The Final Fantasy games continue to multiply like rabbits thanks to Square-Enix's unquenchable thirst for cash, but at the turn of the century things were simpler. Fresh from the universal hit of Final Fantasy VII, it seems the company could do no wrong and they followed it up with another major hit. Whilst it took me a few plays to fully appreciate the storyline, the soundtrack had me from the very beginning. I don't think it has ever been bettered in the Final Fantasy series, and it still holds up remarkably well today.
It was the first time composer Nobuo Uematsu broke free from the shackles of midi sound formats and his creativity obviously benefited from the insane ability to play two sounds together at the same time! The more I came to enjoy the game, the more I fell in love with the soundtrack and there's no doubt that it captures the intense essence of the plot from the beginning battle to the finale, four discs later. Tracks from this soundtrack still have the ability to unleash long-since repressed emotions that I associate with the epic plot.
The music from this game hitches a ride towards the top of the list because it accompanied the first ever computer game that I obsessed over. To this day, the nostalgia I experience when reminiscing over FFVII is almost suffocating, what a beauty. Maybe though, I loved it so much because the music was so memorable and fitting?
It sounds incredibly dated now, Nobuo shredding his midi synths, but some of the ear piercing numbers were sufficient enough to pump adrenaline and tug the heart strings of a captivated gamer first time around. This led to the wasting of so many hours of my life, but I wouldn't change it at all. When I first completed FFVII and I heard the Prelude theme looping over a backdrop of outer-space, I felt like I'd accomplished something truly epic. I'm not sure I've ever bettered that feeling!
The musical accompaniment to Valve's 2004 epic is an atmospheric masterpiece. Composed entirely by Kelly Bailey, the soundtrack is designed to be as innocuous as possible until an action sequence kicks in and takes your attention entirely off of the music. It was always a soundtrack with potential, but when I finally found the MP3s they stood up brilliantly as stand alone pieces of music.
Some of the tracks seem to be designed almost entirely to rupture your floorboards with slamming bass lines. It has a strong electro feel that, when combined with the desolate Eastern European landscapes presented in the game, manage to convey sensed of urgency and despair. Now, whenever I hear a Half-Life 2 track I remember only how great the game is and how much the soundtrack made me appreciate it upon subsequent replays. Listening to this bad boy on headphones, loud, is highly recommended.
Maybe the soundtrack for Deus Ex isn’t a stand alone masterpiece, but I hold it in the highest acclaim because it accompanies the greatest game ever made. It ranges from tracks of sheer brilliance to ‘they must be joking’ club remixes of the title song. Still, there’s no disputing the fact that I could identify which part of the story a song is associated with, just by listening to the first three notes of each track.
Along with Deus Ex, Alexander Brandon worked on the soundtrack for Unreal Tournament, which was almost deserving of a place on the list. I went for Deus Ex because it succeeds in conveying more memories and emotions than the techno tunes of UT that only have to guide you through a merciless kill-fest, rather than successfully match a complex storyline. It’s a sad fact that the game designing and musical genius of the Ion Storm team will never again regroup to produce a game this brilliant.
I barely played this game, but the soundtrack is one that I'll always remember. I had a lot of respect for its creator, Amon Tobin, around the time of its release and to this day it contains most of my favourite songs by the man. Maybe Chaos Theory shouldn't count as a game soundtrack considering how different the songs are in-game compared to the official CD release, but the noise that Amon creates is so heavy I think it'd be criminal to overlook.
He pieced together an ensemble of multi-instrumentalists and then cut and pasted their work into intense musical 'storms'. I can think of no other words for it, it far surpassed his other works. Ubisoft need to be commended for approaching a trip-hop artist with no former game scoring experience and then leaving him to work some magic. The percussion orientated result just really really works. Even the artwork is cool.
This soundtrack is enchanting from the very first note to the last. It serves as your only companion throughout most of the lonely game as you follow an enigmatic character on his passionate crusade. I honestly wish that more developers threw as much emphasis into audio contributions to their games, as this orchestral epic is perhaps the only game soundtrack I've ever considered paying money for. When you're out exploring the vast emptiness in the game, the music will leave you well alone and just tinker around to remind you how beautiful and quaint the landscape is. Moments later when you're assaulting a gargantuan foe it will crescendo into action, occasionally even giving you hints that you're going about things in the right way.
