Video game soundtracks have come a long way since their early embryonic inception. From the simplistic, catchy chiptunes of the 1970’s arcade cabinets, to the more elaborate digital synthesizers and sampling effects of the 1980’s and 1990’s home computers, to modern day’s even more sophisticated pre-recorded, multi-layered, multi-genre and orchestral compositions, the audio soundscapes of video games have morphed and evolved alongside the ever-developing technology they were born into.
With these advancements in sound design and audio technology, video games have been blessed with incredible licensed and original soundtracks that can comfortably go toe-to-toe with TV and film’s finest — heck, there are even numerous annual awards specifically related to the year’s finest video game music. Furthermore, it’s also not uncommon to hear the dulcet tones of Jeremy Soule’s The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim and the stirring scores of Nobuo Uematsu’s Final Fantasy series glide gracefully over the air-waves. Even my dad — who has zero interest in video games — has bought a Final Fantasy OST and absolutely adores it. Go figure.
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Essentially, video game soundtracks are increasingly being taken more seriously, not only by the developers, composers and publishers, but also by music fans and video game fans who like to listen to great music. Video game music is a crucially important component of the video game experience and is just one of the many integral ingredients involved in creating memorable titles in one of the fastest growing modern industries in the world.
The power of a great soundtrack cannot be understated. It has the potential to elevate a very good game into a great one. There are titles like Sound Shapes and Rez that gift the player with the conductor’s baton and places them centre-stage, as an active participant in the creative process within the game’s audio-visual magical worlds. There are also titles like the Fallout series, that thoughtfully select vintage licensed tracks and partner them together with stunning, tuneful orchestral symphonies to create its own alternative universe, unique identity and tangible mythos.
And then, there are the following 10 wonderful soundtracks that may have been overlooked or simply fallen through the cracks. Despite this, they’ll no doubt have you pumping up the volume while letting the noisy world outside slowly melt away — and you don’t even have to love video games to appreciate them.