Probably one of the hardest kinds of lists to do, this one. Everyone has their own taste in music. We all play different games from all different generations – and so it’s impossible to come up with a definitive ‘Best of…’ list. So I’m not going to bother trying. Instead, I’ll tell you MY favourites and see how we get on…
As an aside, if you’re outraged that I didn’t include something from Final Fantasy VII or incensed that I haven’t included some dreadful music from a Sonic bonus stage, let me know below – and don’t forget to include, game, track name and artist so that you can educate anyone reading!
25/ Street Fighter II – Guiles Theme
This is a weird one. Street Fighter is one of the most influential games in my life – I’ve bought more versions of this game that any other title. Despite the fact that I hate Guile as a character – both to play and aesthetically – his theme tune is weirdly, the most memorable for me.
24/ Sonic 2 – Chemical Plant
Sonic 2 came out on a Tuesday – a day when I should have been at school. Except I wasn’t. Me and my brother bunked off school – our combined pocket money ready to buy this little slice of platforming history. Chemical Plant is, without a doubt, the standout BGM from this game.
23/ Streets of Rage 2 – The Baseball Arena
The Streets of Rage 2 soundtrack is unbelievably good – any OST ‘list’ that doesn’t feature a track from this game is completely invalid. While I didn’t like this particular level – those fat guys kinda freaked me out – this BGM is so indicative of the music that I was listening to at that time.
22/Jet Set Radio Future – Teknopathetic
There can be little doubt that both Jet Set Radio games have incredible soundtracks – I actually prefer the Xbox sequel myself -it was decidedly less stressful to play, and so you could absorb the soundtrack so much more easily without checking how much time you had left while dodging helicopter bullets.
21/ Final Fantasy X – To Zarkand
How can you possibly select a single track from Final Fantasy as being the best? You simply can’t – the series has an incredible legacy of truly outstanding themes. For me the only way to really judge is to think about the track that’s most likely to make the hair on the back of your neck tingle. For me – it’s this one.
20/ Kingdom Hearts II – Passion
Such a beautiful opening sequence to this game – and a gorgeous sountrack. I loved Kingdom Hearts – when this was playing, I was so excited you can not imagine. When KHII exceeded my expectations, this song forever became a favourite.
19/ Persona 4 – New Days
You know how some days you wake up in the morning step outside and, for no reason at all,feel so good? So happy? Like there’s a real spring in your step? That’s this song all over.
18/ Okami – Reset (Thank You)
I love this track because it marks the closing stages of one of my favourite games of all time. It brings back memories of the satisfaction of finishing a game that you know will be very dear to your heart for as long as you live.
17/ Zelda – Fairy Fountain
Another of those game series where it’s really difficult to isolate a particular track. For Zelda though – the Fairy Fountain theme has been a mainstay of the series, and is one of the most gentle, soothing and lovely themes you can think of. If anyone is unfortunate to breed with me – this song will be the lullaby for our spawn.
16/ Space Channel 5 – Ulala vs Morolina
Oh Dreamcast, bless your quirky catalogue of awesomeness. Someone bought this game for me as a gift – and I’ll be honest, at the time I was kinda ‘Thanks’ to his face – but deep down inside I was feeling more ‘WTF is THIS?’. Silly me of course because from the moment it started until the very end, I had nothing but a beaming smile on my face.
15/ Shenmue – Nozomi
Shenmue’s soundtrack is an eclectic mix. From cheesy lounge musak, to subtle and unobtrusive backdrops for some unforgettably touching moments. And none more so than Nozomi and Ryo’s signature theme. For me this conjours up personal memories of missed opportunity. “Ryo, for goodnessake, just put your hand on her boob and go in for the kill! Oh Ryo… what a waste…” *sigh*
Shin Megami Tensei: Digital Devil Saga – Intro
A JRPG I picked out at random when it first came out – without any real thought as to what it’s quality was like. My initial reaction was that I loved the intro music – It’s pretty much the kind of thing I’d listen to ‘normally’. As it turned out, while I loved the game, I liked the rest of the game’s soundtrack a little less… ah well…
13/Metroid Prime – Menu Theme
With the exception of the theme for the Magmoor Caverns (which is, without question, the worst piece of videogame music I have ever heard) the Metroid Prime OST is remarkable because it’s so subtle, so unique – perfectly contributing to that game’s feeling of hopeless, naked isolation. Beautiful – yet terrifying all at once.
