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Game songs I'd love to conduct

The title of the list says it all, really. Ever since middle school, I've had a deep fondness for orchestrated music. However, that appreciation was mostly fueled by my band teacher (ironically, his last name was Bandman) and the amount of passion he put into conducting. While our humble middle school band stayed true to the dynamics and tempos, the conducting was so enthused it seemed our performances were elevated to a much higher level. Not only did the conducting seem exciting, it also looked pretty fun.

List items

  • "Egg Planet" by Koji Kondo

    The Egg Planet (or Good Egg Galaxy) theme is a song that perfectly encapsulates the pure and whimsical fun to be had in Super Mario Galaxy. As I listen to this on my MP3 player or while playing the game, I feel like a five-year old walking around a theme park or a much younger version of myself sitting down in front of a television experiencing the innocent joy of a video game.

  • "Chrono Trigger Orchestra Extra Soundtrack" by Yasunori Mitsuda

    I was late to the Chrono Trigger party and, in regards to its music, I suppose I was pretty fortunate. I hastily put down a reserve for the DS entry to ensure I wouldn't miss the game a second time around. Lo and behold, the bonus for reserving was a two-track disc of orchestrated themes. Even without the aid of a full orchestra, Chrono Trigger's music still remains iconic (though secondary to Chrono Cross' soundtrack). However, hearing the them redone shows how eloquently Mitsuda can write a soundtrack, even if it was his first.

  • "The Gauntlet" by Jamie Christopherson

    Bionic Commando: Rearmed stole the gaming community's heart in terms of music, but the series' most recent retail release was done just as well, if not better in some parts. This song sounds powerful, and plays during one of the most creative, fast-paced boss battles I've experienced this generation. It lends itself well to the action and makes the momentum of swinging seem much more dynamic.

  • "Garden Forgotten by Time" by Michiru Yamane

    I'll agree that Konami has yet to release a 3D title worthy of its storied Castlevania franchise, but I believe Lament of Innocence is the closest success so far. If there's anything that translates from the 2D entries to the 3D ones well, it'd be the music. While not as upbeat, creepy or brooding as previous songs, Garden Forgotten by Time is a track of the same high pedigree I've come to expect from the series.

  • "Scorching Savanna" by Horikoshi High School Band

    To be blunt, I don't like the soundtrack to Katamari Forever. I'm fine with certain remixes but, in most cases, it effectively dismantles the charm of the original tracks. One of very few pieces stuck out, and it was a high school's performance of some of Katamari's themes. It doesn't sound complex, but it does show how beloved the games and its songs are.

  • "Memories of You ~Orchestra ver.~" by Yumi Kawamura

    I have no idea what the lyrics mean, and maybe I should look up a translation some time, but it sounds nice. Beyond being listenable on its own, this song was a great way to end the long task of completing a Shin Megami Tensei game; the orchestrated version even more so.

  • "Overture" by Martin O'Donnell and Michael Salvatori

    You probably noticed I currently don't acknowledge a lot of stuff from Western composers, let alone anything from franchises started by Western development studios. Halo 3: ODST's soundtrack came as a surprise to me because it shed what the series was known for in favor of a muted, noirish (yes, it's a word) tone. It's seemingly more mature, and I like that a lot.

  • "Ending Theme" by Takeharu Ishimoto

    A list of great game music would not be complete without even a slight mention of the Final Fantasy series; even Giant Bomb's quest system acknowledged it, which shocked me. It's hard to whittle away the abundant amount of themes that would easily make this list, but a compilation of some of the best gets the job done nicely. Much like the game itself, the medley selection is subject to approval depending on where you stand. Still, Eyes on Me with no lyrics makes me happy.

  • "Who Is He Anyway?" by Masashi Hamauzu

    It's hard for me to comment on this song because I've never played Sigma Harmonics and can't provide the context. Despite that, "Who is He Anyway?" seems, to me, a perfect example of the game's namesake. The two strings come together in a very soothing melody that has put me to sleep for many a night. I mean that in the best way possible.

  • "Staff Roll 2" by Koji Kondo

    Since the last time I touched this list, Nintendo made a really good orchestral medley for The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D. I remember hearing this track before the game came out and was saddened when the first set of credits finished and the song was nowhere to be heard. Then, a second set of credits rolled by for the folks at Grezzo and all was good as orchestrated nostalgia hit me faster than a 3D screen's refresh rate.

