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Video game Soundtracks need to make a comeback

What musical genres do you want to see more of in modern AAA gaming?

  • Rock

    Votes: 19 35.8%
  • Pop

    Votes: 5 9.4%
  • Hip-Hop/Rap

    Votes: 8 15.1%
  • Metal

    Votes: 18 34.0%
  • Jazz/Swing

    Votes: 18 34.0%
  • Ska

    Votes: 6 11.3%
  • Drum and Bass

    Votes: 8 15.1%
  • Chiptune

    Votes: 11 20.8%
  • Orchestral

    Votes: 22 41.5%
  • Other

    Votes: 6 11.3%
  • Electronic

    Votes: 23 43.4%

  • Total voters
    53

64bitmodels

Reverse groomer.
Game Soundtracks in the 90s and 2000s used to be amazing. They tried to prove themselves as real music and what we got were some of the most well made, intricate compositions ever. Mario Bros overworld, Pretty much any sonic soundtrack from the early 90s-late 2000s, Secret of the forest from Chrono Trigger, Kerwan from Ratchet and Clank 1, The Halo theme, etc
What the actual FUCK happened between 2009 and now? It seems like game soundtracks nowadays prioritize themselves on being nothing but background noise. There has been a complete lack of good music in the past decade in any sector that isn't Indie. Nintendo's made an attempt. I say made an attempt because the only soundtracks from them i actually like are Odyssey, MK8D and Splatoon. Why can't we get games with unique music again?
I honestly think this is the biggest downgrade we've seen in the past 10 years when it comes to the overall degredation of gaming. Mainly because, once you're done playing a game,one of its most memorable aspects will be its soundtrack. It's something you can listen to even when you're NOT playing the game. There are games where i spend more time listening to the soundtrack then i do playing the game. A bad game still can make a good soundtrack, as evidenced by a LOT of the Sonic franchise. Nowadays though, when you get a bad game, there is no soundtrack to redeem it. It's just.... nothing. And even most of the good games have forgettable soundtracks too. I think it's also cause there's just a massive lack of genre variety in the game industry. They just stick to what's most popular, what's most "hype" for most of the normies. While leaving the rest of us with actual musical taste to get fucked. It's so saddening because we've got the technology and artists out there to make truly great game soundtracks. There are many great artists on sites like bandcamp and newgrounds who can shake a whole industry with their music, but instead we get soundtracks like fucking battlefield 2042s and whatever music fortnite even has. :/ While the indie scene continues to bundle their games with downright amazing albums, i want to see that stuff with more mainstream appeal. To let people know that videogame music can and has been good. Instead of literal background noise. That's just my dumbass rant though, what's your thoughts??? I really hope i'm not alone in this.
 
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Bakkus

Member
This is gonna turn into a list thread, but I agree by large. There are very few games with really good soundtracks now compared to 10-30 years ago.
 
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64bitmodels

Reverse groomer.
This is gonna turn into a list thread, but I agree by large. There are very few games with really good soundtracks now compared to 10-30 years ago.
i'd perfer if it turned into an album reccomendation thread :messenger_winking_tongue:
I am just one user, i cannot control how batshit GAF can get at times
 

p_xavier

Authorized Fister
Soundtrack is important for me to enjoy a game. I remember playing the PSone Rockman collection and it made such a difference to have an orchestrated version of the songs instead of chiptune. Made a big difference in enjoyment for me.

Ys is about the only series (my favourite) that still does soundtracks like it used to. I miss games like Rez and Space Channel 5 which incorporated music well. Kamatari Damacy soundtrack's also helped defined the game.
 
Agreed 1000% OP. Classic game music is some of the best music of my lifetime, no joke. Why the fuck do AAA games nowadays think that “unobtrusive film score” is like the ultimate ideal that games should strive for.

Fuck that. That is the MOST BLAND, boring direction to take with a game’s music. Give me an outstanding, memorable soundtrack like Symphony of the Night, Final Fantasy XII, Secret of Mana, Gran Turismo, Wipeout XL, Xenoblade Chronicles, (to name a few among MANY good ones)
 

64bitmodels

Reverse groomer.
Agreed 1000% OP. Classic game music is some of the best music of my lifetime, no joke. Why the fuck do AAA games nowadays think that “unobtrusive film score” is like the ultimate ideal that games should strive for.

