What are the best and most popular MMO theme songs of all time? A couple of weeks ago I posed this question to the Massively OP community and encouraged fans to submit their own list of music themes in response. We saw a healthy amount of email votes and comment nominations since then, and I was able to compile a nice list of the top 24 MMORPG themes from it.
There were several surprises, at least to me, in the final results. I thought some games would’ve gotten more nods, while others seemed to come out of nowhere to demand a spot on the list. Each of the themes on this list was put out there by at least two fans, which is why we’re going to start with number 24. I’m thinking we might have an honorable mentions column as a post-script, but we’ll see how it goes.
Today we will begin our countdown to number one, looking at your favorite MMO themes with my own take on each. Let’s get started!
On a couple of past occasions, I’ve amused myself by posting countdown lists of my favorite MMORPG theme songs in this column. I was coming back around to the notion of doing that again when I decided that I should flip things over and have the readers create the countdown instead of me. After all, everyone seems to have an opinion as to which are the best MMO themes out there any time we’ve ever posted a Daily Grind about it, so why not hash it out?
So here’s the plan: Over the next two weeks, I will be accepting your votes for favorite MMORPG themes. I’ll then compile them and create a countdown list based on the most popular ones mentioned, which will be posted in upcoming Jukebox Heroes. If you ever thought that a particular theme didn’t get enough credit or simply want to share the theme tracks that get you revved up or make you nostalgic, here’s your chance!
Let’s go over some ground rules after the jump and then get to voting!
I have a confession to make: I was fairly underwhelmed by the original soundtrack release for Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic
Sure, it did the job, hit some of those familiar Star Wars notes, and slathered the myriad of game worlds in music, but I found it either too weird (the cantina tunes, mostly) or too long and bombastic to enjoy. Wasn’t the worst I’d ever heard, but certainly not near what I would expect from a game bearing the Star Wars moniker.
Yet while I wasn’t looking, BioWare has produced some incredible musical chops for the past two expansions. My mouth was often agape when I was listening to Knights of the Fallen Empire and Knights of the Eternal Throne, because I kept thinking, “What is this! What is this! This is the soundtrack this game deserved all along!” It was quite the pleasant surprise, let me just say, and today I’m going to share some of my favorite pieces from these recent expansions with you.
I am of the opinion that there is something special and magical about getting to experience music in person, especially so when it is a large orchestra performing some of my favorite pieces of game soundtracks. I loved seeing Video Games Live several years back and felt happy at the time at seeing two of my interests meet together and earn some legitimacy as an artistic performance.
We can’t always be there to see such performances, of course, but a nice consolation prize for those wanting to simulate the experience is to watch musicians and composers filmed while they do their work. It adds another layer of appreciation and can even cause you to look at a piece in a whole new way, even if you had heard it a hundred times before.
Today let’s check out some live performances of MMO scores and see if we can’t get any goosebumps going!
For an avid fan of video game soundtracks, and of MMO soundtracks in particular, the most frustrating aspect of collecting and listening to these scores is how shabbily the OST is often treated. For every game like World of Warcraft or Aion that gives great respect to its music by creating and selling albums, there are two or three titles that have never seen a single official release at all.
This is such a shame and an aggravation that I need to call some of these titles out this week. I need to wag my fanboy finger in their direction and ask, “What gives?” There’s so much great music that is put into these ever-expanding games… and the fact that only a fraction of it is ever made widely available to the public to purchase and enjoy outside of the game is a loss (moreso if the game shuts down). I can only imagine how frustrating it is for the composers to see their work bottled up in a product that might go offline forever at any time.
Here are six such MMOs that drive me nuts every time I think about how awesome it would be if their studios would ever consent to an official soundtrack release.
I absolutely adore Christmas music — in moderation and in season. I keep to strict personal rules not to listen to it before Black Friday or after New Year’s Eve, which for me keeps it special and doesn’t overstay its welcome. There’s just a sound about Christmas music, both religious and secular, that is so happy, hopeful, and unique. It brings out so many great emotions and coats the holiday season in an extra layer of musical joy.
As we downshift for the holiday season, taking a break from the routine to spend some extra time with friends and family, I want to give you the gift of a half-dozen MMORPG tunes that embrace the Christmas music genre. Some are new, some are traditional, and some are just plain weird.
If you’ve listened to Frank Sinatra and the Beach Boys one too many time this season already, here’s something different that ties together your love of gaming with the holidays.
With all of the award madness going on at Massively OP this month, it’s the perfect time to unveil the 2016 Online VGM Awards! It’s been a great year of soundtracks from our favorite MMOs, and since I have the opportunity to singlehandedly dish out any awards I like in this column, I wanted to give some honor to terrific composers and tunes that we got to listen to this year.
