Sunday, December 28, 2014

Top Ten Top Ten Video Game Soundtracks

Hey y'all.  So it's about time I did another top ten top ten, right?  Well, actually, it's about time I updated this thing regularly, but y'know, one thing at a time.  And for right now, that one thing is this top ten top ten.

Man, I really enjoy doing these lists.

In any case, this time it's a TTTT for video game soundtracks, as in the set of songs in a video game that is the best.  I have my own opinions in that area, but given that I haven't played as many games as other people have, it's probably not enough content for an entire blog.  I really only have three soundtracks in mind to consider for such a list.  Let's see if they appear.

As usual, my own votes do not count.  I'll be going on youtube and counting the votes done by people there.  Any soundtrack mentioned on their list, regardless if ranked higher or lower, is given one point each.  If anyone has a list greater than ten, only their top ten counts.  In the case of a tie, I'll rank the ties as the same place.  Normally I like to have some sort of objective means of why I list one over another in the case of a tie, but music is pretty subjective, so there's nothing really I can do about that.  Get ready for some really weird numbering.

Yeesh.  This was the single hardest list I've ever had to do.  There were so many people who defined "soundtrack" either too narrowly or too broadly.  That is, they seemed not to understand that there's a difference between "track" and "soundtrack" -- come on, there's a clear difference between one song and a collection of songs.  To make it worse, some people even said the entire franchise, like all the Mega Man games or all the Sonic games.  No.  Just no.  Not only do most franchise soundtracks go up and down in quality over time, but the longer-running franchises have transitioned from the MIDI bleeps and bloops of the past to modern orchestral stuff.  You can't compare those.  I had to throw out a lot of potential votes.

Seriously, it was hard to get votes this time.  Much harder than any list I've had to do before. Not to mention that Youtube is about as helpful as dirt in trying to search for things.  This isn't the greatest top ten top ten I've ever done, but it is what it is, and if you're entertained, well, that's what counts. 

Okay, so for right now, let's start with the hairly barelies, that is, those that almost, but not quite, got a spot on the top ten soundtracks. Note that all of these have equal votes.

Almost Made Its:
The Legend of Zelda: Windwaker
Final Fantasy VI
Metal Gear Solid 4
Metroid Prime
Castlevania Symphony of the Night
Mass Effect
Battlefield 3
Elder Scrolls: Skyrim
Kingdom Hearts

And now to the top ten.

#7. Elder Scrolls: Morrowind

by OnkelJoe

Well, I have to count the votes honestly, but I don't have to like it.  And I don't like this soundtrack. To me, it represents more or less everything wrong with modern VGM.  Instead of being quirky, individual music for a specific franchise, everything feels more orchestral, as though it belonged in a trailer or was rejected from the Lord of the Rings soundtrack.  This is bland.  Very bland.  Sure, it's not awful, but if it were, it would at least be interesting.

#7. Kingdom Hearts 2

Ah, now here we go.  This is the stuff.  Kingdom Hearts 2 has music that is low and sinister, upbeat and hyper, calm and emotional, and fun and adventurous.  This is exactly what one should look for in a soundtrack.  If there's something Disney can do well, it's music.  Well, I actually have no idea if the Disney company itself was too involved in this music or not, but this is definitely up to Disney standards.

#7. Chrono Trigger

I'm a bit disappointed this didn't rank higher, but hey this spot is great.  This entry, the oldest on the top ten, is more dramatic thank Kingdom Heart 2's, as well as feeling more like each song belongs together.  That's surprising for a game about travelling through time periods.  This soundtrack is haunting and strange, as though it's out to get you.  Check out the Primitive Mountain track.  Sounds great.

#7. Sonic Adventure II

At first I wondered if this soundtrack got extra votes for the sake of a few strong songs it has, but then I listened to it some more.  It's really good, especially if you like rock music.  The point of a song in a video game is to make the player want to play, and these are the kinds of songs that make me want to pick up a controller and get Sonic running.  I never listened to these songs much before, as I never owned this game, but they are just amazing.  Sounds like I've got some new jogging songs.

#3. Halo 3

Great, another orchestral soundtrack.  Thankfully, and unlike Morrowind's, Halo 3's music is far more emotional.  The creators of Halo knew what they wanted their games to be, and the music only reflects that.  Each piece seems designed to make the player feel like he's in a strange, awe-inspiring place.  Granted, there are a few tracks that aren't quite there, but most of this stuff is meditative and reflective stuff, guaranteed to create a mood.

