The Weekend Debate – Music To Your Thumbs

Music. Where would we be if our ancestors had never learned to master sound, silence, pitch and rhythm? Sweet, life-affirming music permeates almost every aspect of our lives; not least the games we play. Is there a piece of game music that particularly stands out for you, be it on its own merits or for the way it enhances the overall concept?

Some games have beautiful soundtracks and some games, like PixelJunk 4am (which has an upcoming beta you can find out about in the post directly beneath this one) and the upcoming Sound/Shapes on PS Vita have music at the very core of their mechanics.

What does music add to the game experience and what does the future hold for game composition?

Come forth and speak: your views are food to my eyes and ears.

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42 Comments 4 Author replies
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Carnivius_Prime 20 April, 2012 @ 4:42 pm   1

Can’t say much game music appeals to me these days. I miss the game soundtracks of old. In fact I tend to have most modern games music on mute and play old game music through my headphones along with the modern game’s sounds. Game music like the Mega Man 2 and Batman on NES, Turrican II (pure epic, catchy greatness) on Amiga (loads of great tunes on the Amiga) and Street Figher II just to mention very few of a huge load of potential examples. Just wish more games these days had actual tunes I can whistle along to. Really does make me enjoy a game a hell of a lot more. Apart from a couple of instances I don’t have much love for movie-like scores and especially not meaningless ambient sounds.

    James Gallagher 20 April, 2012 @ 4:47 pm    

    8-bit music really was great at times and it’s amazing to hear how much it has subtly influenced pop music. On one of the rare occasions I find myself listening to Radio 1, I hear some familiar bleeps and blops beneath the surface and wonder if the average listener knows where it all came from.

Dante_Zero 20 April, 2012 @ 4:43 pm   2

speaking of sound shapes any idea when thats actually coming out?
I think music in games is great as it helps to create atmosphere and helps to draw you into the story although i could point to a massive number of games that seem to forget that its important in their game.
I’m glad to see music creation games coming back in real interesting way though. I really wish thing like ejay and codemasters make a come back on current gen consoles. PArt of the reason i’m so excited about pixel junk 4am is the music is gonna draw me in but i can get lost in the creation of it all and unlike in the past i can share it with the world in a very easy connected world. Rant over*

    James Gallagher 20 April, 2012 @ 4:48 pm    

    I’m glad to see music games use actual game interfaces for creation and not simply try to replicate a synthesiser interface with console controls. Makes it far more compelling, for me.

ninja_tom 20 April, 2012 @ 4:44 pm   3

Guiles Theme 😉

Juhal_1234 20 April, 2012 @ 4:45 pm   4

music is the main art of gaming though some choose not to use it, because the sound effect itself is the music to what an audience wants
games like journey however
use the music to show passion story and culture especially Austin Wintory’s Soundtrack named apotheosis

depends on the type of game. for first person shooters the game should feature a military emotional music, while games which feature imaginative games should choose inspiring type music. though depends on the game

the future, should be where game music, change while through doing an objective/action and also while travelling.

Dante_Zero 20 April, 2012 @ 4:46 pm   5

certain tracks have caught my attention this gen probably most notably The Uncharted theme song and MGS theme are probably two of my favorite. When you listen to them you can identify it and the memory’s of the experience with the games just gives you goose bumps. I also like to add that flower,Super Stardust,Heavy Rain and Journey have also had some amazing tracks that just amplify the experience of the games.

taurus82 20 April, 2012 @ 4:54 pm   6

Theme from Amateria from Myst III Exile by Jack Wall

    James Gallagher 20 April, 2012 @ 4:55 pm    

    Thanks for sharing – you know I was thinking of you when I posted the PixelJunk story earlier 😉

Guri_Tricolor 20 April, 2012 @ 5:01 pm   7

“When fired, the RYNO V plays a five second loop from Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture”


sometimes you can discover “music” within the sound effects of a game such as when I was playing the first FEAR game – spent hours just bumping into paint cans, bins and other items in the game, – my mate took samples of me playing the game and even used one of the dialogue samples from it then used them to create a new “toon” composed in the style of commodore 64 game music

really looking forward to Pixeljunk 4 am – wasn’t it originally suppose to be called Lifelike?

taurus82 20 April, 2012 @ 5:09 pm   9

Yep, the deep undulations (of Theme from Amateria) should look rather good through PJ’s 4am.

vonhammer 20 April, 2012 @ 5:13 pm   10

First,one of my favourite classic game songs.Jonathan Dunn’s Robocop on the gameboy,was also the “on and on” Ariston advert.

