Top of the Charts: The Best Songs of This Gaming Generation


Many are quick to call this current gaming generation the "Golden Age" of gaming. I am quick to agree. Gaming has never seen the kind of technological advances that the Xbox 360, PS3, and Wii have offered, no matter what aspect of the game you talk about (gameplay, graphics, etc.) Music, however, has probably received the biggest overhaul of them all. Gone are the days of chiptunes and beeps/boops. Now, full symphony orchestras provide the backdrop for your gaming pleasure. Of course, there are instances where the classic sound is revived, but for the most part gaming soundtracks are beginning to rival the Boston Pops.

What follows are my top 15 tracks based on what has come out so far. If I missed anything, feel free to let me know, as I’m always looking to enhance my gaming music library. 

FIRST: #15 through #11 ——–>


#15: The World Ends With You – Deja Vu


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J-Pop, easily one of the most polarizing music styles in the world. You either love it or it’s the most annoying thing you’ve ever heard. Square Enix had to know the risks of making the soundtrack to The World Ends With You all J-Pop, all the time, but with the game set in Shibuya, the choice makes sense. Those risks paid off, however, as the soundtrack is just as awesome as the game itself. This track is my favorite, maybe because it’s the most Western-sounding track in my opinion, but I love the driving beat in the back and the beautiful voice singing to me. Above all else, this is for a DS game, which makes it even more impressive.

#14: Hotel Dusk – Endless Road


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Another fantastic DS soundtrack, Hotel Dusk is a interactive mystery novel that easily is one of the best experiences on the DS. Twists, turns, and interrogations are abound, mixed with likable characters and an ending that I did not see coming. The soundtrack has a elevator-music feel to it, but there are some tracks tha stand out. This one, "Endless Road," is heard at the end of the game, whenever you strike up a conversation with someone as you’re heading out the door. It’s almost as if the game soothes with this melody, rewarding you for a job well done. I’ll certainly never forget it.


#13: Tekken 6 – Hidden Retreat


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This is the weirdest friggin’ song I’ve ever heard. Techno-yodel with a guitar accent. Not to mention it’s heard in a Tekken 6 stage surrounded by sheep who won’t stay the hell out of the battle, bouncing around the stage like beach balls as the warriors kick them while trying to kick each other. Despite its weirdness, though, I find myself really enjoying it. Maybe it’s because of its pure strangeness, I don’t know, but it’s a catchy tune.


#12: Assassin’s Creed II – Dream of Venice


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If I made a Top 10 Songs That Will Put You To Sleep, "Dream of Venice" here would be top 3, no question. Jesper Kyd was right on the money with this tune, a slow, melodic, soothing tune that sounds like it’s right out of a dream. Just as it’s about to lull you into sleep, the heavy violins toward the end make sure you remember exactly where you are: 15th-century Venice, where guards and Templars alike aren’t exactly happy with your presence. Of course, right after the heaviness, it goes right back to the soft operatic voices. There’s a lot going on here, but one can’t deny that it’s a highlight of an all-around stellar soundtrack.


#11: Super Smash Brothers Brawl – Mute City


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Remixes count, you know. Just because the song was originally from a past gaming era (in this case, 3 eras ago) doesn’t mean that a fresh take can’t be rewarded. I loved the Mute City track anyhow, the F-Zero X Guitar Arrange version also being awesome, but this version is perfect for the setting that it’s in: fast-paced fighting action. In a game full of classic songs remixed and remade, Mute City stands all above the rest in my eyes. Props to the Donkey Kong Country 2 Stickerbrush Symphony remake as well, that’s a close second.

NEXT UP: #6 THROUGH #10 —————->


#10: Phoenix Wright Trials and Tribulations – The Fragrance of Dark Coffee


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This song just oozes cool, which is perfect for the guy it represents. Godot is one cool customer, always keeping his head about him in the midts of legal warfare. Of course, his extra awareness could be due to the 17 cups of coffee he drinks during a trial. As he puts it himself: ”Blacker than a moonless night, hotter and more bitter than hell itself… that is coffee.” Easily my favorite of all the Ace Attorney characters, Godot’s theme fits the man: awesome.


#9: Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box – Folsense


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Another song that will make you fall asleep, "Folsense" is a great example of how a song can set up the entire scene. Folsense is a mysterious city, one that has not changed in 50 years. No building renovation, no new roads, nothing. It’s all the same as it was 50 years prior. This aura of mystery in kicked up a notch with the haunting piano strokes that follow Layton and Luke around the town as they try to solve the mystery of the Diabolical Box. It made me almost intimidated by what the town was hiding, and I made sure to be extra cautious throughout my time there. 


