It’s never too late to start a monthly tradition. With the recent release of our article on why we listen to video game music – It’s all in the (Video Game) Music! – I thought it best to quickly follow that up with my top 3 soundtracks for the month of February! I listen to a ton of video game music and it’s only right that I take some time to write about them. Though, because I listen to so much music, I often have a hard time remembering what I listened to recently. I mean, I have a huge playlist that spans from music here at VGMP Radio to songs from OCRemix to playlists found on Spotify. When I’m driving, working out, writing or even reading a book, I’ll have the music going. Problem is that sometimes when a song comes on and I love it, I have to jot it down or I’ll lose track of what I just listened to. Without writing down the name of the song, I have a difficult time finding the soundtrack when I’m sitting at my desktop later that day. Anyway, before we get started I want to take a minute to define my process for picking my top 3.
2PProject’s, my name is Elliott by the way, Process for picking:
- The video game soundtracks I listen to for a particular month are not limited to date of release. Meaning, if I happen to listen to the Chrono Trigger soundtrack and I felt it was my favorite soundtrack for that month then it’ll be in my top 3.
- The Top 3 is my opinion only. I am perfectly ok with you not agreeing with my top 3. Just be cool!
- A soundtrack qualifies for the top 3 list if I listened to at least 5 songs from that soundtrack.
- A soundtrack is defined as songs available through a digital or physical medium in any arrangement by the original composer, company or affiliate. For example, if I happened to have listened to a metal/rock/etc version of, I don’t know, Maria and Draco Opera from FFVI courtesy of the Black Mages. The Black Mages will be listed as part of my Top 3 with a little notation that it is from the Final Fantasy VI soundtrack
- Eventually, the top 3 will be theme based but for the first top 3 we are taking the shotgun approach!
- I will do my best to write a little summary of the soundtrack and my experience with the game.
- Soundtracks will ALWAYS be in no particular order
The Top 3!!
Super Mario Odyssey
Composer: Naoto Kubo, Shiho Fujii, and Koji Kondo
I have yet to play Super Mario Odyssey and that it’s amazing! When a game releases I usually take the time to listen to the music. I don’t know if you read through the last article but every time I want to recommend a game to someone I almost always lead off with ‘The music in the game…blahblahblah’. Of course, there have been some pretty crappy games out there but some of those very same games have amazing soundtracks (will feature that as a Top 3 in the future). I have always enjoyed the works of Koji Kondo but with the addition of Naoto Kubo, “Jump Up, Super Star!” and “Break Free (Lead The Way)” truly defines why I have included this soundtrack as part of my Top 3 for February. By the way, the CD soundtrack just released yesterday I believe to tune of roughly $40 (currency dependant). There is at least 4 cd’s of Mario musical greatness in there so if you have some spare change definitely consider purchasing the set. I think you get a couple extras along with the physical soundtrack as well!
The Black Mages III: Darkness and Starlight (Final Fantasy VI)
Composer: Nobuo Uematsu (arrangers: Tsuyoshi Sekito, Kenichiro Fukui, and Michio Okamiya)
I can’t recommend this one enough. Ok first off, I’m a huge fan of arranged Metal/Rock video game music. I play guitar myself and to be honest, I’ve always wanted to learn how to arrange music myself so that I could play it in this style. I’ve scoured Youtube for many different versions of the songs found on this album and to be honest this is unequivocally the best official arranged album I have heard. Now granted, there are other albums/records/songs out there that have stellar arrangements but what captivated me the most was the inclusion of my favorite song from Final Fantasy VI! I am speaking about none other than ‘Darkness and Starlight’ from the most memorable scene in Final Fantasy VI; the Opera ‘Maria and Draco’. You’d be hard pressed to find a gamer out there who would argue that the Opera scene, next to **Spoilers** the destruction of the world of balance **End Spoiler** was not memorable. Anyway, you can find the album here at VGMP because I’m thinking it’s super difficult to find a physical version now as I don’t think they’re available anymore since the Nobuo Uematsu is producing other work now. If you get a chance you should definitely give this one a listen.
The Last of Us
Composer: Gustavo Santaolalla
This album always, without a doubt, manages to kick me in the feels. There are times when I’ll be working out and a version of this song comes on and I’ll start getting all emotional. I must look hilarious at the gym. The minimalist approach that composer Gustavo Santaolalla took when creating this soundtrack was amazing. I just read recently that Santaolalla is illiterate in the reading and writing of sheet music so instead he composes his music as he records. This allows him to go back and listen to what he’s created and to make minor adjustments and then to follow up with a re-recording of the same section. This is interesting to me because this is the second composer I’ve heard of who is not fully musically trained. The other was Nobuo Uematsu (Another themed Top 3, I feel, in the near future). Regardless, Gustavo Santaolalla’s soundtrack to The Last of Us is compliments the game play in every single way. From the music alone you can feel the desperation and hopelessness of Ellie and Joel through the subtle tones of a wide degree of stringed instruments and ambient sounds. I’m not the only one who agrees that this soundtrack was/is amazing as it has also won countless awards and has been covered by various professional and amateur artists around the world. One artist in particular who I am very fond of is Taylor Davis. Her version of this song is incredible. Her accompanying video can be found on Youtube as well. Go ahead and give Taylor’s version a view but definitely pay your respects to the original soundtrack as well, you won’t be disappointed!
That about wraps it up for this week and last month’s top 3! I hope you guys can take some time to pay respects to at least one or two of these original soundtracks. If you guys are video game music diehards then I’m assuming you’ll all be familiar with each album. If not, then my recommendation would be to introduce yourself to Gustavo Santaolalla and the soundtrack from ‘The Last of Us’ first. That soundtrack is truly wonderful. After that it’s your choice because both pf the other soundtracks are very different from one another in both tone and genre! Enjoy… 2P OUT!!