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The Musical Box #25: Best soundtracks of the 7th generation

The Musical Box features 30 articles focusing on game music production and implementation.

(This article was originally published on December 4th, 2013).

Now that the eight generation is right around the corner, it's time to celebrate the beautiful music that was created in the last generation. If you read edition number 20, you already know that melodies, along with a coherent musical structure, are the foundation for creating memorable music. Music with strong melodies gets stuck in your head. Forever. The 4 soundtracks below are my personal favorites from the 7th generation.

04 - The world ends with you - Nintendo DS

Featuring a healthy mix of electronica, J-pop, J-rock, and hip-hop, this game will captivate the ears and minds of those eager to experience something new in the J-RPG genre. This game's soundtrack is very catchy, melodic, and radically different from almost everything you have ever heard in a videogame. The game itself is also pretty good and was featured on The musical Box #6, just because of its uniqueness.

Standout track: Calling

03 - Scott Pilgrim vs. the World: The Game

The soundtrack of this game was created by Anamanaguchi, a very cool band from New York. This is simply the best use of chiptune/old school synthesized sounds I've heard in a videogame. Even though they use a lot of old consoles such as NES and Gameboy to create their sound palette, the result is very modern and pleasant, and the songs are really well written. This is not pure chipmusic, it's a blend of different musical genres (mostly rock) with the addition of layers of synthesized sounds. The result is astonishing, to say the least.

Standout track: Another Winter

02 - Super Mario Galaxy

The Mario franchise has been known for its memorable soundtracks since the NES era, but Nintendo really raised the bar with the soundtrack for Super Mario Galaxy. For the first time ever, they recorded tracks with a live orchestra and the result is music with warmth and depth that you simply can't find in samples. Not only is the sonic quality excellent, the tracks are delicate, intense, powerful, melodic, unique, and, of course, nostalgic.

Super Mario Galaxy also features some of the best cases of dynamic music implementation from this generation. Check them out on The Musical Box #2.

Standout track: Wind Garden ~ Gusty Garden Galaxy Theme

01 - Final Fantasy XIII

It's safe to say that the Final Fantasy series is the basis of this "genre" we call videogame music. Since the early NES games, you can find almost all music genres in those games: classical, electronica, jazz, rock and even the Brazilian bossa nova. Final Fantasy XIII isn't a bad game, but was very criticized for its linearity. This is simply not the case regarding the soundtrack. The tunes in the behemoth 4-disc compilation are diverse, powerful, extremely memorable, and some songs are very modern and avant-garde such as "The Hanging Edge". The composers from Square Enix also created different arrangements for one of the main themes of this game "Blinded by Light", a technique very popular in movie soundtracks, but not very common in videogames.

Standout tracks: The Hanging Edge

Blinded by Light

Honourable mentions:
Mass Effect
Ni No Kuni

To make this post even more appealing, I asked some fellow bloggers about their favorite soundtracks of this generation. Here’s what they had to say:

Alexei Barros - http://hadouken.wordpress.com/

This generation was marked by the supremacy of soundtracks inspired by films here in the western world. This is the result of a closer relationship between the language of movie and games; furthermore, film composers have started to produce music for games such as the Argentinean Gustavo Santaolalla who worked on The Last of Us.

So, when Nintendo created a melodic, inventive and orchestrated soundtrack such as the one in Super Mario Galaxy 2, in this scenario dominated by the western ambient music of movies, it was all the more special.

Made up of freelance musicians, the Mario Galaxy Orchestra recorded the songs for the game. The orchestra had 60 people, ten more than they had previously for Super Mario Galaxy 1. In addition, the orchestra received the reinforcement of saxophonists to enhance the big band sound and accompany the arrival of Yoshi, a character who needed more jovial and cheerful tracks.

The composition that best represents these emotions is “Yoster”, created by Koji Kondo. This piece is filled with brilliant saxophone and percussion elements that harken back to the days of Super Mario World. Mahito Yokota, who had collaborated with Kondo in the first Super Mario Galaxy, returned much more inspired with pearls of majestic symphony such as "Sky Island".

The biggest surprise for me was the participation of newcomer, Ryo Nagamatsu. He’s the living proof that Japan still creates great talent for game music. "Square Timber" is an impressive and creative track, which perfectly combines the space theme of the game with country music--And I don’t even like country music! Nagamatsu also attacked with the pompous and surprising "Fateful Decisive Battle" using the choir with astonishing elegance. With so many good examples, it’s very easy to say that the soundtrack for Super Mario Galaxy 2 is my favorite of this generation.

"Sky Island"

"Yoster"

"Square Timber"

"Fateful Decisive Battle"

Fernando Secco – www.thepodquest.com

The landscape in Fallout 3 is deserted, decaying and full of mutants. In this world, you can’t trust anyone. There are two radio stations where TriDog and the president talk about historical facts, recent news and divulge information on new missions.

TriDog’s radio station specializes in music from the 50’s, and the main themes gravitate towards progress, happiness and the obligatory political propaganda. If you choose the president’s station, you’ll spend the whole day listening to marching bands.

The player can freely select the radio station they wish to hear, depending on the moment of the game and also gameplay preferences.

It’s contradictory and unexpected to listen to happy songs when the scenario is clearly the opposite. Destroyed cities, burned bodies and biochemical pollution are the norm here, and the happy musical themes are just there to try to mask this decrepit reality. This musical approach really impressed me and that’s why I considered Fallout 3 the best game soundtrack of this generation.

"I don't want to set the World on Fire"

"Civilisation (Bingo Bango Bongo)"

"Way Back Home"

"Easy Living"

What about you? What's your favorite soundtrack from the 7th generation of consoles?

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