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Video Game Soundtracks: The Difference Between Iconic and Forgotten

Video Game Soundtracks: The Difference Between Iconic and Forgotten

Think about every game that has ever been argued as “the best game ever.” Games like The Legend Of Zelda: Ocarina Of Time, Chrono Trigger, Shadow Of The Colossus, Bioshock, and Uncharted to name a few. Now think about the lunchroom arguments you had with all your friends, concerning which is truly the best and what your reasoning was.

Very seldom, if ever, did the mention of the word soundtrack enter the conversation. A lot of gamers don’t think about the background music, at least consciously. They don’t even acknowledge the existence of background music. And when done right, that’s what it’s supposed to be like. Now take those same games I mentioned (or any other game of your choice) and pull up a YouTube video of one of their songs. I’ll wait…Okay, now didn’t that take you right back to the moment in time when you first heard that track?

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Every memory of that game resides in the 3-5 minute progression of notes. A lot of video game developers, and even fans, don’t realize that the little ambient background music may just be the difference between Ocarina of Time and Kingdoms of Amalur; of Chrono Trigger and Xenosaga; of Skyrim and Summoner.It seems that in today’s video game world, the sound aspect is one of the least talked about features. Even worse is this: it almost seems intentional. Think about the last ad, commercial, or description on a game box that you saw, and try to remember when any of them boasted about the soundtrack of the game.

With the exclusion of award winning video games, I can’t think about any game in my lifetime that tried to sell itself to consumers by the idea of having a great soundtrack, but maybe they should have.Again, think about every award winning game (and I promise I will stop asking you to think as much from this point on). Now, when all is said and done, when talks of graphics grow old, when the topic of playability wears thin, there is one thing that you can still talk about. There is one thing that you can talk about to anyone, whether they game or not, and that ends up being the soundtrack. One of the most iconic part of games like Mario and Megaman are the soundtracks that backed those adventures, your adventures. You may not remember how to defeat Bowser (the axes are your best friend) but you certainly remember the theme to world 1-1. If you’re still not convinced about this, let’s try out a little test. When you think of coins, what’s the first thing you think of? When I mention Italians, who is the first person who comes to mind? Does the word mustache instantly make you recall every moment of Super Mario? Probably not. However, just hearing the beginning to the famous Mario tune has the ability to take you back in time and transport you to the exact spot that you first played Super Mario. That’s the effect of a great soundtrack. They are time traveling, omnipresent, reminders of times come and gone. But at the same time it should be stressed that, while they can bring you back to the past, they also heighten your enjoyment of a game while playing it.

The catchy songs stick in your head for weeks, the scary ones get your heart pounding during intense moments, the exciting ones get you pumped, and the suspenseful ones have you biting your nails. To put this into perspective, try playing Resident Evil 4 without the music playing, or for an even wider area of effect, try watching Jaws without the famous background tune. The experience just isn’t the same if you don’t allow the creative minds fully deliver their vision, to take you where they want you to go. This level of control is important for a deeper connection to the characters and story. So really, when a video game developer uses a terrible soundtrack, or a soundtrack that doesn’t properly accentuate the qualities of the video game, they are doing you an injustice. Once you realize how much of a factor music plays in a game, it can really hinder your enjoyment, and will make you appreciate and understand what makes your favorite games so great.When I played Bastion a few years ago, I loved the story, the characters, the engaging game-play, and the depth and commitment that was put into it.

I recently replayed the game, going into it with the understanding of what goes into making it one of the best games I’ve ever played, and I have to say, that knowing that the music was meticulously planned, and understanding that the developer could have just filled the space with anything, certainly makes me appreciate the game, the developer, and the experience a lot more.So, if you’re one of the people who believes that gaming is more than just a hobby, or if you’re just a small time fan trying to garner a greater appreciation for the world you’re surrounded by, maybe you should download the soundtrack to one of your favorite games. With that, you’ll see what can be brought back to your mind with just a few instruments and a set of notes.