10 Best Video Game Soundtracks Of This Generation
We always talk about whats the best soundtracks of all time. The sort of lists that are dominated by the classics such as Zelda and Mario. But what about recent times? What about the Playstation 3/Xbox 360 generation? We composed our top 10 video game soundtracks of this generation in our opinion. Now before you send us emails we based the list off of soundtracks that stand on their own. Were they soundtracks that we would put in our car and listen to on repeat? Was the music compelling even if you never played the game? Check out our list and then tell us what your top 10 is in our comments!
10.) Armored Core 4
Oh Armored Core 4, what to say about thee? The Armored Core series is the epitome of a niche game, those that love it love the hell out of it. And everyone else pretty much can’t stand it. Armored Core 4 is no different, while it changed some things for the better, it also failed bring in a new crowd. As a mecha fan myself I managed to live with Armored Core 4′s numerous flaws and spend hours of time customizing my mech and playing online. One thing that did surprise me though was the music. AC has never been known for its music, it’s never done anything particularly good or bad when it comes to the score. But from the second I turned on the game I was struck with a bold opera style intro. My ears instantly perked up and were pleased all the way through. The mission songs had this mix of real instruments but electronic overtone. It completely fit the feeling of being in a giant ass mech blasting across the countryside. It was the first time in an Armored Core game that I ever wanted to own the soundtrack. The tracks ranged from rock themed with fast guitar riffs, heavy bass and violin to full out orchestral scores. It’s clear that From Software was trying to give the series a much needed uplift and injection of newness, while it didn’t work out quite the way many had hoped the soundtrack still remains on my playlist to this day.
Favorite Song: With Heat
9.) Afro Samurai
When I started writing this article this is the first soundtrack that came to mind. Its a damn shame that this soundtrack seems to get left off of every “Best of” lists. While the game was itself questionable at times, the soundtracks is a perfect mix of asian style with smooth and sleek raps. While RZA didn’t fully direct the soundtrack himself, his team did not fail at infusing the deep bass and higher melodies that’s at the very core of what makes Afro Samurai so fun. The Afro Samurai soundtrack is one of those albums you shove in the face of someone who doubts that rap can be anything but loud bass and lyrics chalked full of booty and bling. The soundtrack has it all; energizing fight themes with guitar and taiko drums, smooth mellow beats with japanese lute, and the slow sullen sounds of the Japanese flute overlaid with slick lyrics, the mixing of the two styles never seems odd and always pleases the ear. Its arguably one of the best mixes of old school kung fu flicks and modern rap ever. Even if you didn’t like the game, the soundtrack stands high on its own. (P.S WATCH THE ANIME!)
Favorite Song: Kimono Dance
8.) Blazblue: Calamity Trigger
When Blazblue was announced many fighting game fans held their breath with anticipation. Would the spiritual successor of Guilty Gear come to disappoint us or give us the game we’d been waiting so long for. I think its safe to say that three iterations later, Blazblue has secured itself as the best thing to Guilty Gear itself. But besides the eclectic characters and stupid fast gameplay, one of things most noted from Guilty Gear was the music itself. Not only did Daisuke Ishiwatari create the characters, voice the main character but he also composed the entire score AND did the guitar work himself. The intricate and amazing guitar riffs from Guilty Gear are only amplified in awesomeness in Blazblue. The hard hitting rock/metal sounds of the soundtrack can’t help but get you pumped up for battle. Every character has their own theme song which once you’ve learned them are immediately recognizable. Even specific matches between characters that are story relevant have special theme songs. The obvious passion Daisuke has for the music of Blazblue can almost be felt in every track. Each characters theme fits their persona perfectly, from Rachel’s elegant organ work, to the crazy twang of bass guitar in Tager’s to Taokaka’s comical mix of piano and flute. Each track has the feeling of individual love and care. And the guitar work is just so good, so so good. The soundtrack for Blazblue in my opinion goes down as the best fighting soundtrack ever (sorry Tekken fans).
Favorite Song: Susanooh – Haku-men’s Theme Song
7.) Assassin’s Creed 2/ Brotherhood/Revelations
Assassins Creed is a series that I almost didn’t get into. The only thing the first game succeeded to do for me was to bore me to tears. I almost skipped playing the second, and only ended up playing it due to not having anything else to play over a weekend. Luckily everything that bored me in the first one was gone and I soon fell in love with the story of Ezio and the Borgia family. Assassin’s Creed 2, and Brotherhood really helped to create a signature sound for the series. I felt I had to list AC2, brotherhood and revelations together because brotherhood/revelations are really an extension of the AC2 soundtrack. You could queue up the three soundtracks together and never notice any dramatic shift in tone. And thats not a bad thing at all, the overall tone of the AC2/BH/RL soundtrack is a mix of period music and electronica. Which of course is the perfect mirror to whats going on in the Assassin Creed world. Composer Jesper Kyd truly created a style that is unique to the Assassins Creed franchise, a sort of twisted sci-fi that is unlike anything I’ve heard in video games. From pulse pounding tracks that start playing as you run from roof top to rooftop, to the haunting singing and chanting that plays as you explore the city, the music never breaks from the tone set by the franchise. It seems like every instrument known to man is mixed into the soundtrack, violins, trumpets, drums, harps and I swear at one point I heard a cow bell. The instruments are diverse yet all tracks subscribe to the style of a genre that is truly Assassins Creed. While not related to the soundtrack, Ubisoft has also done a tremendous job of picking music for trailers (Most notably Unkle in the first AC trailer and Brotherhood and Woodkid in Revelations).
