I hated listening to the radio and had little interest in listening to music in general until I was twelve. It was the year Napster had made it big. Napster provided me an opportunity to listen to a song I liked without having to listen to or pay for eight songs I didn’t like. It also was an excellent resource for reliving some of the most joyous experiences of my life, which were for the better or worse, playing video games.
Video games gave me an alternative reality to inhabit every night as my parents and sister went through screaming fits. All the screaming I dealt with on a daily basis had turned me away from music and people and towards my imagination, things, and the more-than-human world. I was so present during games. There was no one else I owed recognition to, not even myself. So I withdrew into the basement where I could become absorbed in a challenge of wit and skill and the elation of adventure accomplishment.
While many hardcore gamers are most impressed with a game’s graphics (like photorealism and gore) and storyline, I’ve tended to enjoy most unencumbered play control and music. Play control and music allows one to enter into the world of the game, no matter how simple the graphics and the story. Lose play control and atmospheric music and there is too much distance between gamer and game world, no matter how great the graphics and plot. Play a game of flash Tetris with and without listening to the Korobeiniki and you’ll know what I’m talking about.
Even today, fifteen years after the birth of Napster, I am enamored by game music and their remixes. Outsiders judge game music as something unsuitable to listen to outside of gaming. It is stigmatized bu its role in what society deems as a lower art (or something that is no art at all). Even film and television music are not popularly listened to outside of their original context. The same could also be said about the classical music genre which is considered very “high art.” The general public, it seems, are not interested so much in complex and deeply emotional scores. They are attracted to rhythmic beats that put one in a mood to party through an adrenaline rush and those that produce a nameable affect such as sadness, anger, and passion (most emphatically about human relationships). These are the songs that reach top 40. They are instantly familiar and require little contemplation to understand in body and mind the truth of what is being said.
Most video game music, however, has not a single lyric, nor do they have a beat. Game music is usually melodic, short, and repetitive (for the sake of looping while in levels). In that last ten or more years, video game music has become more orchestral, leaving behind short earlier pieces for more cinematic scores, sometimes played now by symphonies. Regardless of which generation of games a song comes from, it can always be remixed and covered, enhancing and adding to what existed originally. The following is the first group in a series of epic game music that pulls me out of melancholy and despair by launching me into triumphant hope.
Super Mario Galaxy 2 – Final Showdown with Bowser (0:50 – 1:18)
Super Mario Galaxy – Gusty Garden Galaxy
Super Mario Galaxy 2 – Melty Monster Galaxy
Okami – Ryoshima Coast
Okami – Giving Kushinida a Ride
The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword – Staff Roll
Final Fantasy: Crisis Core – Fulfilled Desire
Carbohydro (cover of Space Harrier theme) – Limitless Skies
Sonic Generations – Casino Zone (DLC remix)
Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts Bolts – Press Start