It’s a remake,but sounds so good.

Music in games is huge for me,I cant play a game without the original soundtrack.It always feels weird when I try.

The future of music in games,that’s a difficult question.
For me it’s biometric feedback.I want the games soundtrack driven in part by my feelings.So the developers emotional intention blends with my own and creates something unique for me.
I also think that all aspects of gaming will incorporate this.Not every game and genre,but something like survival horror would be insane if how you felt began crafting the experience as you play.

Also bring back proper music creation software.Jesters Music games,or fruity loops PS3.I would buy at a high price.

Mikal_Drey 20 April, 2012 @ 5:36 pm   11

hey hey

I wold say we have taken the proverbial 2 steps forward but 3 steps back.

soundtracks have certainly become a pivotal part of the game with epic orchestration creating tense atmospheres and hardcore beats rocking the racetracks (NFS) and chill out mood music for cruising the slopes (SSX)

Custom music has been a much lauded feature and the soundtracks often have well know artists.

I don’t wish the return of repetitive nature of some old school game music but I do miss the iconic nature of it. Every gamer will instantly know the mario or tetris theme tunes and maybe some modern gamers will recognize soundbites such as snaaaaaaaake and the iconic codec but I really cannot think of a specific Theme tune or IP specific choon that is as iconic as game music used to be.


Just wondering, why no codes this week?

TroubleMaker411 20 April, 2012 @ 5:48 pm   13

Music, in my opinion, can be the most important thing in a game.

If you look at games like Silent Hill, or the early Resident Evil games, the music added more to your experience than the gameplay, the visuals or the (quite simply terrible) voice acting!
Adding that atmosphere with the music made these games that you were simply terrified to play with the lights off. The original Fear had something similar aswell!

If you then take last years greatest game (IMHO ofcourse) Deus Ex: Human Revolution, the music made the game twice would it would have been without it. Not just adding tension and atmosphere, but also adding to the overall feel of the time setting and the political undertones of the story.

At the opposite end of the scale, if you look at the simply awful OST that Jericho had, it took away from the game and took what could have been an average, but fun shooter, and made it farcical in it’s execution.

Music can be the most important thing in game. More developers should remember this

bashforking 20 April, 2012 @ 6:37 pm   14

suikoden 2 has some of the most enjoyable music especially open theme oh and silent hill music composer shame hes left now

Comrade-Bozzey 20 April, 2012 @ 6:38 pm   15

Deus Ex – Human Revolution’s soundtrack was one of the best I’ve ever heard for a video game. It slotted so well in the style and background of the game.

The opening credits just blew me away and you had a sense of the scene of the game from there on in. This was dark, neon filled cramped world full of seedy buildings and characters. From roaming Detroit’s alleys to Tai Young Medical’s hallways, the music is there giving you the feeling of this Bladerunner style world. I don’t think the game would have been anywhere near as good on a atmosphere level if they had just put shed loads of dubstep in, or some other techno/punk theme music.

morg106 20 April, 2012 @ 6:48 pm   16

I remember getting Uncharted 1, turning it on, listening to the music on the main menu and immediately getting turned on. I love good music in everything, films, games, and with a game like Uncharted, it makes it all the more epic.

chrisandsheva 20 April, 2012 @ 7:13 pm   17

Got to say i liked your use of the words, our ancesters ‘mastered’ the art of music.. apparently the universe, which we are a physical part of has been making ‘music’ since the big bang… so taking That into account ie music has allways been, are we really as good as we could have been ?.. or like many other parts of our subconscious or maybe senses ?.. do we merely scratch at it’s true potential… Sure we can manipulate music/noise in ways that reach us, from simple marketing to probably rousing us to rush head first into doom, nothing ‘new’ there, also is whales communication music, some like to listen to it… me, i like classical to heavy rock, others though are under an impression that it’s one type only, and if others aren’t ‘into’ it, there clowns etc.. am not touchy feely, but if it works for YOU thats alls that matters.

vonhammer 20 April, 2012 @ 7:16 pm   18


HR had good music.But my favourite parts were when they mixed in the original games music.
I really loved the part were your just about to meet Serif for the first time,and it kicks in the unatco music for a second or two.

Unfortunately it didn’t happen enough for my liking.The best part was when the original song played.

Lymmusic 20 April, 2012 @ 7:19 pm   19

i’ve been a musician for years and have been heavily influenced by video games.

