An intrinsic part of the experience, video games would be nothing without their soundtracks. Here we have decided to share some of our favourites!
If you have any slight interest in the culture of gaming from the 90s, chances are that you’ve stumbled upon the work of LucasArts at least once. A subsidiary of Lucasfilm, LucasArts long held the monopoly on the adventure game genre throughout the period with the likes of the Sam and Max, Secret of Monkey Island and Indiana Jones franchises. Another such major success is Grim Fandango in 1998 – lovechild of game director Tim Schafer, later creator of the Psychonauts franchise.
Set in the stunningly realised Land of the Dead, the game follows a departed soul named Manuel Calavera who is forced to work as a travel agent/’Reaper’ at the Department of Dead as penance for his sins in life. There, he is tasked with assigning the fate of newly deceased souls. It’s unique blending of film noir, Mexican folklore and Aztec culture in its art-style and narrative, along with its riveting oddball cast and stellar gameplay, has lead to Grim Fandango becoming labelled as one of the greatest video games of all time, and one certainly deserving of such a position. This elevated reception and style likewise extends to the game’s incredible score, with its memorable mélange of jazz and blues from across the globe alongside classical orchestra capturing perfectly the dark, smoky noirish atmosphere and engrossing you into its terrific world. Even divorced from the gameplay, Peter McConnell‘s excellent work here is one of the most pleasing, vivid and expressive soundtracks to listen to no matter the mood or place. Both game and score come highly recommended.
The remastered soundtrack for Grim Fandango is available to listen to on Spotify.
The Sims 1
Video game soundtracks can vary from fun to catchy to annoying to haunting. They’re just as big a part of the experience as the graphics; possibly more so since they are far more likely to stick with you after playing. Possibly as an earworm, possibly as the newest addition to your Spotify playlist but my favourite video game score provides pure nostalgia. The Sims 1 was originally released in 2000 with additional expansion packs released until 2003, although it still has an active community (despite EA patches) today. Music doesn’t tend to play whist you’re controlling your sims in ‘live mode’ so the pieces mostly relate to build and buy mode. They are a mix of classical-style piano tracks and bossa nova jazz tunes which makes for a relaxing experience as you spend hours playing. There are only a few tracks for build and buy mode respectively, so they loop for as long as you are on either mode. In other games, this could prove to be annoying – the Sims 2 comes to mind – but the slower peaceful pieces prevent it from pounding on your eardrums.
Most recently, I have listened to the soundtrack whilst researching and it still provides some calming background music. It is, ironically, more widely available than the game these days as you can easily find it on both YouTube and Spotify.