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Top Scores: Video Game Music (bbc.co.uk)
143 points by Turukawa on March 23, 2019 | hide | past | favorite | 65 comments



I found this article nigh impossible to get through with it's weird scrolling and transitions. I had to give up.

I listen to Video Game music while I work. Mostly via rainwave.cc [0] or OCRemix Albums [1]. It's pretty much the only non-vocal music I can tolerate for longer periods of time that don't bore me, but help me maintain focus and block out externalities.

The Final Fantasy soundtracks and their similar epic AAA games from most notably Square Enix (Xenogears, Chrono Cross/Trigger, Kingdom Hearts) as well as Nintendo (Zelda, Mario) are often heralded as some of the best. But, I find the 3 Donkey Kong Country and earlier Sonic music (the 3 Sonic Genesis titles up through Sonic Adventure and the anniversary collection) to be my absolute favorites.

There are also tons of excellent albums and chip tune on Band Camp. Way too many to list.

[0] https://rainwave.cc

[1] http://ocremix.org/albums/


I agree - lots of game soundtracks are superb coding music for me. I tend to find if the music has vocals that I understand (eg in English) then I listen too hard and get distracted.

My favourites st the moment for coding to are the Sonic Adventure and Sonic Adventure 2 soundtracks, but I also use Pokemon soundtracks for this a lot, and the Zelda Breath of the Wild soundtrack too - unlike older Zelda it’s a lot more subtle and less overpowering.


Donkey Kong does have some of the best music I've heard in video games.

If you haven't seen these rock covers on YouTube, you might enjoy them: https://www.youtube.com/user/BurningIdolmusic/videos


Those are really good!

Have you heard PPF's or SmoothMcGroove's DK covers (or really any of their VG music covers)? PPF tries to exactly reproduce every channel in the original MIDIs with real instruments (and often jerry rigged contraptions), smooth mcgroove does all the channels acapella. Pretty amazing variety.


If you like the music from the Sonic the Hedgehog games, and you like to hear arrangements of video game music, I suggest you take a listen to Opus Science Collective's album Zoned[0].

It's basically a concept album based on Sonic's music, full of arrangements, mash-ups and tidbits of interviews about the Mega Drive and the Sonic games layered upon the music.

I recommend taking the time to listen to it in full, but if you don't have the time, my personal highlights are tracks number 3 (Sky High), 6 (Hydrofunk), and 8/9 (My First Experience With Funk/Back in the Yard).

Really, the first time I forked money for music in a long while.

[0] https://opussciencecollective.bandcamp.com/album/zoned


completely agree, this would have been much nicer if it was simpler.

The scrolling and transitions makes it kinda impossible to follow through for me too.


As a counterpoint, I very much enjoyed the presentation and felt the transitions were well done. I also enjoyed the example videos.


I enjoyed the transitions (big phone) but the videos weren’t available because of where I live..


No Mega Man X? Blasphemy!


Spotify also has a lot of video game music.


This is a pretty good article, but I'm not fond of this recent trend to try to make articles into "experiences" that do all sorts of weird things with scrolling. They always end up being messed up in a bunch of ways if I scroll down using the spacebar instead of my mouse.

At least Reader Mode works on this one.


Reader view in Firefox has always worked flawlessly for me with BBC articles, including these "funky" ones. It's a godsend.

Is there a reader view/mode in Chrome, or is it only supported via extensions?


There was a recent one about soy sauce that it couldn't save me from: http://www.bbc.com/travel/gallery/20190225-a-750-year-old-ja...


Oof, yeah, that one's something else entirely. I don't tend to mind these newer formats, but I'll admit I'm not a fan of that one.


I grew up with a C64 and a big part of the charm, for me, was the sound chip and the noises/music it made. I can understand why that chip has such a cult following.

Back then, when we had nowhere near the fidelity in graphics that we have today, these basic sound chips were used to add a lot of character to those early games.

Today you have high profile composers like Hans Zimmer doing work for video games and everything in a AAA title is generally very well produced, but I still find myself firing up some of the oldies every now and then. Nostalgia, I guess.


People still make music using C64, NES, GameBoy, etc. Some pretty decent stuff out there if look around. For anyone else interested see https://chipmusic.org which is a forum for posting and talking about chiptune-related things, or http://www.8bitpeoples.com a label run by chiptune artists most of which I believe can be downloaded for free at 192.


Woah, thanks.


When I was a kid, I would load up many of the C64 games just for the title screens & leave the music playing. Favourite ones were: turbo outrun, the last ninja. Good old times!

