The Best Video Game Songs of the Past 20 Years
It is a gross understatement to say that video game music has evolved quite a bit from the simple bleeps, bips, and boops of the early arcade and home games. It’s not uncommon for a game on today’s store shelves to have a fully produced, orchestral score that rivals, or surpasses, what is found in a major motion picture.
While there have been many notable video game themes and scores produced in the last 20 years, I wanted to move away from writing about scores (or “background noise” as many gamers like to call it), instead writing about the awesome, original songs (music and lyrics) that I’ve had the pleasure of hearing while playing video games over the past two decades or so.
Obviously, this is a completely subjective list. I understand that everyone’s musical tastes run to different genres and extremes. So, if you feel that I’ve overlooked a particular favorite of yours, please feel free to comment and add your favorites to the list.
Holy crap, do I (still) love this song! I can’t think of another theme song that’s so perfectly suitable for the character it represents. Sonic Boom is the impetus for this list, really. I broke out my SEGA CD / Mega-CD about a month ago for a retro review, and the first disc I popped in was Sonic CD so I could listen to Sonic Boom again. It’s one of those “earworm” songs that, once you hear it, is nigh impossible to get out of your head, and you’ll be singing it for a good portion of the day. It is, quite simply, my favorite video game song of all time.
I’m actually quite surprised that some industrious 3D animator hasn’t done an update / remake of the cartoon video that accompanies this song on Sonic CD. Yes, that is a very strong hint and / or challenge…
“This is a triumph. I’m making a note here: HUGE SUCCESS.”
The opening lyrics to this gem, as sung by the sinister supercomputer GLaDOS, couldn’t describe this song any better. A wry, humorous classic by Jonathan Coulton (but no doubt inspired by HAL 9000’s eerie rendition of “Daisy” from 2001: A Space Odyssey) that is the icing on the cake to one of the best ending sequences of any video game of the last 20 years.
I’ve never been a huge fan of the James Bond films, but I’ve always enjoyed their bombastic opening theme songs. The Metal Gear Solid series of games are well known for their fantastic implementation of movie-styled music, and the opening of Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater on the PS2 is a pitch-perfect homage to those slick Bond title sequences of yesteryear.
This rockin’ little ditty from the Japanese band, Jaywalk, still compels me to hop in my car and run down the various hooligans who are foolish enough to cross my path. It’s interesting to note that this song can only be heard on the American version of the game, which was released both on the SEGA CD and the SEGA Saturn, and the Japanese version has been sold with two different titles, Road Blaster and Road Prosecutor. Why? I haven’t a clue…other than to say that sometimes the Japanese are wacky like that.
This is a sentimental classic that still holds up pretty damn well in my humble opinion. Lunar: The Silver Star on the SEGA CD / Mega-CD was the first time I ever recall hearing a “real” song in a video game. And I found it even cooler that Luna’s singing was an integral part of the game’s narrative as a whole, not just some tacky add-in to show off what CD-based games technology could do.
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A professional writer, journalist, critic, publisher, and more who enjoys video games and has a good sense of humor.
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