the best thing to hit video games since better graphics…

Music!

Music makes such a big difference in games. And here I’d like to discuss some of my favorite uses of it.

(an unofficial list)

First of all, the Silent Hill series. Silent Hill has such richly textured atmosphere and a truly unique gaming environment. Akira Yamaoka’s scores had much to do with it’s creation. What would Silent Hill be without it music? Just a crap load of weird images and noises. It would be scary, definitely. But the music brings an emotional complexity to the Silent Hill world. It would never be the same without it. My favorite musical usage of the three games is 4: The Room. It has many pleasing musical moments. One in particular was made one of my favorite Silent Hill moments just because of the music! I’m referring to the “return to the apartment” when “resting comfortably” over Henry’s exploration, echoing in the red halls. Silent Hill 2 also has many notably great music moments.

Next is Mass Effect – the original – not 2 or 3. Mass Effect’s music is simply terrific. The oddball electronic/futuristic noises combined with solid and interesting melodies. They really are able to elevate the game and not just rest as background noise. What is probably my favorite video game moment of all time came from this game, and it’s mostly because of the music – During the exploration of Ilos, Shepard and crew discover the ancient Prothean cryo-chambers and the virtual intelligence named, Vigil. Shepard then begins to ask vigil about all the mysteries of the universe and Vigil does its best to answer while the song, also called “vigil”, plays. It’s a beautiful videogame moment if there ever was one.

I have to also mention Mirror’s Edge. The menu theme is really beautiful. And the glitch-style electronic music helps to add a LOT of excitement to the chase scenes. I actually listen to Solar Fields’ (the game’s music composer) solo work and love it. So I am biased. But I think it’s obvious that the atmospheric/ambient tracks add a great deal of dimension to the sparkling rooftop environments.

Lastly, I will mention Skyrim. I think I’m probably the only one who likes Skyrim’s music. Yeah, it’s kind of hoky, and the music-scripting is really random-seeming some of the time – you will be walking along the trails shooting at rabbits while an overkillingly powerful crescendo of orchestra plays as background music. It’s kind of funny, but the music itself is very well-made. And… it does sometimes match up with what’s going on, like when you find a really nice view of the landscape.

If any readers have any at all thoughts on this subject, I encourage you to comment.

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6 responses to “the best thing to hit video games since better graphics…

  1. I agree with Silent Hill. The music from two really elevates it into one of the best survival horror games ever. Twisting, inhuman and inconsistent (well it is consistently scary). I am also surprised with the first games music. The use of a theremin was random as hell. Naturally there are themes that build presences in rooms thought to be empty. That’s Silent Hill.

    American Magee’s Alice has an amazing list of scores. They’re haunting, gothic and even church-like at times. There are fun moments in the music that give Alice a sinister playful air. The music doesn’t change much however.

    Okami’s music is joyous and organic. Hitting right into its Asian roots, the score really puts u into the wonderful world.

    Dark Souls’ score (when there is music) is amazingly poignant. While I find the BOSS theme a little strange, the music at firelink shrine adds a whole new dimension to my favorite game of all time. Then the end music is simply beautiful. Subtle genius, Dark Souls relies so heavily on its sound design whether environmental or music.

    To the Moon has awesome music that matches the sensitive narrative. That’s all that game is…narrative and music.

    I love the original Final Fantasy score. The one that plays during the re-release of I + II’s menu. I think its beautiful.

  2. I bet I would agree with you on all counts if I had actually played those games :P I bet Okami does have great music. I would like to see more of that game… as well as Dark Souls.

  3. I completely agree with you about the impact of music in video games. The games I connected with the most were not always those that had great graphics or even gameplay for that matter. But those with powerful atmosphere. And music is a key to that. I can’t praise Akira Yamaoka enough for what he brought to those early Silent Hill games. My favorites being the Intro to Silent Hill, the song ‘Hometown’ in SH3, and the dark masterpiece “Room of Angel’ in SH4. Resident Evil 3 had a very dark but simple piano line that would play in the Save Rooms. Sometimes I would just linger there to pick up the lonely vibe and feel the oppresive weight of all that waited on the other side of the door. Graphics have not added this kind of dimension to the gaming experience for me like music has.

    • I wasn’t implying by my post’s title that graphics were a greater contribution to gaming. I, too, appreciate the atmosphere more than anything. I love ANYTHING with a rich atmosphere, really.
      Room of Angel is weird. And very pretty. I think Yamaoka’s collaborations with McGlynn are almost always good.

  4. Great picks! And you’re the first person I’ve found who also prefers the first Mass Effect soundtrack to 2 and 3. It has the most sci-fi feel and suits the settings so well. And whenever I hear that Faunts song, I get that giddy feeling I had when I completed the game for the first time so long ago…

    Also, I agree with the previous comment that To the Moon’s music is amazing, and I love that it actually has a role in the story.

    • If it wasn’t for the Silent Hill series, Mass Effect’s music would have been hands down the most impactful music in a game, for me. The way it adds to the feeling of each environment and enhances the story… I love it. Maybe I’m a geek, but I actually listen to the soundtracks of both SH and ME in my free time :P I really enjoy them. And, ya, I LOVE that Faunts song from the ME credits. I also really like the album it was originally from. I have ME to thank for bringing that band into my awareness.
      I’m glad to see there are people who share my feelings :)

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