LOAD "*",8,1


I used to work with Ben Daglish, the composer of the Last Ninja tune I think.

He was a programmer, but mainly did it to make money so he could make music... his real passion.

Funny guy...


Wow, thanks for sharing that anecdote. That's the thing - many C64 musicians were also great programmers, especially to get the impressive sounds they wanted out of the SID.

Quote "If you wanted to be a videogame musician in the early 1980s, having a fantastic tune and even a Royal College of Music diploma meant nothing without some lateral thinking and a significant amount of programming skills, because the SID chip needed special software routines to turn its potential into sound. You had to know how to compose both melodies and machine code."

https://theconversation.com/the-sound-of-sid-35-years-of-chi...


Just found out he passed away - this sucks - way too young.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ben_Daglish

Ben Daglish Remembered: Wastelands loader (Underworld, 2016)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qj6Amy1Bmeo

He is also in the "From Bedrooms to Billions" documentary

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aRsLOUYL3mk

EDIT: he wasn't just funny, I remember him as a very positive spirited guy.


Thanks for the link to the interviews - it's great to picture the face to the artist.

Here's my tribute to Ben:

10 PRINT "BEN IS GREAT"

20 GOTO 10


Oh, that's sad..

May his music live on. RIP.


I think many PC strategy games has excellent music: Age Of Empires, Home World, Sins of the Solar Empire, Total War and Civilization over its many iterations. I do find the music from these games have a different texture than music from other games.

For example: This song based upon the Epitaph of Siekelos, which plays if you play the Greeks in civ 5: https://youtu.be/YEKRE2uamyg

I think Civ 5 music was recorded with a real orchestra.

Even sometimes poetry; From Silent Hunter 4; https://youtu.be/8FrTuZxpD0k


I particularly like the Medieval Total War soundtrack by Jeff van Dyck. I still remember many of the songs, very haunting, just so well done, the intensity of the music going along with what happened on the battlefield, with small elements like environmental sounds for various seasons...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qWhbVYre9uk


Are there any AAA games that use voice-stealing for their music?

Old games would drop voices-- like the melody or rhythm track-- when there were lots of sprites on screen.

I think it would be great if a Hans Zimmer score cross-faded to an arrangement with just low brass or something when the action starts to ramp up.


In Nier: Automata there is a hacking mini-game which you do in the middle of character action combat. When you enter the mini-game, full orchestral track is replaced with a chiptune version.

Devil May Cry 5 does the opposite where vocals and instruments get added as you reach higher Style ranks.


Ha, that must be pretty neat to hear the chiptune version.

I've heard plenty of examples like what you mention with Devil May Cry. In fact, back in the day Strider for Sega Genesis had a grand reunion of themes in the final level that foreshadowed the sequence of fighting each boss from the previous levels.

Just seems like the voice-stealing technique[1] could be really a really effective way to add emphasis to a big, climactic moment in a game with an orchestral soundtrack. I suppose the risk is that if it's not done artfully the player will just interpret it as jank and call the game devs ugly names. :(

[1] Now that I think about it, maybe "voice stealing" isn't the correct term for this. With voice-stealing one starts with a static number of voices. Then when the synth player tries to add an additional voice the system typically drops the oldest sustained note (or even the oldest one that isn't the bass or percussion track to get fancy about it). Thus the system "steals" from a voice that had a note which already got its attack/decay time. But in those old NES games an entire melody or accompaniment voice gets dropped to accommodate the extra sprites.

So voice stealing retains the same static number of voices to "imply" a greater number of voices. What I remember from those NES games was a reduction in the total number of voices to keep the game from freezing.

Edit: clarification


David Wise and his Donkey Kong Country tracks are really something else as far as ambient music goes.


Yes! Particularly the Underwater-Level-Tracks.


So, I discovered this the other day: apparently, there's a guy on YouTube who's reconstructing the DKC tracks using the original synthesizer and music instruction data ripped from the game. [It sounds really good!](https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-5rAjOjTGtc)


If you like video game music, I can't recommend the excellent "Les Démons du Midi" [1] podcast.

Yes, the brief commentary between tracks is in French — but music still is front and center.

[1]: https://www.geekzone.fr/tag/les-demons-du-midi/


One quite well-known playlist in certain circles is the Vidya Intarweb Playlist [0], along with its Mellow Out subcategory [1].

[0] http://vip.aersia.net/

[1] http://vip.aersia.net/mellow/


For an article about music, it seems oddly... lacking in samples.


I got 5/6 "This content is not available from your location" from a California based ISP.


