JP Patino Izquierdo

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The art of game soundtracks

Wether it is an official original score or a compilation of songs, a good soundtrack is a big factor in the impact a game may end up having on people. The truth is that a great game soundtrack can achieve the status of a classic piece of music on its own regardless of the game it belongs to. What's needed in a soundtrack to become a classic? Which ones are your favorites? These are mine
1Bill Brown
Rainbow Six: Rogue Spear Soundtrack

Bill Brown's work on the first three Rainbow Six games and their respective expansions is mostly orchestral, with an epic vibe and a few subtle electronic elements, similar to the ones found on games like Metal Gear Solid 3.

Many chords are repeated throughout these songs with the purpose of creating a sound that's immediatly associated with the saga, without falling into monotony.

The orchestral, military-like melodies are perfect for the epic and action filled yet tense atmosphere found on the three monuments of the tactical shooter genre that are the first RS games are while being catchy and memorable enough to be enjoyed outside of the game.

Rogue Spear Overture -
Victory Imminent -
Urban Operations Theme -
Raven Shield Theme -
2Kelly Bailey
Half-Life 2

Half-Life 1, Half-Life 2 and HL2's episodes are filled with classic songs by Kelly Bailey that perfectly fit into the apocalyptic sci-fi theme of these games.

These electronic compositions vary from ambiental to rock tinted ones which match the classic scenes from these titles regardless of their tone.

Perhaps one day we'll be able to listen to a new sci-fi soundtrack for one of the most important sagas in the history of gaming, but it seems that a battleroyale mode for Counter Strike and a Dota trading card game are the priorities for Gaben right now.

Nuclear Mission Jam -
Vortal Combat -
Hazardous Environments (Valve's Theme) -
Dark Interval -
You're Not Supposed to be Here
3Soundtrack (Video Game)
Fight Songs: The Music of Team Fortress 2

Cowboy Bebop's soundtrack is the only one that I can find to bear some resemblance to the sound found within TF2's score. An upbeat, orchestral bebop, filled with powerful brass instruments and that aims at a vintage 40's vibe.

Mike Morasky's compositions are rich and varied creating a soundtrack with a unique personality for a classic online game which has a unique personality as well.

Wether it is in game or on Team Fortress' animated shorts, Valve's Studio Orchestra does an impressive job at delivering these songs.

Intruder Alert -
Team Fortress 2 -
More Gun -
Playing With Danger -
4Stephen Rippy
Age of Empires II: The Age of Kings

There is something extremly important to have in mind once you compose the soundtrack for an RTS: Matches may end up being long as hell, and since it isn't very practical to create an OST that lasts for more than 4 hours, the wisest choice is to create a short one that repeats itself over and over once it has finished. But by doing this people could end up getting bored, which is why it needs to be a soundtrack great enough for people to enjoy listening to it on a loop.

The Soundtrack for Age of Empires II made by Stephen Rippy has a length of roughly half an hour with classic anthems that will subconsciously get into your head by listening to them tons of times while you play. It manages to do this effectively by being catchy, simple (rumour has it that the songs were originally made on MIDI) and distinctive enough to be remembered and associated with the most iconic RTS game ever.
5Stephen Rippy
Age of Empires II: The Age of Kings

Continuation. Links to some iconic songs:

Quest For Butter -
Shamburger -
Tazer -
Machina del Diablo -
6Soundtrack (Video Game)
Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit 2 Soundtrack

While older NFS games like Need For Speed II had some great original electronic compositions this was dropped by EA on the early 2000's going instead for compilations by different artists. In most cases this resulted in generic rock tracks and nothing more, but there are a couple of exceptions in which the songs picked, even if generic in style, managed to fit perfectly into the vibe needed for an energetic racing game. For me these exceptions are NFS Hot Pursuit 2 and NFS Hot Pursuit 2010.

Fever for the Flava (By Hot Action Cop) -
The People That We Love (By Bush) -
Ordinary (By The Buzzhorn) -
One Little Victory (By Rush) -
Keep it Comin' (By Uncle Kracker) -
7Soundtrack (Video Game)
Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit 2 Soundtrack

Continuation. Links to some iconic songs:

Edge of the Earth (By 30 Seconds to Mars) -
Ruling Me (By Weezer) -
Bigger Than Us (By White Lies) -
Cinema (By Benny Benassi) -
8Toby Fox
Undertale Soundtrack

A modern classic of gaming soundtracks. What Toby Fox managed to accomplish with little knowledge of music composition is outstanding. The simple instrumentaion inspired by old school games like Earthbound still manages to fill rich and dense in its sound and is a main factor on the game's design, being a big part of what makes of the emotional scenes something so touching while also being responsible for the battles feeling so vibrant.

