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I guess it's sunk cost. No need to torture myself over what are effectively phantasms.

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Games with Music that Haunts Me

I tend not to think about music so much in games. I guess it's all about how it fits together. But sometimes a track really stands out, and I turn into a Youtube zombie until I can find it. Here are games that spring to mind as having tracks that particularly haunted me (or were just plain memorably cool).

For a very cool game music blog:

List items

  • The whole damned soundtrack is great. Great for the atmosphere, with a wooden quality in the violins evoking some of that old-meets-new theme that the game's trying to hit. They actually let people download the entire thing, which I was very happy for.

  • I think the specific piece is called Cloakwood Forest. It has a quality that I wanted to call cinematic when I was first describing it, but then I realized a movie would never, ever take that much time with a musical theme. This is more about Romanetic-era composer stuff, trying to paint pictures purely with sound. Just great.

  • The Sacred Icon (theArbiter's Theme) was a piece of music I spent a particularly long time trying to track down. The part I love is featured in the raid the Arbiter does on the heretics' suspended platform. It has this sort of doomed mission feel that fits his warrior's mentality, taking on a mission he knows will be his end, but doing it anyway, surrounded by wild, gusting winds. Frigging great.

  • Never played it, but the main theme to this song unlocked my forgotten love of space music, that is, music that seems to inhabit a large space (and not much bigger space than outer space itself). It feels slightly alien, too. Any song that can do that just wins. I lack musical vocabulary but I think it's that harmony of round notes that splays across the main theme, before the military march part, that does it for me. Probably was featured during the ads for the game.

  • Specifically Darkside of Xeen has this moment in the dungeons, one of the two alternating themes for them, that has such strong, almost technological menace to it, marching, growling toward you in a way. Just great. When I would run into it in a tower or dungeon I would just stop and listen to it for a time.

  • The main theme plays WAAAAAY too much, to the point where I was apologizing to everyone else in the room when it started up again. But I still love it despite its overuse. Very heroic and evocative of the fantasy mood.

  • I mean more than just Phantasy Star II, but I'll single this one out as having music that both got you ready for adventure, but also prepared you for the possible sacrifices involved.

  • This game is almost a cliche with some people, but during a particularly dark moment in my life, the song that plays as Cloud is climbing a hill somewhere in the mid-game felt like a ray of sunshine to me. The overworld theme is one of the first songs I ever heard in any game that really made realize a game could deliver emotion subtly. Not by killing off a main character, but just through its skillful application of music. Few game soundtracks bring out so much whimsy in me as this one's does. Nabuo Uematsu, composer.

  • The main theme, with its strange organ music, also came to me at a dark point in my life and helped emotion that needed to get out get out. I don't quite know why it worked (and I don't know why dark moments tend to coincide with Final Fantasy games, but that's putting the cart before the horse I think). Again there was whimsy and sadness in this one too, or maybe I'm projecting it a bit. Whatever. Nabuo Uematsu gets credit for both these soundtrack gems.

  • Holy crap. I'm not sure I noticed the incidental music so much, but when you have a ton of those old soft shoes (which in modern times seem to exclusively connote haunted decadence for some strange reason) playing every time people are getting blasted, it helps create a great nightmare tapestry. Yes, I used the word tapestry.

  • The main theme for this gets me in the mood to crush some robots. Not very helpful if I ever work in a car assembly plant, though.

  • If I ever had a song that I could pick to put on my alarm clock, it would be the opening stinger song that starts out this game. I don't think it has more than 20 notes to it, but it motivates me like nothing else.

  • Some people don't like the tracks I guess, but I can't get enough of that funky, western-feeling music. How often do you hear that stuff in games?

  • I knew about this game before I ever knew there was a show called Peter Gunn. At least I don't think so. Which is weird, because my dad had a record of the old television show's soundtrack...

  • Has a song with the weirdest twanging sounds that just screams Mortal Kombat to me (not like the guy in the movie OST, though. He still screaming that, did you know. Vocal cords totally trashed by now). The great one, though, is the one atop the crumbling tower of dirt that you knock people onto spikes from. The vocals of the singer make it feel really ancient and strange, which I imagine was the whole point.

  • Probably the single most catchy theme I've ever heard. Not in an earworm kind of way, but something you actually want playing in your head. Really bummed that I missed out on this game when it came out, now.

  • The main theme, like its sequel's main theme, has determination and sadness all bound together.

  • Hitoshi Sakimoto (well done, Brad) wrote some of the themes here that I remember listening to crashed on my friend's couch, playing this until nearly sun-up (I don't think I'm physically capable of doing that kind of thing anymore). The songs felt fresh and bright to me at the time. Or, you know, creepy.

  • I think it's because they enter into a jangly, ragtime sort of style that makes this game of all the Mario games stand out for me.

  • The opening mythic beginnings part has one of the best uses of the Link theme I've ever had. Nostalgic, quiet, but still that theme I never get tired of. Also woodwinds and harpsicord. End of argument. The "under way" sort of sailing theme, too, was great to hear once the wind was working for me. I keep calling all these games Link for some reason. What's wrong with me?

  • I'm not sure WHAT the theme is I like. I like the songs in general in the Castlevania games. Nice gothic horror, sorta over the top kinda stuff. But there's one song specifically that always gets me grooving. I guess I'll record it here if I ever figure out what the hell it's called.

