For Love of Video Game Music

 

I’ve been a software developer for twenty years, but my love has always been music. I’ve loved video game music since my days on the Commodore 64, when I would listen to SID Player music and try to play those tracks on a piano, only rarely succeeding. Today, I’d like to share with you some of my own favorite music from video games. I encourage you to click some of these links and check out the music.

I’ve got fond memories of the music from Skate or Die, Druid, and Bards Tale 3, but I especially remember playing this song from Ultima V on my piano, going up and down the scale, playing the song in C, then in C#, then in D, et cetera.

As the years went on and I moved on from Commodore 64 to PC and Playstation 1, I enjoyed video game music’s evolution beyond chiptunes. I listened to the soundtrack from Castlevania: Symphony of the Night for years after completing the game (200%!) and found myself listening to the wonderfully eerie Silent Hill 2 soundtrack despite the fact that I never played the game. I know – I lose geek cred for that one.

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I’ve found that while working, some of the best music to listen to if I want to focus is video game music. After all, video game music was written with the intent that it be listened to while the listener focuses on another task. So while I work, I listen to the beautiful orchestral sounds of Shadow of the Colossus. I listen to the soothing background music of Minecraft. Sometimes, I listen to Darren Korb‘s brilliant soundtracks to Bastion and Transistor. Or if I really want to get motivated, I listen to the soundtrack from PB Winterbottom.

In 2006, I purchased the game Advent Rising after hearing the beautiful soundtrack by Tommy Tallarico and reading about the epic backstory written by Orson Scott Card, and then found that I hated the game. Yet, I still listen to the soundtrack in 2020. I also listen often to the soundtrack to The World Ends With You, a Nintendo DS game few people remember. Its J-Pop soundtrack is very good. And although the music was all licensed, I’d be remiss to not mention Elite Beat Agents, the bizarre and delightful Nintendo DS game from 2006, which featured three guys in suits saving people with the power of music. I have found, however, that I’m not able to work while listening to the soundtrack from Dance, Dance Revolution. As soon as I hear “Afronova” or “Boom Boom Dollar,” my feet start moving under my desk and I really can’t focus.

About four years ago, my older daughter picked up the violin for school. She’s stuck with it and become pretty damn good. And as I’ve guided her through The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess on the original Nintendo Wii, she’s taught herself to play the Ordon Village theme on the violin with no participation from me. What prouder moment could a GeekDad like myself have?

This article was largely a chance for me to link-dump and share some of my favorite old chiptunes. I hope you’ve enjoyed this trip down memory lane half as much as I have. I’d be delighted if you’d comment with some of your own video game music!

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This post was last modified on August 13, 2020 12:09 am

Greg Howley

Married white male, avid indoorsman, enjoys long walks in West Hartford center, lindy hop, heavy warjacks, the circle of fifths, common table expressions, and THAC0.

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  • Einhander. Fez. Braid. PixelJunk Shooter. Square actively sells arrangements of its tracks is many genres. Some of my favorites are the piano tracks and orchestral arrangements. FF6, FF8, and FF9 are particularly good. They just released orchestral Chrono Trigger and Chrono Cross, which are both extremely good. I've really enjoyed much of Mitsuda's work, especially that in Xenogears (OST, but also variously arranged in Creid and Myth). TPR's melancholy arrangements. (Look them up on YouTube. Officially licensed!)

    Also, if you've never been to a "Distant Worlds" concert, put it on the bucket list. The FF6 Opera, live and performed by an actual orchestra, is incredible.

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