It had a lot of "Content not available from your location."...


Not the globally interconnected world we had hoped for music.


I enjoy listening to Indie-Game-Soundtracks, especially while working. Artists like Austin Wintory (Monaco, Larry), C418 (Minecraft), Jim Guthrie (Sword & Sworcery) and Disasterpeace (Fez). I made a Spotify-Playlist with those, and numerous other indie-tracks. [1]

[1] https://open.spotify.com/user/115694390/playlist/6nfksYi3hJx...


Guthrie's recent-ish soundtrack for the game Below is great, in case you haven't heard it yet.


Very interesting article about how music has to adapt for mediums like video games, where the player input impacts sequencing and pacing.

That said, I think classifying this as "secret manipulation" is clickbaity on the part of the poster. The fact that the music influences the player isn't really a secret, any more than the fact that the visuals / controls influence the player.


In Final Fantasy XV they had boss battles fade directly into cutscenes. The music would need to be able to transition from any part of the boss track to the specific cutscene climax seamlessly.

Also they had music which was instrumented according to different moods and would seamlessly transition between them (e.g. Fast and slow chocobo theme)

The author of the internal tool to help the design team did a talk at GDC:

https://www.gdcvault.com/play/1023971/Epic-AND-Interactive-M...


That sounds a lot like iMuse, first used in Monkey Island 2 (1991):

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IMUSE


It hasn't been mentioned yet but another great game with great music is Shadow of the Colossus!


Yes, absolutely stellar soundtrack. It stands on its own even without the game.


C&C Red Alert... pretty awesomely matched to the game


Perhaps I can interest you in this live performance of Command & Conquer songs by the original composer? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CJClbTrY0VE


Yes, yes you can! Fantastic, thanks for the link... I will definitely be adding to the view count.



Yea, I should have linked that in my post. Hell March was the pinnacle. I would crank that on my Gateway w/ Logitech speakers back in the day. Good memories.


GTA Vice City, bbc


I would throw out SSX tricky for its game logic integration, the first two xenoblade games for just being great at capturing the expanse of it all, breath of the wild for having the guts to go ultra minimalist, and the first few silent hill games for its ambient industrial sound (and a few standout tracks that were simply pretty or cool normal songs).

Broadly speaking though, games are pretty conservative in their soundtracks. I think most are forgettable.


How can you write an article about video game music and not mention Jeremy Soule!?

He has composed soundtracks for over 60 games and over a dozen other works during his career. He is best known for his work in The Elder Scrolls and Guild Wars series, and several other top-selling titles such as Total Annihilation, Neverwinter Nights, Dungeon Siege, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, and Harry Potter.


Best video game soundtracks, I feel: Persona 3/4/5, Nier Automata, Jet Set Radio Future, Katamari Damacy, Final Fantasy Tactics / Radiant Silvergun (same composer, very similar). I listen to several others but I keep coming back to these.

Really surprised Nier didn't get a mention, as they do some cool experimental stuff with it.


To pile on: LA Noire, Deus Ex (whole series), Red Strings Club, Minecraft's full release album by C148, Myst/Obduction (thanks Robyn Miller), pre-emptively Star Citizen (what has been released already is excellent)

But also, so many indie games. We are in a golden age for game soundtracks.


+1 for deus ex, also a shoutout to System Shock soundtrack. And let's not forget the godlike Morrowind theme, Halo 1 intro and so many others i cant remember right now.


And Robyn Miller also scored the beautifully atmospheric music for Riven. Austin Wintory's work on the three parts of the Banner Saga is quite an achievement.


Tough layout on mobile, but very cool piece. Love the bits about the nuance involved when the music was bound by technical limitations.

It’s been a few years, but I went to several of the early Video Games Live concerts and liked seeing this music celebrated.


I will never ever forget the Michael Giacchino scores in the original Call of Duty campaign.


Actually I think the best is Hans Zimmer's music in Modern Warfare 2.


In different categories, Wing Commander 1 had an excellent soundtrack (and even better on the Amiga) and several years later Total Annihilation with its superb epic soundtrack never seen before in a rts.


Harry Gregson Williams's work on Metal Gear Solid 2 can reliably give me goosebumps. It even works on people who have no idea it's from a game.


Metal Gear Solid 1 had a better soundtrack imo. Harry Gregson William's score feels forced, pompous and too close to Hollywood style of music and it kind of lowers the overall impression I got from MGS2.


It’s been over 30 years and I can still hear the M.U.L.E. theme, so I guess it did the job of video game score very well.


Super Metroid > everything else.





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