12/ PaRappa the Rappa – Cheap Cheap Chicken
I didn’t want to just got for the obvious one here – stead I thought I’d pick the one that starts “My style is rich dope phat in which – we’ll make a cake to day that looks rich”. I don’t think there’s much more to say on the matter other than – this game needs a sequel. Like, NOW.
11/ Ouendan – Over the distance
The finale to one of my favourite DS games – and a song about a young man who’s been killed in an accident reaching out across the ethereal void to his girlfriend in mourning. Touching stuff. Skip to 0.51 to avoid all the pre-level story if you really want to get stuck in..
10/ Ico – Castle in the mist
More than enough pages have been dedicated to why this game is great, and plenty on how its haunting OST contributes to the game’s unique atmosphere. Also, as you can tell from the inclusion of Nier and Crystal Chronicles, I like this kind of music…
9/ Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles – Departure
This game didn’t get anywhere near as much love as it deserved – mainly because it was a real pain in the ass to play properly. You needed friends to start with. All with GBA’s and link cables – but boy was it worth it. All the songs in this OST remind me of camaraderie, long journeys and ‘friendly’ arguments well into the night. Good times.
8/ Guilty Gear X2 – Writhe in Pain
The theme for my main – Millia Rage. While I’m not usually that keen on this kind of music in general – I do love the soundtracks for Arc System Works’ games. I also have a deep, deep respect for Daisuke Ishiwatari. Not only did this guy do the character concepts, he also did the entire soundtrack and, on top of that delivered what is, in my opinion, the finest fighting game ever made. You have to hand it to the guy – he’s a genius.
7/ Killer 7 – Rave On
I love this track. What makes it even more weird is that it’s in such a random place – a stairway that connects areas – and you have to run through it on numerous occasions, so in natural play you only hear it in small snippets. Suffice to say, I would always stop there for a while to listen – whereupon I may, or may not, have stood up on occasion and totally got my groove on. ^_^
6/ Metal Gear Solid 3 – Main Theme
Metal Gear’s score has always been exceptional – always effortlessly delivering that epic Hollywood feel. Once that familiar theme kicks in you just KNOW that you’re about to embark on something very special. While I’ll always have a soft spot for the PSone game, Snake Eater is undoubtedly my favourite installment – hence why it’s on this list.
5/ Kirby Games (various) – Gormet Race
Choosing a Kirby track is also difficult. One of those games that when you hear the music you feel like you’ve known it all your life. For the benefit of this feature though, I had to choose one – and the most iconic Kirby themes can only be Green Greens or Gourmet Race. And for this rendition? It can only be Smash Bros Melee’s Fountain of Dreams – which takes one of the catchiest / most irritating tunes ever and delivers it in a remarkable epic composition.
4/Bubble Bobble – Er… the Bubble Bobble Music?
Is there a piece of music that represents raw happiness better than this? Before Street Fighter had me in its grip – there were three arcade games that I was – pardon my modesty – absolutely, disgustingly sick at. Pang, Bubble Bobble and Rainbow Islands. Pang’s music was rubbish – where as Bubble Bobble and Rainbow Islands’ tracks were insanely catchy. When the end of the world comes – I will be sitting on a hill whistling this music.
3/ Donkey Kong Country – Aquatic Ambience
You knew a track was pretty special as a kid, when you’d put the game in and sit idle in a level just to listen to it. In the days before the internet and YouTube – Donkey Kong Country would often be jammed into the cart slot – just so I could listen to this through the mono speaker on my crappy bedroom tv.
2/ Gitaroo Man – The Legendary Theme
I’m happy for it to go on record that I truly, truly suck at this game. I watched this stage when I was at a gaming session round a friends house and went out and bought it the next day. Sometimes a piece of music just strikes a chord with you though it’s sheer simplistic beauty. Two and a half minutes of gentle loveliness, right here.
1/ Nier – The Whole Damn Game
Thinking back, Nier had a bigger impact on me last year than any other game I bought. It’s a great (though obviously flawed) game – but the soundtrack is exceptional. Haunting, uplifting, epic – its choral soundscapes and eerie themes provide one of the finest backdrops to a videogame, not just in this generation, but of all time. In fact, it’s so good it not only makes up for any of the game’s shortcomings, but elevates it to the status of an essential purchase. Find me another soundtrack that can do that, and I’ll not only call you liar, but I’ll remove my gloves and slap you across the face really hard. Incredible.
ILJG runs the I Love Japanese Games Facebook Page.
His views are not those held by Rice Digital or it’s partners.
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