Inspired by this post about the music throughout the Mass Effect series, I started thinking about all of the excellent soundtracks that I’ve enjoyed while playing games. This is by no means an exhaustive list; please comment and share some of your favorite video game soundtracks too! I’d love to listen to more.
Mass Effect 3 – It was highlighted in the article I linked to above, but it does make my personal list of favorite soundtracks. The compilation overall takes you through a range of emotions, but there are some individual tracks that can take you from elation to heartbreak to resolve within a four minute space of time. Definitely worth a listen through, if you’re looking for a well-rounded, very orchestral driven experience. Not to mention, it makes you feel like whatever you’re doing within your cubicle is contributing to saving the galaxy!
Red Dead Redemption – The soundtrack of RDR made a huge chunk of the atmosphere of this game. When the genre “western” enters most people’s heads, they think of hackneyed banjo music with a clanky washboard accompaniment. How refreshing then that the music used to great the bring depth to the western theme in RDR wasn’t twangy or cliche at all. Some of these tracks are unnerving, most are energizing, and a few (particularly the song through the credits “Deadman’s Gun” by Ashtar Command) can bring you to tears. Although the songs with lyrics are closer to the end of the game, the three of them are my favorites on the album. Do yourself a favor, get lost in the old west by listening to this soundtrack.
Splice – You can read in the game title link that I’ve already highlighted this incredible soundtrack. Ethereal and stirring, it brings you along a ride you didn’t think possible with a protagonist-less puzzler. The movement that takes the audience on a journey is the incredible strength in every song on this soundtrack. You’ll be doing a disservice to yourself if you don’t check out this soundtrack (free to preview in its entirety on bandcamp).
Bastion – This . . . this soundtrack is perfection. I saved the best for last. I’ve heard this soundtrack be compared to the Firefly soundtrack, which I thought was fitting. It gives off a non-western (hemisphere) vibe, mixed with a few, very subtle western (cowboy) themes. A diverse range of instruments orchestrate every track, and the songs with vocalists are . . . haunting, but in the best most moving way possible. I realize all of these descriptions sound very hyperbolic, but seriously, this one . . . the money soundtrack, undoubtedly.
Like I said, there are lots of other game soundtracks I love (Catch-22, Braid, Super Meat Boy, Cave Story, Chrono Trigger, Donkey Kong, etc.) but these are really some of the cream of the crop. I’ll also take this chance to give a shoutout to a YouTube artist who does incredible acapella covers of video game songs. He hits some of the most popular jams (e.g. Guile’s Theme from Super Street Fighter 2) as well as a few more obscure hits that are just great songs (e.g. DuckTales’ Moon Theme). His username is Smooth McGroove and if you love raw talent recreating your favorite video game tracks, you have to go and subscribe!
I bought Portal 1 & 2 during a Steam sale a year or so ago . . . I think I got both for $20 which is usually too much for my budget but I also knew that I would be labeled a heretic gamer if I never played the games. I figured it was imperative that I play the games in order, so I fired up Portal 1 and was instantly disappointed: it was in the first person perspective.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think it’s a bad way to make a game, I just have major problems with it from a medical perspective. I tried to figure it out via a reddit question months ago and got this video in response, which I think does a good job of explaining how developers contribute to the problem of motion sickness in FPS games, but doesn’t exactly explain why CoD is a best seller and people don’t vomit like I do when I try to play.
But at the same time, I think part of it must be developer related because some games I can’t play at all, and some I am able to power a few hours into before having to turn it off. Team Fortress 2 for example is a game that I can play all right for a little bit. Unfortunately, I could generally only do one Portal chamber at a time before I’d have to turn off the game (not even a chamber sometimes, depending on how long it took me).
The other difficult thing about Portal 1 for me is that I’m terrible at puzzle games. I got Braid in one of the Humble Indie Bundles it was a part of (don’t remember which number that was) and googled a ton of solutions because I just didn’t have the patience to sit and figure it out. I’m terrible, I know. So in that respect, it was almost a good thing that I couldn’t sit and play Portal 1 for long periods of time because by the time I was getting nauseated, I was usually also getting stuck, so I’d leave, come back a few days later, and suddenly see the solution. Having said that, I did google a number of things, and felt like a traitor. More than a traitor, I usually felt really stupid because I knew I should’ve been able to figure out the solutions I googled on my own.
So did I think Portal 1 was all it was cracked up to be? Sure. I guess. I don’t really know what it was cracked up to be, since it’s been so long since it was released. I know that it was stepping stone to Portal 2 which multiple people have told me is the greatest game ever made. While I know I won’t believe that, I’m hoping for a good time.
I think the main praise of Portal 1 and I’m betting Portal 2 was the humor. During the last boss battle in Portal 1, I was laughing out loud at the clever, passive-aggressive one-liners GLaDos had. Humor in video gaming is always great, and I think it’s missing from a lot of non-RPG games (and RPGs for that matter), so it was refreshing to hear it in Portal.
And of course, at the end of the day, Portal is just a cool idea. Entering at one spot and coming out of another, HAL 3000’s granddaughter, and cake. That is a winning combo right there. I suppose I’m just glad I took the opportunity to play it, get a few more nerd references now, and can relate that much more to the majority of gamers. And of course, now I can start Portal 2, maybe after this nausea wears off . . .