4.02.2010

Number 1--Top Ten Game Soundtracks

This is it. The top of the list. The cream of the crop. The best video game soundtrack ever. And the winner is:




Number 1: Sonic 3 and Knuckles
Why? Two words: Michael Jackson. I kid you not. Back in the days when Sonic was a Sega Genesis mascot and schoolyard arguments over Sonic and Mario was all the rage, Sonic's design team had a tendency of hiring outside talent to compose their music, a practice that they still follow today. With the first two soundtracks, Sega hired a Japanese pop group known as "Dreams Come True" but when the third title rolled around, Dreams wanted what Sega thought was a bit too much money, and so they began searching for other composers who could match the catchy, upbeat style Sonic music aimed for. Enter Michael Jackson.

Turned out, the "King of Pop" as he is known was a Sonic fan and readily agreed to produce music for Sonic 3 and Knuckles along with Sega's sound division. The result is a toe-tapping, beat-hopping, mix-dropping blast of a soundtrack that remains one of the most popularly well known Sonic soundtracks to date. Jackson himself enjoyed some of the music so much that he later reused many of the same beat tracks in some of his own songs, such as "Stranger in Moscow". Interestingly enough, due to a few controversies that surrounded Michael Jackson near the end of his work on S3&K, Sega decided that his name would be risky in association with their product, and Jackson was credited under a nickname. It wasn't until a few years ago that it was confirmed that he had worked on the soundtrack at all, and up until that point all anyone had to go on was the nickname and the similarities between the soundtrack and Jackson's later music.

The one thing that really allowed this soundtrack to jump to the top was it's reception by non-gamers. I've seen other game soundtracks (especially 16-bit ones) face the dreaded label of "game music" and suffer withering retort. But whether it's the mix of beats, the simple quality or the catchy style, (take your pick) for some reason a lot of non-gamers seem to enjoy S3&K. One example that I remember in particular, happened years ago when I was in high school. In working on a school project, I had downloaded a copy of "Launch Base Zone" and left it on the computer when I was finished, forgetting about it. As was related to me later by another classmate, a group of students stumbled across it months later and proceeded to listen to it for about a half hour straight. For a 16-bit tune to hold that kind of attention takes some sort of special quality.

That said, I expect a lot of flak to come my way based on this decision. It's 16-bit. It's nostalgia based, it's fan-based, it's repetitive, its boring, its...well, you get the idea. I just have this to say. Of all the soundtracks I own (which is at least 40-50+) this is the one that gets played near the top most often and elicits the least "game music=weird" comments from non-gamers I know.

In other words, it's awesome. Number 1.

Number 1: Sonic 3 and Knuckles by Michael Jackson and other various artists
Number 2: Halo 3 by Martin O' Donnell and Michael Salvatori
Number 3: Chrono Trigger by Yasunori Mitsuda
Number 4: Command and Conquer by Frank Klepacki
Number 5: Halo 3: ODST by Martin O' Donnell and Michael Salvatori
Number 6: Halo 2 by Martin O' Donnell and Michael Salvatori
Number 7: Planetary Pieces: Sonic World Adventure by Various Composers
Number 8: Super Mario Galaxy by Mahito Yokota and Mahito Yokota
Number 9: Final Fantasy: The Crystal Chronicles by Kumi Tanioka
Number 10: Command and Conquer: Red Alert 2 by Frank Klepacki
And thus we reach the end of the countdown. Interested? Excited? Ready to join the line with pitchforks to stab at my twitching bleeding corpse because I omitted "insert name here's" soundtrack? Comment! Tomorrow we'll look at all of the feedback as well as refining the rules and submissions to improve next years. And take a look at what you think the top ten should have looked like, because I know there are many out there who disagree with this list. Just don't make me pull out the Gary Larsen feedback response.

3 comments:

Matthew said...

Was not expecting anything from MJ, though he WOULD be at the top of the list wouldn't he.

Anonymous said...

nice list, i knew you'd put some good sega in there. Definatly like the C&C in there as well

Time Enforcer Anubis said...

Michael Jackson...

I had absolutely no idea...

Certainly deserving of the number 1 spot, however.

Good choice, Sega.