Fuck that. That is the MOST BLAND, boring direction to take with a game’s music. Give me an outstanding, memorable soundtrack like Symphony of the Night, Final Fantasy XII, Secret of Mana, Gran Turismo, Wipeout XL, Xenoblade Chronicles, (to name a few among MANY good ones)
also, holy shit that was the phrase i was looking for. "unobtrusive film score" perfectly captures so many game OSTs these days. all i want is something more hardass, like MGR's soundtrack (which everyone on the internet is really simping for these days. THIS IS WHAT THE CONSUMERS WANT COMPANIES)
 

Guilty_AI

Member
I disagree, there still good soundtracks out there, just not everywhere.




Also, its worth mentioning a lot of tracks from the 90s were basically just popular "real" music rehashed into bit formats, which is why a lot of them sounded so good. Naturally not so much of an option nowadays unless done smartly.
 
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64bitmodels

Reverse groomer.
I disagree, there still good soundtracks out there, just not everywhere.




Also, its worth mentioning a lot of tracks from the 90s were basically just popular "real" music rehashed into bit formats, which is why a lot of them sounded so good. Naturally not so much of an option nowadays unless done smartly.
Ok you got me there. I love Touhou music. imperishable night honestly still has the best OST in the series for me (i love EOSD's music thou)
 

TheInfamousKira

Reseterror Resettler
Masashi Hamauzu has a masterclass for OSTs. Easily the best part of the entire Final Fantasy XIII trilogy, and his original contributions to the Final Fantasy VII Remake were awesome. His work tends to draw off of a lot of different genres, so in one soundtrack you'll get jazzy pieces like Sazh's Theme, bubbly pieces like The Sunleth Waterscape, some atmospheric Electronica like The Sulyya Springs, and what I can only call "violin rock," in the form of the main battle themes from XIII and XIII-2.

Akira Yamaoka is my second pick for bombass game music. The man effortlessly blends alternative rock, industrial, ambient and trip hop into a collage that works not in spite of, but because of the varied elements. Dude is a treasure.

Give me more blending of genres, more compilations of sounds that fit different areas and characters and plot beats more than a specific genre. If level design needs be varied to keep player engagement, then surely doing the same for sound and music would benefit (and has benefited) in a similar way.
 

InfiniteCombo

Gold Member
Excellent thread OP. Subbed.

I grew up with fighting games, and in the 90s, SNK was a master at the craft of soundtrack composition. Since the original Neo Geo console could only handle so much musical complexity, they would have "Original Soundtracks" (OSTs) -- the tunes that played in the game, and "Arranged Soundtracks" (ASTs), reworked versions of the original tracks that were pretty much genuine, legitimate pieces of music that to this very day I still listen to. LONG after I've stopped playing those King of Fighters or Samurai Shodown games, I still listen to the soundtracks.

Same goes for Namco. Their arranged soundtracks for Tekken 1-3 are all-time masterpieces. Same for Soul Edge, Soulcalibur, and Soulcalibur II.

The problem with some of this stuff, especially SNK, is that I had to import the arranged soundtracks from Japan, which was a bit of an expensive endeavor. I'm subscribed to Spotify but they only have the OSTs there, not the ASTs.

If there was a streaming service that had all those soundtracks, I would sign up for it Ina heartbeat.
 

64bitmodels

Reverse groomer.
Excellent thread OP. Subbed.

I grew up with fighting games, and in the 90s, SNK was a master at the craft of soundtrack composition. Since the original Neo Geo console could only handle so much musical complexity, they would have "Original Soundtracks" (OSTs) -- the tunes that played in the game, and "Arranged Soundtracks" (ASTs), reworked versions of the original tracks that were pretty much genuine, legitimate pieces of music that to this very day I still listen to. LONG after I've stopped playing those King of Fighters or Samurai Shodown games, I still listen to the soundtracks.

