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Soundtracks are incredibly unappreciated throughout all games. Some soundtracks can be amazing, while some can be only mediocre. Here is a list of some of the more fantastic soundtracks the Xbox Team has ran into throughout the Xbox 360’s life span. Music/rhythm games are excluded.
3. Devil May Cry 4-
While the game was a little weak compared to its predecessor you can always count on a good Devil May Cry soundtrack. While the songs themselves are not really something I’d listen to over something like Metallica I think it just gets you in the mood to kick some ass. If you own the game put some other non-metal music on. You’ll probably find slicing and dicing demons to be a little bit less hardcore, but still fun. It’s just that little bit that makes it better
Before we move on though I just want to give BioShock and Fallout 3 honorable mention. While you’ll probably be humming along to the tunes Three Dog is playing, or even get the immersion from random music playing in Rapture, they just didn’t make as big of an impact on the games. They still make it a fun experience though, and they are both great games. Besides I’m sure the others have them in their lists.
2. Lost Odyssey-
I love a good JRPG soundtrack, and as I have said before I am a big fan of Nobuo Uematsu. Like I said in my review, it is not his best work, but the man knows what he’s doing. It adds on to the emotional story of the game, and I’m not afraid to say that it was part of the reason I got teary eyed at parts.
I should probably mention that apparently Mr. Uematsu and I disagree on favorites. I actually found out from a panel and from his concert (which was awesome by the way) a few months back that as far as the two 360 games he’s done he likes Blue Dragon’s music more. A sad fact, but he can think what he wants. As long as he keeps making good music I’ll keep listening.
1. Gears of War (series)-
As I have said in the other games in the list, a good game should always have a good score behind it. In Gears of War’s case it completes the package to the point that it is near perfection. Sure the game is pretty pretty awesome alone, but it pushes the emotional side of the game. It wouldn’t feel quite as hectic as it does without that low orchestral soundtrack in the background. It also helps complete that lowly feeling that you are fighting a losing fight, and though you’re kicking ass now you probably won’t win the war.
Bioshock is one of the best titles of this generation, with Rapture being one of the most unique and stylistic settings ever created for a video game. The protagonist definitely has a story to tell and the Big Daddy’s and Little Sister’s have their part to play—But the real main character of Bioshock is the city itself. Rapture really feels alive and breathing and that’s thanks to a truly original soundtrack.
What makes the experience of Bioshock so special is the mood. Your plane crashes and you are dropped into a fantastic world. You have no idea what is going on but can tell everything has gone to Hell. The instrumental soundtrack is a big part of that. This music creates this eeriness that is found in every corner of Rapture. Seeing the city is an experience in itself and the music adds a lot to that experience.
2. Geometry Wars 2
My second choice may surprise some but if you haven’t heard it you should check it out. I’m talking about Geometry Wars 2. Don’t write this one off just because it’s an XBLA title and not a full retail release. Geometry Wars 2 has some of the most upbeat and catchy electronica I have ever heard.
I first experienced Geometry Wars 2 over at a friend’s house. I had never heard of the game before and was surprised at how great of a party game it was. The simple style of play combined with bright and flashy visuals as well as the energetic soundtrack makes it a blast to play. The music adds a lot to the entire experience. It’s a package deal, but the soundtrack really stands out.
1. Mass Effect
The original Mass Effect gets my vote for best soundtrack of any game on the 360. It was my first choice and I can’t think of another game soundtrack that captures the mood so perfectly. I think we can all agree that at the end of the day Mass Effect had its flaws as a game, the Mako still gives me nightmares… However that first episode set up an extremely rich and immerse world. The very environment had a life of its own and the music played a big part in that.
Not to mention, the ending credits have one of the coolest songs to grace the end of a video game period. Seriously, go YouTube Faunts’s music video for M4 (Part 2) the song is awesome and it also has crabs fighting over sandcastles. Win/win, people.
