Editorial: My Favorite Soundtracks

So, Lusi-Espers, the Final Fantasy playthrough is underway, and one topic that will no doubt come up is the game’s amazing soundtrack. The Christmas in Narshe, combined with my rediscovery of a couple of other soundtracks, has had me thinking about some of my favorite soundtracks and what it is about them that I like. So without further ado, let us begin!

So many good tracks.

The FFVI soundtrack is a masterpiece.

Final Fantasy VI
Highlights: Aria di Mezzo Carratere, Dancing Mad, Kefka’s Theme

The FFVI soundtrack is a work of brilliance. Uematsu’s music showed what the SNES could do, and the FFVI soundtrack is one that has easily stood the test of time. “Dancing Mad” is probably my favorite piece of video game music ever; the four-part epic is the perfect background for the final battle against Kefka. And speaking of Kefka, his main theme is extremely suitable for the ruthless and goofy-looking maniac. While I may prefer Final Fantasy V as a game, FFVI easily has my favorite SNES soundtrack.

Final Fantasy VII
Highlights: Opening – Bombing Mission, Aerith’s Theme, Birth of a New God, everything else

While I like the music in the series overall, the other Final Fantasy to make my list of favorites has my absolute favorite video game soundtrack. The amazing musical experience begins as soon as the player hits “New Game”, with “Opening – Bombing Mission” accompanying the exciting in medias res opening style that the late 1990’s-era Final Fantasy games did so well. “Aerith’s Theme”, with similarities to “Aria di Mezzo Carratere” from the FFVI soundtrack, is a huge part of what makes one of video gaming’s saddest scenes memorable. FFVII‘s soundtrack is even more different from the classic games than FFVI‘s was, but that works to its favor. From start to finish, the music in Final Fantasy VII is amazing.

Why is Mega Man using a gun when he has the buster mounted on his arm?

Amazing soundtrack, horrible box art.

Mega Man 2
Highlights: Air Man, Wood Man, Dr. Wily Stages 1 and 2

Listening to remixes of songs from the Mega Man 2 soundtrack is what initially inspired me to do this list. While most of the NES Mega Man games had good music, MM2 is the only one from which I can remember almost every track extremely clearly. All eight of the Robot Masters have phenomenal music, and the music that plays during the first two Wily stages is definitely one of the best pieces of music on the NES. Much like the FFVI and FFVII soundtracks, the music of Mega Man 2 is notably good even compared to the other games in the series, and in a series that also has Mega Man 3, that is an accomplishment.

Kingdom Hearts II
Highlights: The 13th Struggle, Tension Rising, Rowdy Rumble, Sanctuary/Passion

Kingdom Hearts II was an improvement on its predecessors in nearly every way, and the soundtrack is perhaps the most noticeable improvement. I absolutely love the music in KHII; most of the music that plays in combat is especially good. “The 13th Struggle”, a modified version of a Chain of Memories theme, is by far my favorite, and it is a shame that the piece only gets used a few times throughout the game. While “The 13th Dilemma” is a good track for fighting the members of Organization XIII, “The 13th Struggle” is in my opinion a much better track that perfectly suits some of the best moments in Kingdom Hearts II.

Bastion
Highlights: Terminal March; Setting Sail, Coming Home; Build That Wall (Zia’s Theme)

I understand that I have beat Bastion into the ground at this point, so I will be brief: the Bastion soundtrack is one of the greatest gaming soundtracks of the past few years. “Terminal March” adds tension to some of the game’s fight scenes, and every time I heard it in-game I found myself getting excited for a big fight. “Build That Wall” is a beautiful piece of music with a great deal of plot significance. I have raved about Bastion far too much as it is, but the soundtrack is really worth noting.

With this list complete, I now realize that, with the exception of Final Fantasy VI, the soundtracks I have listed belong to some of my favorite games of all time. Maybe I just remember the music in these games more fondly because of my feelings for them, or perhaps the music is a major contributor to why I like them so much. There are certainly other game soundtracks that are worth mentioning, but the ones I have listed here are my top favorites. The classic-style Castlevania games all have excellent soundtracks, but it is too hard for me to narrow it down to one or two games that truly stand above the rest. Chrono Trigger has a few really excellent tracks, but not enough that I would consider it a top favorite. Pokemon Black/White is in the same situation; I really like the music that plays when fighting N, but there are not enough memorable tracks for me to say the Black/White soundtrack is a favorite.

Well, Lusi-cites, now you know what my favorite video game soundtracks are. What about you, readers? Am I missing something really good and really obvious (I probably am)? What other amazing game soundtracks are out there?

14 comments on “Editorial: My Favorite Soundtracks”

  1. I haven’t even read this yet, but you get full marks for “Dei-Mog-sion” in the intro blurb.

  2. I couldn’t agree more with Dan’s choices. Dan and I have talked a bit about the music in these games and have said that they, for the time they were composed, set the bar for each of their generations.

  3. Have you heard the Distant Worlds version of the Opening – Bombing Mission? It’s truly amazing.

  4. @SN – I wouldn’t argue Bastion (although I don’t think I’d put it on my list), but I’m definitely with you on Kingdom Hearts II. I like the KH OSTs fine, but I don’t think they’d be near breaking top lists for me. And that’s basing it on either musical merit or my personal tastes.

  5. KH OSTs are good enough for what they are, and have a selection of good tracks, but there is way too much filler for them to be considered as truly top-tier OSTs.

  6. I totally concur with your first three. Since you mentioned Chrono Trigger, I wanted to say a couple things I like about it are the diverse sound palette and some songs have intricate baselines. Also “Corridors Of Time” is one of my favorite video game songs.
    You know, I rarely hear Mario or Sonic games praised for their soundtracks. I love the world themes in Mario 3, and most of the songs from Sonic 1 and 2 are good. Let’s see, Earthbound Onett and Twoson themes are great… dthat’s enough for now.

  7. @Matt – Maybe not Mario OSTs as a whole, but I think certain Mario tunes are pretty widely regarded as timeless. I also think Galaxy 2 is one of the better examples of how to use an orchestra while not sacrificing melody. I don’t love the Chrono Trigger soundtrack. It has bright points, but I’d liken it to SN’s accurate summation of the KH OSTs.

  8. Many of my favorite soundtracks belong to favorite games as well. I don’t think it’s a coincidence. I haven’t played Bastion, and I’ve only played KH 2 once, and have since forgotten most of the music. FF6, 7, and MM2 are all amazing though. My #1 favorite is Xenogears.

  9. @Ethos: I have to disagree about CT’s OST. I don’t like CT’s OST as much as Xenogears or Chrono Cross, due to the fact that they have some of my favourite Mitsuda compositions, but I do feel that it is probably the most consistently good of his soundtracks.

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