Same goes for Namco. Their arranged soundtracks for Tekken 1-3 are all-time masterpieces. Same for Soul Edge, Soulcalibur, and Soulcalibur II.

The problem with some of this stuff, especially SNK, is that I had to import the arranged soundtracks from Japan, which was a bit of an expensive endeavor. I'm subscribed to Spotify but they only have the OSTs there, not the ASTs.

If there was a streaming service that had all those soundtracks, I would sign up for it Ina heartbeat.
i'm more of a capcom guy myself, but i gotta admit that tekken's music is the bomb. Those tunes go hard.... especially jin's theme from tekken 3
 
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Bombolone

Gold Member
A bit of an overgeneralization, but I agree. Elden Ring - the biggest game of the year, if not in years - doesn't have a single memorable music track aside from maybe the title screen.
Yeah, when I heard that intro music I was hyped.
Needless to say the music was a big letdown.

I agree with the OP, in fact, over the past 7 or so years I have usually played most games with minimal sound volume or even cared for game audio at all.
If its competitive, of course i need to hear the game world around me;most games I just put on my own music or just get by at 30% volume.

Im always excited for a new Final Fantasy because of the new exciting tracks that come with it.

Music can be such a godsend for creating those fuckin 'moments'
As with the current state of gaming though, its just normie dribble.
 

InfiniteCombo

Gold Member
i'm more of a capcom guy myself, but i gotta admit that tekken's music is the bomb. Those tunes go hard.
From a gameplay perspective I'm pretty much a Capcom guy. Hell in general Capcom is my favorite publisher, far and away.

But while Capcom had almost a monopoly on good 2D fighting gameplay, SNK had the superior music. Especially their arranged soundtracks.

I also own the soundtracks for Resident Evil 2 and Resident Evil 3 (the classic games, not the remakes). Some of the best music around.
 

Guilty_AI

Member
Honestly, theres even more examples you can find.




I don't fully disagree with you however, some of the more popular games do tend to have rather dull 'background noise' soundtrack, with just one or two tracks in the mix that stand out. However, that is just a creative choice in the end.
 

64bitmodels

Reverse groomer.
Also, while i did include pop.... i don't like current pop a lot. J pop, Kpop (not that mainstream garbage like BTS, jungkook and whatever the fuck they play.... there's actually good Kpop, just gotta find it) and older 80s pop is where it's at for me really.
 

TransTrender

Gold Member
I haven't heard a memorable sound track in a really, really, REALLY, REALLLY LONG TIME, like over a DECADE until.....

Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity
then of course
Final Fantasy VII: Remake


I truly thought videogame soundtracks were dead until now.
 

Pejo

Member
OP, god bless you for adding a ska option. There are dozens of ska fans still out there, dozens! Tony Hawk games will always mostly be memorable to me because of the amazing curated soundtracks while I was havin fun doing tricks and playing the game. Literally nobody that played those games can think of Tony Hawk without immediately thinking of this:


I'm really impressed with a lot of mobile game soundtracks. They've been much more memorable and higher quality than the orchestral score stuff we've been getting in modern games. Particularly Korean games have just had amazing soundtracks. I dunno what they put in the water over there, but ship some to US game companies.

(if you told me this one was from Guilty Gear I'd believe you)
(cover made just for the game as far as I know)
 
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also, holy shit that was the phrase i was looking for. "unobtrusive film score" perfectly captures so many game OSTs these days. all i want is something more hardass, like MGR's soundtrack (which everyone on the internet is really simping for these days. THIS IS WHAT THE CONSUMERS WANT COMPANIES)
Yes! I’ll take any genre. Anything is better than what we have now.

Music is so important, it’s such a huge part of the feel and character of a game. I can’t even imagine playing something like Castlevania, Mega Man, Donkey Kong Country, etc with a modern AAA game soundtrack.

I guess that it’s intended to be less obtrusive so you can hear all the voice acting, environmental audio cues, etc. but screw that crap. Bad trade off.
 

StreetsofBeige

Gold Member

NeoIkaruGAF

Gold Member
Movie games will tend to have movie music, yeah.

