Gaming sounds and music have come a long way from the iconic beeps and bloops of Space Invaders and Missile Command. A game’s soundtrack can be just as important and complex as a film’s, and just as original. The following video game soundtracks are some of the absolute best.
This collection of music spans over two games and a slew of expansion content. Kelly Bailey composed most of the music for this wonderful, classic series except for Half-Life: Opposing Forces (Chris Jensen) and Half-Life: Blue Shift (Chris Jensen and Stephen Bahl). Whether you’re blasting your way out of Black Mesa in Half-Life or trying to escape the horrors of Ravenholm in Half-Life 2, the music adds to the pulse-pounding experience.
Super Castlevania IV
I was in high school when Super Castlevania IV came out for the SNES. I longed for that school bell to ring so I could get home and play this opus over and over. I was sold on the music right from the beginning. Composers Masanori Adachi and Taro Kudo brought Dracula to life with their spooky, blood-sucking soundtrack.
Command and Conquer: Red Alert 2
1995 was a year that I was totally unaware of Command and Conquer since I didn’t have a computer at the time. Luckily, the game was ported over to the Sega Saturn and, without knowing what I was getting myself into, I snatched it up. Frank Klepacki’s industrial hard rock flavor immediately got my attention. Then came Red Alert 2 in 2000. There is nothing better then having a fleet of Kirov Bombers while listening “Hell March 2.” You can almost smell the detritus. Thank you Mr. Klepacki!
Metal Gear Solid
On October 20, 1998, Konami released Metal Gear Solid in the United States. I know because I was waiting in line for it at Electronic’s Boutique, drooling and frothing at the mouth to play it. As the game begins, a sub draws closer and closer. I hear something blissful. The synthetic style of the music makes my feet tap to the rhythm. It reminds me of the sweet sounds of 80’s games. As the game draws to a conclusion, I hear that blissful sound again. I was in awe and, I won’t lie, I teared up a little. “The Best Is Yet To Come” is the track title, sung by Aoife Ní Fhearraigh. If you haven’t yet, definitely check it out.
Composer Kelly Bailey returns to this list, along with Mike Morasky, for the ever so brutal yet hilarious, Portal. The ambience of the music goes really well with Valve’s sadistic world. For those of you who haven’t played it, the end track will make you smile while you eat that victorious CAKE, still alive!
Batman: Arkham Series
Just imagine being the Bat, gliding over Gotham, spreading fear over the criminal element, it wouldn’t be the same with a Polka soundtrack. No offense to Polka listeners. When I first started playing the series, I immediately thought of everything that the beloved 90’s Batman: The Animated Series had to offer. Especially the music! Nick Arundel and Ron Fish (God of War) collaborated on Arkham Asylum and Arkham City. Nick also returned for Arkham Knight with David Buckley (Call Of Duty: Ghost) in the final game of the series
Red Dead Redemption
Let’s go back in time for minute to when America was in her early stages of growth. Your horse and revolver were the means of getting around in a land that didn’t much abide to rules. Rockstar’s release of 2011’s Red Dead Redemption made playing cowboys fun again. From the moment you get off the train as John Marston to the riveting end, the Spaghetti Western-type music makes you feel like a badass on horse-back. Bill Elm and Woody Jackson composed this beautiful original score, which was a first for Rockstar at the time.
Mass Effect Series (Original)
I didn’t get into the Mass Effect series until just before the release of Mass Effect 3 in 2012. I was hooked after my first play of Mass Effect 1 and fell head over heels with Jack Wall and Sam Hulick’s original score. I immediately picked up Mass Effect 2 and was blown away. The mix of 80’s electronic and orchestral scoring tops my list for any game to this day. Wall and Hulick also had super talented collaborators such as Richard Jacques, David Kates and Jimmy Hinson. Then came Mass Effect 3. I was sad that Jack Wall wasn’t there, but happy that Sam Hullick was still on board. I was far from being disappointed. If anyone out there hasn’t played this series yet, please go get it. I promise you’ll dig it.
Back in 2003, EA Sports Big released SSX 3 for the PS2. I was already a fan of the series, so I was overjoyed when this came out. When games like Tony Hawk emerged, hearing music like the Dead Kennedys was a big deal for me since I grew up with that kind of music. The more I could identify with the music, the more I enjoyed these games. There were some familiar bands featured like Red Hot Chili Peppers and Jane’s Addiction, but I had no idea who Andy Hunter or Felix Da Housecat until this game. When a game allows me to discover great new music, it’s always appreciated.
In 2015, Carbon Games released AirMech unto the populace. It is a free to play online game with AirMechs beating the circuit boards out of each other. Why is this on my list, you ask? Front Line Assembly is why. Front Line Assembly has been one of the greatest industrial bands ever to grace the genre. Their soundscapes and atmosphere totally fit AirMech’s play. Front Line Assembly is not new to the gaming community, as they provided the music for ID’s Quake III Arena expansion, “Team Arena” back in 2000.
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