VGC Day 8: Lost in the Music

Welcome back to our “30 day” video game challenge! If you’re just joining us, be sure to check out our previous entries!

Day 8: Name the game with the best soundtrack.

I posted an article over at NowLoading regarding six times video game music quietly manipulated you, so definitely check that out, too, if you’re interested.

And because I don’t have enough opportunities to be a complete music nerd in my life, I’m going to talk about the difference between a score and a soundtrack, which has nothing to do with video games but…


score is music composed specifically for a movie or game. It’s usually instrumental, and plays through a majority of the movie/game. A soundtrack is a term that can refer to songs not composed for the game/movie, but used in the game/movie anyway. Most of the time, scores and soundtracks are the same thing, with the latter term often being substituted for the former, as I did above.

Why the distinction? Besides me being a nerd, it’s because I love the radio stations in the Grand Theft Auto series, but that’s not a score. But it is part of a soundtrack. And I think the question is asking about original scores.

And… yeah I’m a music nerd and love details, so I thought I’d subject you to both of those things in one article.


Oh! And then there’s the consideration of soundtracks that have easily recognizable themes that you can hum readily, and ones that are just fantastically beautiful to listen to. (Who decided it was a good idea to ask a musician this question??) Anyway, let’s stick with “hummable” and “not-as-hummable” soundtracks, just to keep this list from getting out of control.

My top “hummable” soundtrack is:

Mega Man II, composed by Kenji Yamazaki

Thanks to Grad1u53

I wish there was a live instrument version of this soundtrack! If anyone knows of any, please let me know!!

Honorable Mention: The Legend of Zelda series, particularly Link to the Past and Ocarina of Time.

And my top three orchestral (aka “not-as-hummable”) soundtracks are (in no particular order):

Shadow of the Colossus, composed by Kow Otani

Thanks to CaseofGlass

Dragon Age: Origins, composed by Inon Zur

Thanks to Agent Sambora

The Last Story, composed by Nobuo Uematsu

Thanks to Soundtrack World VGames

Honorable Mention: Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty, composed by Norihiko Hibino and Harry Gregson-Williams

What about you? What are your top soundtracks/musical scores? Is “hummability” important?

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  1. I FELT A SHIVER DOWN MY ENTIRE BODY WHEN I SAW “THE LAST STORY”. *ahem* I’m sorry, I’ll control myself but I’m in love with that game – Nobuo Uematsu is a genius composer. Great works in the Final Fantasy series and The Last Story too – that theme song (that violin!) makes me tremble! Such a good piece!

    *ahem* Answering your question: when it comes to music, game related or not, for me it’s all about how it makes me feel. Lyrics, “hummability”, intensity, etc. I remember the feeling I get when listening to something. And as you could tell, The Last Story had a great impact on me (and I own the Collector’s Edition, the golden box and all, I’m so happy just thinking about it!). Another soundtracks worth mentioning definitely Skyrim’s – I even remember singing along to Dovahkiin (in dovah, yes), Pokémon games (gen 1 and 2 mostly), Dragon Age: Origins (the theme also makes me shiver, damn) and I could spend my whole day here but this comment is already to long and I think you understand how I feel about soundtracks ^^

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Believe me, I get it! And your enthusiasm is always welcome!

      Raccoon Daddy and The Well-Red Mage just posted songs from the Metal Gear series, and I had to try so hard not to include those here, as well…. This post was almost *a lot* longer…. Whenever I hear those opening notes for Dragon Age: Origins, I smile, no matter how grumpy I’m feeling, and of course the Last Story is just beautiful 🙂

      I agree that the emotional reaction you have to music is what’s most important. I’ll actually be talking about that in an upcoming post, so I’m so glad you said that!!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Sometimes it’s hard to hit the brake when you’re writing, I understand that very well.
        That post of yours made me seriously consider if I should write about the same topic (or just music overall) – because I’d have a lot to write there. I’m considering it! Thanks for this 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Interesting post and thank you for clarifying the difference between score and soundtrack lol. Personally, the Mario and Sonic series have “hummable” music in them. I constantly hum the Green Hill Zone tune from Sonic and the underground song from Mario. If you recall Sonic Adventure 2 Battle, on the City Escape (Very 1st Sonic level) they play the song Follow Me and I still know EVERY word lol

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks! And I’m glad you liked the distinction 🙂

      Both of those series have very “hummable” tunes in them, and they are certainly iconic! I actually never owned a Sega, so my Sonic experiences are only from time at friends’ houses, but I checked out that level – the song definitely suits it!

