I’ll be the first to say that I have a fairly eclectic taste in music, but it hasn’t been until recently that I’ve tried sitting down and looking at why I like some of the genres I do. Sure, my love of New Wave and Motown was passed down from parents, and my interest in indie and alt was instilled in me by my friends, but I learned about a few of my favorite styles of music through another avenue entirely. An avenue called video games.
We’re starting it off with old school. For those that don’t know what Bossa Nova is, the easiest way to describe it is 1960s Brazilian Jazz, with The Girl From Ipanema and Desafinado being two of its most recognizable songs. I consider it the quintessential 1960s smooth jazz in the sense that it’s both cool and chill.
Where I Heard It: Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask
Music is a big part of the Legend of Zelda series, and Majora’s Mask is no exception. I first heard of Bossa Nova when I learned “New Wave Bossa Nova” in order to access the Bay Temple about half way through the game. While it’s not exactly in line with the typical Bossa Nova style, it was the first time I had ever heard something like it. It took me more than 10 years to come back to Bossa Nova, but almost ironically, the way I found it again was by looking up “New Wave Bossa Nova” from Majora’s Mask.
If You Like It
It’s great background music to play when you’re working or doing homework, or even just chilling. Check out Astrud Gilberto, Stan Getz, or Joao Gilberto if you’re looking for more!
When I tell people I like Ska, the most frequent response I get is, “You mean that stuff from the 90s?” Yup, straight out of the 90s. I happen to be from Orange County, California — home of the Third Wave Ska movement — but I didn’t end up hearing it from my friends or cousins. In fact, looking back on it, I got my first taste of Ska from one of the most embarrassing games I owned…
Where I Heard It: Dead or Alive Xtreme Beach Volleyball
First off, I just have to get it out there that I bought this game for the volleyball and mini-games. I was pretty young, but I remember buying it and wondering why it had an M rating. The two cashiers at GameStop looked at the game, looked at me, looked at each other, and shrugged. I didn’t really end up liking the volleyball mechanics, but I did come away with a couple of songs stuck in my head, specifically “The Kids Don’t Like It” and “I Want Your Girlfriend to be My Girlfriend” by Reel Big Fish, one of the biggest names in Third Wave.
If You Like It
Ska hasn’t really gone away, there’s something of a revival of third wave back in Orange County. If you’re looking for more though, definitely check out bands like Goldfinger, The Mighty Mighty Bosstones, The Planet Smashers, Suburban Legends, and my favorite, The Aquabats!
Commonly referred to as 8-bit music, the closest thing to chiptune is probably just old school video game music. Think NES, SNES, Gameboy. Nowadays, they’ll often combine it with other types of music or use it as a stylistic accent.
Where I Heard It: Many games (Let’s just say Pokémon)
This one is a little harder. I don’t exactly know where I found chiptune, but being as it is the music genre derived from old school video game music, I’ll go out on a ledge and say it exactly that. Pokémon was one of the first games I played as kid where the music really stuck with me, and really, original Pokémon music is just about a chiptune as you can get. If you didn’t have the wonderfully amazing experience of playing the original Pokémon games, give the song below a listen. If you did, let the nostalgia of Pallet Town wash over you.
If You Like It
There’s not necessarily a “set” way to do chiptune. You have some artists that are pretty true to the chiptune style, like Virt, who has some awesome chiptune covers of modern game music, and other artists who use it in supplement to their own style, like We Fight Dragons. Regardless of how you like your (chip)tunes, you’re guaranteed a good time.
I don’t just mean general orchestral music. Orchestral ambience music is the music that could be playing in the background of your life (if your life were an epic adventure in space/Nirn/a virtual reality world of your ancestors’ memories). It’s not there to be the main focus, but adds another level of depth to an overall experience.
Where I Heard It: Elder Scrolls: Oblivion
Obviously, I had heard movie soundtracks and other background orchestral music before, but what really got me interested in orchestral ambience music was Elder Scrolls: Oblivion. Its sweeping orchestrations were the theme to my life for countless hours as I played ridiculous amounts of TES: Oblivion, but even after I moved on to other games, I still found myself coming back its soundtrack.
If You Like It
Today, many of the triple-A games have orchestral soundtracks, and of course, movies have great ambience music as well. Check out the Mass Effect 3 or Cider House Rules soundtracks for more.
Let me know in the comments below what kinds of music you’ve discovered through the magic and wonder of video games. If you have any other suggestions for things to check out, this obviously isn’t an comprehensive list, so go ahead and stick them in the comments as well!