Right in The Feels: Video Game Music
“It’s not what you say to a person, it’s what you make them feel that’ll make you memorable.”
The new trailer for Gears of War 4 was released just a few days ago, and it left me an emotional wreck. When I clicked the link to the video I had great anticipated macho camaraderie, badassery and gore that the “Gears” franchise in known for. Instead the trailer gave me a juxtaposition of joy and overwhelming depression.
Marcus Fenix is seen planting a tree as he is watched by a joyous mother and child, quickly flashing between that and a man running and gunning for his life in the middle of a storm. It is soon realized that both moments take place in the same location: Marcus Fenix’ homestead. The man and the child both run to the same landmark, a tree marked by the initials “JDF” that had been carved by the knife that belonged to his heroically deceased friend Dominic Santiago. Both desperately run to the safety provided by the father. One towards his embrace and the other into the momentary respite behind the fallen tree. Add in Disturbed’s cover of “The Sound of Silence” and what do you get? A crying grown man-- it was a rhetorical question.
As I sat myself up in my chair with a teardrop rolling down desperately trying to maintain any remaining sense of masculinity in front of my cat, (she’s very judgmental) I couldn’t help but think of some of my favorite memorable Original Soundtrack’s I’ve heard in video games.
Here’s a compilation of five awesome overlooked video game soundtracks that elicit an emotional response and wove its music into my heart.
Kholat (Steam, PS4)
It’s is said fear is the strongest emotion we can feel so it’s fitting that I start this list off with an OST that even separated from the game can evoke the same emotional context: Dread. A game that shares its story with real life events, mysteries, and even a connection to the 1988’s horror film “The Thing.” The music is masterfully composed by Arkadiusz Reikowski, who also wrote the OST for Layers of Fear is simple, minimalistic and hauntingly serene really drive home the idea that sometimes our own thoughts can be more frightening than what we can touch.
Tetris (Just about every platform, ever, seriously even office building windows.)
While this videogame is practically as old as Pong, with its original release in 1984, everyone knows the “Tetris song”. While the OST includes 3 other songs such as “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairies” and “Themes B and C”, respectively, every single one of those themes makes me want to rage whenever the tetriminos enter my line of sight. Yoko Shimomura beautifully arranges Theme A for Super Smash Bros. in a way that encapsulates the chaos and frustration that made this game classic.
Journey (Playstation 4)
The first videogame to be nominated for a grammy for its music of course deserves to be on this list. This game challenged the definition of videogames as an art form. Some people call the game a “religious catharsis” over the bonding with an anonymous stranger while you both complete the game. The music score is gorgeously reactive to the player(s) on screen. So much so, that a live interactive concert was crowdfunded through kickstarter to perform in five cities around the Eastern U.S in 2016. Austin Wintory’s symphonic poem is not one to be overlooked.
Final Fantasy 6 (Super Nintendo)
For many Final Fantasy VII was their introduction to the series and many praise Sephiroth’s Theme as the go-to badass song ever written by Nobuo Uematsu. While it is an awesome piece of music, I have to wholeheartedly disagree. Kefka’s theme hides a wonderfully evil mastermind behind a playful tune whose true complexity is explored in his near 20 minute boss theme, split between four parts. He’s also one of the handful of video game villains that has successfully destroyed the world. While Kefka’s theme inspired both fear and hatred the game’s Opus Magnum is really in the Opera it included. If you pay attention you could hear the motif that would later become Aerith’s theme. And we all know how she made you feel. (SPOILERS-- She dies.) I included this one in here because even though this game has great reviews and the series is well known not a lot of people outside of Japan have actually played this game.
Shantae Series(Gameboy Color, Advance, Wii U, 3DS, XBO, Steam, PS4)
With the titular buxom female lead and magical girl setting, it’s easy to brush off these great games as superficial. These titles were often overlooked leading to many people not being able to appreciate its Arabic chiptune style laced with 80’s Hip Hop, Reggae, Funk, Jazz and Techno influence. It was really hard selecting which game had the best music but seeing as many of the themes make a return in The Pirate’s Curse it was a no-brainer. This series is a well-designed platformer made enjoyable with its infectious rhythms, and melodic tracks such as “Burning Town”, “Scuttle Town”, “Rottytop’s Theme” and “Bran-Son” that makes each world and character so memorable. Jake Kaufman handled this series with the same musical audacity as David Wise did with Donkey Kong Country on the SNES and to equal execution. I mean how many games do you know include a bolero as one of its themes?
So, which video game soundtrack had you near tears? Let us know in the comments below!