There’s tons of game music getting released though, so it’d be a mistake to think AAA grandiose orchestral OSTs are the most representative of the genre - quite the opposite, in fact. Japan is still doing gamey game music with arrangements and live exhibitions. SquareEnix, Sega, Nintendo, Capcom are all making great music for their games. Ubisoft also makes great OSTs for their smaller projects.
 

Chastten

Member
Music is so much more important that graphics to me. It can literally make or break a scene, fight, or even the entire game. I don't give a damn about graphics, but good music will make a game absolutely timeless.

Late 90's/early 00's game music aged like fine wine. I can still play a few rounds of Wave Race 64 or 1080 Snowboarding and enjoy the music like it's still 1998. Entering the jungle town of Ixa'Taka in Skies of Arcadia immediatly gives you jungle vibes more than any graphical design choice could ever hope to achieve.

There are still modern games with great soundtrack though. I thought Bloodstained had quite a few great tracks.
 

64bitmodels

Reverse groomer.
Music is so much more important that graphics to me. It can literally make or break a scene, fight, or even the entire game. I don't give a damn about graphics, but good music will make a game absolutely timeless.

Late 90's/early 00's game music aged like fine wine. I can still play a few rounds of Wave Race 64 or 1080 Snowboarding and enjoy the music like it's still 1998. Entering the jungle town of Ixa'Taka in Skies of Arcadia immediatly gives you jungle vibes more than any graphical design choice could ever hope to achieve.

There are still modern games with great soundtrack though. I thought Bloodstained had quite a few great tracks.
unlike graphics, music never ages. Good music gets better with time
 
What the actual FUCK happened between 2009 and now? It seems like game soundtracks nowadays prioritize themselves on being nothing but background noise. There has been a complete lack of good music in the past decade in any sector that isn't Indie. Nintendo's made an attempt. I say made an attempt because the only soundtracks from them i actually like are Odyssey, MK8D and Splatoon. Why can't we get games with unique music again?
I am a huge, huge fan and appreciator of video game soundtracks. This is going to sound nerdy of me, but they are all I listen to. This is a fun topic I’ve thought about a lot over the years.

While it’s not all bad because there are still several great game soundtracks being produced for modern games, I agree with your overall assessment. I believe there are several factors as to why:

  • The biggest reason, and I must stress this is my personal take/taste on the matter so please don't hit me with a big list dump, is the rise of western developed games. I’m coming up on my 40’s so I’ve been playing games since the NES and every platform along the way. My observation has been that different regions/cultures put emphasis on different aspects of their games, and I’ve never felt that phenomenal music was a big priority for western developers. That’s not to say there haven’t been great soundtracks in western games, for example I love the work of composers like David Wise, Richard Jacques, and for a more recent example Jake Kaufman.

    This is relevant because now the industry is dominated by western developed games and, again my opinion, I don’t think good music is of much value to both those creators and that audience. Assassin’s Creed or Horizon FW aren’t going to have their review score lowered, or sales affected if the soundtrack is completely forgettable. As a result, why would a publisher spend a ton of money on premium musical talent?

  • Another big factor, and I feel this way about game art as well, is that the technological limitations of the past forced creativity. Composers weren’t given unlimited tools to spit out orchestral arranged background noise. When music had to be created for very limited platforms then you had to rely on good composition and melody to carry it. There was no faking it with Midi bleeps. I think modern tools allow a composer to mask their lack of strong composition with a heavy orchestral arrangement and then get applauded for how “epic” their score was. Every year I watch Keighley’s game award show for laughs, and I always shake my head at what gets propped up as the pinnacle of game soundtracks.

  • To top it all off, I think you’re also seeing the result of what big money has done to games. Generations ago you would get incredible soundtracks in a game like Chrono Trigger where almost all it’s 60ish tracks were memorable and well done. I don’t see a publisher allowing that many good eggs to be dumped in one legendary basket anymore, if they know they have valuable content on their hands they would milk it for all it's worth. I think of Final Fantasy as a great example of this. Entries like FF6 and FF7 were stuffed to the brim with amazing music, whereas recent games like FF13 or FF15 have just a small handful of good songs. As in after a certain point there is "enough" good music and there will be no additional return on investment in making it better.