Favorite Song: Countdown
6.) Lost Odyssey
Lost Odyssey is another hidden gem among a sea of big name titles. It was the kind of RPG that sought to pull at your heartstrings and dare you not to at least shed one tear during the course of the adventure. While the heavy hand of sorrow may have been a turn off for some gamers, those that stuck to it were greeted with a deep and emotional tale. This RPG stands as one of my favorite of the generation as does the soundtrack. Though with famed Final Fantasy composer Nobou Uematsu at the helm how could it not be awesome? In true Final Fantasy fashion the fighting themes are energizing and the world exploring music is soothing. In Lost Odyssey Nobou turned the dial to 11 on every action themed track. The guitar riffs are fast and pounding and the drum work is heavy and intense. The central theme of all the overworld and exploring themes is light and whimsical flute usage. It gave the game a sense of vast exploration yet a bit of childlike wonder. Its everything that has made the Final Fantasy soundtracks stand the test of time. And when the music is sad, it’s really REALLY damn sad. Everytime I had to read one of the lost stories in the game I braced myself for a tear inducing melody (piano and violins, the combination can turn even a macho man to a teary eyed fool). Not to many soundtracks can inspire adventure and sadness within a single CD, but Lost Odyssey does it with grace and ease. The Lost Odyssey soundtrack is the quintessential RPG soundtrack and has yet to be topped by any RPG of this generation so far.
Favorite Song: Dark Saint
5.) Castlevania: Lords of Shadow
Castlevania: Lords of Shadow released to very mixed reactions. While some embraced the Castlevania reboot, many longtime fans were displeased. I rather liked the new direction of the franchise, while I would love a mordern remake of the 2D side scrolling goodness, the love and detail put into Lords of Shadow could not be denied. The story of Gabriel as he slayed demons in the hopes of reviving his dead wife was a good tale with great combat to back it up. But the thing I noticed from as far back as the trailer was the score. Castlevania has always been known for memorable music but LoS brought that to a whole new level. Composer Oscar Araujo busted out a 120 piece symphony orchestra to score the music into an epic and booming score. Every single piece of music feels larger than life, as if the very universe hangs on whether or not you make the jump to the next platform. LoS won Best Original Score for a Video Game or Interactive Media from the Film Music Critics Association, an award it truly deserves. The scoop of the soundtrack is something I would expect from a big budget movie like Lord or the Rings or Harry Potter. Even the battle themes are huge and grandiose as if the player is fighting giants (wait..you did) or titans (hmm wait, that too) or even gods (yup you actually did). The LoS soundtrack is the only one on this list that actually made the game feel more badass than it actually was. Killing something as simple as a swamp troll had you feeling like you were in the climax of a Michael Bay film. I don’t even feel a need to describe the tracks, just know that they are bigger than life and if you listen to them while walking will cause you to become overcome with the urge to walk in slow motion like a badass.
Favorite Song: The Ice Titan
4.) Devil May Cry 4
Devil May Cry is one of my favorite series of all time and favorite action game series as well. In addition to the crazy over the top action, the hard hitting rock themed soundtrack has always been a favorite of mine. In the same vein of Afro Samurai, DMC’s music seeks to define the main characters. Dante’s theme song Lock And Load fits everything you need to know about his character into a 3 minute song. DMC4 took that same over the top rock motif and attached it to the new main character Nero. While many fans are divided over whether Nero was a good protagonist or not, the new music that surrounded his character is some of the best in the series. Nero’s combat theme song “The Time Has Come” is the central song of the game and is the showcase for what the rest of the score is like. His theme song is a mix of dirty guitar and the gruff vocals of Shawn McPherson, a combo that matches Nero’s attitude through the game. Each of the main bosses custom theme’s fit their characters as well, each with their own twist on the musical theme. Berials theme rings with hard heavy sounds that sound suited for a demon, Bael’s theme starts off with organs and then leads into a heavy electronic riff and the remix of Dante’s Lock and Load is as epic as he is. DMC has long been one of Capcom’s most original and off the wall games and the soundtrack has always matched that. The music of Devil May Cry has always had a sort of symbiotic relationship with the game itself. It’s always felt like the two were created side by side as I can’t picture the two apart at all. And it’s that vibe that makes Devil May Cry 4′s score so good. Here’s to hoping that the new DmC doesn’t screw up that synergy.