Death by Glamour -
Ghost Fight -
Dating Fight! -
9Solar Fields
Mirror's Edge Original Soundtrack

Solar Fields' style is perfect for the eerie, futuristic and sterile atmosphere of Mirror's Edge. These long ambiental compositions are the ideal accompaniment for a white, clean city, filled with glass and vibrant colored sections.

Lisa Miskovsky's work on the only different track in the album, Still Alive, is also excellent. A catchy, emotional tune, that somehow manages to retain that eerie vibe found on Solar Fields' tunes and within the game itself.

Introduction -
Shard -
Edge & Flight -
Jacknife -
Still Alive -
10Soundtrack (Video Game)
Hotline Miami Official Soundtrack

Synthwave is a relatively new subgenre of electronic music, with only a small number of artists on it being popular, and that is characterized by the use of synthesizers and a vintage vibe.

One of the best ways to get into this kind of music is through Hotline Miami's soundtracks. Compilations of tracks by the most important synthwave artists like Carpenter Brut, Perturbator or M-O-O-N, they are an excellent choice for HM's fast paced gameplay set in an 80's neon-like context typical of Miami Vice.

Technoir (By Perturbator) -
Roller Mobster (By Carpenter Brut) -
Hydrogen (By M-O-O-N) -
Le Perv (By Carpenter Brut) -
11Aperture Science Psychoacoustics Lab...
Portal 2: Songs to Test By

Mike Morasky shows us what a diverse composer he can be. In a totally different style than Team Fortress' we see a more techno/ambient vibe that goes well with the "laboratory" theme of the game. Compositions by Kelly Bailey and songs like Still Alive (probably the most popular song with lyrics ever in a video game) by Jonathan Coulton only help to make of the soundtracks for the Portal game something even better.

Still Alive -
4000 Degrees Kelvin -
Reconstructing More Science -
12Darren Korb
Bastion Original Soundtrack

Darren Korb's soundtrack for Bastion and Transistor feel fresh, with a mix of rock and electronic elements that create a very unique sound. Wether it is the warm atmosphere provided by the guitar arrangements on Bastion's OST or the more computerized ambience on Transistor's, the truth is that Korb creates some of the most unique soundtracks with tons of identity to them.

In Case of Trouble -
Slinger's Song -
Water Wall -
13Joel Nielsen
Black Mesa Soundtrack

In a case that's not very common in game's soundtracks, Joel Nielsen attempted to recreate the style found within Half-Life's soundtracks, in a tribute to the fans that would fit well with the long awaited fanmade remake of HL1. And let me tell you, he nailed it perfectly. You can tell this is made by a fan and for fans.

It doesn't feel just like a copy though, because it doesn't feel inferior. It feels like something Kelly Bailey himself could've made with tracks that are as good as the classics found on Gordon Freeman's official adventures.

Blast Pit 3 -
Black Mesa Theme -
Questionable Ethics 1 -
We've Got Hostiles -
Surface Tension 3 -
Volume Alpha

Minecraft's soundtrack is a serene ambiental work. It's incredible how soothing and relaxing it can be, immersing you into the world of Minecraft, a world in which you can just relax and be yourself, giving all the control to your imagination and its desires.

Minecraft -
Mice on Venus -
Sweden -
Danny -
15Junichi Masuda
Pokemon Gold & Silver OST

Limited by the power of portable consoles, Masuda still created excellent and distinctive soundtracks for the long running Pokemon series. Simple and short songs that still managed to become classics.

Battle! -
Come Along -
Gym -
16Akira Yamaoka
Silent Hill

I'll be honest, I've never played much of the Silent Hill games. With the good ones not being on pc and also me being a scared little kid when they came out, I never gave them the chance.

With that being said, I absolutely love their soundtracks on their own

Silent Hill Theme -
Theme of Laura -
You're Not Here -
17Soundtrack (Video Game)
Starcraft 2: Wings of Liberty

Honestly, I don't like Starcraft. Its small maps and fast paced gameplay are not my style, and even though I respect it a lot and I recognize it as the cornerstone of the RTS genre along with Age Of Empires, I simply prefer the approach to the RTS gameplay that AoE has. However, I must admit the soundtrack for Starcraft II is amazing

Public Enemy -
Heaven's Devils -
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