So, you may be thinking, “Marcus, why do you always do video game articles, you friggin’ nerd?” The answer to that is, I don’t really listen to music or watch films often, and I really don’t like anime — and admittedly, I am a bit of a nerd. But, over my many thousand hours in many hundreds of games, one thing is unavoidable, in-game music (well, unless you mute it, I guess). I think there are some amazing tracks in video games that are really underappreciated because they’re in a game, even though some completely blow film and even some ‘real’ music out of the water. I really wanted to show off some of the best tracks you can find on your DVD, blu-ray or cartridge. So here are my slightly unworthy choices;
10. Project M Main Menu – Super Smash Bros. Brawl: Project M
The only reason this is at number 10 and not higher is because it isn’t really from a game. The track comes from the popular Smash Bros. Brawl mod, Project M. This mod recreates a lot of things that made Melee a popular competitive title, such as wave-dashing, while keeping the improvements Brawl made, such as roster and graphical quality. Yes, this is relevant, as the piece takes lots of inspiration from both the Melee and Brawl themes. With the more orchestral style of Brawl’s theme, and the higher pitch and more joyful use of instruments from Melee’s theme, this piece really lets you know what kind of game you’re about to be playing. Throughout the track there are many places you can hear a spin on one of the two’s themes.
9. City Escape – Sonic Adventure 2
I really used to hate this song with a passion; mostly because of the cringey lyrics, and the fact that the singer is pretty obnoxious and annoying. But, it grew on me, and I could finally appreciate how badass this song is. The song on its own is pretty good, but where it’s used really makes this song memorable and amazing. You’re sliding down a hill on a piece of helicopter, at the speed of sound (probably), and running away from a giant truck; I mean, nothing is much better than that. The fast pace of the song and jumpy guitar playing makes for an exciting atmosphere. A true classic in anyone’s books, surely.
8. Pull Up a Chair – Hearthstone
I recently really started playing this game after having it installed on my PC for quite some time, and ohhhh boy did I not expect one of my new favourite tracks to start playing as soon as the game loaded. The piece is just warm and cosy, similar to the feel of playing a card game – which is exactly what Hearthstone is. However, the slight aggressive playing of the violin as the melody also invokes the feeling of the ‘pretend battle’, something that can get quite intense. This is pretty much what the card game is, a battle between two heroes and their minions. It is a great piece to really capture the game’s feel.
7. Ryu’s Theme – Street Fighter V
By far my favourite version of this iconic theme. It. Kicks. Ass. Amazing guitar playing and great backing create a piece that truly captures a battle-hardened, yet humble, fighting legend. Even Ryu’s players are equally humble, as they didn’t pick freaking Ken. If you main Ken in SFV, I mildly dislike you (sorry Reuben (sort of)). Anyway, this is a track that has evolved over the years into my 7th favourite video game piece.
6. Main Theme – Halo 2
Halo! One of my favourite franchises of all time – if you ignore Halo 5. Despite the most recent entry fitting better with the Call of Duty franchise, the series still had some amazing games, and this next track comes from my favourite of them all, Halo 2. A lot of Halo games had very similar themes, so any really could go here, but I chose Halo 2’s mainly because it’s the best game. The starting choir and the slow and intimidating notes really bring the pre-battle to mind, a dreadful calm before the chaos ahead. The said battle is represented by an awesome guitar melody, which just the sound of immediately makes anyone in a 50km radius who’s in their right mind want to play some Halo. But, at the end, it goes back to the slow choir again, possible representing the post-battle, with all the loss, and possible defeat. The start and end also really bring out contrast with the middle bit, showing the emotions of war. Man, this is why my essays suck.
5. One Winged Angel – Final Fantasy VII
Confession: I’ve never played a Final Fantasy game, ever. As such I can’t really speak on how the music is used in the Sephiroth boss battle, but I can say this; it’s damn tense. The short, sharp notes throughout really grab your attention like a pouncing meerkat on Boxing Day (obviously, this is a fit analogy to use). And just in case you forgot who you are fighting, a choir will helpfully remind you by chanting “SEPHIROTH” occasionally. Thanks guys, couldn’t have done it without you!
4. Dark Pit’s Theme – Kid Icarus Uprising
Simple, one instrument aside from percussion, and a really catchy tune. I have no real particular reason for liking this track, but something about the way the melody matches the chords, and the occasional use of percussion makes this one of my favourites. It’s one of those that just gets stuck in your head.
3. Waluigi Pinball – Mario Kart DS
The best Mario Kart track, and the best Mario Kart track. The perfect track to match the perfect track. A track that makes both the track it’s with and the track itself is memorable to anyone who’s played Mario Kart DS. Okay, this is getting confusing now. The piece Waluigi Pinball is another great example of a piece of music matching its character. The craziness, the insanity, the up-beat tune and techno style; all of these just scream WALUIGI. Oh wait, let me do that again. WALUIGI. There you go. Anyway, it even matches the track, with pinballs flying everywhere and bumpers pushing you around causing total havoc, this song perfectly captures that. The backing is perfect, the sound choice is perfect. It makes the rest of the sounds in Mario Kart turn into a more techno-y counterpart. It’s brilliant. (It was also used in Wario Stadium, but not to the same effect)
2. Blue’s Theme – Pokémon Black 2/White 2
So, you’ve received your starter, trained it up to the toughest dragon/turtle/plant thing imaginable. You’ve built a team of 6 from the ground up (usually with an Alakasam because they were super OP in gen 1). You steamrolled every gym you laid your eyes on. You bested the 4 greatest trainers in the region, and now you face the ultimate challenge. Blue. He’s got the most balanced team in the game, highest leveled Pokémon, best tactics and decision making skills. Your final challenge, and only the final challenge deserves such an intense track as this. Blue’s Theme is by far the best boss battle piece ever conceived by man. The heavy, descending notes, the jumping ones, the fast ones, they all paint a picture of one epic battle. I picked the B2/W2 versions as my favourite, but any of them can go here, they’re all equally intense. Only the Ultimate Trainer gets the Ultimate Track… or does he? (No, clearly, there’s still one space left)
Here’s some Honourable Mentions to throw you off before you get there though:
Rashid’s Theme – Street Fighter V
Ken’s Theme – Super Smash Brothers for Wii U
X vs Zero – Mega Man X5
His World (INSTRUMENTAL, THE LYRICS ARE TERRIBLE) – Sonic ‘06
Let the Battles Begin – Final Fantasy VII
Lance’s Theme – Pokemon B2/W2
Main Menu Theme – Super Smash Brothers Melee/Brawl/Wii U and 3ds
1. Pepsi Man – Pepsi Man – Pepsi Man – Pepsi Man – Pepsi Man – Pepsi Man – Pepsi Man
Okay, okay, here’s my real No. 1
1. Guile’s Theme – Hyper Street Fighter II Anniversary Edition
The song that goes with everything is (quite predictably) number 1. By far the most memorable of any I’ve listed. A genius melody and great instrument choice leads to a song that just shouts “’MERICA!” The guitar, the descending backing notes, ahh! It all fits together so well. It’s really hard to explain how this song is great. Maybe it’s over-rated, maybe I’m sub-consciously jumping onto the bandwagon, but this song is as ass-kickingly awesome as a song can get.
Insert phrase of comedic value here.