It is certainly not a question of having some kind of taste or sensitivity if the sound sector of a video game is taken into consideration in its evaluation. In this vein (along the beauty of two articles) of “Clappy Dice” we will analyze the best soundtracks of video games
Without spending too many words on how pathos, excitement or, in any case, experiencing firsthand the scenes of the game we are witnessing, is heavily influenced by the musical background, we must put the accent on how music in itself, then the decontextualized single track, it remains a work of art.
What you will find in this list, besides reflecting the personal opinions of the author of the article, is a list of the best soundtracks belonging to a video game released between 2006 and today.
It is therefore not a classification, there will be no lists, medalists or winners, because they are very different genres. If a ranking were to be drawn up, a “top X” should be made at least among the different pieces of the same work, keeping in mind how they are used, the general quality and their composition.
This list also examines titles released by 2006 forward, so as to include all those console titles, but also PC, why not, released in the last generation. The ranking therefore concerns the video game that we can define “modern” without having to include titles of previous generations, grouped in a category known as “retrogaming”
In this list, therefore, the single songs will not be present but, for the note, the entire soundtrack of a title or even brand. The selection criterion adopted is rather simple and, as already mentioned, absolutely subjective and personal. In fact, those soundtracks were selected that could withstand outside the gaming context, as if they were examined as works in their own right, almost as if they were any album of a musical group . The real artistic value, in my opinion, of a soundtrack, lies precisely in the fact that it can be beautiful to listen without performing the mere support function, or worse, whether it is a simple background for the gameplay. There may be songs that work only if combined with the cutscene or, indeed, only if combined with a particular sequence of gameplay.
That's why, I think these games have the best soundtrack.
Released 16 August 2011 , Bastion is the perfect candidate for this particular list together with his “son” Transistor, developed by the same team and released on 20 May 2014 .
However, the soundtrack of the first chapter developed by Supergiant Games is much more popular. To provide a basic smattering to those unfamiliar with the title, this is an action-packed RPG in isometric graphics in which the protagonist uses a variety of weapons and skills to make his way through very inspired dungeons
It immediately leaps to the ear how much Bastion holds the sound sector and how the soundtrack tends to take on strongly steampunk , giving a solid identity immediately.
The identity of this soundtrack is that there is almost always a mixture of acoustic instruments and electronic instruments, which make a perfect folk-steampunk feeling. The acoustic guitar and the sitar mixed with percussion are the protagonists, both natural, with bongo or drums or obtained through software, electric guitars and basses
Where it is present, the vocal part works very well and gives tracks of the caliber of Build That Wall . Let us not dwell further, let us review the other titles.
Tim Schafer has left his mark in many titles. Often his name invites many players to purchase the new game that bears his name, the same name that appeared behind historical games of the caliber by Grim Fandango, Day of the Tentacle, Psychonauts or the most recent Broken Age .
We combine the imagery of classic heavy metal and Schafer's creativity to obtain Brütal Legend , the hack and slash class 2009 hybridized with the strategic one. A game metal with a character metal , created on the base, and doubled, of the mythical Jack Black , known for having performed in similar contexts. (don't forget School of Rock, I Love Radio Rock and Tenacious D: The Pick of Destiny ) A metal soundtrack in a world metal .
The music can only be inspired by the great pieces of classical metal (meaning the heavy metal played by historical groups, before the typical experimentalism of the years' 90, years in which the NU Metal which was among the first to introduce new sounds in a genre that will prove to be one of the most versatile in the future. to the innovations that led groups like System of a Down or KorN , just to mention two examples). Little to say, the reference to the golden age, where the musicians possessed thick curly hair full of curls, is very strong. Each song expresses the whole personality of the title and makes us understand immediately why the game is called Brütal Legend. Let's move on to the next ones
Crypt of the Necrodancer
Probably those of you who do not hang out in the indie environment will not know this title dating back to 2015 . The simple reason why Crypt of the Necrodancer falls into this list is that the entire game is based on its own soundtrack. Having to rely on this element, the sound sector covering such a fundamental role could certainly not be overlooked
The soundtrack written by Danny Baranowsky is totally techno for a game, also in techno-disco.