3. Mass Effect (series)—(Jack Wall and Sam Hulick)
This is a mesmerizing soundtrack. Plain and simple—the pieces I found to be the most impressive are “Uncharted World’s,” “Vigil,” and “Love Theme.” There are several feelings to be invoked, but all have that airy feeling of space—the floating canopy of starless black in riffs that make you think. I study with much of this music on and the flow that each piece has keeps me thinking of a future boundless. It puts me in the position; it keeps my mind on target. The Uncharted Worlds keeps me in a space frame of mind (the fear of the unknown far beyond confines of Earth), Vigil keeps me thinking out beyond, to the next world to study (I was studying astronomy at the time of inception), and Love theme helps me write sappy love stories (sometimes poems, but that’s very rare), it was all because of that bloody piano on that track. This soundtrack has everything a good soundtrack should need—the story was the great compliment to this fine piece of art. Mystery… love… ambiance… spacey tracks—it gives you everything and then some. By far my favorite OST’s ever.
2. Halo (series) —(Martin O’Donnell and Martin Salvatori)
Halo was all about a war that lasted years and the war took the lives of several hundred marines, all fighting for the common liberty. They fought because many could, they fought so people like you or I could live to see the next world. In tense streets of New Mombasa to the jungle darkness of flood infestations of Halo itself, everything either brimmed with patriotism, to dark ambiance, to depressive choirs to invoke feelings Darkness tried to achieve, but in ways that make you honor those who fight for us today. The expressive pianos, follow-up violins in set-piece orchestra’s and wonderful choirs, the representation of those lost in the war is so prevalent to me in the soundtrack that I had to include this beautiful soundtrack into my list—Martin O’Donnell rocks, but several feelings could be found in a soundtrack that—for me—supersedes this by a amount uncountable.
1. The Darkness—(Gustaf Grefberg)
There is a special reason I included this timeless piece into my list and that reason is very simple, it was the sparring fact that it could invoke emotions for specific scenes quite powerfully. The romance story between Jenny and Jacky was so subtle and beautiful that when Gustaf created Jenny’s theme, the budding romance was propelled to heights I never thought possible. The bleak ambient set pieces when you roam about New York City in dingy alley ways barely illuminated by light sends shivers down your spine, and when you reach the dream state of World War I… the war-torn set-piece of Europe is set by a ton of both fast-paced action and metaphorical sonnets that help invoke both the fear and the power nestled at the heart of the scene. I believe this to be a well-produced soundtrack that could invoke several emotions well, but not to the standards of the next two.
3. Brutal Legend
Brutal Legend was not a perfect game, but there were a few things it got really, really right. For instance, blaring Dragon Force’s “Through the Fire and the Flames” through your hot rod’s radio while you raced it through a crumbling fortress, a gigantic demon in hot pursuit behind you. To quote Dethklok’s Nathan Explosion – “Metal.”
Brutal Legend was a tribute to heavy metal that happened to have a game wrapped around it. I wasn’t even aware how varied the genre was until I played the game and started browsing through the extensive in-game song list. Even if you had barely paid attention to metal before, like me, the setlist was so varied and touched upon so many different sub-genres of metal that you were bound to find yourself nodding along to some of the tracks. Brutal Legend’s soundtrack isn’t just a great compilation of tunes to slay demons to, it’s responsible for expanding my music listening repertoire.
2. Castlevania: Symphony of the Night
Ok, so Symphony did not start as an Xbox title, but even more than a decade after its release it still has one of the best soundtracks around. The game had some of the best music on the PS1, and today it’s worth its $10 price tag on Xbox Live Arcade for tunes alone.
Each section of Dracula’s castle has its own distinctive track that perfectly captured the mood of the level. A harpsichord plucked away in the Library while possessed books pulled themselves off shelves and dove at you, discordant piano notes followed you through the Abandoned Mines and some truly rockin’ electric guitars accompanied your trek through the stormy Clock Tower. It may not have the full orchestration that’s popular with modern games, but no matter where you go in Symphony of the Night you will find a music track that fits the level like a glove.
1. Fallout 3
“A Kiss to Build A Dream On.” “I Don’t Want to Set the World on Fire.” “Easy Living.” The Fallout series has always been known for its streak of bleak humor and nowhere is that more displayed than its soundtrack. While the two previous games had both featured an appropriate Norman Rockwell-era song in their intro movies, Bethesda decided to go a step further and pipe the most upbeat tunes of the 1940s through your PipBoy while you explored the apocalyptic ruins of humanity.
It was a brilliant use of licensed music, not to mention economical since many of the songs are public domain. Of course, that’s not the only music in the game. Inon Zur’s minimalist score, with its lonely strings and woodwinds, was the perfect aural backdrop for exploring the desolate hills of D.C. and the big brass sound of the Enclave’s radio station provided yet another great contrast for the setting.
