It isn’t just the movies where music really has a chance to evoke some serious emotions – or just put a catchy hook in your head. Video games, too, are more and more these days serving a similar but far more active audience. And as the medium has grown, so too has their star-pulling power, from Hollywood’s Hans Zimmer and his work on the Modern Warfare franchise to Paul McCartney’s collaborative compositions on the Destiny soundtrack.
Certainly as video games have grown more cinematic they’ve attempted to mimic their big-screen brothers in terms of scope. You only need to listen to the soundtrack to literally any Call of Duty game to know precisely where the inspiration is coming from. But it doesn’t have to be like this – in fact, it wasn’t always like this, despite the repetitive and remarkably forgettable dirge that sometimes wails out from the speakers. So let’s take a look at probably the best video game themes ever. Good luck getting them out of your head after this!
The Legend of Zelda
The Legend of Zelda has been going since 1986, and one of the best things about the game isn’t just the solid gameplay, the story or even the characters of Link, Ganondorf and Princess Zelda. Nope, it’s that incredible magicial theme tune, which from the beginning hints of the grand adventure yet to come. The series’ soundtrack hit new highs with The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, in which every song is a stone-cold classic. Now a whole generation of N64 owners will be humming ‘Song of Storms’ for days.
Sure, it might not play out until the credits roll on Valve’s excellent puzzle-shooter, Portal. But Jonathan Coulton’s catchy and comic ‘Still Alive’ is one heck of a swan song for the game. Sung by arch-mecha-AI-antagonist, GLaDos – voiced by Ellen McLain, it’s a passive-aggressive taunting of the player which is at once both lyrically threatening and melodically harmonious. Which just about sums up how GLaDos feel. According to Valve writer Erik Wolpaw, they chose to use the song as an end theme so that the players ‘leave the game genuinely happy and with a smile on their face.’
Super Mario Bros.
Ask someone to sing a video game song and Super Mario Bros. is liable to be the first one on their mind and out of their lips. The theme to the first level, known as ‘Ground Theme’, is about as wonderful as any theme song can be. Insanely memorable, for some it’s basically the theme tune to the entire decade of the 80’s. Composer Koji Kondo, who also penned the original Legend of Zelda theme, has even questioned whether he could possibly top his own record for creating the greatest video game theme of all time.
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