You follow a sombre man as he partakes on a quest in a forbidden land, slaying colossal beasts at the behest of an outcast God. Each colossus is granted their own theme music meaning every battle is different, and their audio accompaniment accentuate just how vast and immense each creature is. The soundtrack is absolutely key to the story and it never once hints that your foes are in any way evil or deserving of their fate.
It would be rude to leave this one off of the list. There is an eternal battle in my head to decide which Playstation instalment of the Final Fantasy franchise has the best music. I didn’t have many positive words to say about the game itself, but the soundtrack was unquestionably excellent. It was Nobuo Uematsu’s last great contribution to the Final Fantasy series and since his departure the soundtracks have been almost entirely forgettable as a result.
The fact that he had been churning out soundtracks for the same series for over a decade but still managed to roll out massive hits is a minor miracle. He bought the misery of certain towns and scenes to life in FFIX with his music, and it’s another masterpiece spanning four separate discs. The score plunders a few tracks from previous final fantasy games and jazzes them up with a medieval twist, making it pretty impossible for fans of the series to dislike. He rates it as his favourite soundtrack to date, and I doubt he’s got enough left in the tank to ever better it.
Not only was Command & Conquer a game that birthed an entire genre, but it also contained one of the most killer soundtracks I’ve ever heard. The game was released in 1995, but 14 years later I still remember most of the tunes note for note. I wouldn’t even class my playing time of C&C as extensive either, the songs were just so good that they invaded my long-term memory and found a place to live.
Despite resembling the world’s biggest tool, composer Frank Klepacki has worked some magic here, somehow capturing the depressing scenario presented in C&C, but also managing to keep an upbeat tempo that fuels your adrenaline during all of those pesky wars you find yourself involved in. Such is Klepacki’s legacy with the C&C games, he has been involved in the soundtrack in every Command & Conquer game since, despite the fact that he now works for a completely different company.
The Quake games have a proud history of containing awesome soundtracks. The only respectable thing Trent Reznor ever did was to put forward the droning industrial melodies that escorted you through the never ending corridors of Quake. When Quake II was released, Sonic Mayhem took over audio duties and threw together an adrenaline fuelled soundtrack that surpassed the original Quake in just about every way.
It does a much better job at capturing the whole ‘We’re BAD ASS’ ethos of the Quake series and most of the tracks could easily be used as tough-guy wrestling intro themes. That’s hardly a compliment, but such faux-metal anthems might just be the tonic to get a 15-year-old boy hooked on FPS games for the rest of his life. Some of these tunes are so hilariously heavy that I still use them to test the bass on my sound system. Youtube streams don’t do it justice, that’s for sure.
I had to get my mum to purchase RE2 for me when it came out as I wasn't even old enough to snap up a 15+ Certificate game. I remember being absolutely terrified when playing it, sweating profusely, shaking uncontrollably and generating a heart rate that could out-beat a hummingbird's wing. There was one thing that would always bring me back from the brink of despair though, and that was the save point room. If there was ever one track that was responsible for saving me from cardiac arrest, it would be 'Secure Place'.
Some years later I fired through it again when I wasn't a 13-year old nervous wreck and I realised quite quickly that the entire soundtrack is responsible for the game's fear factor. It's a huge part of what makes the game so atmospheric and haunting. It can thrust the fear down your throat with a furious synth-string ditty and then lull you into a false sense of security moments later with some dissonant piano work. Sublime. Even when you're not being attacked by the ravenous undead you have to watch out for rogue piano chords that never let you rest.
Mass Effect's sound track instantly reminded me of the futuristic electro-beats that pervaded Deus Ex. I couldn't believe how excited this made me, I thought there may finally be a game out there that could compete with such a behemoth. Sadly, the game didn't live up to expectations, but the sound track was definitely a high point and maintained a big presence right the way through until the final credits rolled.
The serenity offered by "Uncharted Worlds" is right up there with the save game rooms in Resident Evil games. Instant peace. This soundtrack works more as an overall accompaniment, rather than relying on strong individual tracks, but it still remains the highlight of Mass Effect for me.