Sometimes the best thing about a game is its music. Even if the game itself is well-made and gripping, a solid soundtrack can be what initially pulls a gamer to it and makes him or her stick around. This is a list of games that I either don’t enjoy, slightly enjoy or didn’t want to play at first, but the music pulled me in and kept me there.
Let it first be known that this list is dominated by rock-inspired compositions. That does not in any way mean I don’t enjoy other styles of music. I’m amazed by Destiny’s powerful, symphonic scores, Skyrim’s Nordic themes and Dark Souls’ range of beautiful, creepy and epic pieces. When it comes to video games, hard rock and speed metal is not really what I expect. So when it happens and it fits, I get really excited about it, and I grow attached. So let’s begin!
You may not have heard of this one. I seriously don’t remember how I found it. All I know is I have this ultra-difficult mobile game called Operation Dracula, and the only thing keeping me from raging every time I play it is the sweet music. Seriously, this game is hard. It’s a bullet hell cluster-bomb that requires intense focus and memorization of enemy patterns. Bullet hell, for those of you who haven’t heard the term before, is a style of gameplay where the player faces overwhelming numbers of enemies at once. It’s a niche style that I don’t particularly enjoy.
I remember seeing this game in the App Store and telling myself it looked too hard. I watched some gameplay online and I suddenly didn’t think about the difficulty anymore. The grungy Japanese metal and the 80s arcade-like feel of this chaotic shoot ’em up game was a perfect blend. The $2.99 price tag didn’t mean anything anymore. I had to hear more of the music! I downloaded the game and was met with a beautiful piano melody that led into a hard, grungy guitar sequence that followed the same tune. Below is a video of the entire game, so you can hear for yourself. I recommend starting around 2:54 in the video.
The best part of this game is it has a music player in the main menu. So you can just listen to the soundtrack without having to play the game. Oh, it gets even better. The music keeps playing when the device is locked or the user leaves the game! I’ve listened to the glorious tunes plenty of times on long drives and it makes everything feel like a race. It’s wonderful. However, it’s the only reason I still own the game. I haven’t actually played the game in a long time, thanks to the music player.
Command & Conquer: Red Alert 2
I suck at real-time strategy. I am not good at the multitasking required for building a defensive base while managing resources and amassing an army. My mind just isn’t wired to handle that much going on at once. But when Origin, Electronic Arts’ digital gaming store, offered Command & Conquer: Red Alert 2 and its expansion for free, I had to check it out. I love free things, especially games.
I’m not at all sure what I expected. But what I heard on the main menu was definitely not it. On the main menu and throughout the game, I jammed out to Frank Klepacki’s hard, metallic compositions. The click fest was accompanied by plenty of head banging.
While the campaign kicks my butt and multiplayer matches are a nightmare, the high-octane feel of the game and the hard rock call me back every now and then.
F-Zero X is one of my favorite games of all time. When I was a kid, I used to play with those little erasers you put on the end of a No.2 pencil, and pretend they were the hover crafts from the game. I would race them around on my desk at school. I would get home from school and turn on my N64 (after blowing in the cartridge countless times) and play the heck out of this game. I sucked at it. Even now that I’m older and know what’s going on, this game is still insanely hard. But back then I couldn’t believe how amazing the Japanese speed metal was in combination with the incredible sense of speed the game had. The music, at that point, was really all that kept me coming back.
The soundtrack was composed by Taro Bando and a bunch of other Japanese rock stars who knew how to make a racing game from the 90s feel epic. Nothing has ever been as cool as hearing that sick guitar rift blast from the TV as soon as I turn the game on (this can be heard around 24:49 in the video above). Every race track in the game has a musical piece that fits the tone of the track and the situation you’re racing in. The very first race in the game in Mute City is a great opener with harmonious guitar rifts that blend in a calm, yet undeniably cool fashion. Then perhaps you’re on the last track in one of the harder racing cups, so the music is an epic, fast-paced sequence of wailing guitars backed up by choir-like vocals.
F-Zero X is easily the most nostalgic game for me, and it’s all thanks to the music that kept me coming back for more every time.
There’s no way to sugarcoat it; I did everything I could to stay far away from Undertale when it first came out. All the Goat Mom plushies and plates of spaghetti suffocating the Internet in the name of this silly-looking game just made me cringe and run away. I wanted nothing to do with that community for the longest time.
And one day all that went straight out the window. I was browsing YouTube, and one of the recommended videos in my feed was the Megalovania music piece. “Fine, fine,” I told myself. “That’s a pretty cool name and it has an insane amount of views.” This was a turning point in my gaming experience. What followed was an uncontrollable smile that started as a smirk, and it just kept growing with
each second. By the end of it, I ended up hunched over, grinning like an idiot with my hand over my mouth like a girl who had just been proposed to. I had to play the game, fan base association be damned.
I love everything about Undertale. It’s a game I should have experienced sooner, and it makes this list not because I don’t enjoy it, but because the music is what gripped me in the first place. I’m not here to give a review, though, so you can read Zidane’s review.
What makes Undertale’s soundtrack so amazing isn’t just a few well-made pieces. It’s more than cool boss battle music that has rock elements mixed with upbeat melodies that make you want to go on an adventure. Toby Fox’ masterpiece is a result of immaculate composition that gives the soundtrack a theme of its own. It reminds me of a musical, where a song or two have reprises, and parts of songs are repeated and integrated into other songs later in the show.
Undertale has a handful of recurring melodies that take different forms, whether they are played on a piano, an acoustic guitar or integrated into a boss battle with grunge rock. Everything fits like a satisfying jigsaw puzzle. The majority of the game’s individual music pieces are wonderful, but everything comes full circle in the end and reminds you of the epic journey you’ve had by perfectly blending the familiar melodies you’ve grown attached to.
While only the last two games are dear to my heart, all four of them feed my mind with great music throughout the day as different tracks get stuck in my head.