Not all games are carried down the path to success by their innovative graphics or ground breaking story lines, sometimes it’s the un-sung heroes of the games world that enhance and levitate the game above its competitors, the soundtrack.
I have been thinking about game soundtracks a lot and for quite a while. One of them in particular, which is featured in the top 5, inspired me to ask the questions “was that song just lying around or did they make it especially for the game?”, well some of these were indeed created especially for the title. Lets jump straight in:
7. Superman – Goldfinger (Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater)
I remember playing Tony Hawks Pro Skater on my Playstation and being engulfed by an amazing soundtrack. The very first time I played, ‘Superman’ burst into my ears and brought a smile to my face. It was amazing to have a game that had real and awesome music featured in it. Music and skateboarding have always gone hand in hand, but I remember this being one of the first games when I thought the soundtrack could possibly be better than the actual game.
All of the games in the franchise had amazing soundtracks (the 2nd instalment stands out most) and in my opinion held the title until GTA Vice City came along.
6. Beauty of Annihilation – Elena Siegman (World at War)
Back in the days when I did nothing but play Call of Duty I remember playing the 3rd zombie map for World at War, der reise. I played it constantly and believed I was pretty good at it too! We were a 4 man squad (well, one was my sister) and we would constantly fight to reach round 50. Once alerted to the easter egg it became an obsession. We would play just to simply hit the 3 green jars and then sit there listening to the track (whilst we had a crawler on the other side of the map – we weren’t noobs!).
After hearing the track dozens of times, we would trigger the song and then RAMPAGE. As with the whole list, this is my preference, but it was truely amazing to slay zombies whilst listening to this.
5. Short Change Hero – The Heavy (Borderlands 2)
Borderlands (the original) was a bit of a sore spot for me. Despite being highly rated by everyone who played it, I didn’t feel like it was a complete game. I felt it was a little hollow and empty and almost as if it wasn’t finished. I did however enjoy the intro song for the game by Cage The Elephant. However, when 2k Games began their viral marketing campaign for Borderlands 2 they soon grabbed my attention. There were a series of trailers that featured Claptrap dancing to dubstep and recreating the iconic ‘onset flipout’ by Christian Bale, these alone ensured I bought the game. It wasn’t till I popped the disc into my 360 that I was introduced to The Heavy that featured in the intro. For me this was the first time I had heard The Heavy, combine this with the awesomely animated intro, it soon became one of my favourite tracks featured in a video game.
4. Still Alive (Portal) & Want You Gone (Portal 2) – Jonathan Coulton
I remember seeing the very first trailer for Portal and was captivated by it’s concept. It wasn’t just a trailer, it was an introduction to the mind bending dynamics that an ‘Aperture Science Handheld Portal Device’ would provide. However, once you reached the end of the game you came across one of the most interestingly written songs I have ever heard. “Still Alive” by Jonathan Coulton did an amazing job of embracing the feel and theme of the game whilst providing such genius lyrics as “Now, these points of data make a beautiful line. And we’re out of beta. We’re releasing on time”.
With Portal 2 I was praying for another song, but I was filled with doubt as to anything topping the first. I needn’t have worried. It was top draw. “Want You Gone” in certain ways became my preference, combine that with the “Turret Song” and my heart was won. After this I started listening to more Jonathan Coulton and discovered such classics as “Ikea” and “Re: Your Brains”. So well done Jonathan, I pray for a Portal 3!
3. Still alive – Lisa Miskovsky (Mirrors Edge)
Mirrors Edge, by some, was considered a flop. Personally I loved the game, even from the very first trailer showing how free running will be a popular feature in many games to come. I forgave all its flaws, including the controls (which I myself didn’t see as much of a problem).
From a marketing perspective, the greatest part of the game was the soundtrack. Elements and hints of the song “Still Alive” were featured from the very first trailer and all the way through the game. It really did encapsulate the tone, pace and feel perfectly. I remember wondering one day (as mentioned in the prologue to my list) if the song came before the game or was created for it. The same day, a friend showed me a featurette which answered the question. The song was written and recorded especially for it. A true testament to how the experience of a game can be heightened by the right soundtrack.
2. Make it bun dem – Skrillex & Damian Marley (Far Cry 3)
Everyone that has played Far Cry 3 can remember the moment you pick up the flame-thrower and light the marijuana field alight! I hate to use the phrase, but it was “epic”! The song didn’t just fit the moment, it almost felt instructional. It wasn’t till I played the song whilst at work that a good friend turned around and said “that’s the tune from Far Cry 3 right?” with a big smile on his face, that I realised how almost iconic that moment had become.
For the cool factor alone it has made it into the top 5. Also the fact that Skrillex and Damian Marley (son of Bob) had collaborated on a track ensured it was going to be a moment I would never forget.
1. Far Away – Jose Gonzalez (Red Dead Redemption)
Before I say anything about this I feel that I need to be completely transparent. This song wouldn’t have sprung to mind when writing the list if it wasn’t for a reddit thread I saw which was asking people for their favourite video game music. This was number 1. As soon as I saw it at the top my mind was flooded with flashbacks of riding to Mexico.
Not only is this an amazing piece of music, it was perfect for the game. Although the long ride to Mexico was exciting, having the soothing vocals and guitar of Jose Gonzalez to accompany you on the journey pushed it over the edge.
To pick only 7 from a lifetime of games is definitely not fair to other game soundtracks and also not fair to myself, my preference is open to change on a day to day basis. Having this in mind, here are some extra mentions that would easily make it into a bigger list (these may be added as people demand them to be):
- Emotion 98.3 – GTA Vice City