      Isn’t it funny how some songs just stick with you? I still hum the Wood Man theme from Mega Man all these years later…

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I’m a fan of the MGS2 soundtrack as well – I remember when the game was first being shown in trailers and thinking how great it was. Others I enjoy are from Fallout 4, Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory and Halo/Halo 2. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Such a hard question. Way harder for me than “what’s your favorite game of all time”. I had a huge smile on my face seeing Mega Man II. For me it’s something like Chrono Trigger, Journey or Shadow of the Colossus, maybe Mega Man X. This changes depending on mood, with Journey being excellent for writing to, so I’d probably say that if I had the proverbial gun to my head. And also, you explained the difference between score and soundtrack like a boss!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think I had a harder time with this question than with any other I’ve answered so far, because like you, my “favorites” tend to change, or it’s a real case of loving them all the same but liking them for different reasons…

      And you named some great soundtracks! Journey is fabulous, too. I can understand why your write to it 🙂

      Also, thank you, I’m glad my explanation wasn’t *too* nerdy! (haha)

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Nice picks. I agree that Mega Man 2 has some excellent music. Generally speaking Final Fantasy tends to have good soundtracks. In terms of something more retro I liked Streets of Rage and Sonic the Hedgehog.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks! Final Fantasy also has some great music, you’re right. Sonic is definitely iconic, as well! I actually didn’t have a Sega, so I didn’t play Street of Rage all that often (friend’s house…) but that definitely had a unique and urban feel to it that I don’t remember hearing in too many other games.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. What a tough question…I can say without any doubt the OST that got me into video game music permanently was for Final Fantasy VI. I would make saves and replay parts just to hear particular songs. Since this was the 90s, and the ability to *ahem* obtain music wasn’t as readily available (plus Japanese OSTs were really expensive), it was the best method I had. The overworld music is phenomenal and every character has their own leitmotif. Now that I’ve had more exposure, I think Final Fantasy IV’s soundtrack is a bit better overall, but VI was my first. The songs I love the most are on Final Fantasy VII’s OST, but as a whole I don’t like it much as IV or VI, though as said, there are songs I absolutely love (the Distant World’s version of Opening~Bombing Mission is transcendent and the Voices of the Lifestream’s Frozen Landscape omg).

    Legend of Zelda has a place in history. Every game has certain songs that just give me the shivers.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s one thing even a Final Fantasy doof like me knows: it has great music! You’re right, it’s hard to pick just one game or song, because there are so many that are iconic by this point, or that are new but send shivers with their full-orchestra renditions!!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Thank you for explaining the difference between a score and a soundtrack! I honestly had no idea what the difference was, haha.

    I love any piece of music from the Metroid series. My favourite is the title screen music on Metroid Prime. I love the electronic music genre and this is just a superb example of why I do. For more orchestral stuff, I love One Winged Angle from Final Fantasy VII, the final boss music in Final Fantasy XIII-2, and the credit roll music in Final Fantasy X almost made me cry it was so beautiful. Also the upbeat tunes in Banjo Kazooie and Donkey Country are amazing too. David Wise is a genius in my unqualified opinion 🙂

    On a side note, I bought Dragon Age Origins: Ultimate Edition from a Steam sale yesterday. I don’t know when I’ll actually play it, but at least I own a copy now.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I checked out the Metroid music – very cool! A lot of Final Fantasy music seems to really grab folks by the feels! That’s really cool. And I remember liking the tunes in Banjo Kazooie, too! Wow, memories…

      Also, your purchase of Dragon Age: Origins made my fangirl heart squeak in happiness! Progress, progress… 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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