An often overlooked aspect of some of the genre-defining games in history is the soundtrack. Nothing builds immersion quite like it. So let’s take a look back and resurrect some of the best original soundtracks to ever grace our headsets.
Did you really think that you were going to get more than a paragraph into this list without it? If you’re staring at the screen without the ability to recall any of the iconic tracks that graced locales such as Nova Prospekt and Ravenholm, do us all a favour and drop what you’re doing to listen to them right now. Few soundtracks encompass such an impressive and varied amount of song styles, movements, and ambient soundscapes – but then again, very few games are like Half-Life 2.
From thumping basslines, electronic arpeggios, and distorted-beyond-belief synths, to organic compositions of shorelines adjacent to derelict monoliths, the Half-Life 2 OST brings an incredible amount of beauty and technical mastery to bear. It is, undoubtedly, a masterwork composition.
World of Warcraft
Few soundtracks capture the essence of a world quite like the soundtrack for the vanilla version of World of Warcraft. Although a hallmark entry at its time, the sweeping score of the OST covers everything from epic world-shaping movements to far more desolate, tribal war drums that usher in the sensation of spending your free hours in a sun-baked hellhole known as The Barrens – and with good reason.
Like any great score, the same core is shared amongst all of the pieces, but each leaps off of the recording to life in a way that is unique to the equally distinct zones featured in the virtual world of Azeroth.
A much more recent entry on this list, Furi stands apart from the pack in that the tracks featured don’t vary drastically from one another like of those above. Rather, Furi opts for a much more consistent cadence across its soundtrack. Dark, bass-heavy riffs punctuate the actions of the game: repetitive, relentless, and endless – the music directly reflects the gameplay.
It suffices to say that there’s a definite reason that the game is titled Furi. Hacking, slashing, and dashing across arena-based levels fitted with characters designed by Afro Samurai’s Takashi Okazaki and carried forth by aggressive arpeggios, both Furi and its soundtrack are dripping with character.
It’s time to kick it old-school. Far older than any of the entries on the list is the soundtrack responsible for searing its melodies into our synapses way back in 1998. Banjo-Kazooie may look dated to the 4k-texture-adjusted eyes of modern gamers, but the third-person platformer featuring a bear with a bird in his backpack still remains one of the greatest works of the 90s.
The maniacal melodies of Banjo-Kazooie reflect an era of strangeness that’s difficult to pin down – much like the wacky and wondrous cast of characters within the game itself. Banjos, kazoos, bells, brass, strings, and all manner of wonderfully distorted effects reverberate loudly into today – even from 20 years in the past.