CelJaded’s 2nd anniversary on June 3rd is fast approaching and so I’ll be producing another commemorative Top 100 list over the next few months, this time for the category of Best Video Game Music.
I’ve always had an affinity for good video game music. From the early days of chiptunes to our modern era of digital and orchestral compositions, video game music has been evolving with technology to become just as complex and fascinating as music from films and famous recording artists.
With the supremacy of today’s Internet culture, such music is continuing to grow in both popularity and credibility. Soundtracks and compilations are now sold commercially, there are sponsored award ceremonies, academic courses and even concert tours all dedicated to spreading the unique charms of those hallowed “bleeps” and “bloops”.
Before I publish my first post in this new series then, I think it’s important to establish a few house rules on how it will be presented.
This will not be a list featuring complete soundtracks first of all, but rather a list of individual pieces of music originating from different platforms and composers.
In order to encourage diversity and make things a bit more interesting, I’m only allowed to list an individual video game once. Nobody wants to see a dozen different Halo songs hogging all the limelight, so this small fix ensures that things will stay interesting for a bit longer as I struggle to find my one favourite track from every game I consider.
Similarly, because I already did a Top 20 for them last year; video games from the Sonic the Hedgehog franchise won’t be appearing on this list at all. Be sure to read that post if you missed it!
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, I’m only allowed to list music from video games that I have played.
I firmly believe that in order to appreciate video game music to its fullest extent, you need to have first-hand knowledge of the video game it comes from. In many of the very best examples, video game music is composed in a way that enhances the actions and the overall journey taken by the player(s) involved.
To an uninformed listener, your typical main menu theme risks sounding overly repetitive or abrasive, but to someone in the game itself it may actually be quite thematic or pleasurable to hear in between quick pauses and selections. Unless you’ve been there and heard it, it’s hard to know how to interpret the sound.
It’s certainly possible to enjoy music from video games you’ve never played, but in my view it is a listening experience that is always enhanced by knowledge or familiarity with what that music was designed to accomplish in the first place.
To that end, I need to make something else very clear.
The subject of best video game music typically begins and ends with Final Fantasy. Out of even the most popular video game soundtracks ever recorded, the music for the Final Fantasy franchise is commonly held among only the most beautiful and influential audio in the entire genre.
But I’ve not played a Final Fantasy game, so according to the rules I established for this list I can’t feature any notable tracks from games in that series. You might consider this a strange disclaimer, that’s fine, but many a video game expert will notice the disparity and demand an explanation, so there you go.
If another one of your favourite video game soundtracks is entirely absent from this list then it’s either because I personally don’t rate it, didn’t think of it, or more likely haven’t played it.
There’s nothing duller than reading a generic click-bait “Top X” list so lacking in actual effort that it feels designed by committee, so hopefully you’ll appreciate the personal transparency that CelJaded offers in this sense.
And if you really have a special piece of music that you’d like to see mentioned, then let us hear all about it in the comments section. It supports Gravatars now, don’t you know!
Moving on, the topic of Final Fantasy is doubly interesting because of how it relates to the perception of Japanese and American video game music in general.
Video games like FF and their associated scores have deep roots in Japanese culture for one and many titles both old and new carry this profound influence with them to the point where discussion on the topic can get a bit one-sided in Japan’s favour.
Video game music originating from Western shores deserves its recognition too though and so throughout this Top 100 I’ll be commenting on this friendly rivalry between East vs. West in an attempt to see which flavour of music wins my highest accolade in the #1 spot!
So plug in those headphones, crank up the volume (to a safely recommended level), and get ready for an acoustic journey through video game history and beyond.