Lately, I’ve been playing my piano more and more often. After having recently gone through my piano bench and plethora of loose pages of sheet music, I’ve been inclined to replay these rediscovered gems. You’re probably noticing a trend with my blogs these days so you might know where I’m going with this. To spell it out though, since I haven’t had much time to play games themselves, I’ve found myself reliving video game moments and memories through other means. After spending nearly an hour playing through old pieces I had not seen since childhood, I began to think about the sort of games whose scores affected me beyond just being background noise. Music that genuinely helped transcend the experience into something more than just a game. As I’ve come to realize, there are surprisingly few games I’ve played where I can actually recall just what the music sounded like. Unsurprisingly, the game music I can recall happen to be from some of the best games I have ever played.

The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time

Ocarina of Time demonstrated that it was not necessary to having a sweeping orchestral score or a vast amount of notes and tones to create memorable, moving melodies. While I realize I’ve already recently mentioned this game before, I feel it necessary to mention it here again. After all, who among us can honestly say we don’t recall Saria’s Song or the Song of Storms? Admittedly, Ocarina of Time was especially focused on music, so it’s really no surprise such clear effort was put into making each and every melody you learned truly memorable.

Halo: Combat Evolved

There is nothing more exhilarating than charging into battle, the beat of the war drums shaking your whole body. At least, that was the sort of sensation Halo’s music gave me the first time I was given the opportunity of playing it. Is it any wonder that Halo’s music is still recognized today, even by those too young to have played it when the game first came out? Even my parents somehow (and I’m really not kidding) recognize and can hum the tune. Of course, they’re not entirely sure why they know it. But such recognition speaks volumes regarding the effect Halo’s rumbling score has.

Mass Effect

At times eerie and unsettling, while at others inspiring and encouraging, Mass Effect’s score was actually the very first thing to capture my interest. Not the graphics, nor the gameplay. Not even the story itself gripped me as quickly and as tightly as the minimalistic, monotone synths. Granted, all those other aspects were excellent as well. but if there’s any game in this blog that exemplifies my point the best, it would be this one. Mass Effect’s music affected me in an almost primal manner. As fantastic as this game was, I have no doubts it would have been much less immersive were it not for the game’s music. Then the sequel came out and the new theme surpassed the original in every way.

Fable: The Lost Chapters

I can’t speak for the other games in this series, but I know the first game’s soundtrack made me rethink Danny Elfman’s composing abilities. I found the soundtrack so enjoyable, it was the first time, for any game, that I went out of my way to procure a copy of just the soundtrack itself. It was mystical and mysterious. At times, I found myself stopping in the middle of a field, just so I could hear the background music. Still today, even Oakvale’s theme evokes a sense of wonder and enchantment that I just cannot get enough of.

The Witcher 2

Since the first game, I was so swept with this series that I couldn’t buy anything less than the collector’s editions. each time I was so excited to open it and examine every trinket and booklet that was packed in, but I was always especially excited to listen to the soundtrack. The Witcher 2 stepped things up by not only including the game’s original scores, but music inspired by the game as well. The Witcher 2 was a dark game and the music only served to exemplify the moody, tense atmosphere of the world. The atmospheric vocal work, slowly building horns, and  militaristic percussion of the theme music alluded to the politically-charged story where one wrong decision would send the world into turmoil.

These are merely a few examples. Sure, there are plenty of other games out there I greatly enjoy as well. But these in particular managed to do something astounding, as far as I’m concerned. Sometimes, we as gamers tend to become completely engrossed in the gameplay or the graphics or the story. Oftentime, you’ll hear others claim that those are the only things that matter in a video game. However, I’m of the opinion that, while those are indeed necessary facets to consider in creating an enjoyable experiences, the sort of emotions and urges that can be evoked through the sense of hearing is what makes a good game great. It can be primal, intellectual, cryptic. Music is the gloss that causes our video game experiences to shine.

Once more, I doubt I am the only one to have ever experienced something like this simply due to what I heard. What games awakened your auditory senses? What sort of emotions or sensations has a game’s soundtrack stirred in you?