One of the most defining things about the human experience here on this sometimes peaceful planet Earth is music. Be it on the radio, at a concert, in a play, or in a movie, nothing quite sets the mood and mines the moment like a tune that draws you in and sparks all the feels. Love, Passion, Pathos and Pain, some of the greatest experiences we’ve had when experiencing other mediums have been made all the more memorable and real because of music and video games are no exception.
Here is a list of the 5 top tunes in video games in which the crucial component of lyrics appear over the years that are fun, inspiring, epic and sometimes sorrowful. At the end of the day these pieces of music standout and rise above, and in many ways separate themselves from the games they appear in.
5) Bust a Groove – Natural Playboy (Hiro’s Song)
The video game cult classic, Bust a Groove debuted in the US in 1998 and immediately made an impact with its fighter game meets dancing game playing style. The game had a number of characters, each with his or her own dance style, special move, and most importantly theme music. You often might find yourself playing the game just to hear the tracks on it, however the standout song was the catchy 70’s pop inspired “Natural Playboy.” With its horns and synth disco beat you can’t help but bop your head along as Hiro busts out his too-cool-for-school moves.
4) Final Fantasy VI – Aria di Mezzo Carattere
Composed by Nobuo Uematsu
Yes, technically the original version of this song doesn’t have actual sung lyrics (they appear on screen as a part of the game) however the scope and impact of the piece can’t be denied. Ambitious for its time (Final Fantasy VI debuted on the 16-bit Super Nintendo system in 1996) “Aria di Mezzo Carattere” has endured the test of video game time, and has since been remastered and performed with full orchestra and actual sung lyrics. Impressive for “just a video game” this song could stand up against more respected music any day and just might win in a showdown. Final Fantasy turn-based battle style of course.
3) Ico – You Were There
Composed by Michiru Oshima
Performed by Steven Geraghty
Ico, the spiritual prequel of the epic Shadow of the Colossus, is a game that is haunting and mostly silent in its landscapes, visuals, and environments. The story unfolds with very little description or dialogue and is told through the actions of the characters, so when the ending sequence begins with its haunting melodic voice it punctuates the connection between our young protagonist Ico and companion Yorda with perfect balance. An official goodbye to your adventures in the world, “You Were There” is uplifting, hopeful, and just a little bit sad all at once.
2) Final Fantasy VIII – Eyes on Me
Composed by Nobuo Uematsu
Performed by Faye Wong
Good on you if you actually managed to finish this game. Often cited as the least liked in the Final Fantasy series it was probably more suited to being a movie than it was a game and is way more Final Fantasy than the Final Fantasy movie we got. Despite a disappointing game, Final Fantasy VIII is odd in that it has one of the most heartfelt songs in the series. In what amounts to being the love theme of the game, “Eyes on Me” touches the heart in a game that is often a bit too dour and overly serious. As a bittersweet send off after the final cinematic moments, the song underscores all the pain we feel at a tragic end with still a spark of love surviving.
1) Portal – Still Alive
Composer Jonathan Coulton
Performed by Ellen McLain
“Where did that come from?” is often the refrain when this song begins to play in the closing moments of Portal. In a game that is absolutely not about music, “Still Alive” is a fun end-cap that actually serves to give the game more context, tell a story, and provides more character for the already wonderful GLaDOS computer who sings it. Our favorite HAL-inspired AI goes on to sing “Want You Gone” in Portal 2 as a worthy follow-up, but it doesn’t quite capture the magic of GLaDOS’ first outing. Composer Jonathan Coulton also has a website with tons more music which you should most definitely check out!
What are some of your favorite video game songs? Let us know in the comments below!