What's your favorite videogame soundtrack?

zelda_ocarina_time

Image Credit: Courtesy of Nintendo

Maybe the word “Ocarina” means nothing to you. It is a strange word. It could be the name of some long-lost defunct kingdom from Middle Europe, or perhaps a rare Eastern delicacy invented by Marco Polo to pad out his memoir. But if you’re someone of a certain age and temperament — someone who owned a Nintendo 64, in the long-ago era when videogame consoles were so resolutely un-chic that a major multinational corporation could actually create a controller seems specifically designed for tri-ped sewer mutants — then the word “Ocarina” can’t help but send you senselessly on a memory-spiral into The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, the classic 1998 fantasy epic that regularly hovers on the top of gamers’ top 10 lists.

Maybe you remember riding across the field of Hyrule, or zipping around Kakariko village by way of your trusty Hookshot, or descending into the belly of Jabu-Jabu (a.k.a. Monstro with a vicious digestive system). But I’m betting what you remember most of all is the music. Ocarina of Time features some of the catchiest musical cues in videogame history — a key part of the gameplay has you learning twelve important tracks, all of them composed of six instantly memorable notes. Composed by Nintendo uber-composer Koji Kondo — who also created the equally iconic scores to the mainline Super Mario games — Ocarina‘s soundtrack is full of great tracks. (My personal favorite: The tragically beautiful “Zelda’s Lullaby.”)

Since the 3-D version of Ocarina of Time hits stores today, I thought it’d be fun to ask: What’s your favorite videogame soundtrack? There are some obvious classics. Nobuo Uematsu’s score to Final Fantasy VII created a whole magnificent world that perfectly matched the epic gameplay. (My favorite track from FFVII is “Cid’s Theme,” which makes for surprisingly effective gym music.) Yu Miyake’s insane score for Katamari Damacy perfectly matches that game’s hyperbolic wit, while Garry Schyman gave the original BioShock a freaky Shining-esque soundtrack.

I’m not sure any fantasy videogame score has ever been more purely thrilling — or sneakily melancholic — as Kow Otani’s Shadow of the Colossus. Likewise, I can’t think of any first-person shooter whose soundtrack has as much pizazz as Goldeneye 007 — composed by the team of Grant Kirhope, Robin Beanland, and Graeme Norgate, who funkily reimagined iconic James Bond themes. (See: “Frigate,” a delightfully tweaked remix of the Goldfinger theme.) And that’s not even including actual original songs composed for videogames, like the relentlessly chipper songs in Parappa the Rappa, the retro-fabulous theme from Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, or the funny-scary “Still Alive” from Portal.

But picking one’s favorite videogame music is, ultimately, an extremely personal act of self-realization. You play videogames for hours, days, even years. The music stops sounding like music, really; it becomes something more elemental, atmospheric, as organic and yet invisible as the sound of your own breathing. So with that in mind, I have to reveal that my own personal favorite videogame soundtrack belongs to Mega Man 2. No, not the iconic NES classic; I’m talking about the Game Boy Mega Man II, an infamously outsourced dud.

Or at least, it’s generally accepted as a dud; when I was a kid, I played through it a few hundred million times. Every single level has music that casts me back helplessly into my childhood: The desperate yearning of “Air Man,” the kineticism of “Clash Man,” and “Needle Man,” a track which EW’s Keith Staskiewicz describes thus: “It could be a Rihanna song!” The soundtrack was composed by Kenji Yamazaki, who doesn’t seem to have worked on anything major. But his legacy is secure, at least in my eardrums.

So that’s my pick. Fellow gamers, what’s your personal favorite videogame music? The choir theme from HALO? The “Clouds” music from Super Mario III? The Disney-goes-RPG soundtrack to the Kingdom Hearts series?

Follow Darren on Twitter: @EWDarrenFranich

Comments (155 total) Add your comment
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  • Rupert

    World of Warcraft has a nice one with this last expansion.

    • gamesfemme

      I also loved the Wrath of the Lich King music. Especially “Invincible.”