I like to make my own music, sometimes with custom soundtracks in mind. Feel free to download my latest track – makes an excellent track for wipeout on ps3 and vita through custom soundtracks:

DAYDANNY666 20 April, 2012 @ 7:36 pm   20

Are you trying to increase traffic with this crap!

CassyChan 20 April, 2012 @ 7:56 pm   21

Music can enhance any game as an experience and imply or emphasise any emotion, the great thing about gaming that other mediums like film, literature, music don’t have is that you interact, watch, read and listen all at the same time, I would definitely say audio is a huge part of gaming for me.

Devil May Cry wouldn’t be the same without the heavy electronic music to get you pumped, Silent Hill wouldn’t be as cool or atmospheric without the bizarre ambient tracks, unnatural noises and even the use of silence at some points, and games like Nier would have less charm without such well composed and fitting tracks for every scene.

However when I get a Final Fantasy game only to hear the latest X Factor dog crap from Leona Lewis and a team of Simon Cowell’s producers and songwriters as a horrid marketing tie-in it does make me fear for the future of music in gaming.

The music from tetris will always stay in my mind


browf2000 20 April, 2012 @ 10:24 pm   24

hi my name on ps3 is browf2000

Rashilda 20 April, 2012 @ 10:37 pm   25

Hi! where are the Wrecked codes from the competition a few weeks ago? i was one of the winners and no code has been sent my way. And no one replies to my msgs/emails. Whats up with that

Falcon1991 20 April, 2012 @ 10:45 pm   26

The Super Smash Bros games really have a lovely bundle of music as they celebrate Nintendo’s history. 🙂

PS3 wise, I loved the music in Deus Ex: Human Revolution and also like the Street Fighter/Tekken music.

InnerSenses 20 April, 2012 @ 11:23 pm   27

Being a music student and amateur composer, I’m constantly looking for music to analyse and break down, looking for compositional techniques and styles to incorporate into my own writing to improve myself.

With video game music, I am rarely interested in “getting to know it better”, as the music tends to be extremely linear (and often constantly looped) and is only an extra to the scenery and gameplay.

However, I read an interview with Austin Wintory (the composer on Journey) and his insights on how composition for games should be done are very interesting.

The future for game music composition, in my opinion, is in ideas like Wintory’s. Game music shouldn’t be an extra added to the game in post-production, but rather an integral part of the game’s development right from the beginning, with the music forming around the art design/narrative, and vice-versa.

mazegami 21 April, 2012 @ 12:38 am   28

i’ve always loved level 5’s game music, from dark cloud & chronicle to rogue galaxy and the layton games 🙂 ugh remembering them how’s making me NEED to buy the soundtracks…

Tecnoboy1 21 April, 2012 @ 10:01 am   29

MotorStorm Apocalypse’s soundtrack was amazing, completely different although it did take a bit of getting used to. I just love that kind of orchestral re-imagining.

And need I say LittleBIGPlanet, while I prefer the original game’s soundtrack that game has the most amazing interactive and normal licensed tracks I’ve heard in a long time.

hayzink 21 April, 2012 @ 1:39 pm   30

my fav game soundtrack in the last good few years was the scott pilgrim vs the world soundtrack i loved that.

i love 8 bit style chiptune music the stuff they had in the original idea for the game was even better

jonny_hart_digit 21 April, 2012 @ 6:13 pm   31

remember music and music 2000? vita needs that.

chrisandsheva 21 April, 2012 @ 9:22 pm   32

OK favourite music from a video game is the music stations from san andreas, esp the reggae one. that isn’t along the lines of how music interacts whith certain scenes or actions from games.. But i think it’d be a crime if no-one mentioned that, And other similar kinds of games… dunno maybe i just liked that game too much, speaking of, When will Rstar realise just how much money they’d make if they gave that the HD and Trophies makeover… Maybe one day.

Ultima-Genesis 21 April, 2012 @ 10:10 pm   33

One man… Nobuo Uematsu, a composing god! The music he has provided for the Final Fantasy series is nothing short of epic, to me it adds emotion and can really draw you into a particular situation or character. Without a soundtrack there wouldnt be as much depth to RPG games, on top of a good storyline with memorable characters music really adds the finishing touch

ShootingStar_XCI 22 April, 2012 @ 2:27 am   34

What Rockstar did with Red Dead Redemption’s soundtrack really added to the overall game experience. It’s the most innovative & impressive music composition for a game I’ve ever witnessed.

