10 Games That Should Have Got The Grammy For Best Soundtrack
Well, it's about time.
After years of only barely representing the worlds of interactive media, the prestigious Grammy Awards have finally paid their dues to the video game industry by introducing a brand-new category with them in mind.
The Best Score Soundtrack For Video Games And Other Interactive Media Award might be a bit of a mouthful, but it's an important and bold step towards the recognition of video game music for the layman beyond something that is merely supplementary to mindless shooters. It's clearly much more, and video games have produced some of the greatest musical achievements ever recorded - but the recognition is undoubtedly late.
2022 is much too late to identify that video game music is a truly fantastic way to enhance the medium, and now that the award is set for its first presentation at the next Grammys, there are swathes of breathtaking soundtracks that more than deserved a look-in when they launched.
Here are our picks for the video game scores and soundtracks that deserve to be commended for their contributions to the art form.
Though video game culture has equally hoisted Minecraft onto a grand pedestal and pointed fingers at it for being a game for children, the game is among the most creative innovations made in the interactive medium, and its music by C418 beautifully and seamlessly exemplifies this.
The soft piano chimes that play every so often when punching trees and dropping blocks spur a feeling of wonderment and quiet reflection, helping the game to become the relaxing beauty that it is. Minecraft's soundtrack embodies the spirit of adventure and the limitlessness of what lies before the player, and is without a doubt among the greatest soundtracks ever.
At this stage, NieR: Automata's soundtrack is probably the most pertinent thing about the JRPG. Though the game borrows from all different points of influence, creating a character-led narrative build on wild slashing attacks and bullet-hell dishing enemies. But, it's in the moments of quiet that Square Enix's masterpiece shines.
The choral cries of the game's score are a thing of sheer and pure beauty, supported by strings and soundscapes that make the landscape of the desolated earth feel desperately lonely. The music of NieR amounts to the cries of the lost souls left behind in its impact - and it makes for the most haunting scores you'll ever hear.
Jet Set Radio
Much like its skating-adjacent counterparts, Jet Set Radio is a game with a score that compels constant forward motion. But, rather than simply adopt Pop-Punk ragers and let Goldfinger do the talking for them, SEGA took to Hideki Naganuma to create the sonic environments of the game, and the result is something feverishly groovy.
The game's score blends a cranked BPM with slices of Funk, Jazz, Soul and EDM to create a cosmic gumbo that could make the most stoic of boring b*stards bust a move, and in a game that encourages frantic and enhanced movement, it all comes together like SEGA and Naganuma were made for each other.
There's a reason that Mick Gordon is a titan in the composing space. And that reason is DOOM.
Though the first game offered pummelling waves of riffs and breakdowns that truly brought out the sadist in its players, Gordon's work excels in the game's sequel; the introduction of Eternal's screeching, feral, industrial synths brings twisted modernity to the most simple of tasks - to kill, kill, kill.
The mix of the pounding Djent is crisp and fresh, yet monstrously bass-heavy, compelling bops so hard that your conservative, Christian grandmother would two-step into the pit so fast you'd think she was compelled by the spirit of Ronnie James Dio himself. It's argued that Gordon's work on DOOM Eternal is among the best in the Djent genre, let alone the video game music world. And it's hard to refute.
Super Mario 64
We couldn't get through this list without talking about Dire, Dire Docks, now, could we?
Of the incredible musical output of Mario's games, from the triumphant horns of Odyssey to the Marimba stylings of Sunshine, but let's be honest - there's only one GOAT for the plumber, and it's Super Mario 64.
The diverse musical creations of Bob-Omb Battlefield, Shifting Sand Land and Lethal Lava Land all perfectly exemplify their settings with a curiosity that sparks that love of adventure you'd look for if you were engaging with any 3D Mario title, let alone the first one ever. The tunes are infectious, iconic, and above all, bloody brilliant.
Now that we're in an age of gaming that fights for realism on all fronts, the use of chiptune is rarely seen unless with incredible purpose. And it just so happens that Undertale makes the best use of its chosen restrictions.
Using the most basic options that he gave himself, Toby Fox created some of the most illustrative music that video games have seen, with most tracks being turned into memes almost instantly, but are equally monstrous jams in their own right - Megalovania, Spider Dance, Dating Start - iconic and unbelievably catchy. Fox has created chiptune stompers that rival the classics, and more than deserve incredible recognition.
The Last of Us
The greatest thing about the score of The Last of Us is how much it feels like a character all by itself.
Led mostly by a mere acoustic guitar, the music of the post-apocalyptic world is lonely in a different way to NieR, as it echoes like the fragments of civilisation crying a final whimper of defiance.
The music of the masterpiece is a symbol of hope in the face of horror, and its sparing nature makes the game's moments of quiet feel as desolate as they come. Though the game's sequel made bold steps with integrating its characters well into its music too, the first game set an incredibly high bar that, for many, is yet to be topped.
If there's anything that Cuphead excels in, it's its presentation - and the music of the platformer does wonders for building this charming '50s-painted world. Its upbeat, scuttling Jazz makes the game feel frantic and scattershot, adding to the tension of toppling savage bosses along the way.
The aesthetics of Cuphead aren't held together by the game's art style alone, and the game's dedication to replicating the cartoons of old comes through in its big bands providing the whomps and whoops of the time that helps you get those baddies well and truly biffed.
Final Fantasy 7
I mean, come on.
Few character entrances are quite like Sephiroth's in Final Fantasy 7, and the rest of the score is just booming and imposing enough to make the adventure ahead of you feel incredibly daunting.
Though many die-hard fans weren't sure about it overall, if there's one thing we can say for sure, it's that the music of Final Fantasy 7 Remake takes what the first game offered and amps it up to 11, with a fiery intensity that's impossible to ignore. Fiery with determination and with gonzo dramatics, Final Fantasy VII brings the heat and doesn't let up.