Earlier this month, Rockstar Games’ Grand Theft Auto 5 became the first video game to rake in sales worth US $1 billion in the first couple of days of its release. This is also the only title in the GTA franchise to have an original soundtrack, which comes bundled with 2 CDs of licensed music. The album became available for purchase on iTunes earlier this week, and, looking at the list of artists featured, is likely to sell very well.
Not that I’m not a fan of GTA, but I think Halo soundtracks deserve the same kind of fandom. Especially the Halo 4 one, which, spanning 2 hours 30 minutes, is undoubtedly one of the most hypnotic, trance-inducing pieces of music I’ve ever heard. I want to cry and laugh and kill someone and fall asleep all at the same time listening to that soundtrack. Which, ironically, is what GTA is all about.
But why stop at Halo? There’re at least 4 other games I can think of whose soundtracks I am a huge fan of, probably more than the games themselves. They’re spread out over a period of 20 years and span widely different genres, but they’re united by one common, binding denominator: they’re all phenomenal works of music.
Here they are:
Bareknuckle (also known as ‘Streets of Rage’): Fans remember the title track from this chiptune masterpiece, composed by Japanese film composer Yuzo Koshiro, as resembling ‘Sadness’ by Enigma. It’s truly miraculous how Koshiro created such subtle varieties with sounds, synths and rhythms in 1990 out of nothing but those wonky chiptune machines. The music is downright funky, dangerously groovy, and has some amazing rhythm syncopations interspersed with deep bass lines and suave chill. It’s safe to say that with this album Koshiro lays the foundation for all contemporary dub, progressive house and psytrance. Maybe not, but it does sound a lot like a mix of all of these.
3 Eyes Boy: Adapted from the popular romance manga of the same name (of which, too, I used to be a big fan), this is, when I think about it now, one of the more tripped out games I’ve owned as a kid. It has naked gypsies running around, meditating monkeys throwing bananas like boomerangs, levitating masks floating left and right, and you as a bald, angry boy shooting arrows from your third eye. And the music – buoyant, bouncy 8-bit melodies looped with screechy, wobbly Skrillex-like sound effects – take the trip to another level. A trip I used to enjoy even as a small kid.
Heavenly Sword: The British-Indian musician Nitin Sawhney composed the soundtrack to this 2007 Ninja Theory game, published by Sony Entertainment for the PlayStation 3. Sawhney, a prolific film composer, produces a rousing operatic score of stunning rhythmic intensity. The ethereal far-East flavoured flute and guitar pieces lend a new dimension to the fictional world that the game depicts. The 24 tracks flow into each other seamlessly to create a magical 2-hour listening experience.
Heavy Rain: This game has a gloomy plotline – a man in search of his lost son comes across a police officer, a detective and a prostitute over a string of rainy days and finds out they’re all somehow involved in his son’s mysterious disappearance. And the music couldn’t complement it better. Composed by the late Normand Corbell (who won a BAFTA for it), the songs are dark, melancholic and emotional, played on a very minimal arrangement of the piano, violins and double bass. In the end when the son is found, the music is so intense the father’s triumph is literally palpable.
So, as I wait for my copy of the GTA 5 soundtrack to download – which, by the way, I’m going to love considering it features music by Tangerine Dream, Neon Indian, Yeasayer and Simple Minds among other artistes – I would like for you to list some of your favourite game soundtracks from over the years.