As with last year’s awards, I’ll be fashioning each category and selecting a winner. Some of the categories are 2016-specific, while others have more flexibility to stretch beyond this calendar year. Unlike last year’s awards, this round will have categories that are more universal and can be carried forward in future years.
So who won? We’ve got six categories to go through, including best MMO soundtrack of 2016 and composer of the year, so let’s get started!
One of the most common questions that I’m asked from my adoring throngs on the street is, “Justin, where oh where can I get some of these marvelous MMO soundtracks that you talk about all of the time?” OK, that just never happens (on the street, that is), but people are often curious how they can go about starting to amass an MMO soundtrack collection or where to find their favorite album.
The sad truth is that so much music from these games is never officially released in any capacity, which is why I scour YouTube for fan rips of the music files. However, every so often I do discover a studio release somewhere, and I try to keep an up-to-date log on these to help others in their quest for video game scores.
So in the spirit of Christmas and sharing, today I’m going to show you how you can get your ears on more than 120 soundtracks and scores from MMOs, MOBAs, and other online titles — some of which are free and legal for the taking. You’re welcome; don’t mention it!
In my years of coverage of MMO soundtrack music in this column and on Battle Bards, I’ve clearly observed that there are games that are well-known and admired for their music. Most often, these are from popular MMORPGs — your World of Warcrafts, your Guild Wars 2s, and so on. Popular game plus good music equals widespread recognition.
Yet as I’ve pointed out in the past, there are plenty of terrific scores and individual music tracks from lesser-known MMO soundtracks that don’t get the attention they deserve, usually because of a fan’s unfamiliarity with a title. That’s not your fault; few people are as crazy as me when it comes to trying to track down MMO tunes and building a comprehensive library. It’s only slightly frustrating to see these game scores go overlooked because nobody really thought to listen to them in the first place.
So I’m viewing today’s column as an exercise in education, to share what I’ve learned in my journeys and discoveries of MMORPG soundtracks. I present here for your listening pleasure six pretty great tunes from MMOs you’ve probably never played.
You simply can’t have a good and proper Halloween without a perfect soundtrack to back you up. Sure, you could just pop in one of those tired old sound effects cassette tapes (kids: ask your history teacher what cassette tapes are) and call it a day. Me? I prefer some genuinely atmospheric tunes straight from the games I love.
Today I’m going to put together a mix tape for your darkest dreams and your silliest spooks. It’s Halloween, done MMO-style, and the only way to get to the dawn is to dive deep into the terrors of the night with gleeful abandon. Take my hand and walk with me, and don’t worry if you start hearing voices murmuring just behind your left ear. That means they like you.
If you were ever to go to Vegas and place a bet that I would one day become a dedicated, passionate MOBA player, any bookie would probably give you 1:6,000,000,000 odds against. So go ahead and take that bet because if aliens scramble my brain and I start drooling over League of Legends, then you’re going to be richer than kings.
This is to say that, no, I’m not much of a MOBA player, fan, or even spectator. But when it comes to music, I’m always an equal-opportunity listener. And there’s some pretty great stuff out there for these PvP games, although I have to wonder if it can be heard over the frothing rage and screamed insults. One does hope.
Today I’m going to take a tour through MOBAs, both present and past, and pull out some of my favorite tracks to share with you. Then I’m going to go feed the enemy, whatever that may be, because it seems to tick off my team.
For soundtrack junkies such as myself, the release of a new World of Warcraft expansion is always extra-special for reasons that go beyond mere gameplay. Blizzard is always incredibly faithful in treating its music as an integral part of the game and releasing an official album that contains at least some of the score. Legion, of course, is no different in these respects.
Having listened through the entirety of the expansion’s score over the course of a weekend, I’ve come to the conclusion that it is an above-average entry into the WoW musical canon. There is a lot of forgettable filler, some incredibly long suites, and a few entries that will no doubt be remembered fondly when the community has had its fill of Legion.
Today I want to share with you six picks of what I think are the best of Legion’s score. Very little of it is brash action or hummable tunes, but instead these tracks exude a special kind of beauty that pairs well with the visual art of the game.
I can’t tell you how good it does my soul to see that WildStar has finally released an official soundtrack — two, in fact, with the hope of more to come. Fans of the score (and we are an army of rabid music evangelists) have been chanting at Carbine to make this a real thing since day one of the MMO’s launch. I won’t say that the music is the best part about WildStar, but it definitely is one of the key elements that makes it incredibly special.
Jeff Kurtenacker’s score deserves all of the praise that’s been heaped on it for delivering a rich, exciting, and incredibly memorable audio experience. There are recognizable themes all over the place, catchy riffs, electric Western twangs, crazy ditties, and even a somber hymn tucked away in there.
Picking out my six favorite tracks is one of the hardest things I’ve had to do this week, but I’m game for the challenge, especially when it means that I get to gab about this score more on this site. Here’s what I ended up choosing.