In this feature I’m talking about games who have had soundtracks put together for them specifically. So obviously I’m not referring to Rock Band or that ilk. Nor have I considered any rhythm game such as Patapon.
I don’t imagine this being anyone’s idea of a definitive list, but listening to the Mirror’s Edge soundtrack recently made me think on the games whose music has given me pause for thought over my quarter-century of gaming.
Here are my top 5.
The game that went all-out for design and presentation back in 1995 didn’t skimp on the soundtrack either. Accompanying the visual treats of The Designer’s Republic were the sounds of CoLD SToRAGE and an exclusive-to-PlayStation trio of tracks from electronic giants Leftfield, Chemical Brothers and Orbital.
Subsequent releases in the series continued the tradition of bringing on established artists, with CoLD SToRAGE taking a much-reduced role in the 2097 sequel (to then disappear from the WipEout music entirely come Wip3out) in favour of the returning Chemical Brothers and adding in acts like The Prodigy, Kraftwerk and, most recently in Wipeout 2048, deadmau5.
But it was the original game in the series that set the bar so unbelievably high, and timed it perfectly with the Chemical Brothers who had just released their seminal Chemical Beats, the song that would go on to define the game’s marketing:
A personal favourite of mine, and included in here for no other reason than that. Truth be told, there were several games of this era that I could have picked for soundtrack purposes: Streets of Rage and Street Fighter 2 being clear and, if I’m fair, obvious stand-outs. There’s a reason Guile’s Theme got its own meme after all.
But R-Type more than any other is what swallowed up the most of my 50ps at my local ice rink, and so it gets the honour of inclusion in today’s list:
Doom 3 didn’t quite deliver on what made the original so great back in simpler times, when the S in FPS meant Shooter and not Sucky-Story: relentless running and gunning. What it also didn’t have was a kicking soundtrack to run those guns off with!
The original Doom’s gritty Mars hellscape and legions of scary-beasties was accompanied by the only suitable soundtrack – hard rock:
4. Prince of Persia
I’m always sad that this game came in for as much abuse as it got. I’m talking here of the 2008 game, not Jordan Mechner’s original icon from the 80s.
Striking out from the succesful Sands of Time trilogy with a bold new art direction and a bolder, some may say cheekier, new Prince, the game was regarded by some as too easy, too sand-free and too much like things happened in only one chronological order.
But it was simply gorgeous, and Ubisoft did a fantastic job of capturing the acrobatic antics so popular in the previous series and made an entire game world around it. The playgrounds in which the Prince could perform were vast arenas, made all the larger by a soft and evocative soundtrack so unlike many of today’s mainstream games:
5. Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker
Music has been a long established gameplay theme and mechanic in the Zelda series, so it’s only correct that the music featured in the game be excellent. As always, Nintendo delivers.
It took a bold move to portray Link as so young a hero, and setting their epic story at sea rather than on the Hyrule plains. Any doubts were immediately forgotten, though, when setting out to sail on the next adventure.
Dawn was just approaching, the sun was just rising, and the best piece of music to grace a Zelda game would fill your ears and heart, just as the wind filled the King of Red Dragons’ sail:
Honourable mentions: Oh, a ton of stuff. Rather than list them here, let’s hear yours!