When people think about memorable video game soundtracks, there are a few recurring faces that seem to pop up every time. Final Fantasy, Zelda, and Mario are just a handful of franchises that get the bulk of the love when it comes to notable video game music. Even recent independent games like Journey and Hotline Miami have gotten mainstream recognition for their amazing scores. But there are plenty of games that go under the radar when the discussion of excellent video game soundtracks comes up. So to honor the underdogs, I’ve listed what I believe to be the top 5 underrated video game soundtracks.
When Shatter first hit PSN in July of 2009, it surprised folks with its unique twist on a classic formula. It took the traditional shell of an Arkanoid/Breakout game and added a sucking and blowing mechanic to the paddle, allowing the player to maneuver the ball in some crazy fashions. Although the gameplay did offer its fair share of thrills, the music is what left an indelible mark on me. Jeremiah Ross, a New Zealand producer/musician, created the soundtrack and managed to make this mish-mash of electronic rock and funky beats that helped define Shatter’s overall tone. It’s almost impossible to not bob your head once you start listening to this all-around slick soundtrack. Some may have passed on Shatter due its seemingly elementary gameplay, but those people missed out on some fantastic music.
4. Chrono Cross
I feel like Chrono Cross almost carries a negative connotation with it. With Chrono Trigger being regarded as one of the greatest RPGs of all time, Chrono Cross always seems to be treated like the black sheep in the family. But with its wildly unique battle system and gargantuan party system, I believe Chrono Cross can fight with the best of them. And its soundtrack is one of the strongest haymakers it can deliver. The whole score evokes such a wide variety of feelings, whether it’s fear, whimsy, or tranquility, and the music ends up almost carrying the entire game’s emotional resonance by itself.
When it comes to indie 2-D platformers, VVVVVVV always seems to get overlooked. It takes a simple mechanic of flipping to the ceiling and floor, and manages to create an exciting, challenging game thanks to its ingenious level design. Compound that with graphics that are reminiscent of the Commodore 64 and a sensational chip tune soundtrack, and you’ve got a game that seems to get unfairly ignored. Each song will no doubt get your heart pumping, even though your blood pressure is already probably pretty jacked from dying so many times. But trucking on made it that much easier when your ears were being exposed to VVVVVV‘s superb melodies.
2. Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective
Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective had it all. An intensely riveting storyline, outstanding characters, unique gameplay, amazingly fluid animations, and to top it all off, one of the sweetest soundtracks to ever the grace the DS. Whether it was rocking tunes of the main theme, or the smooth jazz beats of Inspector’s Cabanela’s theme, all of the songs did a perfect job of setting the tone for every situation. Its soundtrack was one of the many reasons why Ghost Trick ended being an awesome game from beginning to end.
1. Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney
There’s a soft spot in my heart for games that involve detective work. I love the process of investigation and trying to uncover the truth, so it’s no surprise that the Ace Attorney series is one of my favorite franchises of all time. The narrative and the characters are what make the series special to me, and the charm of the world really buoys the entire franchise with a sense of style that I think not many other games achieve. And the music is what really brings that sense of style to the forefront.
From its adrenaline rushing theme that plays when you’ve caught the criminal in a corner, or the heartfelt tune that plays when you’re having a sincere moment with Maya, the Ace Attorney soundtrack simply has it all. Every song perfectly exemplifies what you’re feeling in that exact instance, and the soundtrack is able to bring about a cohesiveness to the experience. The music is what enables Ace Attorney to at one moment have a goofy world filled with hilarious characters, and at another moment create truly stirring emotion.
All of these games I’ve listed above not only have wonderful soundtracks, but they are all great titles that you should experience if you haven’t done so already. Trust me, you won’t regret it.
Any game soundtracks you think haven’t been heard by enough gamers? Sound off in the comments below or on our Facebook.