Catherine?s Soundtrack Renaissance

Tom Phoenix

New member
Mar 28, 2009
I am a big fan of video game music of various kinds. Seriously, a lot of the musicians in the industry have some seriously good talent. However, I have a special kind of admiration for those who manage to produce good music with either outdated or less capable platforms. This is not to say that music made on technically superior platforms is worse, just that it is a challenge to produce good music for less capable ones.

Here are some examples of where musicians really outdid themselves when creating music for technically less capable platforms (by this, I mean older consoles, handhelds etc.):

If you haven't noticed, I am a big fan of music from Super Robot Wars. :p Also, Uematsu (composer of tracks for most of the older Final Fantasy titles) is a genius.


New member
Jun 12, 2008
I'd say Peter McConnell's work at LucasArts was awesome. The Grim Fandango soundtrack is out and away one of the best soundtracks ever (that includes films). The delightful mixture of beebop, surf music, jazz, mexican folklore and even some ethereal sounds is just amazing. Homeworld 2 I really like too.

For a strange place to have excellent music, the Descent 3 and Descent3: Mercenary work by Jerry berlongieri is very original electronic music with some cool experimentation in between. Beyond Good and Evil and Okami have very good music.

Gabriel Knight games have amazing music. Robert Holmes is master. I mean, for GK2 he wrote a freaking opera, for real! You can't get much more than that.


New member
May 19, 2008
Majority of my music collection is video game music (I'm weird like that), I just don't give two shits about lyrics so I end up listening to instrumental stuff and video games have a massive wealth of this. Music is one of the things I first take notice to and really love it when it's done well...unfortunately VG music these days isn't as memorable as days of y'old. The music is even better when it can be listened to and greatly enjoyed without ever having to hear it in its proper context; Final Fantasy is quite amazing at this.

Some of my favorites would be:

FF series
Guilty Gear (kicks more ass than a drunken Friday night a an Irish tavern)
Blazblue (see Guilty Gear)
Chrono Trigger
Halo (except that breaking Benjamen shit)
Gears of War
Melty Blood
Mega Man series

The list goes on.


New member
Aug 6, 2008
Only two games have entranced me enough to put their music on my playlist: Katamari Damacy and Beyond Good and Evil.


New member
May 19, 2009
Kefka's Domain. It is the CD soundtrack to Final Fantasy 3 (6). To my knowledge, it is the first album made from a video game score; at least it was the first to truly warrant it. It's even more spectacular when it is remembered that the instrument was a SNES.

Glen's Theme from Chrono Trigger still stirs me, too.


New member
Mar 15, 2010
Game soundtracks are often what gives a game its mood. I love listening to them, even as I'm blasting the bad guys or conquering the world. The original Civilization 3 and Age of Empires always set a nice tone for me, their tribal songs were very rythmic. For an FPS there was Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter 's soundtrack, both solemn and heroic. Game soundtracks are amazing.


New member
Jul 11, 2008
Maybe it's just me, but I never once took notice of the soundtrack while playing AC2.

But I love the Oblivion soundtrack.


Keeper of the GWJ Holocron
Feb 21, 2010
It's great to see game soundtracks getting some love, they're overlooked far too often to my taste. As an avid game soundtrack listener (and I have been for some 15 years), I've quite the collection, but I tend to organize them by composer, rather than by game. And since Ms. Spencer asks, here are my favorite, with a few links to the tracks which I feel best characterizes the composer's music (I chose to link rather than embed, because this is turning into a lengthy post).

Mark Morgan - My all-time favorite game music composer, he's worked on Zork: Nemesis, Zork Grand Inquisitor, Planescape: Torment, as well as Fallout 1 & 2. The haunting themes he created for Zork: Nemesis [] are just permeated with the dark, oppressive ambiance of the game and contributed, beyond the shadow of a doubt, to the atmosphere of the game.

Jeremy Soule - A very close second, his works include Icewind Dale, The Elder Scrolls 3: Morrowind, The Elder Scrolls 4: Oblivion, Guild Wars, Neverwinter Nights, and "Star Wars - Knights of the Old Republic". There's no denying he's one of the cornerstones of the game music industry, and his reputation is well-deserved. I'd be hard-pressed to pick my favorite out of all the albums he composed, but his work for the Elder Scrolls games [] is probably the most well-known.

Michael Land - He has mostly worked with LucasArts and composed the soundtracks to the Monkey Island games (my favorite being The Brimstone Beach Club [], it truly gives off this "tropical island" vibe), but also the Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis, The Dig and Star Wars: X-Wing.

Jack Wall first came to my attention in 2001 with his stunning soundtrack to Myst 3: Exile, and since then, he's done nothing but deliver. With the scores to Myst 4: Revelation, Jade Empire, Mass Effect (both 1 & 2), he not only proved his brilliance, but also his incredible versatility. It's difficult to select a single track which best portrays his style, as he has composed so many different scores, so instead, I'll just point you to first track which ensnare me, the opening track to the Myst 3: Exile soundtrack [].

Peter McConnell is another artist who worked a lot with LucasArts, and he even worked hand in hand with Michael Land on a few games. The soundtrack that stands out, however, is Grim Fandango, as shiajun [] already pointed out. The entire soundtrack is a masterpiece, ranging from mayan flutes to jazzy saxophones, but my favorite is High-Tone Fandango []. Incidentally, this is one of the rare game soundtracks that my non-gamer friends enjoy.

