Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Top 10 Video Game Soundtracks: Part 2

I must admit that I peeked at Shadow's list before finalizing my own. I did have the games in my head, but I hadn't ranked them yet. We have a few of the same choices, but the more notable commonality is that we're both pretty biased towards Super Nintendo (though Shadow has a few NESers, as well), which I think is a sign of our age. I'd be willing to wager that younger gamers' lists would tend to include more Playstation titles. 

While I like to think that we have pretty good taste in music, I'm sure a major component of this is the nostalgia factor. Sure, many of these games have awesome soundtracks, some of which have been performed by orchestras and quite beautifully rearranged, but when it comes to art, "best" is relative. Regardless, here are my picks:

10. Zelda II

Ok, definitely not the most renowned of the series, but they gave it a good shot. While The Adventure of Link felt more constraining and difficult (in a bad way) than its predecessor, I really thought the soundtrack was very good, excepting the town music, which was a bit on the dull side. The Palace Theme was even carried over to Super Smash Bros.: Melee.

Favorite Titles: Palace Theme, Title Theme

9. E.V.O. Search for Eden
This is one of my more underrated picks, I think. Throughout the years I've played through it quite a few times; even partially in Japanese. It was a solid game all around, but perhaps didn't make it due to its original (hence risky) concept. The thing I loved about this soundtrack was its versatility. Mysterious, sad, tense, lighthearted - there were tracks for quite a number of different moods, and each fit perfectly. 

Favorite Titles: The Ocean, Dinosaur's Land 2

8. Ys III: Wanderers from Ys
Another underrated SNES game. Although I've never played any of the other Ys games, I enjoyed this one quite a bit. Its soundtrack was very apt, with music both exhilarating and creepy.

7. ActRaiser
Ah, finally a more popular title! ActRaiser has been recognized both for its excellent soundtrack and overall high quality. Not only did the game include graphics that were crisp and nice for its time, but it offered variable gameplay - some parts being overhead shooter/sim type levels and some taking the form of side-scrolling adventure stages. Likewise the music ranged from blood-pumping epicness to the calmer "watch your civilization grow"-type piece "Birth of the People."

6. Soul Blazer
Back to the underrated. Soul Blazer is another one that I've revisited several times. Often compared to the Illusion of Gaia and Terranigma (considered the same series by some), Soul Blazer shares similar story and gameplay elements to ActRasier, as well. You must free the souls of those imprisoned by a mysterious evil force, and rebuild the world!

5.  Lufia II
From here on in all of my picks are pretty popular games. The Lufia (Estpolis in Japan) series may not have the largest fan base, but its fans tend to be rather enthusiastic. I had a hard time choosing just a handful of favorites from this one. The emotions! Such a good game!

4. EarthBound
Known as Mother 2 in Japan, this one has a cult following in America, and for good reason. Perhaps one of the quirkiest RPGs ever developed, it did everything right. Cute and visually appealing sprites, memorable characters and enemies, superb story, and ever-fitting music. What I mean is that every track fit. EarthBound may not be a soundtrack I would choose to listen to on my iPod, but when you're playing it, every track sets the scene and mood perfectly.

3. Final Fantasy IV
Also known as Final Fantasy II in America, this was one of the relatively earlier works of genius composer Nobuo Uematsu. I hear we're up in the double digits now. This was one of the earliest "good" RPGs that I ever played. By that I mean that it had an interesting story, characters that I cared about, and a soundtrack that I really enjoyed listening to. Its Boss Battle made a guest appearance in Super Mario RPG. And hey, it even gets a reference in Scott Pilgrim vs. the World.

2. Final Fantasy VI
I wasn't as kind as Shadow and decided to allow Final Fantasy two slots on my list. Not sure what I can say about this one that hasn't been said. It was a masterpiece all around. I'm just nervously waiting  for them to re-release a crappy 3D-ish version for the DS. If you haven't played this game you must not be an RPG fan.

1 Chrono Trigger
One of the best games of all time, period. Graphics that were top-notch for SNES, awesome characters, amazing story, immense replayability, and outstanding music. I'm glad Square didn't milk this one for a bajillion sequels, because it would have been cheapened.

And those are my picks. How about you?


  1. Yeah this list is personal enough to be "favorite" more than "best". The first thing I think when reading it is, "Oh, I guess Paul didn't play Secret of Evermore when he was a kid". Good soundtracks all around though.

  2. Hey Andrew - yeah, definitely "favorite" rather than "best." I think "best" is just as subjective in this case, though.

    Yeah, I really liked Secret of Evermore! I guess its music didn't really stand out for me. All the other games I can remember tracks off the top of my head, but "hear" any from SoE.

  3. yay Chrono trigger! Glad it ranked where it deserves to be :)

  4. I'm not surprised FFVI, Earthbound, and Chrono Trigger made your list. I am surprised E.V.O. and Zelda II did. I figured you'd definitly have A Link to the Past on there...didn't see Zelda II coming. I had also (incorrectly) guessed that Secret of Mana and Terranigma would make your cut. Possibly a Dragon Warrior/Quest game, too.

    Like you said, nolstalgia plays a big part in our choices. The Goonies II may not have been the greatest game of all time (though it IS solid)...but hearing those 8-bit tunes instantly takes me back to a simpler time.

    Also...ever play Chrono Cross?

  5. I considered A Link to the Past, but aside from the main song (that's featured in some form in every Zelda game) none of its tracks really stood out to me as much as the Palace theme from Zelda II.

    E.V.O. I'm not sure what to say. I think it's a great game that a lot of people missed out on.

    Secret of Mana I also considered, but same the top of my head I couldn't really think of any songs (except the Dwarf city one) so I left it out. Terranigma I never got all the way through, and Dragon Quest was okay, but I only played one of them.

    Maybe I'll give the Goonies II a shot later.

    And Chrono Cross - yeah. Kind of like Final Fantasy VII in my mind. I remember enjoying it and thinking it was a good game, but nothing really stood out for me. I barely remember the characters or the story and the music doesn't stand out in my mind. Yet everyone else seemed to love it.

  6. This was a good article actually, gaming music needs more recognition, and shouldn't be lost in time. It's amazing to see them re-orchestrate old tunes.

  7. Cool songs playlist :)

  8. Ahh, loved the Zelda soundtracks :D my kids love musical background from Freezeria flash game. and My husband loves World of Warcraft soundtracks