I’d like to emphasize; this isn’t necessarily a list of the best Video Game music necessarily. That said, sometimes a random tune pops into my head or I’ll be playing a newer game and something about the vibe jogs an old memory and one of these tunes will be there, waiting.
Or, more commonly, I’ll randomly start humming a snail-related theme tune in the shower .
These are the tunes that seared themselves into my subconscious over 40 years of playing games. I’ll try and note down why I think they stayed with me, but, to be honest, your guess is as good as mine for some of them.
Viconia’s Theme, Baldur’s Gate 2
Start with the classics 🙂 One of my favourite characters from one of my all-time favourite games. I tend to play good characters in role-playing games, but Viconia was just too awesome not to have in my party. She can be pretty evil and keeping her around causes quite a few ructions if you have other good characters. But her grim backstory combined with the (very rare) hints of vulnerability make her fascinating. Plus she’s constantly in your face about being a wuss. What’s not to like?
(And as for the other romances; Aerie was just too cloyingly goody-goody and Jaheira was majorly on the rebound so, what are you going to do?)
If you keep her loyal as a companion throughout the main game and its huge expansion threading the needle of her romance leads to an awesome redemption arc and brilliant ending. Her theme just summarizes her perfectly
Hope, The Outer Worlds
A combination of banger with heightened emotional excitement. A new Obsidian RPG! With Fallout overtones! And interesting companions! That combined with how awesome the song is meant even with my excitement to get into the game I had to stay on the starting menu for a couple of play-throughs of the main theme….
Maybe (The Inkspots), Fallout
As Fallout’s intro, it summed up the mix of 50’s hope about the future and the horrendous 2060 reality beautifully. When it played over the gut-punch of an ending the melancholy went into overdrive. Your “reward” for successfully completing your mission and all your sacrifice was 100% appropriate and 100% depressing.
Quake 2 Soundtrack
I played a lot of Quake so this was a hard choice; the Trent Reznor sound-track of the first one? The soundtrack of the third one, a game I played semi-professionally in an awesome UK clan? Or the second? Played to death on LAN, blown away by it being the first 3D-accelerated game I played, and the game I won my first tournaments on.
Plus it’s also a cracker 😀
The original PlayStation was a bit of a marvel; cool new technology (disks not cartridges, £d graphics, amazing sound) and Sony marketing the system at adult audiences. Sometimes that latter means edgy nonsense, but then it meant professional soundtracks with modern musicians. It was a properly released CD and everything!
It was pretty groundbreaking and the music interleaved with your subconscious while blissed out on the racing.
Theme From ShadowFire, C64
Yes, the picture below is really the UI. The actual game window is the top centre 😀
Shadowfire was one of those “formative” games where looking back it was clearly a blueprint for my favourite sorts of games since. Your team of six mercenaries / robots / aliens / soldiers have to infiltrate a space-ship to apprehend the war criminal Zoff. Each team-member has a unique skill and you had to use them _just_ right to make progress.
I remember hearing this music a great deal as I was wracking my brain trying to figure out what to do next….
Mass Effect 4, Main Theme
This isn’t my favourite Mass Effect 😀 But I loved the original trilogy so much and ME4’s theme captured the feel of the series as a whole perfectly.
But there were some awesome pieces of music from the first games too like…
Mordin Does Gilbert and Sullivan
Short-lived, ultra-logical uber-scientist? Awesome!
The whole story with his attitude to the designing Genophage? Amazing!
Ruthless pragmatism mixed with child-like curiosity? Brilliant!
All the above are great, but in the middle of the science and moral relativism he delivers this….
And the final reference to it at the end of Mordin’s story? Sublime 😀
Fez Main Theme (London Philharmonic Version)
If someone jumped out of a bush with a bomb and demanded I name the single piece of music that sums up gaming as a whole, I’d name this version of the Fez theme and earn my life.
Megadrive Secret Game
When my brother and I were little we got a Sega Megadrive one Christmas a surprise present from my parents. We were thrilled but games were expensive so we didn’t have many. Luckily we found this secret game embedded in the system’s Bios.
I have absolutely no idea how we found it or found out about it (no consumer Internet back then :D) but we played it so much I still hum this in the shower 40 years later ….