VGChartz's Top 50 Video Game Soundtracks (10-1) - ArticleTaneli Palola , posted on 16 March 2018 / 4,515 Views
Welcome to the final part of our list counting down the top 50 greatest video game soundtracks of all time. We've finally reached the top 10, but before we finish this countdown, here are a few interesting little facts and details about the top 50:
Several composers made multiple appearances in the top 50. Nobuo Uematsu has the most with seven credits to his name, five of which were solo compositions. No other composer comes close in that regard, as the second highest number of solo scores for any composer in the top 50 is two. Uematsu is also the most represented composer in the top 10, but more on that in a moment.
The second most prominent composer on the list is Koji Kondo, with five appearances. However, only one of those scores was created by him alone. In the other four he generally only created a handful of tracks while other composers did the rest.
Other composers with multiple appearances include Yasunori Mitsuda and Yoko Shimomura with four, and David Wise with three. In addition there were several who appeared twice in the top 50.
38 of the games in the top 50 were made by Japanese developers. In addition, only one western developed game made it into the top 10. Six of them were in the top 20, however.
Final Fantasy, The Legend of Zelda, Donkey Kong Country, and Super Mario each had at least three games make it into the top 50, while a handful of other franchises managed to get two entries.
#10 Nier: Automata
(Composers: Keiichi Okabe and Keigo Hoashi)
Composed by much of the same team that was responsible for the original Nier's music, the soundtrack for Nier: Automata builds upon the foundation set in the first game. The melancholic, hopeless tone is present in both games, but Automata's score has a generally harsher, more mechanic sound, emulating its many artificial environments.
In addition, Nier: Automata reuses and rearranges several tracks from the first game, underlining the subtle thematic and narrative connection between the two. This includes songs like ´Kaine – Salvation´ and ´Emil – Despair´. However, most of the score still consists of original pieces written specifically for Nier: Automata, and they are exceptional without fail. Tracks like ´Possessed by Disease´, ´Bipolar Nightmare´ and ´Vague Hope – Cold Rain´ are just a small fraction of the absolutely amazing themes the score contains.
#9 Final Fantasy VII
(Composer: Nobuo Uematsu)
Final Fantasy VII is not only the game that essentially pushed an entire genre into the mainstream by itself, but also one that made Nobuo Uematsu perhaps the most famous video game composer in the world, with the possible exception of a certain long-time Nintendo employee. For many this was the game that introduced them to Uematsu's work, and in the process meant a lot of people suddenly looked at music in video games in a whole new way. While video game music had been used to evoke emotions in players before Final Fantasy VII, and very successfully at that, many still saw it mainly as just background noise.
This is the game that proved to many that it can be so much more. The scene of Aerith's death would not be nearly as effective if ´Aerith's Theme´ didn't play alongside it, the final battle against Sephiroth wouldn't have had the impact it did without ´One-Winged Angel´, and nor would Sephiroth's other appearances have felt as threatening if they weren't accompanied by ´Those Chosen by the Planet´. Nearly every theme in the score has a similar effect on the scenes and places they accompany, making the game better through association.
#8 Shadow of the Colossus
(Composer: Kow Otani)
It's difficult to do justice to Shadow of the Colossus by simply talking about it. It's the kind of game that one really needs to play themselves to truly understand what makes it such a magnificent experience. Similarly, the title's magnificent soundtrack is such an integral part of the game that to genuinely understand just how impactful a piece of music from it can be it needs to be put in context within the game.
That's not to say that the score isn't fantastic by itself - it definitely is - but what makes Kow Otani's compositions shine even brighter is hearing and experiencing them while playing Shadow of the Colossus. This is because much of the game is actually fairly quiet, with no music playing in the background at all, so when a track does begin to play its impact is made all the more powerful as a result. It's tracks like ´Prologue ~ To the Ancient Land´, ´A Despair-filled Farewell´, ´Silence´ and ´The Farthest Land´ that help make Shadow of the Colossus such a magical game.
#7 Final Fantasy VI
(Composer: Nobuo Uematsu)
Very few soundtracks have pushed the concept of video game music further than the one found in Final Fantasy VI. Many of the songs here were something that at that point in time had simply never been done before because of the limitations that video games had back then. The scale and scope of this soundtrack alone was something almost unheard of in video games in 1994, with massive tracks like ´Dancing Mad´ pushing the SNES to its limits.
This was also the score that essentially cemented Uematsu's status as one of the greatest video game composers of all time, and with tracks like ´Terra´, ´The Decisive Battle´, ´Aria di Mezzo Carattere´, ´Searching for Friends´, and ´Edgar & Sabin's Theme´ it's very easy to see why.
#6 Xenoblade Chronicles
(Composers: Manami Kiyota, ACE+, Yoko Shimomura and Yasunori Mitsuda)
Led by Yoko Shimomura, the team responsible for the music in Xenoblade Chronicles is easily among the most talented ever put together to create any single video game score, and the results certainly matched the talent in question. Curiously, Nobuo Uematsu was actually involved with the score as well, being one of its executive producers. In the end Shimomura composed just 11 of the score's 91 tracks, including the track in the video above, while Mitsuda provided the game with its ending theme ´Beyond the Sky´.