      • jank

        nah, the best was the soundtrack from Mega Man X for the SNES

      • Tom

        castlevania probably

    • Color Me Impressed

      Definitely a tie the soundtrack for Zelda:Link to the Past and Uncharted:Drake’s Fortune!

    • Eric

      Agreed.

    • Altair

      I would have to go with the Assassin’s Creed soundtrack; two tracks in particular – ‘Ezio’s Family’ and ‘Desmond Miles’. If I’m having trouble going to sleep, I just pop in my headphones and play those two songs on a loop, and I’ll be off in a matter of minutes…

  • Robert

    Tomb Raider: Legend. So relaxing and beautiful :)

  • Mellie

    Love the Halo soundtrack. Have it as a ringtone on my cell phone when my boys call me.

  • Tex

    World of Warcraft…Song of Elune. Absolutely ethereal.

  • shburrell

    Final Fantasy VIII and X HANDS DOWN! Close on their heels would be Donkey Kong Country.

    • Josh

      Add FFVII to that list too. I loved FFVIII, it’s opening song was fantastic and FFX the Hym of the Fayth and of course the Zanarkand theme! Also some awesome opening music.

      But FFVII…The bomb Mission song, the theme song of Nibelheim, One Winged Angel and of course Aerith’s Theme…seriously everytime I hear that song I get a little choked up :-p

    • Celimene

      I’m also with FFVIII. Between “Waltz for the Moon”, the opening, “Eyes on Me” and that sweet music that plays when they’re talking about the orphanage, FFVIII had a great score. VII is classic as well. Like Josh, I can’t hear Aerith’s Theme without a part of me going “Nooooooo!” There will also be a special place in my heart for “Epona’s Song” from Ocarina of Time. Epona!

  • shburrell

    And let’s not forget Xenogears.

  • Mark

    i always loved the music in chrono cross. allthough the in game rock concert is a little silly.

    • Rutiger

      This is the correct answer. Maybe partial points for Final Fantasy Tactics.

    • Warren

      EASILY the best game soundtrack I’ve ever heard. I still get chills listening to “Time’s Scar”.

    • Claen

      I LOVE the Chrono Cross music!!

    • Skip182

      No, Chrono Trigger had better music.

  • Sarah El

    My gaming is kinda limited recently so I don’t have a breadth of options I’m choosing from, but the music for the Mass Effect series is really good, in my opinion. Appropriately epic and varied. Especially the opening of Mass Effect 2.

    • J.T

      Agreed.

  • Lunna

    “Snake Eater” from Metal Gear Solid: Snake Eater is pretty fantastic.
    “Old Snake” from Metal Gear Solid: Guns of the Patriots is one of my favorite all time songs, especially because it has such a strong emotional pull.
    Anything by Nobuo Uemastu is also kind of a masterpiece.

    • Hermione

      ALL of the music from Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots is insanely good and carries a strong emotional punch. The song during the opening cinematics, (I believe it is Love Story or something, by some lady named Jackie,) is totally haunting. I love it.

      • Lopaz Solidus

        It`s called “Love Theme” by Jackie Presti.

  • Dave

    Going to go old school with Road Rash 3 (Sega CD)!!!

  • Anthony

    Chrono Trigger and Final Fantasy VI.

  • Roland

    It would be a toss-up between the ‘Age of Conan’ MMO soundtrack (“The Dreaming Anew: Memories of Cimmeria” always gives me chills) and Dragon Age: Origins (“Love Song” and “Leilana’s Song” are absoluely beautiful!)

  • Channing

    The one I still regularly listen to in my iTunes library is the soundtrack to Katamari Damacy.

    • Bob Frapples

      Seconded.

  • Corey

    Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2 is the absolute best compilation of music of any game ever created. That is not hyperbole, that is fact.

    • @ Corey

      It’s not fact, it’s your preference and opinion.

      • Corey

        Nah.

  • Fred

    Final Fantasy III

    • Kalick

      I second this.

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