Shack Chat: What is your favorite video game soundtrack?

The Shack Staff discusses their favorite video game soundtracks from over the years.


Shack Chat is back once again, our weekly feature where each Friday where we’ll ask the Shacknews staff to give their opinion on a particular topic, then open the floor to our dedicated Chatty community to provide a diverse mixture of thoughts on the subject. It’s a great way for us to get to know one another better while inspiring healthy debates with all of you passionate gamers out there.

Question: What is your favorite video game soundtrack?

F-Zero X - Asif Khan, Best in the Universe

This was a super hard question for me to answer, as I love music and gravitate to games with great soundtracks. There are some really great games out there with awesome original soundtracks, but I believe F-Zero X is truly one of the best. Every element of the game has great music, from the title screen, menus, and the different modes. Death Race remains one of my favorite modes in any game and that song is imprinted on my brain. Each track in the multiple cups feature great songs as well. The genre of F-Zero X’s soundtrack definitely is some weird futuristic heavy metal, industrial, punk fusion with a hint of that Nintendo magic. I spent an hour listening to the soundtrack before deciding that this is my favorite, but shout out to Super Mario World and Duke3D.exe as my honorable mentions. If you haven’t heard the F-Zero sountrack, be sure to give it a listen in the video embedded above.

Final Fantasy VII - Brittany Vincent, Senior Editor

There are few game soundtracks save for Um Jammer Lammy, Rez, and a handful of others that I'll listen to over and over again. But the Final Fantasy VII soundtrack is pure genius, through and through. There isn't a bad or repetitive track on it. It was one of the first game soundtrack purchases I ever made because I fell so deeply in love with the music as a child that I knew I'd be listening to it the rest of my life. From the iconic battle fanfare to Aerith's heart wrenching theme, it's full of gorgeous melodies that you'll never be able to get out of your head. Yes, my eyes still water when I hear the game's main theme, and I remember how I felt when I first experienced this grand adventure. Nothing about that is ever going to change. I only hope the songs are preserved in the Final Fantasy VII remake.

Street Fighter II - Ozzie Mejia, Senior Editor

You want to talk about a loaded question, this is it. I could go with just about anything here, but I can only ponder what has stood the test of time. And while many of Nintendo's first-party games have featured some unforgettable soundtracks, it's Capcom's library of games that stands out with some of the best music in gaming. While I was tempted to go with Mega Man 2 or DuckTales, I had to go with a soundtrack that I keep coming back to more and more over the years.

Street Fighter II stands above the pack with tracks that define every fighter in a distinct way. Each track defines who the fighter is, what type of fighter they are, where they come from, and are all a blast to listen to. I could talk about Guile's theme that goes with everything, Vega's Spanish theme, or Zangief's industrial Soviet theme. For me, nothing stands out more than Balrog's Las Vegas theme, a true classic that captures the essence of the city and the gritty sport of boxing, as well as the dirty fighter that's stepped into the SF2 arena.

Also, shout-out to A_Rival for the soundtrack he put together, where he Mega Man-ized the original Street Fighter soundtrack for Street Fighter x Mega Man. That's two great tastes that taste great together!

The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask - Josh Hawkins, New To Shack Chat

While I’ve always been a huge fan of the Zelda series, the soundtrack in Majora’s Mask has always resonated with me more than any other video game’s soundtrack. There’s just something about the way the melodies all combine together and flow so naturally into one another that makes it easy to listen to again and again.

Another big feature that I love about the soundtrack for Majora’s Mask is the way that the music really helps to drive home the reality of the situation as each day passes and the moon falls closer to the earth. The music becomes more ominous, sending a sense of dread and fear deep into your being. As someone who often turns the music off in video games, the sheer beauty of the soundtrack in Majora’s Mask continues to haunt me, and I often find myself listening to it throughout the day, or anytime I feel like taking a trip down memory lane.

Final Fantasy VI - Kevin S. Tucker, Maybe He's A Lion

The Final Fantasy 6 OST has been my favorite for a long time, but instead of talking about that, I’m going to talk about Nobuo Uematsu. Three of us on the Shacknews staff chose Final Fantasy soundtracks as our own personal favorites, and that would almost certainly be unheard-of if they weren’t all written by the same legendary composer. Even more surprisingly, those three games only make up a small fraction of the work Uematsu has put out in his more than 30 years of composing video game music. Small wonder why he’s among the most recognizable names in the industry.

The thing I like most about Nobuo is that he’s a rocker at heart. Among other inspirations like Elton John, a clear influence considering his penchant for catchy melodies, Uematsu has also mentioned being heavily influenced by bands like Led Zeppelin. If you listen to his work in the Final Fantasy cover band The Black Mages, those sorts of influences are clear. Plus he’s an accomplished organ player, which makes perfect sense — the king of video game music would naturally play what’s known as the king of all instruments.

You’ve captured our minds and our hearts, Uematsu, and for that we owe you a tremendous debt of gratitude. Please never stop rocking.

TMNT: Turtles in Time - Chris Jarrard, Hero in a Half-Shell

Arguably the greatest arcade beat-em-up of all time, Turtles in Time had it all - great gameplay, great looks, and an absolutely killer soundtrack. Back in the early 90s, Konami was on a roll with excellent arcade and console releases and very well known for their musical arrangements. Sporting tunes that were uptempo, rocking affairs, the Turtles in Time soundtrack was the perfect mix of high-energy rock that gave off a vibe like it was written during the same sessions as the iconic theme from the cartoon on which the arcade game was based.

