Gaming Soundtracks for Record Store Day
Record Store Day is an international event that happens every year around this time. Conceived in 2007 with the first event occurring in 2008, Record Store Day was the brainchild of a group of independent record stores in the USA. It was created to promote their stores, the music they sell and the totally unique (and sadly dying) record store experience. The day has since gone on to become an international event, with Record Store Day being celebrated across the globe. Each year world famous artists like Metallica, Alice Cooper, Pearl Jam, Dave Grohl, Stone Sour and many more all promote the day with special releases designed to get fans through the doors of their local music shop and promote music in the process. You can read the full story about this fantastic initiative here:
So with all this in mind, the Player 2 crew decided to celebrate Record Store Day in their own way by recommending some of their favourite gaming soundtracks that can be purchased in physical form, be it on CD or the classic (and infinitely better) Vinyl format. We have provided links to these albums where possible but in the spirit of Record Store Day why not head out to your local store and try to track them down there first.
*Please note. Some of the albums are stupidly hard to get. Good luck!
In the case of most games, my memories of the soundtrack are intrinsically linked to key moments in game. Developers have done an exceptional job over the years of blending the soundtrack with the gameplay but there are a few examples that strike a chord (pun intended) than others. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is a modern example that swept me up in its scope and scale, from the opening track ‘The Trail’ sets the stage for an epic adventure to come while the likes of ‘Silver For Monsters’, ‘The Hunters Path’, ‘Drink Up, There’s More’ and ‘The Hunt is Coming’ maintain the rage. Puncture that with the likes of the classic ‘A Story You Won’t Believe’ that made every Gwent game into an event, and you’ve got an all-time classic soundtrack to accompany an all-time classic game.
Another classic is Final Fantasy IX, well known amongst the Player 2 readership as my favourite game of all time. Where the score to The Witcher 3 is unrelenting in many regards, there’s more ebb and flow to what Nobuo Uematsu crafted for the ninth core franchise entry. It’s a more sombre score highlighted by the opening track ‘The Place I’ll Return to Someday’ and ‘Kuja Leaves Burmecia’ but then proudly wears its royal tone with ‘Roses of May’ and ‘Brahne’s Appearance’, moments of innocence best represented by ‘Vivi’s Theme’ and energy and enthusiasm via ‘Festival of the Hunt’. Not a stroke is missed in the Final Fantasy IX soundtrack making it an instant classic, and one that gets regular airtime on my travels to and from work.
Special credit must be given to Naughty Dog’s work with both The Last of Us and the Uncharted franchises as well as what Bioware achieved with the Mass Effect Trilogy that boasts some excellent standalone tracks (The Last of Us, Nate’s Theme, Leaving Earth) but doesn’t necessarily hit the same high notes throughout their entire soundtracks that the aforementioned games have.
First off, I want it known that my original choice would have been Jet Set Radio Future. Unfortunately, we could only find physical soundtracks for the original and although they share most of the songs, I don’t mess with that game.
I have a carefully curated playlist of all the music I like. It’s a hot mess with absolutely no direction or cohesion and I love it. There are two video games which feature quite prominently so I wanted to highlight the soundtracks that made them a mainstay for listening needs.
When I want to listen to something so smooth and funky I almost can’t help but dance, I’m probably listening to the soundtrack from Persona 5. There’s something so fresh and unexpected about these tunes that complimented the aesthetics in that game to a tee.
Shoji Meguro is the genius behind this smooth tunes paired with the amazing vocals of Lyn Inaizumi. The give the songs such a rich depth of tone which settles in nicely amongst the funky bass lines. The soundtrack ranges from things that’ll hype you up like the battle music “Last Surprise” and theme intro “Wake Up, Get Up, Get Out There.” to other calming songs. “Beneath the Mask” is so smooth and peaceful that I once fell asleep on the couch to it playing and my smartwatch recorded 2 hours of motionless sleep. Morgana would approve.
The other game I wanted to highlight has a very different soundtrack. I don’t know if I ever really grew out of my teenage angst. I still feel so incredibly angry and injustice and sometimes so emotionally defeated. Sometimes I still want to be that rebellious little piece of shit skipping behind the gym shed while my eyeliner runs down my cheeks I was never allowed to be. I think back to the emotions, styles, opinions, and even thoughts that were forbidden to me growing up and I’m mad I missed out. I think that’s why I really enjoy the soundtrack to Life is Strange: Before the Storm.
These are largely emotionally charged tracks to go along with the story of the game. Most of the official music was recorded by the band Daughter and they have a cooler-than-you indie vibe that you should absolutely check out beyond this game soundtrack. There are entries from other groups too like Speedy Ortiz and Pretty Vicious If you want to sit in the bathtub and cry with a glass of wine then “A Hole in the Earth” has you covered. If you’re so angry you just want to tear everything apart then “No Care” or “Burn it Down” will follow your little rebel soul into the darkness.