The title can be traced back to a dungeon crawler-rhythm game with elements rogue-like . Leaving aside this tongue twister (which, incidentally, marry perfectly but this is not the right place for a detailed comment on the economy of the game or on a review of the same), it is enough for you to consider that the player must overcome the different plans of dungeons to the rhythm of music. Each floor corresponds to a song, a setting and specific enemies that move to the rhythm of that song but do not despair, a system very similar to a metronome will help you keep the rhythm
The soundtrack varies, as already mentioned, from piano to piano: if in the first three levels (the first “trance”, the first “section”) we have three classic techno-dance tracks, in the next three we will find songs with one different styles and contaminations that range from funk to swing, to then reach tracks, in ever lower levels of the dungeon, which refer to rock 'n roll or blues .
Every mini-boss has his own music: a skeleton will have to be tackled in rhythm death metal , another boss with an octopus-like appearance blues , another boss even at the rate of Konga !
A remarkable and rich variety is guaranteed by the third section, where, depending on the tiles we will walk on, the background song will change arrangement, that is, it keeps the same notes but changes the execution
The maximum peak of the variety of the incredible soundtrack of this title consists of the vocal parts, which will be activated only in the proximity of the merchants who, in fact, will make their voice heard superimposed on the current song. Surely it is worth listening at least once.
Here I can easily let the music speak. There is no soundtrack that gives more adrenaline than this.
We must specify that we take into consideration DOOM released a year ago, in 2016 , in which they appear entire passages in which there is only the vocal part which, due to how it has been distorted and for the dialogues, lets the chills run down copiously along the back, as well as the most brutal piece of the entire game: Rip and Tear . This kind of soundtrack is a real phenomenon, which is still raging in the comments below the YouTube videos, where users indulge in particularly imaginative comments about the actual power and energy that the soundtrack communicates.
These particularly strong pieces are joined by others that are more “ambient” or that play more on the digital part. As we have seen for Bastion, even here we are witnessing the coexistence of tools and software, although in this case the sounds of the instruments are decidedly distorted and dirty. These sounds perfectly render the type of game in which they are inserted: an adrenaline, truculent and brutal game, a game in which the player is not trapped in a room with demons but they are the demons to be trapped in a room with the player .
As you have noticed, I have not yet included orchestral sound works. This is because in the modern panorama there are many and finding one that stands out from the endless swamp of this kind of OST is difficult. In fact, the more a genre is enriched with productions, the more difficult it is to maintain one's own identity, one's own style, one's own idea.
It is not difficult, however, to know the name of Bloodborne . Just as it was for DOOM, a well-known and popular title, I will not go into explaining what the title consists of and which genre it belongs to for obvious reasons.
From the musical point of view, just think that the decadent work of Dark Souls is added an even darker component . The game can almost be classified as horror and the soundtracks perfectly reflect this idea, seeming almost like hymns to some monstrous entity or the arrival or evocation of a horror. Not surprisingly, both for art in general but also for music, Bloodborne is remembered among the video games that draw most inspiration from the stories and novels of the American writer of Providence H. P. Lovecraft .
As the game does, there are passages that reflect the Gothic / Victorian part of the title and others that fully reflect that most arcane, ancestral and cosmic part of the title. Both parts of the soundtrack are a real piece of art, worthy of listening. Among them emerge the songs played during the bossfight with Father Gascoigne , la Cleric Beast and the Moon Presence or even the chilling Lullaby of Mergo . Another game of 2015 , with an incredible sound segment
The Witcher 3
I hate to repeat myself but The Witcher 3 deserves respect from many points of view. It seems almost redundant to propose it again but the quality, as they say, pays off
It does not seem necessary, also here, to dwell on what the game consists of, since it is one of the most awarded and appreciated titles of the last years.
