Six of the best underrated video game soundtracks

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I will never get tired of seeing video game soundtracks celebrated for the art form that they are. Multiple programmes tour the world dedicated to bringing the best in video game music to listeners, either backed by full orchestras or a rock band. No one can deny the influence of series like Zelda and Final Fantasy — but in focusing so heavily on these titles some remarkable video game soundtracks often get overlooked.

Celebrating overlooked things is a big part of what we do here at Rice Digital, so here are some of our favourite video game soundtracks that don’t get the attention they deserve.

Shenmue

The Shenmue series certainly has its quirks, but it is hard to deny that the music does a great job of giving the variety of environments life. From city streets to gritty docks, the soundtrack of Shenmue did a lot of the heavy lifting when it comes to making this game work as well as it does. The action tracks are suitably pumping, but it is the epic, sweeping tracks that set the scene better than almost any video game soundtrack in history.

Secret of Evermore

I’ve talked about what a special game Secret of Evermore is before, but so much of that comes down to how innovative this soundtrack is. It perfectly blends the atmospheric sound effects of the different environments with the kind of orchestral tones that Square was known for at the time. Considering the limitations of the SNES, it is beyond remarkable that this video game soundtrack managed to do everything it did. Truly a groundbreaking piece of music.

Mega Man

The Mega Man series is jam-packed with absolutely incredible songs and tracks. From the Robot Masters’ themes to the title tracks, the entire series is filled with bangers from start to finish. I’m particularly partial to the title track of Mega Man 2, which is designed to get you pumping for another go even if you are likely to fall foul of the crushing difficulty of the game. There are so many great songs from this series that they could be their own list.

Blue Reflection

Blue Reflection is a beautiful game, from the visuals to the gorgeous soundtrack that plays as you explore the relationships between the young women. This track, Sayonara, builds wonderfully, starting simple and subdued before crescendoing to a fantastic song. It feels classical and futuristic at the same time, something that is so difficult to pull off. If you haven’t played Blue Reflection or its incredible sequel, Second Light, you need to. The music, imagery, and gameplay will all suck you right in.

Destiny Connect: Tick-Tock Travelers

Destiny Connect didn’t have to go so hard with its soundtrack. It could have played it safe, as a lot of the mechanics and story did. But composer Yukinari Irumagawa decided to go big or go home and produced one of the most pumping tracks you’re ever going to find in gaming. You gotta respect the dedication to their craft. The game is largely forgettable but it still gives us some great songs along the way.

Breath of Fire II 

The SNES era produced some of the best video game soundtracks of all time because technology suddenly allowed composers to emulate bigger, more orchestral sounds. Breath of Fire II benefited from this, giving us an epic soundtrack that combines the sound of church organs and full symphonies to draw you into its world. This game is an example where the soundtrack is more enduring than the game itself, which was somewhat average even at the time. If you want to give it a go, it is available on the Nintendo Switch Online collection.

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