Top 10 Video Game Themes that Enhance the Player Experience

Video games have had a long and rich history and like cinema it uses a combination audio and visual elements to create entertainment. The quality of the graphics has always been a selling point for video games but the music composed should be given equal attention. There’s different ways to approach the topic – which music is overall the best, which have shaped the industry, and which is the best of each era of gaming with the changes in technology allowing new boundaries to be reached, and so forth.

This list puts the focus on the the soundtracks that are the most successful in drawing the player into the gaming experience, the original tracks that set the perfect tone for the story. Thanks to BallsMassive for lending a hand in brainstorming this article.

10. Command and Conquer: Red Alert

Main Theme

The game that once ruled the roost of RTS gaming, eventually drowned under the increasingly competent pretenders to the throne. People were already hyped up for the sequel to the original game, but that level of anticipation went through the roof after seeing the intro sequence. It begins with a well shot sequence depicting Albert Einstein traveling back in time to assassinate Adolf Hitler whilst he’s a young student. This is followed up with a cryptic warning that this may not have solved the world’s problems and then a montage of war against the Soviets backed by a thumping soundtrack.

Very far from being the best piece of music ever written there’s no denying the strength of the sequence. Even the most fervent pacifist will find their blood up after seeing this. Now show me your war face.

9. Monkey Island Series

Main Theme

Another series that has disappeared into the fog of nostalgia in spite of a steady output of new games in a serial format. If there’s one thing that will spark fond memories for gamers of the classic series it’s telling them that they fight like a cow. Or playing them this tune.

With only a cartoony island in the Caribbean and this score the game sets itself up to deliver volumes of fun, adventure and humour. Even though it’s only backing credits most gamers sit through the whole sequence just for the tune. It would be a bold – but totally correct – statement to say that it’s a better score than that for Pirates of the Caribbean (which is also awesome).

8. Street Fighter II: The World Warrior

Guile’s Theme

When putting together any list we try to avoid being influenced by memes and trends, especially when they’re based on a gag. Going by the definition of this list though…it’s hard to ignore this track. Try and tell me that you’re not in an 1980s action movie mood after hearing this:

The Street Fighter series has plenty of great backing tracks to all of their stages, but none fit the over-the-top anime action quite like Guile’s Theme. Plus: it goes with everything!

7. Mirror’s Edge

Trailer Score

Mirror’s Edge was not a very good game. It lacked plot and character and could be finished in an afternoon. The design was confused, providing gameplay that encouraged free running over confrontation and then forcing confrontation to occur. It may have been salvaged with the fresh take on platforming and speccy art design, but the controls were just kinda broken. Even though these issue came up in the demo and early reviews we all went out and bought a copy at full price. Why? Because of this trailer featuring this soundtrack.

6. Bastion

Build That Wall (Zia’s Theme)

The indie game Bastion is dripping with atmosphere, and in audio terms most people associated the hard-edged Western feel to the voice-over narrator. Also well worth noting is the plucking and sliding guitar music that encapsulates the hero clinging to the little that’s left of his world and the momentous decision that lays before him.

5. Katamari Damacy

Katamari on the Rocks

OH GAWD GET OUT OF MY HEAD. When it comes to the Katamari games the concept is let down by the execution, and the game never lets the player completely of the chain. One thing that really elevates the experience is this insanely catchy pop-driven theme tune. You get driven to play the game simply because you can’t get the damn thing out of your head!

4. The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past

Overworld Theme

Much like the aforementioned Monkey Island theme this track is all about creating a sense of adventure. There’s a good reason why this theme has remained consistent throughout the 25 years of the series, and that’s because it is good at what it does. Out of all the versions available this one presents a simple, stripped down melody that puts the player in the perfect mindset for the type of journey ahead. It makes you want to wander out to the nearest forest and throw boomerangs at the wildlife.

3. Metal Gear Solid 2

Main Theme

The Metal Gear Solid series has come to represent many things. Extremely high technical achievement for one. Innovative gameplay mechanics. Mind-numbingly long cutscenes that are filled with undecipherable jargon. They’re about being an awesome spy. Whether you love them or hate them (there’s really no middle ground when it comes to this series) there’s no denying that they’ve always had awesome production values. They look and sound great. The main theme is the main attraction – if I was a spy I’d want this playing around me at all times. Which, admittedly, would make the job pretty hard to do.

2. Silent Hill

Opening Theme

You want to give someone the chills? This:

Holy hell that’s effective. The game hasn’t even started and you’ve already got that uneasy feeling that there’s something horrible lurking just behind you but you can’t look because then it can get you. The briefing for this score must’ve been along the lines of “make it sound like something’s crawling up your spine”. It stands as one of the most disconcerting pieces of music ever composed and fits perfectly with the atmosphere of Silent Hill.

1. Final Fantasy VI

Opening Theme

At first this tune may not seem to be worth all that much…until you get to the 3:45 mark…

At the time of release Final Fantasy VI was entering a market dominated by simple run-and-guns and platformers such as Super Mario Bros. and Mega Man. Whilst those games were fun (and featured catchy tunes of their own) they weren’t very involving or taxing. Even in genres that did feature more storytelling than killing everything in sight things were kept pretty simplistic. Final Fantasy VI on the SNES certainly took things to the next level and this is reflected the superb and slightly haunting opening score.

With so many great songs to choose from this wasn’t an easy list, even after narrowing the definition to focus on the immersive music tracks rather than just the catchy ones. Make your suggestions for other entries in the comments!

For more gaming, check out 10 Games Australia Banned or Censored for Stupid Reasons

For more music, check out Top 10 Songs Performed in Movies (That Aren’t Musicals)