  • "Zero" by Keiki Kobayashi

    I had a fun time with the gameplay mechanics in Ace Combat: Assault Horizon, but the game was devoid of what drew me into the series in the first place. Not many would expect it, but the Ace Combat series puts a huge emphasis on story, and when it's good, it's really good. Shamefully, I've never played Ace Combat Zero, but I feel like this track perfectly embodies some of the more beautiful, romanticized aspects Project Aces goes for. Not to mention the final battle (in which this song plays) seems fitting when reading the plot on paper.

  • "Debriefing" by Harry Gregson-Williams

    Why this wasn't in the initial listing of ten, I'll never know. When this song comes up in random conversation, I always emphasize that this is why video games can make people cry. Internet scuttlebutt often deems Snake Eater/Subsistence as the one people skipped over, but most who have played it come away saying it's the best in the series. A sentiment I agree with, also fueled by a truly fantastic soundtrack. The song itself is great, but knowing the story and buildup behind it always puts my tear ducts on high alert.

  • "We Have Arrived" by Takeharu Ishimoto

    As of this writing, Final Fantasty Type-0 has yet to make it over to North America. However, the soundtrack, more than anything, makes me wish it was. I can still count on Square-Enix to churn out a few good tracks with each Final Fantasy release, but Type-0's orchestrations go the extra mile. Still hoping that they'll announce a Vita version somewhere down the line, but I'll just listen to rips of the soundtrack in the meantime.

  • "I, Mengsk" by Glenn Stafford, Derek Duke and Neal Acree

    One of the songs I selected as part of my "Best of 2010" list. It covers all the major beats of Starcraft II's somewhat turbulent story, and has an interesting variety of sounds. Particularly, the part that sounds like it's coming from a record player. As someone who plays Starcraft only for the story, this one track is an excellent microcosm for the the first Starcraft's Terran campaign, and characterizes Arcturus Mengsk as the dictatorial badass his name implies.

  • "Wanderers, Look Up at the Sky (Piano Trio Ver.)" by Yoko Shimomura

    I don't know much about this game other than the fact that it was produced by Minae Matsukawa, who is known for her work on the Phoenix Wright series, and led by various other luminaries in the Japanese video game industry. Not the least of which is Yoko Shimomura, whose resume extends as far back as Street Fighter II all the way up Kingdom Hearts. Oh, and it didn't release outside of Japan either. Darn PSP.

  • "Hills of Radiant Winds" by Keiichi Okabe

    This game easily had the best soundtrack of 2010, and the numerous times Square-Enix has arranged and remixed it has shown that their aware of it as well. As for the actual gameplay, I was pretty bored until the song above pumped me full of vigor. Regardless of the gameplay's quality, I think Nier is an experience worth having, especially to hear the music in its intended context.

  • "Main Theme" by Motoi Sakuraba

    After the excellent soundtracks that graced the Super Mario Galaxy series and The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, I figured it would be a good long while until Nintendo would make a soundtrack that would stand just as strong. Leave to Sakurai and his collaborative ways to compile an elite composer squad for a one-off sequel. I still haven't beaten Kid Icarus: Uprising, but only because I intend to savor that game and its music. I'm sure I'd want more as soon as I'm done.

  • "Icarus" by Michael McCann

    There are a few times when a good song will sell me on a game. For 2011, I can think of no stronger salesman than the entirety of Human Revolution's soundtrack. From the black and gold color scheme to cyberpunk Detroit, everything about the game's aesthetic was pleasing and the music was a great accompaniment. If Michael McCann isn't signed on for the next Deus Ex, consider me unsold.

  • "Belmont's Theme" by ├ôscar Araujo

    Castlevania's 2D games have always been full of unforgettable songs; but when I heard Konami commissioned a full orchestra for their latest 3D push, my eyebrows were raised just as high as when I heard IGA wasn't touching the game. "Belmont's Theme" is another one I included in my "Best of 2010" list. I really like the syncopation with the strings and the very, very slow crescendo that happens through the entire thing.

  • "A Fight of Light and Darkness" by Inon Zur and Stuart Chatwood

    When this game came out, it seemed everyone was hung up on how easy it was. I was too busy thinking how beautiful it was. I still consider this as the peak of the series, and after the cash-in that was The Forgotten Sands, I fear that we'll never see this reboot realize its full potential. I was a bit shocked to see Inon Zur had a hand in the soundtrack after looking up stuff on Fallout 3, but that doesn't diminish how well it accompanied Ubisoft's pseudo-Persian fantasy.