The Soulful Tunes of Videogames

There are many reasons as to why we play videogames. Some of us are looking for a stress-reliever, some of us are looking for an adventure to immerse themselves in. One thing is sure though: a game is considered high-quality when it draws you in and does not let you go until the very end. A big factor in the immersion of videogames for me is the music in those games. You cannot help but feel slightly euphoric when the ending credits roll with a musical score that gives you chills. Throughout the history of videogames there have been a couple of shining stars at the vanguard of videogame-music that put todays contemporary pop-artists to shame. Here are some of my personal favourites:

-The Jazz Jackrabbit series, most notably Jazz Jackrabbit 2
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Platform games on the Personal Computer were always one step behind of the big console versions. However one example that time seems to have forgotten was Jazz Jackrabbit. Taking elements from Sonic The Hedgehog only with a gun in hand Jazz Jackrabbit was a platform classic (unlike recent iterations of anthropomorphic speed-freaks with guns right Shadow?) and it stands true to its name. Jazz Jackrabbit is filled to the brim with jazzy and funky tunes set to the high pace of the game.

My personal favourites:
-The menu theme of Jazz Jackrabbit 2
-The Tube Electric theme, This level used to take me ages because I just could not resist jamming along to this tune on the bass.

-The Command & Conquer series, most notably Command & Conquer and Red Alert
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What better to set the mood for a strategy war-game than industrial funkmetal? The moment you hear that irresistible bass-groove from Hell March playing in the background you know things are going to get messy. Command & Conquer was the first RTS-game I ever played and up to this day the music still gives me goose bumps. It is quite a shame that the latest installments in the series now run by EA seems to lack these groovy tunes, even though it was quite a moment starting the first mission in the C&C 3 expansion and hearing Act on Instinct once again.

My personal favourites:
-Act on Instinct, used in every C&C game(the Tiberium storyline atleast) and still manages to set the mood perfectly.
-Hell March, what Act on Instinct is to the Tiberium storyline, this tune is to the Cold War storyline, The Red Alert 2 version is my personal favourite.
-Demolition, gotta love that slap-bass.

The Katamari Damacy series, most notably We Love Katamari
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I used to hate J-Pop, I really did. A friend of mine is a big J-Pop fan and I used to slap him silly whenever he put one of those screechy songs up. A trip to Tokyo might have changed my opinion a little bit, but Katamari Damacy played the biggest part in my change of heart. The premise of this game is just plain silly. Your somewhat egocentric father blew up all the stars and it is your job to fix it by rolling up stuff on earth. The music is just as bat shit insane as the game itself to say the least but it fits the game perfectly. Imagine the B-52s mixed with some psychedelia and a lot of happy pills and you are not even close.

My personal favourites:
-The Wonderful Stars Walk Is Wonderful, the Overworld tune if you will, raises the spirits like nothing else.
-Katamari on the ?, I added the question mark because there are a couple of versions of this song, the original being Katamari on the Rocks, but all versions have something special about them. Nanaaaananananananana Katamari Damacy!

-The Kingdom Hearts series
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Blending Disney magic with Final Fantasy magic turned out to be a winning formula for Square Enix as the Kingdom Hearts series turned out to be a major success worldwide. The story is about a young boy named Sora who must travel to different Disney-themed worlds to stop the darkness from taking over. Well, that is the premise at the very least. The story becomes increasingly more intricate as the games progress but now is not the time to look into that. It is however the time to look at some of the music in this game, which is mostly orchestrated and written by Yoko Shimomura, who is not a stranger to the Final Fantasy world. Wonderfully cheery and happy at one time, incredibly dark and fearsome at other times. The music of Kingdom Hearts is the same as the premise: Mixing Disney with Final Fantasy, and the end result is nothing short of breath-taking, and even the classic One Winged Angel from Final Fantasy VII is present and accounted for.

My personal favourites:
-Dearly Beloved, the title track.
-Graceful Assassin, the boss fight song from (Re:)Chain Of Memories. Fits the character (Marluxia) and the feeling of despair about losing your memories perfectly.
-Dive into The Heart (Destati), the song played at the Station of Awakening. An almost painful crescendo of looming darkness.
-Passion by Utada Hikaru. The theme song for Kingdom Hearts 2, written and recorded by popular Japanese artist Utada Hikaru. Much more foreshadowing and darker than Simple & Clean (the theme song for the first Kingdom Hearts). Hearing this play in the trailer for the first time truly made me wonder what was going to happen in the universe of Kingdom Hearts.

-The Metroid series, Most notably the Metroid Prime saga
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The Metroid series already had some great music in its arsenal. The Brinstar theme is one of the first that comes to mind. However the Metroid Prime saga took that and reinforced it so heavily it would make the Alan Parson Project quiver in their pants. Reinventing the series, the Metroid Prime saga was the first 3D iteration of our favourite metal-clad heroine and it was quite simply brilliant. The music was no exception. Heavy on the bass and even heavier on the sci-fi, the music always knew how to set the mood. Whether with remixes of old (e.g Magmoor Caverns) or with completely new sounds the score was a mix of sci-fi paranoia and soul-chilling grooves.

My personal favourites:
-Phendrana Drifts, the wonderfully mysterious piano set to the snow filled world filled me with awe the first time I entered this place.
-The Tallon Overworld themes, there are two themes in the Tallon Overworld: The first is a remix of a classic Metroid tune and the second one is something new all-together. I personally prefer the second one but both are truly wonderful.

These are some of my favourite tunes in videogames, songs I listen to everyday and play along with if I can. There are still a lot more examples out there and I will probably write a second article tackling those games that I missed someday. I intentionally left out the two kings Mario and Sonic mainly because those two (even though they have great music) have been talked to death already and I thought it was time for something else.

I suggest that after reading this article you start looking up these songs on Youtube and enjoy them as much as I do, and if you have any favourites that I missed feel free to mention them!