What’s a video game without memorable music? Would Aerith’s death in Final Fantasy VII have had as much impact without the sombre & emotional melody that accompanies it? Would your heart have raced as fast had the bombastic encounter music not played in Metal Gear Solid? What about when Dom finds his wife, Maria & realises what has to be done in Gears of War 2?
The point is that video game music shapes our memories of these moments & without something great to accompany the moment it wouldn’t be as impactful.
That brings me to this top ten. Ten pieces of video game music that I believe have & will stand the test of time. Ten pieces of music that breathe nostalgia & memories but also have relevancy. These are a personal choice & not in any particular order.
10. Super Mario 64 – File Select
Super Mario 64 is still arguably the greatest Mario game created to date. The plumber’s first 3D outing was released on the Nintendo 64 & blew everyone who played it away. It’s a game filled with excellent musical tunes & cues but the one that has always impressed me was the music that plays when selecting a file.
To me it shows just how much love & care was put into Super Mario 64 that Nintendo wouldn’t just create a separate piece for the file select screen but they’d make one so catchy & memorable.
9. Final Fantasy IX – You’re Not Alone
When you think of great video game music it’s highly likely that the Final Fantasy games will come to mind. So much so that a top ten of music from those games alone could be thrown up within minutes.
Everyone has their favourite but for impact Final Fantasy IX’s you’re Not Alone resonates as strongly now as it did back then. Zidane has just discovered who he is & it has destroyed him. Lost & alone he staggers through a harsh land fighting every monster that gets in his path regardless. As the challenges become too great he is slowly joined by his teammates who help him.
It reminds him of that he is & why he is there doesn’t matter. He is who he is now & his friends are by his side. It’s an incredible sequence & an incredible piece of music.
8. Sonic the Hedgehog 2 – Wing Fortress Zone
Say Sonic music to anyone & chances are they’ll start humming the tune of Green Hill Zone. It’s one of the most famous pieces of music in video games. Sonic 2 took what made the first game great & improved upon it in almost every aspect (we rated it 10/10 on mobile – read here). The levels were bolder, the bosses bigger & more imaginative & the music more memorable.
Nowhere is that more prevalent then at the end of the game as Sonic boards Dr. Robotnik’s (he’ll always be Robotnik to me, not Eggman) flying war ship. It’s one of the toughest levels in the game but made so much more epic thanks to the bombastic music that accompanies it.
7. Shenmue – Free One
Shenmue isn’t actually a game most remember for its music, however if there is one that most attain to loving it’s Free One. The music that often plays as you explore the surrounding town. It’s simple but very relaxing.
6. The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask – Last End
Majora’s Mask was an unexpected departure from the Zelda formula when it was released on the Nintendo 64. While visually & gameplay wise it didn’t differ from Ocarina of Time, story wise it was a lot darker. No where was this more prevalent then during Last End.
The basis of the game is time travel with Link having 3 days to stop the moon from crashing & destroying the land of Termina. Every minute it gets closer & closer with characters remarking about how much bigger it looks. Should you wait until midnight of Day 3, only a matter of hours will be left until the moon hits & this piece of music starts playing.
It’s utterly shocking & depressing to wander the nearly deserted Clock Town seeing characters who’ve chosen not to leave realise it’s the end. This music heightens the emotional impact of these moments, something a Zelda game had never really attempted before.
5. Dust: An Elysian Tail – Gone Home (Journey’s End)
Dust is a game that doesn’t have a single bad piece of music. An incredible game backed up by an incredible soundtrack. Choosing one for this top ten was no easy task but the end credits choice of piano driven music is the one that stays with you long afterwards.
Emotionally raw & devastatingly beautiful. It’s a piece of music that knows you will be drained from the events that occurred in the finale. The sorrowful nature of it can’t hide the feeling of hope it leaves behind.
4. Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty – Main Theme
Is there a better intro to a game? The sequence of a cloaked & hooded character boarding a massive oil tanker while the bombastic beats of this tune plays out is one thing. That it reaches a crescendo just as the character is revealed to be Solid Snake is one of the most memorable things in gaming ever.
You’ll find this music, sequence & intro in many, many top ten video game moments.
3. Final Fantasy VII – Holding my Thoughts in My Heart
There had to be one didn’t there? What to chose from Final Fantasy VII? Holding My Thoughts in My Heart plays several times throughout but is most memorable for when the party leaves Midgar.
It’s a beautifully memorable piece of music, one filled with lightness & hope of the journey ahead.
2. Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy Kong’s Quest – In a Snowbound Land
One of the most amazing things about the Donkey Kong series of games is just how great the music is. Catchy & memorable, each level has its own incredible piece with the standout one being In a Snowbound Land. Utterly mesmerising, it fits the level perfectly.
It’s also had some fantastic remixes that just make it sound even better then before.
1. Thomas Was Alone – Freedom
One of the finest games to be released in years. The simplicity of the visuals & game play betrayed a level of depth in characters & music that I’d not seen for a very long time. Every piece of music from Thomas Was Alone has impact from the opening theme that is all about hope, to being lost & alone, to recognising the need to change & realising the price of freedom.
It’s that final one that I consider to be one of the greatest pieces of music ever. It’s unbelievably detailed, devastating in tone but deeply emotional too.