Music offers a voice, personality, and style that few other art mediums can say the same. And this never shines brighter than in video game soundtracks.
Video game soundtracks do much more than you think, and if you don’t believe that go back and listen to the soundtrack for your favorite video game. If it doesn’t bring you right back to the immersion you felt the first time, it’s probably more because the soundtrack wasn’t as strong as the game itself.
For games that do strike that perfect chord between great game style and a soundtrack to match it, the player is forever effected by it, and probably doesn’t even realize how much of their immersion was built by this soundtrack.
With this in mind, let’s look at the best video game soundtracks we can go back and listen to, even today.
- Katawa Shoujo
Katawa Shoujo is quite a strange video game. It was a visual novel created by a group from 4Chan, telling the story of a high school for disabled children and the relationships formed based on your decisions.
Despite this formation path, Katawa Shoujo turned into an emotional storytelling masterpiece, and a lot of this had to do with its amazing and engaging soundtrack.
In Katawa Shoujo songs are unlocked as you progress in new story positions, always beautifully setting the scene and immersing the player into feeling text on a screen is jumping out and speaking to them directly.
Songs make the player happy and comfortable on the main screens that come day after day, and capture the sharp edge of the bad emotions as they come just as well.
In the end, the Katawa Shoujo soundtrack even listened to as one body of art alone creates for a wonderful story told, and is something you can even do in the game itself through the jukebox mechanic that you unlock songs for as you hear them in the story.
Shoujo’s soundtrack may not be the largest and most awe inspiring, but it tells one of the greatest stories, bringing lines of text and characters to life right before your eyes.
Although portions of its original playerbase turned on the game as it moved forward developing new content for the classic mmorpg, Runescape’s soundtrack was perhaps one of its strongest suits that players agree on as one of the game’s biggest perks.
Runescape was certainly unique in that songs were unlocked as you played, and could be chosen and played at any given time during the game. The player had a proverbial playlist of great material, allowing the player to set their own moods and scenes depending on what was going on in game.
As well, it created for a sense of achievement unlocking some pesky but catchy songs in the universe.
Players had their go to tracks, and listening to these tracks today will certainly recapture how you felt playing the game. The music wasn’t always the grandest, but it offered perfect voice to the game that really captures its personality and charm.
- Jet Set Radio Future
If ever music conveyed personality, it was never more noticeable than with Jet Set Radio Future.
Jet Set Radio Future stands apart from most video games as a trendsetter, but its soundtrack followed suit just as much.
The game focuses plenty on music, and features plenty of dancing and skating to the music, beating the law and enemies all the while.
The soundtrack was the engine that energized the player into action for moments of big jumps or challenges, and also made the player feel right at home alongside their dancing companions in their home base area.
Jet Set Radio Future’s soundtrack gave a voice to the game that few other games have ever paralleled, let alone beaten.
This is best captured with “Oldies but Happies,” but plenty songs are contenders for this spot.
- Halo 3
When scores of music from video games are discussed, it’s hard not to mention the Halo series. With one of (if not the) best theme songs of any video game ever, and certainly with the most exciting music accompanying a final level ever, it just has to make the list.
Halo 3’s soundtrack brings the player right into Master Chief’s helmet, and into the chaotic and dangerous world of the Halo universe.
In its crowning moment, Halo 3’s final mission of its campaign, the powerful and emotional build is made all the more better by the enveloping score playing behind it.
Never has a scene been more immersive through its music.
For this reason, I certainly recommend listening to the final level’s song (One Final Effort) in its entirety. See if you don’t get taken right back to driving that Warthog so long ago.