  • The song when she first pops out of the top of her ship when on the surface of the world, and the opening area's music, are awesome. The first is heroic, and makes you feel like a badass. The second aims at that same sort of space feel that tracks like Mass Effects aim at, but it goes at it through a thinner, less overstated route that keeps with the heroic, adventurous theme that fits with the game.

  • The composer for this game was the same one who worked on Grim Fandango, as well as a bunch of other Lucasarts games, and I think he's a buddy of Tim Schafer because he may very well have contributed the non-metal music to Brutal Legend, but I'm not sure. There's a song in the demo of Afterlife that has a sort of reversed-eastern mystic music that always floors me. It's depressing, I guess, to think of the afterlife as nothing more than a sim game, and this music sort of helps that afterlife feel all the more finite and yetlike it's not really the end of everything. Like there are mysteries even for those in heaven.

  • While some of the songs don't go far ENOUGH, I think they're often really strong setters of mood in this game. In other games the music is sort of in the background, but in this one I think part of the setting itself is contained in the music. When I first poked my head out into the wider world, that music depicted just that in ways no words could.

  • Cinematic music that fills the landscapes you explore.

  • As someone who loved the original Conan movie, where you got adventure and wild abandon all bottled up in a soundtrack, it may not be surprising that I really like this swords and sorcery score. The one that really gets me going is the music that plays when you disembark Turtle Village, but every track on here is weird, foreign, and totally appropriate. You get the part with the clicking sounds that resemble bones being used as drumsticks during the Fiend's Path, where you're attacked by hordes of Harryhausen-style skeletons... I think I have to watch a playthrough again. Like right now.

  • All kinds of good themes in this game. And so many of them; it must have taken ages. Take a moment to listen before you click on through.

  • There's a point in the great temple atop Chronos' back where this epic synth melody plays. It takes me back to this stone and iron vision of the past that I grew up with, and it transports me back to those feelings of awe I had for the ancients and the world they believed they lived in. Our world has become so much smaller now, and I like to remind myself that it wasn't always so easy to communicate and transport one's self across the globe. The depth of this epic score makes the world seem big again.

  • I don't want to ruin WHY the score is so awesome; see "Emotional Shot to the Gut" for spoilers. I will say that several times in Icewind Dale II, you are presented with a battle where you are surrounded by bloodshed, or forced to charge into the middle of a group of enemies to stop them before it's too late. The music in the game in general is beautiful, but when these particular scenarios begin the game's musical score erupts, elevating the fight into something terrifying and breathtaking. Easily one of the best scores for a game that I've ever heard, but it has to be experienced through play for its full effect.

  • Playing this game confirmed it. Many, many good themes in this one. Some bittersweet, some rousing, but many gems regardless.

  • Can't believe I forgot to include this. A combination of orchestral, folk, and classical that is nearly perfect. Elevates the game something fierce.

  • The combat was pretty fun, even if the characters felt interchangeable, but the music exceeded all expectations.

  • Speaking of music elevating a game, what could have been merely a competent and at times pretty point and click adventure became a radiant style piece when combined with the perfectly matched score by Nathan Allen Pinard. It alternates between the contemplative Vangelis inspired Gemini themes to oppressive electronica Center 7, as well as a memorable combat theme.

  • There's something fitting about listening to the "Lynne" Thigpen analog spinning tracks late at night (while you senselessly drop-kick your buddies).

  • Some of the tracks repeat too much; bad thing if you're playing a game. Some of them though, damn. Understated, but the anger and weariness is right there underneath the surface.

  • Had to happen. I should just put the main theme on my alarm clock. Bound to get me out of bed quicker that way. GRRR! Your music gives me energy! Some of my favorites, though, are the subtle, epic ambient tracks. I really don't have them all memorized, either, which is a good thing.

  • When I hear this music, it feels like it's raining. I may not respond too well to Diablo or Diablo-style games anymore, but I can't deny the music stuck with me.

  • Titter if you must at the title... Done? G... OK, I'll wait. OK, forget it, I'll just try to type louder: THIS JAZZY UP-TEMPO MUSIC IS PROBABLY SOME OF THE BEST COMPETITION MUSIC I'VE EVER HEARD. It also had a great randomly generated melody track that complemented the harmony that never got old. It was one of the first games I ever just let play endlessly while I did other stuff, just so I could listen to the music.

  • Specifically, the Cathedral. Replaying this game I'm reminded how effective the music is at making a city seem bustling, a desert desolate, and especially with the song above, haunted. Fallout reminds me just how important audio is to filling in the edges in a game's space.

  • Daggerfall has plenty of contemplative, sometimes creepy tracks that helped me imagine a given town or spot in the wilderness was more alive than was evident visually. So much can be accomplished with music to imbue a place with character, like with Fallout above. You push the visuals too much, and you wind up just criticizing the specifics all the more, but good, appropriate music is hard to nitpick.

  • Any game that works an old Casio synthesizer into the battle music automatically wins. Great mix of musical styles, loving every bit of it.

  • While it leans heavily on John Williams' timeless score, there's a few originals that really work. There's also the music of the incidental noise, a deep hum in Coruscant that sounds like some 1930's Disney angelic chorus or something that I can't get enough of. Or maybe I've had a stroke.

  • It's like the title of this list was made for this game.

  • The main menu music made me just sit and listen. I can't say everything haunted me, often it was more grin-inducing to hear a song reborn in old-tymie ways. Still, there were a few voices from the past that were great to hear.