Most people approach video games as a challenging diversion or brainless entertainment, but few take the time to consider all of the elements that go into creating an immersive experience. For example, can you imagine how different some of your favorite games might be without the musical scores that have become inextricably linked to them? You might not necessarily add some of these scores to your iPod or use them as ring tones (then again, you might), but games certainly wouldn’t be the same without them. And here are just a few that have quickened the pulse of pop culture.
- Super Mario Bros. Composed by Koji Kondo (who also hit audio pay dirt with the music for Legend of Zelda), the soundtrack to this early video game is a happy-go-lucky blend of synthesizer blips and bloops that blends perfectly with the ping of collecting coins, the boing of bouncing, and the ribbit of stomping goombas and koopa troopers in the game. Anyone who hears this simple and memorable score can’t help but be transported back to long summers spent guzzling Tab and munching Reese’s Pieces.
- Grand Theft Auto. The idea of letting the player pick the soundtrack for their game was a novel one when GTA was first released back in 1997 (yes, it’s been that long). The gangster rap theme music was well suited to the premise of the game, but once players loaded up, they could either choose from one of several radio stations to find the perfect soundtrack to evade the police or pop in their own CD for totally custom cruising sounds.
- Halo. When Master Chief first hit the video game scene in this space-age story of humanity’s struggle against the alien Covenant, it quickly became the hottest FPS on the market. The soundtrack was equally revolutionary, with dynamic music designed to change according to the gameplay in order to reflect the mood. The result is alternately a symphony of sweeping strings that sounds like it came from an epic adventure film, Gregorian chants, staccato marches, and new-age, ambient synth. In short, it was everything a player could want in audio enhancement geared at matching the action on the screen.
- Final Fantasy VII. Part slasher film, part crazy fun house, part rock opera, and part futuristic military march, this seemingly schizophrenic soundtrack nonetheless captured the feverish and intense feeling of the game in the series that is commonly considered the pinnacle of the Final Fantasy franchise. Nobuo Uematsu composed many other tracks for the Final Fantasy banner, but the score for game number seven is easily some of his best work (or at least his most recognizable) in the video game world.
- Tetris. Any child of the ’80s (and beyond) will recognize the iconic electronica that emanates from this long-lived puzzle game, although it wasn’t composed by any top artists. The music has a distinctly foreign flavor due to the fact that it is based on a popular Russian folk tune (no surprise considering that the original game was created by a Russian programmer). And its unique and recognizable sound has probably contributed to the soundtrack’s immense popularity and multiple samplings by musicians and DJs.