#3. Shadow of the Colossus

Forgive the blasphemer, but I don't care for this soundtrack.  It's nice and all, but again, sounds rather like trailer music.  All the same, the producers understood that the minimalist nature of the game meant that the music was going to have to pick up a lot of slack.  They probably meant for their soundtrack to sound like it should be part of a movie, so they took the time to create something emotional.  This work certainly shows, particularly in the end credits song.

#3. Final Fantasy X

It wouldn't be a music list without an entry from Final Fantasy.  This soundtrack has a lot of energy and drama, just like one would expect.  It's a bit on the cheesy side, but hey, why not?  A solid, popular entry.

I feel like I should say more about this soundtrack, but I don't know what else to say.  It's just good.  I don't think I'll listen to it as much as I will the Sonic Adventure 2 OST, but there you go.

#3. The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time.

This one sort of surprised me.  I know people love this game, but to me one of its weaker parts is its soundtrack.  Oh, don't get mad.  If this music is the weakest part of a game, then the game must be really good.  It feels like it has a few really great songs, and many that are good, but not quite up to the level of the better ones.  However, it does have lots of adventuresome songs, making the whole thing sound like a classic storybook adventure. Gerudo Valley is of course magnificent.

I've actually been listening to this one a lot lately, as I've been trying to figure out if I like Ocarina of Time's or Majora's Mask's music better.  I don't know if I've answered that question yet, but Ocarina's music does feel more cohesive.

#2. Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy's Kong Quest

I'm so happy for this game.  In a world where older games' music is neglected in favor of what newer players remember, the second oldest song on this list (by a few months) gets second place.  Actually, had I listed my top soundtracks, this would have been my number one pick.  This is the perfect game, with the perfect music.  Each track is individually gorgeous, and yet works alongside all the others to form an unbeatable soundtrack.  Not only is each song great to listen to, but it matches perfectly the activity going on as a person plays.  There is no weak song in the entire collection.

But hey, it's only number 2 as far as people's votes go, so I'll just have to deal.  Before we get to that number one, let's take a look at some honorable mentions.

Arc Rose Honorable Mention, song:
So this is the spot I reserve for any song I haven't heard before that just knocks me off my feet.  That honor goes to Sonic CD, US soundtrack (for some reason the game has entirely different music for Japan).  Some people complain that that game is too easy, but hey, the music is great.  And there's a lot of it too, because the game is time travel based, giving each level four tracks: past, present, good future, bad future.  I especially love Stardust Speedway Present, as its energetic, imaginative, and brings to mind images of flying space people.  For me, anyway.  I can't get enough of it.  Add to that catchy songs like Sonic Boom, electric songs like Quartz Quadrant Good, and sinister songs like Metallic Madness Bad, and you've got the most exciting Sonic the Hedgehog soundtrack there is.

Then again, that's not the only Sonic game that got a vote.

- Sonic the Hedgehog 2006 actually got two votes, despite being one of the worst games ever made. This list, however, is about music, and that's the one area where Sonic 06 excels.
- Madworld is a violent game that I would never want to play.  I don't get any joy out of hurting other people, so without this list, I never would have heard its soundtrack.  But you know what?  It actually sounds pretty good, and definitely caught my attention.

Alright, that's enough delay, don't you think?

#1: Super Mario Galaxy

The blasphemer returns -- this isn't a soundtrack I like a whole bunch.  It's rather on the cheesy side, and many of its tracks just feel like orchestral updos of the classic Mario sound.  But hey, that must have been what the voters here were looking for.  There are a couple of tracks on here that stand out to me, though overall the soundtrack to me is just okay.  I wouldn't blame anyone for being mad at me for saying so -- it's clear that the people who made this OST put a lot of work into it, and it would be wrong not to acknowledge that.

But before we wrap things up, how about a grand prize winner?

The Legend of Zelda series is the winner of the franchise with the most votes.  It had a total of six nominated games, as well as a combined 15 votes.  Not a lot, yes, but that just goes to show not merely the trouble I had getting votes, but the fact that many players voted for games that they loved, not simply popular ones.  There were a plethora of games that got one or two votes.  It's a testimony to Zelda's greatness that it not only rose above the other franchises, but also beat out Mario by one game and three votes.

So there we go, another top ten top ten finished.  Next time, let's try something that doesn't involve video games.  Or something that does.  I don't know.  Whichever I feel like.

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