Weekend Hot Topic, part 1: Best video game soundtrack

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Best video game soundtrack is such a subjective question, certainly for me it’s difficult to know where to start.

The sheer variety of styles used in games currently is truly astounding, despite an over reliance on grand orchestra arrangements in the triple-A efforts. I genuinely believe that this the one area where games excel in comparison to film, both in original compositions and licensed soundtracks.

My descent into this great hobby of mine began with the greats of the Mega Drive era, including Sonic 2 and Streets Of Rage II. The music used in these two in particular push my nostalgia buttons every time I hear a snippet from practically any level.

The PlayStation era brought an expanded memory set fully exploited with epic new soundtracks, with the Final Fantasy games of that time standing out. My personal fave was without a doubt Metal Gear Solid, which swapped instantly relatable hummable tunes from the 16-bit generation with mood-setting ambient songs juxtaposed with a timeless theme tune. This era also brought about licensed soundtracks, the one I personally remember being from Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2 which suited the grungy tone of the skating world and its antagonistic attitude.

Unfortunately, the following years produced rather too many Hollywood-lite soundtracks that, while occasionally hitting some memorable highs, produced ultimately forgettable average sounds.

I feel the rise of the indie genre has increased the range of soundtracks exponentially with lower budgets contributing to more well-suited oral-enhanced experiences. Journey with its more conventional mood setters, or FEZ with a retro chiptune classic which somehow managed to convey a childlike wonder in its wonderfully conceived levels. Thomas was Alone provoked similar feelings of awe together with fantastic use of speech to elevate fairly simple gameplay mechanics into something much more the sum of its parts.

I have two original soundtracks on CD which I would normally claim to be my favourites, these being The Last Of Us and Everybody’s Gone To The Rapture, with Naughty Dog’s modern classic being the best example of a big budget soundtrack I can think of. Even more impressive considering I felt the Uncharted series had a rather lacklustre sound which aped Hollywood matinees rather too closely.

However, one game series has captured my heart above all others. Life Is Strange and its prequel knocked me for six with their consistent beauty, especially considering they mix original music with indie gems that constantly tug at the heartstrings. The choice of songs for the end of episodes 2, 3, and 5 perfectly capture the despairing mood.

Then Before The Storm rocked up and upped the bar again with more emphasis on original pieces, my favourite being the one used for the school play which played on my mind for days afterward.
baby machine-5 (PSN ID)

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