Favorite Song: Shall Never Surrender (Staff Roll)
3.) Deus Ex: Human Revolution
Deus Ex: Human Revolution was one of my favorite games of last year and a shining example of how to bring a franchise back with dignity and grace. It brought back everything that made the original Deus Ex’s memorable and shined it to 2011 perfection. I gladly explored every nook and cranny of the three cities you visit and a smile never left my face. However the thing I remember most was how good the music was. The opening credits is what did it for me. The slow and haunting electronic tune that played while Adam was being ripped apart was almost intoxicating. I was sucked in with the scene as I watched him scream in agony as his body was merged with machine in an effort to save his life. The music helped bestow this tragic scene as Adam’s mind flashed to his lost girlfriend and their tender moments together as he was sawed and stitched together into a cyborg. I don’t know how others felt during the scene but I was truly sold on the story and character at that point. And while the high quality CG helped paint the picture it was the music that really sealed it for me. After the scene played I quietly prayed to myself that the rest of the soundtrack was of the same quality and I was not disappointed. While none of the tracks struck me as hard as the opening credits every piece of music helped paint the picture of the futuristic world of Human Revolution. The music in many ways reminded me of the classic movie Tron, really the whole tone of the game was akin to it. In a move similar to Assassins Creed, Human Revolution creates a style unto the franchise itself, and gives a sense of setting, locale and even time. The music felt futuristic but also hopeless. As you walk around cities like New Detroit City it felt like their was no hope, as if humankind had given into to the trappings of cybernetics. While I know the philosophy of the game is far outside the purview of this article, I have to comment that the soundtrack itself feels like a message. It takes a tremendous soundtrack to elicit a feeling like a message and Deus Ex: Human Revolution does that.
Favorite Song: Opening Credits
2.) Shadows of the Damned
Shadows of the Damned will undoubtedly end up this generations most underappreciated game. Its crazy blend of horror and comedy was bound to offend the sensibilities of most. But for those who had an open mind it was a unique game with a surprisingly enjoyable storyline. The soundtrack only furthers that notion. The opening theme is a grim rock tune that sounds like Resident Evil had sex with a Deftones album (in a good way). The rest of the soundtrack seeks to blend rock, and instrumental with an overtone of horror. However with the man who composed pretty much every Silent Hill game (AND the movie) its only natural that the music could retain a horror fell while being musically enjoyable. The soundtrack never stays in one place and switches tone quite a few times. From the jazz infused drums and piano of the level screens to the haunting sounds of flutes as you explore, the music never ceases to find a new way to bring an atmosphere of dread. Due yourself a favor, play Shadows of the Damned.
Favorite Song: Theme of Shadows of the Damned
1.) Mass Effect
Mass Effect is my favorite series of all time, period. I make no efforts to hide it. Despite the outrage over the ending of Mass Effect 3 the series still stands as the poster child for the evolution of gaming. No game trilogy has created a world as rich and detailed as Mass Effect. The ability to play your character the way you want to and make choices is unparalleled to this date still. So I find it hard to let the ending tarnish the house that Mass Effect has built. The music in the original Mass Effect is some of the best sci-fi themed music ever composed. The echoing ping of electronic synths and xylophones creates a sensation of actually being in space. The combat tracks are huge and epic, and the music that plays during the final scenes rivals Hollywood in the ability to inspire. Jack Wall and Sam Hulick have created a soundtrack that I will listen to far after Mass Effect is relegated to classic status. Much like Deus Ex, Mass Effects music seems inspired by a classic movie, in this case it reminds me of Blade Runner at times. Though when deep and throaty horns start blaring during some of the boss theme songs you know that you’re in Mass Effect’s world and not any other. The lofty sounds of violins and bells of the Citadels theme helps fill the player with a sense of awe at the floating city, and the floating sounds of flutes really makes you feel like you’re in the rich part of the Citadel as you stroll through the Presidium. And who can forget the dreadful sound that plays when you die, no doubt that is a sound you can play in a room full of gamers and they all will know instantly where it comes from. The soundtrack creates not just a world, but a universe, a basis for everything you will see and explore throughout all three games. While the soundtracks for ME2 and ME3 are similar the first soundtrack is the basis of them all, and a lot of the tracks are used in each game. It is the core of the universe when it comes to the music. It’s a soundtrack I find myself listening to all to often. Mass Effect’s soundtrack goes beyond being the best of the generation, it sits squarely in the leagues of one of the best soundtracks of all time.
Favorite Song: M4 Part 2 (Faunts)