The point of this discussion is very simple, to raise awareness that music in games has been going downhill for a while now. I will use examples from different eras of gaming. NES, SNES, N64, PS1 and obviously the PC.
I will make comparisons to more modern games music but I will discuss about that at the end, first I will make examples that will help me to make my point.
Now now, I took only a very few examples of the biggest titles on these systems and you will see my point at the end.
Super Mario Bros. theme song is said to be the most recognizable gaming song of all time, the Nintendo Entertainment System was a powerhouse of its time but…yeah, anyway! The Super Mario games had very catchy tunes for one simple reason, the NES could only handle MIDI music. MIDI music on these great NES games were made in the manner of real instruments but they were transformed into these MIDI songs so they could be in the game.
Many of these MIDI songs are legendary, like Castlevanias theme song Vampire Killer. But if we don’t count the songs of Mario almost the biggest one has to be Megaman, seriously, how many remixes have you seen of Megaman II’s Doctor Wily Stage?
Huge credits go to the people who made these songs but the bigger one goes to the people who actually transformed those tunes into the great MIDI tunes we know today.
I want to mention Mario again but you all know the famous Super Mario World Overworld theme so let’s move onto a bigger platformer.
Donkey Kong Country, one of the biggest trilogies of its era, the biggest on SNES. Great games and amazing music, but some of you new comers to gaming might be wondering. Doesn’t SNES also use the primitive MIDI music like its predecessor? No, the SNES is able to play actual music, not at the quality of our HD systems but still. But the SNES had a big difference in its music from its competition, the Sega Genesis. Genesis focused more on Rock and fast music and so Nintendo made it so that they should outshine the Genesis on the sound department, the Genesis’s games soundtracks are mainly Rock or otherwise simple but fast track, because that’s what the Genesis does the best Nintendo decided to up the ante and made it so that the SNES could play orchestrated music and tons and tons of other instruments from different genres at great quality.
Let’s get back to Donkey Kong Country thou, the entire trilogy doesn’t have a single bad song. All the songs are almost completely different genres, many believe that Diddy’s Conquest is the highlight of the soundtracks of the trilogy. Seriously, go listen to the entire soundtracks of all the 3 games. They vary extremely well and they are very good, like extremely good.
Oh my freaking god, Conker’s Bad Fur Day has one of THE best soundtracks on the entirety of Nintendo 64. The entire soundtrack goes from country to blues to orchestrated glory, same goes for the 2 Banjo Kazooie games. The soundtracks are just pure gold, they’re catchy, they’re epic, they’re fun, they’re happy, they’re sad and even fear installing.
The Playstation 1 had many, many great games. Too many to name, but the PS1 has many great soundtracks on it. Croc, Resident Evil, Metal Gear Solid, Oddworld, Spyro, Crash Bandicoot, Rayman, Tomb Raider and Klonoa to name a few.
All of these games had very varied soundtracks and for the most part they were amazing, Resident Evil is a terrifying soundtrack while Crash Bandicoot hits it up with happy tunes.
DOOM is one of the biggest things that comes to mind when PC game music is mentioned, even thou the remakes of the songs on Brutal DOOM kick everyone’s asses it still proves the point, Metal is awesome and it’s pure epicness when it’s done right.
Duke Nukem 3D is also a prime example, freaking Mega Deth made a cover of his theme song, and it is one of my favorite tracks of all time.
Not to mention the orchestrated genius that is the Total War franchise soundtracks, or the score of Medal of Honor Allied Assault or even the absolute glory that is the soundtrack of Knights of The Old Republic.
The big point I want to make is that new game music is awful. That’s literally the only reason why retro music has become popular. It’s the same reason retro games in general have become popular, because much of the mainstream games are just milking the cash cow.
Like PAYDAY 2, it’s a game that I play from time to time but the ENTIRE soundtrack is just awful. I know literally 2 tracks from the entire thing which aren’t crap. Why do I say it’s awful? Because it is, it’s a perfect example on how the fake music era of today has affected our gaming industry, in a very, very negative way.
Do you know what music is defined by? Music is defined by making sounds with objects, like rocks, instruments of the stone age. Today… Ugh, anyone can become famous as actual talent and effort is a thing of the past. Prime examples, Justin Beiber, Skrillex and such.
Remixes aren’t really helping either, to be fair there are some epic ones like Trainer Red Fight Theme Epic Orchestrated Remix and tons of more like Champion Lance’s Metal Remix. But the likes of YouTube are plagued by horrible, horrible dubstep “remixes” and like.
Video game music can be remade with epicness but most of the time untalented attention beggars tend to get popular with the intelligence impaired audience which is most of the planet.
This leaves me to my final note, the dying music industry has now plagued the video game industry and we as gamers and especially the likes of me, Game Designers must fight this plague with everything we possibly can muster.