    My feeling is that Developers and Publishers used to chase money by creating the most attractive artistic masterpiece they could in hopes to win the consumers dollar. Now it's about checking only the boxes that their sales metrics say matter, not worrying about the ones that don't (like music), and watch as the industry and consumers reward them for it.
 
I'm deeply passionate about this subject, for me the soundtrack is one of the most important parts of the game and really shapes our experience playing it. I was never into rock music when I was younger, but i remember playing Tony Hawks Pro Skater for the first ever time, there was just something about sitting in front of my old CRT TV, attempting to do insane skate combos and almost breaking my DS1 lol, drinking coke and listening to When World's Collide by Powerman 5000.

Another time was when I first played Assassin's Creed 2, the soundtrack realy struck me away on an emotional level, it still has to be my all time favourite and Jesper Kyd hit out the park, the same can be said for all of Ezio's trilogy. Almost every soundtrack was a masterpiece

In recent times, I played Final Fantasy 7 Remake on my PS5, and wow...the soundtrack had a deep 90's nostalgia, stuff from action movies and 90's games and of course a lot of the soundtracks were updated versions from the original game released in 1997, but Nobuo and co. did one heck of a job of adding a modern twist to the soundtrack without compromising on it's "soul" or "feeling" for lack of a better word. I can go on and on but I'd be writing an essay, so here are some personal favourites:


My problem is with modern AAA western game's soundtrack is they trying too hard to be similar to Hollywood movies in sense of soundtrack just blend to background.


I agree to some extent, although Ghost of Tsushima really stood out to me. The soundtrack really blends well with the beauty of the game as a whole. Here's a personal favourite from the OST, it gets better and better as it goes on.

 
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KXVXII9X

Member
I grew up with JRPG's and those cinematic (gasp) games. I have always enjoyed the soundtrack to these kinds of games, and they are some of the main things that drew me into these game worlds. It was what helped me emotionally connect to the games.

With the popularity of multiplayer and live service games and less and less AAA Japanese developed games, music has been more of an afterthought. I don't think games like Persona 5, Neo: TWEWY, Ori, Nier Automata, Journey, Life is Strange series, The Last Guardian, Splatoon, and Xenoblade Chronicles series would be as impactful without their music. Now, it is usually some generic orchestrated BGM that acts as background noise.
 

EverydayBeast

thinks Halo Infinite is a new graphical benchmark
When we think about video game soundtracks we usually think about NBA 2K’s or MLBs.
 

KXVXII9X

Member
I'm deeply passionate about this subject, for me the soundtrack is one of the most important parts of the game and really shapes our experience playing it. I was never into rock music when I was younger, but i remember playing Tony Hawks Pro Skater for the first ever time, there was just something about sitting in front of my old CRT TV, attempting to do insane skate combos and almost breaking my DS1 lol, drinking coke and listening to When World's Collide by Powerman 5000.

Another time was when I first played Assassin's Creed 2, the soundtrack realy struck me away on an emotional level, it still has to be my all time favourite and Jesper Kyd hit out the park, the same can be said for all of Ezio's trilogy. Almost every soundtrack was a masterpiece

In recent times, I played Final Fantasy 7 Remake on my PS5, and wow...the soundtrack had a deep 90's nostalgia, stuff from action movies and 90's games and of course a lot of the soundtracks were updated versions from the original game released in 1997, but Nobuo and co. did one heck of a job of adding a modern twist to the soundtrack without compromising on it's "soul" or "feeling" for lack of a better word. I can go on and on but I'd be writing an essay, so here are some personal favourites:




I agree to some extent, although Ghost of Tsushima really stood out to me. The soundtrack really blends well with the beauty of the game as a whole. Here's a personal favourite from the OST, it gets better and better as it goes on.

I listened to Seiiki to help me sleep and relax when I first played GoT. It is such a healing song. Part of it reminded me of the feeling I got from Lugia's song. That flute is pure bliss.
 
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