There are a lot of soundtracks for the 360 that really stand apart from the crowd of generic sound design. It is hard to judge a soundtrack technically since I am not a music expert of any sort, nor have I done any sort of music study. But I do know how the soundtracks make me feel, and that’s really what brings it home for me. These are my 3 favorites, excluding titles with copyrighted music. These are original soundtracks only.
3. Mass Effect 2-
There aren’t too many games that could one-up the soundtrack to the original Mass Effect, but the second entry in the Mass Effect series does just that. Every song is thoughtfully crafted to suit situations. Combat music is tense, demanding, and instills a sense of urgency in the player; cantina music is just the opposite, comforting the player and promoting a sense of calm even when you are cracking Batarian skulls into the bar’s countertop. Even the club music fits so well with its ability to mimic traditional techno sound and make it sound futuristic, plus it is fun to see Commander Shepard dance like a complete idiot.
2. Marvel Vs. Capcom 2–
I am not particularly concerned whether this is considered a 360 game or not. Technically, this game is a port of a near decade old Dreamcast game, but I don’t care. The soundtrack is very polarizing leading many to love it, and many more I’m sure hate it. The music itself is a very strange jazz arrangement that really does not sync with the fighting, but the more you play it, the more it sticks to your brain. The character select screen is the best example of the eclectic style of the soundtrack; it consists of a 30 second loop of a woman singing the words “gonna take you for a ride” over a jazz horn arrangement. Yes, that is as weird as it sounds and yes, it is awesome.
1. Halo Reach-
For anyone who has played Reach, or any other Halo game for that matter, this is not a surprising choice. The theme from Halo is one of the most recognized songs in modern gaming, and the latest Halo installment cranks up the intensity big time. The music is Marty ‘O Donnell’s crowning achievement as it situates itself somewhere between the ethereal qualities of the ODST soundtrack with the “balls-out” attitude of Halo 3’s tunes. Reach’s soundtrack is near perfect and can appeal to the most discerning music lover as well as the casual fan. There’s something about the feeling I get when rushing into a group of Elite Captains; there’s fear there for sure, but thanks to the hard driving riffs I feel like I have a chance against overwhelming odds.
3. Brutal Legend-
I’m a fan of many different kinds of music. Old school rap probably being my favorite, it’s surprising that I loved Brutal Legend’s soundtrack so much. It was all very “hardcore rock” like the rest of the game. This lead to some poor songs but mostly, it was a lot of Ozzy Osbourne old, impressive stuff. Which was perfectly fine with me.
The way they used the song “Mr. Crowley” was the most memorable in my mind. It’s an incredible song that they combined with a fairly depressing scene. This made for one of the best scenes in the entire game. Though rock may get a little played out nowadays, Brutal Legend put a fantastic shine on the better songs of the genre.
2. Deadly Premonition-
People hate Deadly Premonition, I understand that. But I’m the rare character that loves it. It has its problems, yes, but overall, it’s fun as hell. One of the many fun as hell things in the game is the soundtrack. You wouldn’t normally describe a soundtrack as “fun” but Deadly Premonition’s is nothing but a blast to listen to. It adds an extra layer of comedy to the entire ridiculous albeit very interesting experience.
Songs such as Life Is Beautiful (or better known as “The Whistle Song”) are by far the most memorable songs in the game. It’s played quite a bit but it never gets old. Many of the songs do show extreme similarities to Twin Peaks Songs but since when was that a bad thing? Deadly Premonition is an enjoyable game with a ridiculous and enjoyable soundtrack.
1. Red Dead Redemption-
Red Dead Redemption’s soundtrack is not only the best Xbox 360 soundtrack but also the best one I’ve ever heard. Its dulcet, enjoyable tones are incredibly well designed just like the rest of the game. The main people that made the soundtrack (Will Elm and Woody Jackson) really done an amazing job at capturing the incredible game into song.
Apart from the impressive work of Will Elm and Woody Jackson, there are a few more songs done by the likes of William Elliot Whitmore and Ashtar Command (among others). These songs are primarily used in the credits but are even better and more memorable than the other songs. I still find myself occasionally humming “Deadman’s Gun,” five months after I finished the game. Red Dead Redemption’s soundtrack is the definition of unforgettable.