Games have been an amazing outlet for all kinds of orchestral and electronic musicians to unleash their potential. A good music soundtrack has become essential for any genre and any game—and along with sound design, can increase how much a player immerses in a game. However, a few amazing sound tracks have been overlooked—perhaps their games didn’t become blockbuster hits, or perhaps other features in the game outperformed them. Here are five such OSTs that probably deserve more attention than they’ve received.
Sword & Sworcery
Sword & Sworcery has earned its place among indie games as one of the most inquisitive—it has a unique battle system and an interesting approach to storytelling. However, its soundtrack stands out as one of its best features. It’s obvious that the artist, Jim Guthrie, worked very closely with the game designers—it’s often difficult to distinguish sound effects from music, and the actions in the game (even when controlling the character) always match well with the music. The soundtrack itself has all the elements of a traditional 16-bit inspired track, but it also has high-quality samples of harps and guitars thrown in to create a very unique OST. If you decide to play the game at the same time that you first hear its music, you’ll probably end up stopping for a while just to listen. Its most amazing stand-alone tracks are Lone Star and the Prettiest Remix, although you’ll probably end up falling in love with more as you play the game.
Beyond Good and Evil
This game is littered with rhythmic and ethnic noises, with some tracks stretching into the jazz, latino, reggae, or rap genres. It definitely has its own unique feel and sets itself apart from other games simply because of the character its songs have. The songs can be playful, deeply inspirational, emotional, or tense—or perhaps all at the same time. The track Hyllian Suite is a good sampling of the type of music in the OST, while the Spanish Bar track is my personal favorite. Many of the tracks seem to have an exploratory and laid-back vibe, making the game a relaxing experience, as long as you’re not in the middle of a battle.
Golden Sun’s composer, Motoi Sakuraba, has an easily recognizable character shared in all of his songs. He’s also famous for his work with Star Ocean, Valkyrie Profile, and the Tales of Series—but Golden Sun stands out from all of these simply because he found a way to make GBA synths into very catchy orchestral melodies. All of the songs in Golden Sun have been meticulously pieced together, note by note, perfectly reflecting the ambience and area that they appear in. One of its best tracks is Venus Lighthouse.
Shadow of the Colossus
Shadow of the Colossus has a minimal presentation when it comes to a lot of things—the music rarely plays, dialogue and plot points are rare, and very little help was given to the player as they explored around and defeated the Colossi. However, the moments that the music does kick in, it sends a powerful message—the music is practically the game’s narrator. With a sweeping orchestra and ominous choir, the music lets on that there is far more to the story than the game reveals. It’s what alerts you to enemies or tells you that you’ve found the way forward (or up). Its greatest tracks are the ones that hint that there is something far greater to the game than meets the eye—To the Ancient Land, The Farthest Land, and the Sunlit Earth are tracks that come to mind. The bold songs that play during battle are also amazing, with Swift Horse and A Violent Encounter just two great examples from an amazing OST.
Okami’s art always took the center stage in its reviews, and even though the game was indeed a piece of art, its music got far less attention. Using traditional Japanese instruments, the composers perfectly matched the score with the game. Fighting through sumi-e styled monsters to the tune of a shrieking shinobue made the game very engaging and kept the pace of the action high, even as battles became more frequent. Okami’s OST is one of the few tracks that perfectly balances the delicacy of music with action, which made emotional or inspirational scenes all the better when the track perfectly fit the scenario. Each track by itself is a gift for the ears, but Okami also boasts a huge 4-CD music collection, along with a separate piano composition CD. Its most inspirational piece is The Sun Rises, although Reset also deserves a mention.
Honorable Mention: Jet Set Radio Future