Most of the soundtrack was driven by the excellent bass lines that are instantly recognizable more than 25 years later. Obviously, the original arcade machine offered the synthesized tunes in the highest fidelity, but each of the major home console releases offered remixes to accommodate the strengths and limitations of the Sega and Nintendo hardware. Turtles in Time for the SNES had the most tracks of either home console version, but its samples and execution were several steps below the arcade version.

The Genesis version, known as The Hyperstone Heist, is arguably one of the best soundtracks ever produced on Sega’s 16-bit hardware. Some of the tracks had slightly higher tempos than the arcade originals and the bass was much more upfront in the mix, resulting in sonic nirvana, especially if you owned the NTSC Model 1 VA3 Genesis hardware, known for its superior sound output.

Double Dragon Neon - Blake Morse, Stuck in the 80s

I really shot myself in the foot when I suggested this week’s question. I’m such a big music nerd and I love so many different songs from games both big and small. After a lot of soul searching I kept coming back to one game soundtrack in particular: Double Dragon Neon.

This original score by game composer Jake Kaufman not only recreates some of the great tunes from the original Double Dragon game but has a ton of original jamming tracks as well. His tunes mix inspirations from gaming classics like the TMNT arcade game score while also reminding you of film scores for movies like Top Gun. It’s an impressively long soundtrack too. Not only is there all the level music, but each “mixtape” special ability you can buy in the game features its own little jam as well.

There’s so much versatility and genre-bending to Kaufman’s compositions that it’s hard not to be impressed with his skill. When you couple that with the great sense of humor that some of the tunes have, you get one hell of a soundtrack. The end theme, in particular, had me cracking up and was a great way to celebrate victory when I’d finally beat the game.

Final Fantasy IX - Charles Singletary Jr, #1 Nobuo Fanboy

Selecting all of Nobuo Uematsu’s work with Final Fantasy here would be a total cop out, but isn’t far from reality when it comes to my personal adoration of the music (the Distant Worlds compilations get regular spin in my household). Nevertheless, I can narrow it down to the one game who’s music I’ve returned to the most: Final Fantasy 9.

I chose this one because it's often the background music while I work or write fiction. The piano collection version of Hermit’s Library alone sounds like something a classical music enthusiast would scoff at if you told them it came from a game. That mindset is something that the Final Fantasy series collectively erased from me. Many of the songs, like Endless Sorrow, elicit a few sad memories, but there’s also a warm comfort nestled with it. Others, like Vivi’s Theme, are joyful romps that can always put me in a better mood.

The journey that is Final Fantasy 9 is something I’ll never forget and, subconsciously, seek out in newer experiences (fruitlessly, most likely).

While FF9 takes the crown, I can’t let this Shack Chat go by without shining a light on my absolute favorite Final Fantasy track of all time: “To Zanarkand” from Final Fantasy 10. Learning to the play that song on piano is on my bucket list. Another extra note: Final Fantasy 9 is what I played in my longest gaming marathon: 24 hours. I fell asleep after that point, with my controller in hand during a boss fight. I woke up and continued for a few more hours.

The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt - Bill Lavoy, Started Playing The Witcher 3 Again

I warned people when we were talking about spinning up Shack Chat that I would often answer with The Witcher 3, The Long Dark, or Fallout 4. I have made good on that statement, and will continue to do so today.

Truthfully, I don’t listen to much of any music these days. When I do, it tends to be music from the 90s, or The Witcher 3 soundtrack. It will often play for hours on end while I work. It is one of the most beautiful soundtracks I’ve ever heard, and every song reminds me of a moment or place in the game that I’m happy to visit in my mind for a few moments. One specific song, The Fields of Ard Skellig, takes me back to the first time I arrived in the Skellige Isles in The Witcher 3, which is one of my favorite moments in all of gaming.

Simply put, no other soundtrack has such a big impact on me as The Witcher 3 does. I’m listening to it right now as I write this, and am seriously considering loading into the game for a bit tonight.

Final Fantasy VII - Greg Burke, Failed English

To this day I still get goosebumps from this games soundtrack. FF7 did so much for me in 1997. Helping me read faster and more efficiently. Playing a game with no voice work, means the soundtrack had to carry the entire 60+ hours it takes to beat it. A lot of gamers think the game is overrated, but It was my first journey into the world of Final Fantasy. You really can't deny the impact of the games soundtrack and is ones of the best scores in video game history.

NBA 2K13 - Donovan Erskine, Intern

No soundtrack got me more pumped and energized than the tracklist curated for NBA 2K13. Handpicked by Jay-Z, 2K13’s playlist features some of the hottest names in hip hop. Kanye, Rihanna, Mobb Deep, Nas, Diddy, and Jay-Z himself all make appearances on the hoop soundtrack. The work done with the music was a key factor in the 2K franchise rediscovering its identity and getting its swag back.

Super Mario Bros. - David Craddock, Long Reads Editor

It’s so popular it’s probably a cliche, but truth is truth: Super Mario Bros. on NES. I heard the now-legendary World 1-1 (overworld) theme as I walked down my friend Kim’s basement, where I found her lying on her stomach in front of her wood-framed television--remember “big-screen” TVs from the ‘80s?--and jerking the controller to the left and right as her Mario jumped over pits. (We all did it. The Wii’s motion controls only made the motion actually do something.) To me, that soundtrack defined the experience of playing Shigeru Miyamoto’s opus: Joyous adventure.

The only other soundtrack that’s come close is Diablo’s, specifically the Tristram theme, at once haunting and soothing. Soothing because players have found a reprieve from the hellish demons boiling over from the Sanctuary at the northern edge of town, haunting because before too long, they’ll have to take a deep breath and go back down, down, down into darkness.

Disagree with our picks? Think we're a bunch of clowns? Let us know in the Chatty below.

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