The Witcher 3 presents, upstream of the work, musicians specialized in folk music with real instruments that seem to come from another era. The watchword for the soundtrack is, therefore: authenticity
The Percival and many others Rober Jaworski , a true all-round musician, part of the folk group Zwiolak . The sound production, as you can guess, has received considerable attention but there is more: part of the soundtrack is even improvised. The team found itself for a few days in the studio for a long time and, having available almost all day, produced some remarkable pieces giving vent to their creativity. Surely, these pieces fit perfectly into the final work.
The final result is of impeccable beauty: the sound makes identification perfectly possible and it is pleasant to listen to . Accuracy, both in execution and in writing, has borne fruit and has allowed us to produce one of the most beautiful soundtracks of recent years. Yet another child title of 2015 that has been able to give considerable satisfaction to the undersigned's ears
Red Dead Redemption
Of course we could not miss the magnificent soundtrack of Red Dead Redemption composed mainly of Bill Elm and Woody Jackson , with the participation of other incredible composers such as José Gonzàlez, Jamie Lidell, Ashtar Command and William Elliot Whitmore .
Rockstar has spared no expense as regards the sound sector of this title. The passages bring to mind those images of the old west also thanks to the use of tools typical of the mid-nineteenth century American panorama , mainly to breath like harmonics and percussion like drums and tambourines. The musical trait remembers very much, and for obvious reasons I would add, the Hollywood western cinema that has contributed to keeping those sonorities in the common imagination making them associate us with that particular historical period. A soundtrack worthy of Ennio Morricone , in plain English
In addition, the pieces feature very interesting vocal parts: the incessant echo of voices in the background may remind us of Mexican songs or, as regards the instrumental part, the periodic and rhythmic roaring of a tambourine is very reminiscent of the sound of rattlesnakes.
In short, nothing within the game is left to chance, not even the slightest peculiarities in the various tracks.
There is little to say, Undertale is among the titles that the fandom they possess do not deserve. Needless to turn around, it is an environment that is strongly advised to avoid, especially for fanart … inconvenient. The point is that Undertale itself, published in 2015 , was created by a single person, a musician, who knew how to perfectly convey emotions both through dialogue and, above all, through songs
We are looking at a work with very different pieces, made both by digital means and by instruments, but which do not always blend together and sometimes remain separate (see Megalovania, the most popular song on the soundtrack but not the best , in my opinion, which has an electric guitar and electronic sounds in contrast with Home , made entirely with acoustic guitar).
Figures include piano, acoustic guitar, wind instruments and so on and so forth. Where the digital intervenes, the feeling is deliciously retro, bringing to mind many games to 8, 16 is 64 bit.
Sometimes you think you are dealing with a game Nintendo , the music is so inspired: it is not to be excluded that the author has received some influences from the Japanese house in question or in any case from the world of oriental video games, above all with regard to casual encounters with various monsters.
What immediately comes to our ears is that the various electronic instruments used by Toby Fox are often used instead of real instruments: some cover the role of drums, others of the bass and so on.
We pass from passages like Ruins in which the piano is the master of decidedly more atypical songs like the Napstablook theme , or the his remix Dummy , made with electronic instruments but at a swing rate, which inevitably lead the most sensitive player to keep time.
What is really great behind this soundtrack is that it maintains a pattern that is repeated several times: sequences of notes are taken up in different tracks, outlining a very strong identity. Even many passages are a reworking of others while others still stand alone but still very effective. Spider Dance , Bonetrousle , Death by Glamor , Hearthache , Asgore's Theme o Undyne's Theme are among the most effective but also the songs we will listen to Snowdin or in other areas they will be truly touching, most of all the song that will be played at the epilogue.
What conclusions can we draw (apart from the fact that the 2015 is turned out to be a more than remarkable year for video games)? Tell us about your experience with soundtracks or comment with your favorite soundtrack!
Special thanks to my colleague Lorenzo De Marco for having contributed to the writing of the editorial