Video game music is a forgotten gem in much of the music press. It's often viewed as the 8-bit bleeps and bloops of the Nintendo era, or worse, the orchestral grandeur of a Hans Zimmer score. To be fair, this is often the case as soundtracks in video games, like movies, seem to be missing the point most of the time. However, there are a few rare exceptions to the rule, soundtracks that either cross borders or expound on them. After the jump, we've listed a few of the best from the last decade that manage to maintain a cross-genre appeal or excel at what they are supposed to be excelling at: creating a mood (we chose not to include music/rhythm games on this list, as their sole purpose is the music).
10. World of Goo (Kyle Gabler)
The World of Goo soundtrack manages to be great on two levels: It's beautiful and it's ignorable. The music exists in the game just as it's supposed to; it doesn't draw attention away from the game play, yet somehow manages to remain one of the most memorable scores of the decade. The soundtrack is also available for free.
9. Rez (Various)
There's something absolutely perfect about a game as frantic as Rez having a pulse pounding electronic soundtrack, Tron-like graphics and a confusing and high-pitched pace. If that wasn't enough for it to make a list than consider this: If a game is willing to offer a peripheral called a 'Trance Vibrator' that helps creates synesthesia by vibrating under your ass (or we've heard putting it elsewhere works too), it'd better deliver.
8. Shadow of the Colossus (Kō Ōtani)
What makes the music in Shadow of the Colossus great isn't that it's particularly different or well done; it's that it only happens when you're fighting the giant Collosi. The rest of the game has you running around large open expanses with nothing to listen to but yourself and your horse. The music comes out of nowhere during the games most epic moments, leaving you with nothing but the thoughts in your head the rest of the time.
7. Marc Ecko's Getting Up (RJD2/Various)
We had a difficult time choosing the number seven slot because it was a downright battle between Grand Theft Auto: Vice City and Marc Ecko's Getting Up. The sales have shown which game was actually better, but GTA's soundtracks, although good, are predictable. Getting Up, however featured an amazing score by RJD2, as well as tracks from Talib Kweli and Rakim, The Notorious B.I.G., Eric B and Rakim, Nina Simone and countless others.
6. Portal (Kelly Bailey, Mike Morasky, Jonathan Coulton, Ellen McLain)
We're not going to lie and say we didn't giggle a bit when the end credits came up and the Jonathan Coulton/Ellen McLain track, "Still Alive" started playing. For a game as filled with humor and puzzling game play it was a perfect and fitting end. The ambient score by Bailey and Morasky is excellent as well, subdued and natural it lets the player puzzle on without being distracted by the music - a feature more puzzle games should pay attention to.
5. Mother 3 (Shōgo Sakai)
The above track is by far one of the greatest songs in the history of games, and Shōgo Sakai's soundtrack manages to maintain the mood of the quirky and amazing Game Boy Advance game throughout. It's rather astounding the music here was able to be crunched down and compressed into a GBA cartridge and still sound so good.
4. Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker (Kenta Nagata, Hajime Wakai, Tōru Minegishi, and Koji Kondo)
It would be disrespectful to most people that play video games not to include a Zelda game on this list as the series is well known for its scores and lovable theme song. Wind Waker stepped out of the classic fantasy realm and put Link on the high seas, the music follows with an Irish influence and uilleann pipes.
3. Brütal Legend (Various)
Considering the game takes place in a metal universe and features the likes of Ozzy Osbourne, Rob Halford, Lita Ford, and Lemmy Kilmister doing voice work, it'd be an utter disgrace if the soundtrack wasn't absolutely kick ass. Fortunately, it is, featuring all kinds of metal ranging from 3 Inches of Blood to Dokken, Judas Priest to Dimmu Borgir, Manowar to Black Sabbath. The kicker comes when you blast through a demon's face in your hot rod while "Children of Grave" plays loudly.
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
2. Little Big Planet (Various)
The Little Big Planet soundtrack excels in two very different ways. First and foremost, the original music composed by Daniel Pemberton is absolutely adorable and fitting to the craft-aisle-gone-mad artistic direction. Second, the licensed tracks are absolutely kick ass. Did you think a band like Battles was too cool for video games? Wrong. How about The Go! Team, Kinky, DJ Krush and James Pants while we're at it?
1. Katamari Damacy (Yū Miyake)
If the above video doesn't make any sense don't worry, Katamari Damacy is a game unlike any other. The soundtrack comes together throughout the entire game, as you roll up things into a giant ball the goofy, over-the-top score rolls up with you, always on the verge of being annoying but never actually crossing the barrier. Newer re-releases of the game feature the original score, as well as some stellar remixes. It's almost impossible to truly describe the zen-like experience of rolling things up into a ball while quirky music tickles your ear canal, so it's best to experience it for yourself. Don't say we didn't warn you though -- you'll find yourself humming the theme song throughout the day.