I don’t work a desk job. That is to say, I work. I’m on my feet for about six to eight hours a day, five days a week. Since I started drinking the wearables kool-aid and began tracking my activity; I learned that I’m walking an average of 6.5 to 8 miles every day. Unlike your average millennial man-child, I don’t necessarily need music to get through my day, but it sure as shit makes the time pass faster when I get to be my own DJ. I infinitely prefer that option to being held hostage to a top 40 loop or pumped in Muzak. Its come to my attention that SOME people out there are spreading around their alternative facts version of the best video game soundtracks to listen to at work. These poor misguided fools seem to be under the false impression that work is a place to be relaxed and calm. We all know this is a fallacy of the highest order. Work is a high energy environment that requires us to wrap ourselves in fast paced music that keeps the mind sharp and the body ready to spring into action. Listening to OST lullabies while trying to be productive is ridiculous. What you want is a driving electronic beat or some sick guitar licks to make you forget about everything besides the task at hand and put you in a state of flow.
Before we get into the particulars let’s set some ground rules. First, no remixes, remasters, or remakes are allowed. If we tried to account for these then there wouldn’t be room for anything else besides OC remix or the Minibosses. Hell, Smash Bros Wii U alone contains remakes of a substantial portion of the greatest video game music ever made. Secondly, no soundtracks consisting of collected tracks from various bands. This could be a topic unto itself with notable call outs to the Tony Hawk franchise, DJ Hero, Need for Speed, and many more. Now that we’ve got that out of the way, here’s a proper list of the best video game music to make the 9-5 grind fly by.
I know, I know obvious choice, but it’s obvious for a reason. When it comes to 8 bit midi goodness few games match the blue bomber. What Capcom managed to squeeze out of the NES’s limited audio hardware into these games is nothing short of amazing. While the post NES Mega Man titles all had great tunes; nothing could be sweeter in my ears then the music from Mega Man 2 and 3.
The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
There is no question the Legend of Zelda series has incredible music. The composers at Nintendo are audio wizards. They weave distinct soundtracks for every Zelda game that both uniquely suit each individual game’s setting while simultaneously drawing on overarching musical themes present throughout the franchise. It’s witchcraft I say! Nonetheless, you would have to suffer from some kind of brain injury to think that any Zelda has a better collection of outstanding songs than Ocarina of Time. It set the bar for soundtracks on the N64 and represents a milestone for music in video games.
Nintendo makes its way onto a lot of my “best of” lists. I’m just a sucker for polish really. Easily distracted by shiny objects and the like. In Nintendo’s franchise crown, no gem sparkles brighter than the over the top audio and graphics in the main line Maro Kart titles. Mario Kart is Nintendo turned up to 11! It’s ultra saturated environments are dripping with personality and formatted into unique racing experiences indicative of each level’s respective setting. For example, the various “Mario Circuit” courses that are found in nearly every game in the series, epitomize everything about that generation’s Mario. The racetrack will have objects and colors found in the last mainstream Super Mario Bros and its music will follow suit. The Bowser’s Castle course is more “Bowsery” than any of his actual castles they are based on. I’m not exaggerating. Check out Bowser’s Castle on Mario Kart 8. Bowser literally has a giant stone golem of himself spewing lava and punching the entrances to his foyer, like a true pimp do. It’s this environment of Mario characters turned up to the umpteenth power that produces some, pardon the pun, driving tunes that will help you power slide through to lunch.
Notable Tracks from:
-Mario Kart Wii: Moo Moo Meadows
Surprise, surprise, Square Enix being recognized for their beautiful symphonic masterpieces. I’m sooooo surprised. Square Enix, or Squenix as I like to say, produces more quality video game music than nearly any other developer. I had recently overheard an escaped mental patient trying to make ludicrous claims about which songs off which games were the best to listen to at work. I can’t help but pity such a misguided soul for failing to see the truth we’ve always known. The pinnacle of audio in the Final Fantasy series is not associated with any specific level or character. No, the best song in every FF is the one you get to hear the most, the Battle Theme. As soon as that bass line starts thumping you know shits going down. Each generation’s battle theme is unique while still harking back to the proud lineage that spawned it. I defy you to listen to one of these and not be jazzed up for your next big meeting.
Indie One Shots
There’s no way I could possibly get through a list like this without slipping some sweet indie loving into the mix. These game developers lack the budget to produce the over the top orchestrated works of the big guys in the industry, but like with most great art, they create and innovate in response to their limitations. As a result we have most of the best chiptunes around coming out of the indie scene. Show some love to the up and comers by listening to these excellent OST’s.
There you go. Hopefully this article catches you before you fall asleep listening to the recommendations of some hooligan who couldn’t care less about your productivity. What do you think though? Any suggestions for upbeat OST’s I should check out? Do you prefer high energy music at work or do you want to nap away your day?