Bill Elm and Woody Jackson, along with a team of accomplished session players, meticulously put together a captivating reimagination of the old American West. They recorded stem after emotive stem for the interactive in game soundtrack – which meant the moment you saddled a horse, drew your weapon or were ambushed by a pack of wolves, the music would change to reflect the on-screen action.

Original songs too.
“Deadman’s Gun” by Ashtar Command –
“Far Away” by Jose Gonzalez –
Just beautiful.

ShootingStar_XCI 22 April, 2012 @ 2:54 am   35

“Your comment is awaiting moderation.” – Very friendly. Last time I include links here then…

Anyway, I forgot to add. I’m really looking forward to PixelJunk 4am. Seems truly original in a genre drenched in generic rythm games.

Also, I can’t see music in games being discussed without seeing CoLD SToRAGE, Patapon and Beaterator getting some mention. And PaRappa the Rapper too, of course! 😉

mirrors edge theme tune

runicdagaz 22 April, 2012 @ 5:17 pm   37

Immersion, basically. A soundtrack can make or break a gaming experience for me. Sometimes that means that you hardly even notice the music, but does just enough to set the atmosphere, sometimes it can add tension, comedic relief, adrenaline… a good, but fitting soundtrack is important.

I absolutely ADORED the soundtrack on Okami. Perfectly themed, ranging from:
Soft, gentle melodies:

To more upbeat, pumping style music:

I miss Clover Studios. 🙁

chrisandsheva 22 April, 2012 @ 9:55 pm   38

Suppose different composers have different ideas And ‘wants’, i remember reading a story from, i think, the guy who done the Schindlers List score.. in it he said that the biggest compliment that someone could pay him, was to say they Never actually ‘heard’ the music, i guess IF you think about it then he may be right, but as i said different/other composers try, and do, the total opposite.. Also i read a comment above about games music being different than a films, due to our allways interacting in a game, though mostly true i have seen a couple of good films that Also left me feeling like i was interacting in those.. rare admittedly, but bloody great when it happens.

strangeplaice 23 April, 2012 @ 1:15 am   39

Soundtracks within games add a whole new layer of depth to them that simply wouldn’t otherwise exist. In some games, this doesn’t apply, but in Role Playing Games it becomes more apparent and helps you as a viewer of the situation, become much more involved in the goings on.
In the days of Yore, plinky plonky 8-bit tracks were used to convey urgency, relaxation, anger and all sorts of emotion that would never have been even notable in a text box. Pokémon is great example. Stick a pair of headphones in and go a wander. At the start of the games the music is relaxing to gently introduce you to the gameplay, and then when you’re thrown into battle the pace dramatically increases and gives it a sense of urgency.

Games these days still do this and to a much greater standard. Kingdom Hearts, a game that would be incredibly dull without it, is made much more exciting by its soundtrack. You’re wandering through “Traverse Town” listening to relaxing classical music, and suddenly the combat music kicks in infoming you things are going to get hairy! Each boss, and moment in the game has its own soundtrack adding a fresh flavour to an otherwise repetitive “press x to hit” style battle system.

strangeplaice 23 April, 2012 @ 1:16 am   40

Try it with any RPG, the background music can make or break a moment, and the right song at the right moment can cause a tragic scene to become a kleenex moment. (Not that way!)Watch a tragic or exciting moment in a game, then mute it and watch again. The entire emotional effect is lost immediately.

These days, simple games like the Impossible Game utilise the soundtrack of the game as a mechanic of the gameplay. You need to play the game to keep the song going and the draw factor is the catchiness of the tune. So long as there’s imagination in the world the possibilities of game soundtracks in all forms is endless!

Apologies for the length of my post! I got carried away!

mazegami 23 April, 2012 @ 11:00 am   41

forgot okami and final fantasy! shame on me 🙁

dazbobaby 23 April, 2012 @ 11:14 pm   42

I like rocking the old 8bit too, but sometimes it’s a bit ott.
Games like FEAR need a great soundtrack to add to the suspense, Renegade ops and wipeout HD require different styles to other games too.
Some games have great music, some soundtracks are pap. Off the top of my head I can name at least a dozen games with excellent soundtracks, but for the life in me I can’t name one with a bad soundtrack, maybe thats because it’s so bad it’s forgettable.
Try this link for a set of awesome soundtracks, and they’re free too.

@James Gallagher, didn’t you once write for future publishing?