for Chrono Trigger’s sequel, Chrono Cross, a game that was set to be released on the Sony Playstation, whose superior sound capabilities would allow Mitsuda to showcase a much broader spectrum of his talent. The end result was magnificent.
Chrono Cross’s soundtrack is a sweeping three-disc opus that draws heavily from various Old World musical influences while maintaining a sense of cohesion and modernity. Its tracks are widely varied, memorably profound, and filled with unsurpassed richness. It can be enjoyed by those who have absolutely no idea what Chrono Cross is because it fully and unassumingly transcends the realm of video game music. I loved it so much that my cheap Asian self spent an absurd sum of money to buy the Japanese import.
Have a favorite video game soundtrack I didn’t mention? Leave it in the comments!