Nov 23rd, 2017, 09:39 PM

Press Play to Start — Epilogue

By Ofir Ben Dor
head image
Image Credit: Nintendo
Retrospective & rapid-fire recommendations

In September I wrote an article on NieR: Automata and how it integrates story into its gameplay; a small comment I made at the end is that the game's soundtrack is one of its highlights, believe it or not it is that comment that made me start this series. The concept was very simple — create a series of articles that will introduce readers to the world of video game music in order to give it some of the recognition it deserves. I had some ideas for articles in the series before I started it, but the more I thought about it the more I realized that there was too much to cover. Just as there are dozens of thousands of video games out there, there are also thousands of soundtracks to pick from. This means that not only did I have to limit myself to picking some very specific examples for each topic, leaving out some great pieces on the cutting room floor, but also that I only had my own limited knowledge of soundtracks to choose from.

I decided for this epilogue to try and cover some of the topics/pieces that I wanted to but did not have the chance. The difference is, that this time, it will be completely based on my opinion; no interesting interviews or in-depth analyses, just pure recommendations. So, make sure you have headphones in, sit back and relax and prepare for a lot of YouTube links — welcome to the grand finale.

NieR: Automata

I honestly believe that out of all the games that came out this year, NieR: Automata's may be my favorite soundtrack; it plays such an integral part to the themes and the story that without it, the game would only be half as amazing as it is. From the energetic and heart-pumping themes of the boss battles, like the one I linked, to the more quiet ones, such as the resistance camp theme — the entire soundtrack does a magnificent job in drawing listeners to the world of the game and I wholly recommend listening to it in its entirety. As for some personal highlights, I will point to End of the Unknown — one off the more unique pieces, and to Bipolar Nightmare — the piece plays during the moments building up to the end of the game.

The odd, the bizarre and the funny

Looking back on the series I realized that I never showed any of the soundtracks alongside with the specific moments they are used in. My main reason for this was because I wanted to focus on the music, but when it comes to this track, half of the fun is seeing its context. Taken from 2001's Conker's Bad Fur Day, an adult game which parodied basically everything from The Wizard of Oz to The Matrix, "The Great Mighty Poo" basically speaks for itself. As the name implies, this song is a type of an opera piece... except it's a massive pile of feces singing.

When I originally planned this topic I thought of doing a piece on odd music or music from children's games, but I was unable to so part 4 was instead, about influence and homage. I wanted to focus on two tracks, both from children's games, the first was Lonely Rolling Star from 2004's Katamari Damacy and the second was Chocolate Dining from 2009's The Munchables. Lonely Rolling Star is an incredibly pleasant song to listen to; it's soothing, fun but also a bit sad; it's genuinely difficult to assign the song to a specific genre, and that's, honestly, one of its strengths. Over the years it became one of my favorite study-songs because it's just so calming. Chocolate Dining is a great techno track, and while it's one of the tamer songs from a very weird game, it still has this oddness to it that is hard to describe.


The main reason I gave up on tackling the Persona franchise as a potential topic is because there was too much to choose from. Persona is 21 years old with five main games, each with amazing soundtracks. The piece above is the opening to 2007's Persona 3 FES, a sort of re-release/sequel to 2006's Persona 3. Persona, as a franchise, oozes style; everything from the art direction, character design to the music is heavily stylized and different between each game. Each one of the newer games (3, 4 and 5) even have their own rhythm game! In order to observe some of the stylistic differences between the games, one can compare the main battle themes (featuring somewhat nonsensical English lyrics) of Persona 3, Persona 4 and Persona 5.

Mario (yes, I am not joking)

It is impossible to deny that Mario, as a franchise, has dominated the video game scene for decades. Even if you know nothing about video games, you still probably know Mario. An interesting fact about the series is that the recent release of Super Mario Odyssey marked the first time it had the main theme with vocals (seen above). Although the game is aimed at a younger audience, something about the song just puts a really stupid grin on my face with its jazzy tune.

Mario has always had great music; Gusty Garden Galaxy from 2007's Super Mario Galaxy is one of the best and most iconic orchestral themes in video game history. Furthermore, throughout the many games in the franchise is a wide range of genres; just compare the theme for the final boss from 2009's Mario and Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story, Koopa's Road from 1996's Super Mario 64 and Overworld Theme from 1990's Super Mario World. Just as Mario is an example of stellar game design, so is its music some of the best in the business

Final thoughts

I want to reiterate one of the points I made in my the beginning of the series — one does not need to know and understands video games to enjoy and appreciate their music. To further add to it, most of the games I talked about I never played (except for Kirby Super Star Ultra, The Binding of Isaac, Earthbound and NieR: Automata and a few more). The fact that mainstream music ignores video game music personally infuriates me since there is basically no reason not to include it. You are more likely to hear the soundtrack from a film on the radio than you are to hear one from a video game. It could just be that the barrier of video games as a medium keeps the music from leaving it, but if so, then something about the public's perception of the medium needs to change.

My biggest hope for the series is that, at the very least, it introduced someone to a really good track they never heard before.

You can read the rest of the series here: Part 1; Part 2; Part 3; Part 4; Part 5.