Inon Zur has been getting a lot of publicity recently for Dragon Age: Origins, but he's been active a lot longer than that, and for while, I was beginning to think that he would be forever known as a composer of what I dubbed "sequel soundtracks" (in the sense, that he would compose soundtracks to games that were the sequels of a game which had a powerful soundtrack composed by someone else; am I making any sense?). Icewind Dale 2, Syberia 2, Baldur's Gate 2: Throne of Bhaal, "allout 3 and EverQuest 2 are the ones that stand out, but all of his work has been near flawless, and I'm glad he's sharing some of that limelight.

Michael Hoenig - Speaking of Inon Zur's work has led me to chilling realization: I forgot Michael Hoenig who gave us the soundtracks to Baldur's Gate and Baldur's Gate 2: Shadows of Amn, which were absolutely epic, suiting perfectly games that were also epic, and set the benchmark for all RPGs to come. Here's the main theme for Baldur's Gate 2: Shadows of Amn []. 'Nuff said.

I've still a few on my list: Bjørn Arve Lagim (The Longest Journey), Tor Linløkken (The Longest Journey), Paul Romero & Rob King (Heroes of Might & Magic), Mark Griskey (Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic 2: The Sith Lords), Jesper Kyd (Assassin's Creed 1 & 2, Hitman), Chris Brayman & Mark Seibert (who worked on many, many Sierra games; see Andy_Panthro's post []), Tim Ebling (a few Ecco the Dolphin soundtracks come to mind, perfect for working or relaxing), Leon Willet & Simon Poole (for their work on Dreamfall)... The list goes on and on, but I figure I've taxed the reader's patience as is. Anyone who's read this far gets a cookie though!!


New member
Apr 9, 2008
Funny, I can't say I'm all that impressed with game music.

In fact, I find that the best use of music tend to be the licensed soundtracks like GTAs and Fallout 3. In those cases, it's kind of a partial/optional musical interlude.

I much prefer that to the system in most games that's a bit obtuse for any sort of extended play. Games like Dragon Age and Infamous have very intrusive and distracting music that isn't even programmed to function well in the game, like playing exciting/battle music in inappropriate moments. When the dragon age soundtrack wasn't being dejavuingly cliche, it was just trying too hard to be noticed. The Infamous soundtrack had the same problem where it was trying too hard to be noticed. While I did like the Infamous soundtrack on it's own; at least I liked it better than the Dragon Age soundtracks, many of the effects started to sound like gunshots and other things I was looking out for. Kind of annoying.

As someone who's been trained in music since I was a baby by a family where every member knows how to play at least one instrument, I have an appreciation for all types of music but I've also realized that for most people, music is a deeply personal thing that you can't force on them; something that many recent soundtracks do. I think the game industry had to do two things:
1-Keep in mind that it should all be Background Music; except for games like rockband and singit of course.
2-All games/consoles (except for titles like rockband of course) should have the option of playing mp3s off the user's hdd.


New member
Sep 10, 2009
Grim Fandango's Soundtrack needs to be mentioned too. It's the only game soundtrack I have in full on my iPod. It consists mostly of tiny snippets of bigband and bossa nova, but is it ever great.

Check it out:


New member
Jun 7, 2010
This is a topic close to my heart. I immediately clicked your article when I saw the title soundtrack "Renaissance".

But your article seems to suggest the notion of music gaming being relevant is a new phenomenon.

This is simply untrue. One of the defining characteristics of the 'golden' age of gaming, from about 1994 to circa 2002, encompassing the zenith of 1998, was the soundtracks.

All the greatest games had great, suitable, catchy, atmospheric soundtracks - many of them good enough to listen to independently of the game, many just brilliant at being good background music, so they are not out of place at a party or study session.

Yet more great games were merely good, but were uplifted by their soundtrack.

What am I talking about? Terminal Velocity, Warcraft II, Command and Conquer, C&C:Red Alert, System Shock 2, Half-Life, Diablo, Zelda, etc, even Mario, all had awesome tracks that got remixed and replayed by artists years later.

Some others people mention in this thread like Grim Fandango, Diablo II, and the Descents are all valid examples - from this golden age era.

Games like the 7th Guest/11th hour, Myst IV and Eve were average games given true power over the audience due to their amazing soundtracks.

In recent times - since the early 2000s, really, game soundtracks have had facilities earlier games could only dream of - every machine having on-board hi-fi surround chips, games with budgets for full philharmonic orchestras at every release, acceptable pc-speakers and headphones cheaply available. Yet I can't recall the music from a single game I have played in the last several years, with the single, and only barely, exception of Dragon Age.

Westwood studios is an excellent example. The original C&C games had brilliant music and the developers knew it was core to the experience. These original titles all had in-game play-list managers that you skip and select the tracks being played in-game, and their special and collectors editions were among the first to have soundtrack CDs. Fast-forward to the EA-Westwood games, from Generals onward - the music is forgettable, bland. They did not bring Frank Klepka back for C&C3 or C&C 4. His part was second only to Kucas' in terms of importance, to my mind.

I would like a return to game soundtracks where the heart and soul was put back in.
That would start to indicate to me that maybe I could stop sighing at the mediocrity of new titles like bloody Yahtzee.