MOP’s Justin Olivetti created the music-centered Jukebox Heroes column back on Massively-that-was and brought it along to us here, and to this day it’s one of my favorites. It’s also one of our most contentious, which might seem weird since it covers not pay-to-win or crowdfunding or internet warlords but… music. Video game music. It turns out that you folks have incredibly strong opinions about your video game music, and not a top 10 list of tracks goes by when Justin isn’t barraged with “you forgot X” and “why isn’t Y on this list” and “obviously bias, doesn’t include X” commentary.
So for this week’s Massively Overthinking, we’re turning the whole team’s attention to video game music — specifically, MMORPG soundtracks and individual pieces. Which ones are our very favorites? Which ones do we keep on listening to long after we’ve left the games? We’re confident you’ll populate the comments with everything we’re missing!
Andrew Ross (@dengarsw): Asheron’s Call’s Excalibur still stands out to me, but that was never in the game, just videos.
I remember AC2 and Horizons/Istaria had some memorable trackstoo!
Brianna Royce (@nbrianna, blog): You’d probably think I’d go nuts for Star Wars Galaxies or Guild Wars 2 for this Overthinking, but nope! I do listen to those a lot — specifically while not gaming — but my tippy-top favorites are a bit different. I am a rabid Jeremy Soule fan, especially of his work in the mid-aughts. So my first pick is Guild Wars: Factions’ soundtrack, which is a gorgeous blend of cultures and not coincidentally sounds a lot like Morrowind’s soundtrack, to the point that I often have to double-check which soundtrack I’m listening to.
Prophecies is another favorite (and in fact my favorite Guild Wars 2 music is actually Prophecies tunes!), though I’m not much a fan of Nightfall’s and Eye of the North’s tracks.
I also find myself listening to Ultima Online’s music because it’s so nostalgic to me. I still have the original midis, but since the remastered versions are more easily accessible on YouTube, I listen to them more. Favorites? Samlethe, Linelle, and Forest. They remind me of UO, yes, but also of that whole era of gaming, and I adore being transported.
Eliot Lefebvre (@Eliot_Lefebvre, blog): First of all, I have to break with tradition; I actually vastly prefer the City of Heroes Freedom theme to the original theme tune from the game. It feels more hopeful and epic to me, more fitting for a superhero game. I still listen to it a bunch.
Final Fantasy XIV’s soundtrack has a huge number of things on it that I love; Soken’s work draws in a lot of influences, and the result is a game that both feels cohesive and diverse at the same time. I currently have The Mushroomery playing in my main character’s house in-game, as a lovely nod to the past while being beautiful ambient music on its own.
World of Warcraft also has a number of tracks that are astonishingly evocative and moving. I usually harp on the Darnassus track as a great one, even though I don’t actually care for Darnassus much; it feels epic, exotic, and large.
And of course, I have to give a nod to the Final Fantasy XI soundtrack. Again, there are lots of wonderful tracks, but Bustle of the Capital is still charming for its setting and just the sheer energy in its progression.
Justin Olivetti (@Sypster, blog): Obviously I have strong feelings about soundtracks and have made my opinions known on the site, but I’ll highlight a few of my favorites. The WildStar soundtrack is an amazing work of art covering many musical genres and should be listened by all.
I have always been in love with Lord of the Rings Online’s soundtrack, especially its earlier stuff with more acoustic instruments and an older, more worldly sound.
And I think that RuneScape deserves a mention for an incredibly large, incredibly diverse soundtrack that includes practically everything — including sea shanties.
Larry Everett (@Shaddoe, blog): It would be completely wrong of me to not mention some of my favorite music is clearly in Star Wars: The Old Republic. Composers Mark Griskey, Wilbert Roget II, Gordy Haab, and Lennie Moore did a fantastic job of capturing the Star Wars feel but at the same time not ripping directly from the John Williams score. A good one to listen to that I think exemplifies this melding of the original score and new flavor is the Mandalorian Blockade track that SWTOR released a few months before the game launched:
However, I think some of the best music in MMOs right now is The Elder Scrolls Online. Its main theme by Jeremy Soule called For Blood, for Glory, for Honor is just amazing and really gets me in the mood to do something epic in the land of Tamriel.
Elder Scrolls Online also has something else that no other MMORPG has: Malukah. That’s the YouTube handle of singer and songwriter Judith de los Santos. And her amazingly haunting voice can be heard actually in the game in taverns singing while playing the lute. Here is a sample of her in-game and one of her video singing an ESO song.
MJ Guthrie (@MJ_Guthrie, blog): I don’t know that I have favorites; I just tend to enjoy good music. And I am sure to be leaving off a multitude of incredible tracks simply because my mind wont recall of of them right at this instant. That said, one thing that comes to mind is the LOTRO soundtrack. I can’t even pinpoint why, except that it just transports me into the world. I am also partial to some of Aion’s music. I love when lilting voices blend with instruments to make ethereal (or, in this case, aethereal!) music. One such piece is Song of Moonlight.
There are other pieces I love listening to as well if you want to go through the entire soundtrack. And speaking of the lilting mix of voice and instruments, I have to add in this piece from Warframe. At TennoCon I sat in the beanbag chair and just listened to this replay a few times.
Another track that I enjoy (minus the first one featured upon log in) is from Black Desert. There is quite a mixture of tempos and feelings and a liberal use of woodwinds, which I love.
Now if you want to talk about being the most powerful and evoking the most nostalgia, that goes to the Star Wars Galaxies soundtrack. In only a couple bars I am always hit with a flood of emotions and my heart yearns to be transported back into that world. Good times!