Have you ever played a game where you don’t really remember what happened in the game as much as its memorable melodies? Over time, I’ve come to realize that there are very talented musicians that lend their abilities to the games that we play and enjoy. Music is such an important part of the gaming experience that helps to give the gamer an emotional investment in what he or she is playing as well as add vibrance to what is on the screen.
The first time I took specific notice of how special the melodies of a game could be was when I played Final Fantasy VI on the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES). While the role-playing title certainly had an incredible story and provided incredible exploration, the music is what left its mark on me more than anything. I remember the beginning of the game with the haunting and chilling music in the city of Narshe, the regal tune in Figaro Castle, Cyan’s theme of determination, and the way the overworld music changed when you were in the airship. Final Fantasy VI was a musical masterpiece and was my true initiation into role-playing games (RPGs).
When it comes to the games I love the most, I always clearly remember the games’ music tracks in my head. Konami’s Castlevania: Symphony of the Night and the Suikoden games had outstanding soundtracks that left a lasting impression on me. In fact, the emergence of the original Playstation allowed for some amazing soundtracks in general. Symphony of the Night was a terrific game that many games today attempt to emulate in terms of gameplay and game design. Yet the audio was on a whole different level. The voice acting was fantastic and the music was sensational. It truly brought Dracula’s castle to life.
There are countless other examples we could mention. The work done in Super Mario 3D World, especially the track used for the ghost houses was extraordinary. Whoever was behind the main theme of the original The Legend of Zelda was a musical genius. Persona 4 and Persona 5 feature outstanding songs, particularly for games that focus on teenagers as the main characters. Tekken 2 was the first fighting game I played that had a soundtrack I would buy on CD. Chrono Trigger, which is my favorite game of all-time, absolutely delighted my ears with its magnificent tunes from the moment the game booted up. But its sequel had the best soundtrack I’ve ever heard in a video game.
Chrono Trigger was the better overall game but the better music was with Chrono Cross. Composer Yasunori Mitsuda and the talented musicians responsible for both games did an incredible job. I don’t know if it was because Chrono Cross featured a variety of cultural influences in its music, but something about it truly moved me emotionally. Track after track seemed to hit me right in the heart and at times, it had nothing to do with what was happening on the screen. On its own, the music had my attention and had me invested. I can’t even tell you fully what the game was about story-wise. Yet the music of Chrono Cross was so impactful that I couldn’t forget it.
Arni Village (Home World), Arni Village (Another World), Departed Souls, The Girl Who Stole the Stars, Frozen Flame, Dragon God, etc…what a spectacular arrangement Chrono Cross had. I wouldn’t classify myself as a concert-goer but I would pay money in a heartbeat to attend a show live with an orchestra performing the Chrono Cross soundtrack. The music exudes the highest level of excellence.
The Xenogears soundtrack is another soundtrack etched into my memory. Mitsuda was also the composer in this game. What I remember from Xenogears was that every track properly conveyed whatever the predicament was in the game. Hope, uncertainty, suffering, sadness, darkness, happiness, reflection, and resilience were all portrayed powerfully in the game’s tracks. While the game itself suffered from pacing issues and becoming disjointed in its second half, the music never stopped making its mark. It is what kept me emotionally invested, especially since the game didn’t have any voice acting other than the animated scenes.
We as gamers are very fortunate to have so many talented musicians that fill our games with wonderful melodies that compliment the stories we play out. Chrono Cross, Xenogears, Castlevania: SOTN, Final Fantasy VI, and Chrono Trigger are my top games when it comes to music. I could spend a full day just listening to music from those five games.
What are some of your favorite soundtracks? Video game music is my favorite to listen to. Go to the “GAME MUSIC” section in the main menu above and check out some music for yourselves. Happy listening.