The gaming world has always paid special attention to music. It’s a crafty way to inject energy as well as impart melodies that function like jingles, forever affixed to certain levels, fantasy worlds, characters, and more.
Some video game music is immortal, like the famed “dudda-dudda-dudda” of Super Mario Brothers. Other video game scores are more obscure and esoteric, even hair-tingling and haunting. They add a serious emotional element to what’s happening on the screen and the pacing can create the perfect amount of suspense and tension.
It’s quite easy to spend a day on YouTube playing the scores to beloved games. Those who grew up gaming may feel nostalgic hearing the soundtrack of a favorite Nintendo or Sega game. Music lovers appreciate the sonic connection between the game and its songs. And even those with minimal love at best for gaming and tunes will find appeal in the following ear worms otherwise known as the best video game music of all time.
The Tetris soundtrack dabbles in traditional Russian sounds, with a theme song that is delightfully pixilated. It feels like a pop number from a mysterious, faraway land. It’s incredibly repetitive but it doesn’t matter. When you’ve got a good thing going, keep it going and loop away.
Super Mario Brothers
Arguably the best of them all, the soundtrack for the original Super Mario trilogy is nothing if not iconic. It’s playful but sharp as a tack, with surprisingly good percussion.
With its choir-driven score, the Halo soundtrack feels a bit medieval. But there are also futuristic elements in the form of shimmering metallic sounds and spacey interludes. As a whole, it’s as involved and intoxicating as most good movie scores.
The Legend of Zelda
Koji Kondo developed the score for standout 1987 game The Legend of Zelda. The sounds are triumphant and beautifully reflect the game’s exploratory nature. It comes off perfectly minimalistic and blown out, like something a prodigy would devise on an old Casio keyboard.
A series of games spanning some fifteen years deserves a legendary family of soundtracks. These scores find the sweet spot that resides somewhere between classical and traditional Japanese music. Epic is not a word to be used lightly but it’s more than justified here, especially with regards to the soundtrack to the first and flagship Final Fantasy game.
Bastion dropped on computers in 2011. The soundtrack, by Darren Korb, is hard to pin down in terms of genre, which is a big part of its appeal. Sometimes it feels like the worldly sounds of Thievery Corporation, other times it’s a gust of soothing acoustic soft rock. It’s compelling even without the game and would do well pouring out of the speakers of any eclectic cocktail lounge.
Doom dropped in 1993 and quickly became one of the most popular games of its era. Part of that fame must be owed to the soundtrack, influenced by hard rock and metal and even a little prog-y at times. It’s a white-knuckled score that matches the intensity of the game, inspiring the player to fully rage.
This goth horror game from the mid-1980s offers a fulfilling soundtrack fit with piercing guitar work and creepy orchestral arrangements. It’s dramatic and stormy, much like the game itself. And it’s very, very much of its era.
Ecco the Dolphin
This overlooked Sega game touts one of the most restive and peaceful soundtracks in all of the gaming realm. It’s perfect to nap or meditate to, with its ocean-inspired sounds and sweeping melodies. Naturally, there’s dolphin chatter and whale song woven into the score.
The soundtrack to this fighting game for Super Nintendo is perfectly industrial in mood. There’s fiery electric guitar work, blasting percussion, and an underlying broodiness that evokes the night. There’s even the occasional house-y dance number that reveals the game’s 1990s heritage.
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