When it comes to soundtracks there are a couple of games that really hit home for me. In the realm of a musical score, the two names that leap to mind are Doom and Halo. With Doom, Mick Gordan brought an industrial metal sound to the forefront, a type of music that both appeals to me personally and has been sadly absent from games of late. They way the grunt of the guitars and vicious drumbeat comes to the fore just as the demon slaying reaches its crescendo is a thing of pure aural beauty. The Doom score achieves, what I feel is the ultimate goal for any videogame music. Not only does it intensify the onscreen action but it is wonderful to listen to on its own. In fact, were I still a young Rugby League player I have a feeling the Doom soundtrack would be my music of choice to get me in the mood to go out and put some big tackles on the opposition.
Halo, on the other hand, is all about instilling the feeling of a grand space opera, something the score by Martin O’Donnell achieves with ease. From the soft Gregorian chanting into clashing guitars, orchestral notes and thumping beats, everything about the Halo soundtrack (and it’s sequels) is emotive and iconic. I doubt there is an Xbox gamer on the planet that doesn’t immediately recognise the musical accompaniment to this well-loved franchise.
As for game soundtracks featuring licenced music, there can be only one. Tony Hawk Pro Skater 2. Hand’s down. No arguments. Sadly it is unavailable to purchase so I am going with a more recent release. The Mafia III soundtrack features hits from artists such as Jimi Hendrix, The Rolling Stones, Chuck Berry, James Brown and the Animals. Only originally available as apart of the Mafia III collector’s edition, it can now be found on both eBay and Amazon marketplaces fairly easily. The music selection on offer was the perfect accompaniment to Mafia 3 and it’s late 60’s New Orleans setting and is a great collection of songs in its own right.
I have quite a soft spot or orchestral music. I grew up listening to a fair bit of classical music and even played my fair share as part of our local youth orchestra. To this day I feel there are few things in this world that evoke a depth and range of feeling in the same way as a good orchestral score. The very scale of a hundred humans coming together to create a single piece of music adds a unique sense of depth, dimension, and grandness that is hard to match. So when I booted up Final Fantasy VIII on the PlayStation 1 and heard the opening bars of Liberi Fatali for the first time I was hooked. The hymn-like choir, the bass line and timpani drums rumbling like thunder, building into the strings and brass. It was the first time I had heard music in a game taken to this level and used to really add tension and emotion to the events of the game. When I eventually managed to acquire a copy of Final Fantasy VIII – Fithos Lusec Wecos Vinosec I listened to incessantly. Though I eventually misplaced the CD, leaving it behind in a hotel room, the songs will always be in my heart, and on my Spotify playlist.
Stephen del Prado
The first game soundtrack I ever listened to whilst not also playing the game was Jet Set Radio (or Jet Grind Radio, depending on where you’re from). The Dreamcast was also the first gaming system I purchased with money I’d earned, so both it and Jet Set Radio hold a place near and dear to my heart. It didn’t take long before I’d sourced a copy to listen to on my then ‘cutting edge’ CD-MP3 player. Composer Hideki Naganuma’s infectious grooves enhanced the experience of JSR considerably and tracks like ‘Let Mom Sleep’ and ‘Sweet Soul Brother’ can add a bit of energy to even the dreariest of days. It’s by no means the easiest of OST’s to get hold of, with most copies going for extremely inflated prices on Amazon, but the JSR soundtrack deserves pride of place in any physical media collection. Almost 20 years later, hearing ‘Humming The Bassline’ still puts me back in front of an old CRT with a Dreamcast controller in hand, ready to save Tokyo-to from the clutches of the evil Rokkaku Group. Hey SEGA, I’m still waiting for a HD rerelease of Jet Set Radio Future
While I can’t find any vinyls of David Wise’s brilliant Donkey Kong Country 2 soundtrack, I can show you a completely different, but still awesome, compilation of music through 2016’s Furi, composed by various electronic artists.
An action boss-fight marathon with bullet-hell elements, Furi is a cacophony of dazzling lights and pulsating electronic sounds. During battles, Furi’s electronic music slaps down hard, violently accompanying the frenetic action.
In between encounters, you take several minutes to slowly walk from one location to the next, which sounds utterly dull in theory – but the complete opposite is true thanks to the music. Emeric Thoa of The Game Bakers (Furi’s developers) describes the feeling best by stating that this deliberately slow walk is meant to capture the tension of a boxer entering the ring. As you inch closer to the next mega-tough boss, the synth arpeggios rise in intensity, hyping you up for the encounter.
Furi is one of my favourite games of all time, largely due to how well the combat and soundtrack entwine to create such a thrilling experience. I own the digital version of the game’s album, where it’s played on high rotation as hype music and to get me in the zone for writing.
The whole thing’s great, but my top picks include the slow-burner “A Picture in Motion” leading into the bounding “Wisdom of Rage”, both by Waveshaper and certified strut tune “My Only Chance” from The Toxic Avenger.
Remember folks, support your local record store if you can. Head here to see if your local store is taking part in Record Store Day: