Video games, over time, have grown and evolved to be much more than just simple projects to keep children entertained for hours on end. I feel as though video games have developed in such an extreme way that fans of pop culture and everything within it tend to speak of video games like they are pieces of art. We discuss what we do and do not like about them, we cross-examine and we get into as much detail as we can about certain titles and it usually comes down to four key elements: The graphics, the gameplay, the story and the soundtrack.
Each of which must be both appealing as a stand-alone element and as a whole. Usually a great deal of the focus goes on the visual style, especially since we’re coming into the new age of gaming where our consoles are much more powerful therefore allowing developers to produce titles that are far more visually outstanding than their predecessors. Gameplay and story also hold a very high rank in the minds of gamers but I feel as though one of those four elements doesn’t get as much attention as it deserves and its the soundtrack.
While most gamers will say that they can appreciate all of what a game has to offer in the moment of play, I feel as though that may be somewhat of a lie. To fully appreciate a game you must appreciate everything it has to offer and that includes the soundtrack. Most game developers of our generation choose to stick solely with instrumental tracks, bar one or two songs that they may have used for promotional videos or trailers that also happen to be featured in the game (e.g. “Heart-Shaped Box” by Nirvana and “inFAMOUS: Second Son“).
The great thing about using only instrumental tracks is that it gives fantastic atmosphere to any and all in-game situations but they’re not exactly the types of soundtracks every fan of the game wants to have floating around on their music players. The small list I’ve compiled here is that of game soundtracks I believe deserve a place within your music library. These soundtracks though, unlike some of the games floating around, all host music tracks not only composed specifically for the game but are good enough, in my opinion, to stand alone as average songs. Each are (mostly) lyrical tracks that add to the atmosphere and intensity of the game but are also the types of tracks you can listen to throughout your daily life without feeling like you have to fight some sort of Cyclops giant. I’m looking at you, every “God of War” game every made.
A “Square Enix” title for the Nintendo DS (known as “A Wonderful World” in Japan) that was originally released over here in Australia in 2008, “The World Ends With You” follows the story of a young boy who wakes up in the middle of a bustling Japanese crossing with no memories of his past and a brand-new ability to harness the power of psychic energy.
He and his new friends (each of wish have stories similar to him) must now compete in a week-long, life or death game that could just mean not only the end of them but the end of existence entirely. This action/RPG opened my eyes up to music within video games like no other game had done before it.
Not only did each and every one of the tracks fit scenes and situations like a glove but they added layers of depth to the entire gaming experience. Years after playing the actual game I still remember two particular things about “The World Ends With You”; its great visuals and its fantastic soundtrack and, to this day, I still listen to music from its official soundtrack.
All of the tracks combine the musical elements of rap, hip-hop, rock and electronica to allow the game to perfectly portray the vibe of a bustling metropolis. Set in modern times, “The World Ends With You” needed a soundtrack that could properly bring players into a world engulfed by concrete, graffiti and unique style, it was the games composer Takeharu Ishimoto that pulled it off flawlessly.
The game that introduced the Wii to gore. “Madworld”, developed by “Platinum Games” and published by “Sega”, is a comic book-style game that puts players in control of a man named Jack. As Jack you take part in a gameshow called “DeathWatch” which sections off parts of certain cities and has its players fight for survival with the winner being awarded with a large (but undisclosed) amount of money. You, as Jack, are an undercover agent and a former winner of “DeathWatch” who is now working for the government.
Your mission is to infiltrate the game and take it down from the inside which apparently means just winning again. Filled with blood, gore and one of the best visual styles I’ve ever seen on the Nintendo Wii, it was a game I couldn’t pass up and it just so happened to have one hell of a soundtrack. Populated entirely by hip-hop, rap and RnB tracks, the “MadWorld” soundtrack would have to be one of the most intense I’ve ever come across and not because of the musical genre but because of the harsh words and game-centric themes within the music.
Despite having fairly murder-based lyrics I still feel that each of the tracks could stand on their own two feet as songs you’d listen to almost daily. Each song has been composed fantastically and as gritty rap tracks they work perfectly. Going online and reading the lyrics to some of these songs may make you a little bit worried, especially when I’m here to tell you that you can listen to them as part of your daily music cycle but I beg that you don’t go and do that, instead go and listen to a track.
You’ll soon realise that as violent as these tracks sound, they’re actually fairly tongue-in-cheek and somewhat playful. Much like “The World Ends With You”, “MadWorld” had a fantastically unique art style (which heavily resembles that of Frank Miller’s “Sin City”) paired with an incredibly appropriate soundtrack that made the game so memorable. To this day I still rant about how great of a game it was.
A game I and a lot of other video game fans in this world believe to be somewhat ahead of its time “Jet Set Radio” is a game that was originally released on the Sega Dreamcast all the way back in the year 2000 with it getting a re-release on new consoles back in 2014. It’s a game that puts you into the shoes (or skates) of some renegade youths who just want to wear funky clothing, zip around using their “high-tech” roller blades and paint the town red…literally.
The aim of the game is to cruise through the city streets, fight off rival skater gangs and graffiti everything you possibly can while also dodging the authorities. It’s a great game that captured the imagination of many gamers throughout time with its vibrant aesthetics and contemporary music. The game combines musical genres like J-pop, hip hop, funk, electronic dance music and rock music in ways that outdo all the rest.
The composer for “Jet Set Radio” must have been running out of genres to cover seeing as the games music delves into the use of odd and non-mainstream sub-genres like “Acid Jazz” and “Trip Hop”, two genres of which I’ve never experienced outside of this game. Much like any good video game soundtrack, this one fit the game perfectly to the point where it even seemed as though music tracks matched certain colours which isn’t something entirely odd but it’s not something you hear about everyday.
It’s also something extremely hard to explain but those of you reading this who HAVE played “Jet Set Radio” will know entirely what I’m talking about. Most of the music on the soundtrack is composed by Hideki Naganuma and Deavid Soul with accompanying tracks by artists like Jurassic 5 and Rob Zombie. There’s so much that this soundtrack has to offer, it’s so good that I tend to long for it on certain days. It’s definitely one for those of you out there with a love for music that gives off a positive vibe. It’s bubbly, it’s electric, it’s “Jet Set Radio” through and through.
A heavy game with an even heavier soundtrack, “Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance” follows the story of Raiden, a character that many fans of the “Metal Gear” series were quite excited to see take the spotlight in his own game. Raiden is a mercenary/private security guard who has been hired to protect the Prime Minister of an unnamed African country. After being attacked by a team of cyborg terrorists called “Desperado”, Raiden is thrown back into a world of death and destruction, one that he prays he could escape from forever.
Now it is up to him to take down “Desperado” and to foil their plans of world domination. Despite it being a part of the “Metal Gear” universe, it shares almost nothing with its predecessors, gameplay-wise; there’s basically no need to play the game in a stealthy manner, instead the it purposefully throws you into high-octane action situations where you’re given no choice but to hack and slash your way through each and every enemy…human or cyborg, they all get to taste Raiden’s steel in the end.
The soundtrack for this game can seem a little intimidating for music fans out there who aren’t entirely keen on the edgy metal/electronic mix of genres but it is definitely one that grows on you. Most of the songs on the soundtrack were composed by Jamie Christopherson, each of which have some incredibly uplifting lyrics that could surely get anyone fired up.
Having powerful lyrics mixed with intense music makes for some fantastically epic-sounding tracks that work to both life up your spirits in-game and throughout your daily life. If I’m ever in a bit of a bad mood or need to let off a little steam, tracks from “Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance” are the first I tend to listen to. While it took me a little while to warm up to, by the end of the game you do appreciate such incredible music and, once you listen to the tracks on their own, you get a good feel for just how well-composed they are.
The third video game on this list to be developed by “Platinum Games” and the title that works as a spiritual sequel to “MadWorld”, “Anarchy Reigns” follows the story of Jack (once again) and a young police officer named Leo, both of which are searching for the same man who went “AWOL” some time ago leaving a trail of dead bodies in his wake. The two men, as well as a slew of other crazy characters, constantly go toe-to-toe as they both search for this mysterious killer.
Despite having a pretty fleshed out storyline, the game focused more on online play making it unique in and of itself considering it was a beat-em-up title, most of which do not focus on multiplayer in any way. The game gave off an unmistakable vibe quite similar to that of “MadWorld” which connect the two in a rare but obvious way. Not only was it created by the same people and features some of the same characters, the music on its soundtrack was all composed by the same artists that worked on “MadWorld”.
Sick YG, Ox, Doujah Raze and many others return once again from “MadWorld” to create another brilliant and fitting soundtrack for “Anarchy Reigns” (“Max Anarchy” in Japan). Although not as gory as “MadWorld”, “Anarchy Reigns” had quite a similar soundtrack that almost seemed like a simple extension on the “MadWorld” soundtrack though it was clear that these particular artists have honed their musical skills over the years.
Being a fan of “MadWorld” lead me to believe that the soundtrack for “Anarchy Reigns” would be just as violent if not worse but it actually surprised me when the songs weren’t overly violent, instead they were just slightly more serious which fit more into the style of “Anarchy Reigns”. Despite its connection to “MadWorld” the music (alongside the visuals and storyline) did indeed help it give the game a certain degree of seperation from the former title. It showed progress, it showed growth and it showed that “MadWorld” wasn’t just a fluke for these musical artists, they could do this time and time again.
Whether you agree or disagree with my choices please head down the the comments section below to let us here at Capsule Computers know what you think. Also if you have any awesome video game soundtrack suggestions please feel free to discuss them below.