The remaining tracks were composed by Manami Kiyota, who was responsible for most of the title's environmental soundscapes as well as various other tracks such as ´A Friend On My Mind´ and ´Hometown´, and ACE+, who took care of the various battle tracks and a number of other themes like ´Gaur Plains´ and ´The End Lies Ahead´.
#5 Final Fantasy VIII
(Composer: Nobuo Uematsu)
I was honestly quite surprised that Final Fantasy VIII turned out to be the highest ranking game from the series on this countdown, not because of the music, which is exceptional, but due to the title's somewhat divisive reputation among fans of the series. Still, whatever your overall opinion of the game, the one aspect that is almost universally loved is Nobuo Uematsu's score.
From the moment the game begins with the epic ´Liberi Fatali´ the music hooks you in like very few other games have ever done. This is then followed by one wonderful piece of music after another, with tracks like ´The Landing´, ´Force Your Way´, ´Maybe I'm a Lion´, and of course the song that is perhaps the most famous vocal theme in the entire series, ´Eyes On Me´ - these are all being easily among Uematsu's best ever compositions.
#4 Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze
(Composers: David Wise, Daisuke Matsuoka, Minako Hamano and Shinjo Ushiroda)
Following on from the highly successful return of Donkey Kong Country on the Wii in 2010, Retro Studios quickly went on to work on a sequel. According to the studio president the team still had a lot of unused ideas they wanted to make use of after finishing Donkey Kong Country Returns, so the decision to make a sequel was a fairly natural one.
David Wise was ultimately responsible for the majority of Tropical Freeze's score, which meant that it shared many similarities with the ones found in the original SNES DKC games. This can easily be heard in tracks like ´Mangrove Cove (Underwater)´ and ´Zip Line Shrine´. Of course, there's much more to the music than just callbacks to previous games. The entire soundtrack is excellent, and well worth experiencing for yourself. You can start with ´Windmill Hills´, ´Mountain Mania´, and ´Aquaduct Assault´.
#3 Chrono Trigger
(Composers: Yasunori Mitsuda, Nobuo Uematsu and Noriko Matsueda)
It's probably safe to say that very few other composers have worked as hard on any single project as Yasunori Mitsuda did on the soundtrack for Chrono Trigger. As the famous story goes, he worked himself to the point that he was forced to go to the hospital after contracting stomach ulcers. Fortunately at that point he had already finished most of the score, leaving Nobuo Uematsu with the task of creating the final ten tracks for the soundtrack (Matsueda composed just one track).
It's also quite fortunate that the score Mitsuda nearly worked himself to exhaustion for turned out to be one of the greatest video game soundtracks ever created, so at least his effort was worth it. With his very first score, and tracks like ´Wind Scene´, ´Frog's Theme´, Singing Mountain´, and ´Undersea Palace´, Mitsuda proved that not only was he among the best composers in the business, but that he was also one of the most versatile as well.
#2 The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
(Composer: Koji Kondo)
Koji Kondo's only solo score to make it into the top 50, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time is often heralded as the composer's greatest achievement, and for good reason. Few soundtracks have ever managed to capture the essence of a video game as well as Kondo's work did with Ocarina of Time. Every track feels like it has a specific purpose and role to play in making each place in the game unique and memorable.
This score is just another reason why, for many people, Ocarina of Time is still the best Zelda game ever made, and as good as many of them are, none have yet managed to capture the same timeless sensation with their music. From the playful tones of ´Kokiri Forest´, to the iconic ´Hyrule Field´, and the warm sound of ´Kakariko Village´, the entire score exudes emotion. It sets the mood for the entire game, and does so beautifully, leaving a lasting impression on those who play the game.
#1 Super Mario Galaxy
(Composers: Mahito Yokota and Koji Kondo)
When Mahito Yokota first began working on the score for Super Mario Galaxy he intended for it to sound like Latin American music, and even composed a large number of songs in that style. However, upon hearing the music, Koji Kondo flat-out rejected the idea, asking Yokota to try again with a new style. Eventually, it was Shigeru Miyamoto who chose the orchestral style from three different options he was presented with, as according to him it was the one that best fit the space-like atmosphere of Galaxy.
Although his initial compositions were rejected, leading him to even consider leaving the project entirely, Yokota ultimately went on to compose nearly the entire soundtrack for Super Mario Galaxy, with Kondo creating just four of the score's 81 tracks. Kondo's most notable contributions were the three ´Rosalina in the Observatory´ tracks. As such, there's no question that this score is primarily Yokota's achievement, and tracks like ´Stardust Road´, ´Buoy Base Galaxy´, ´Melty Molten Galaxy´ and ´Final Battle With Bowser´ leave no question about this fact.
And here we are at the end of the countdown at last. I want to thank everyone who participated in the voting for this top 50, as I quite literally couldn't have done it without your help. Listening to over 50 different scores for these articles, while certainly time consuming, was a joy to do. With that said, I hope you enjoyed going through all these soundtracks with me as well, and perhaps even found a few new pieces of music to add to your collections while doing so.