#8: Mass Effect 2 – The Illusive Man


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Speaking of "aura of mystery," who better to mention that the leader of Cerberus, The Illusive Man? This song creates a backdrop of mystery that is essential to the character. Easily the most interesting character in the Mass Effect universe (now that we know what the Shadow Broker is, of course), The Illusive Man seems to know everything at all times. He always has an answer, and he always seems like he has something up his sleeve. Can you blame him, though? He is fighting for the progession of the human race, leading his group with the interests of our kind in mind. I know there’s something going on that I don’t know about, but if his motives are true, then I can’t help but like him. Also, if Martin Sheen doesn’t win every award he can for his voice-work, I’ll eat my hat.


#7: Red Dead Redemption – Compass


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The soundtrack for Red Dead Redemption includes three vocal tracks along with the original score. "Far Away" follows John Marston into Mexico, conveying the despair of the moment to a T. "Deadman’s Gun" is one of the best credits theme I’ve ever heard, parlaying the gravity of the game’s ending perfectly. However, for my money, the best of the three is this, "Compass." If you listen to the lyrics and think about when exactly this song takes place in the game, that you’ll agree with me. It may be #7 on my list, but if this were a list of the best songs that set the mood for the scene, this would be #1 no question. Kudos to Jamie Lidell for the song and to the guys at Rockstar for their expert placement of it in their game.


#6: Phoenix Wright Ace Attorney – Cornered


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OBJECTION! There’s nothing like making a great logical point and backing your opponent into a corner in the courtroom. Well, that is, as long as there’s a kickass theme song to go along with it. I’ve felt no greater power in a game than when this song starts playing, because I know I just hit a nerve with the witness, possibly destroying the prosecution’s case in the process. I’m very glad I didn’t choose to be a lawyer, because I’d want to play this song every time I objected during a case. No judge would like me.



#5: Assassin’s Creed II – Earth


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I was trying my hardest to make it so that each of my 15 songs was from a different standalone game (mutiple games from one series was OK), but there’s no way I could deny Jesper Kyd his due with "Earth." Such an epic piece deserves all of the recognition it can get. After hearing it for the first time in the game, I was ready to take on the entirety of Italy by myself. Everything about it is excellent: the pace, the mixture of sounds, the vocals; all of it creates a tremendous sound that will pump any assassin up.


#4: Uncharted 2 Among Thieves – Nate’s Theme 2.0


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A good hero deserves a good theme song. Nathan Drake is certainly a great hero, and as such, his theme song is also great. This song promotes adventure; as I write this, I want to go out and find some treasure in some exotic locale. I don’t know what about this song makes it so heroic, but there’s no getting around the fact that this song was written with a champion in mind, and Nate Drake fits the bill. Brilliant.


#3: Metal Gear Solid 4 – Father and Son


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Perhaps my favorite scene in gaming is the Debriefing in Metal Gear Solid 4, known as "Naked Son." It’s as powerful as anything you’ll ever see in gaming, and it’s a fitting end to what many consider the best cinematic series in game history. At the very end of this scene, the aptly named "Father and Son" starts to play, and it’s here that one can relaly be engulfed in the emotion and the gravity of the moment. I was hooked from the first word Snake spoke to the last word of the other man in the scene, but at the end, when the other person passes away in front of us, and this song serves as the backdrop to his dying words…there’s nothing better. I hope that the Metal Gear Solid movie franchise becomes a reality, because the world needs to see this scene in action.


#2: Super Mario Galaxy 2 – Staff Roll


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On the previous page I said that "Deadman’s Gun" from Red Dead Redemption may be one of the best credits themes I’ve ever heard. The reason I used the phrase "one of the best" is right here. The entire soundtrack of both Mario Galaxy games is amazing, but this song right here almost brought a teat to my eye as I watched the credits roll. I wanted to traverse the galaxy again and retrieve every Power Star I could find. The beginning of the song is a cheery "you did it!" kind of song, but at the 1:56 mark, when the melody of the Sky Station Galaxy comes into the song, I can’t help but feel invigorated. What a terrific song from a terrific game. 





#1: Mass Effect – Vigil


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People who know me are feeling shortchanged right now. They know the love affair I have with this song. But really now, how can you deny such an epic tune? It may just seem like background synth and ambience, but it is quickly becoming the theme of the original Mass Effect. Go play Mass Effect 2 to the point where you run into Ashley Williams or Kaiden Alenko on Horizon, or play the Lair of the Shadow Broker DLC to the point where Liara visits you. What song is playing? That’s right, "Vigil." It’s the first thing you hear when you turn on the original game, and it is a perfect setting for what is about to unfold: an epic mission of survival spanning the entire galaxy. 


Like the list? Hate it? Wish I hadn’t missed a track? Let me know…as I said, I’m always looking for new music.

But no matter your opinion, don’t forget…

Keep listening. You’ll never know what you’ll miss if you don’t.


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Author: Jason Fanelli View all posts by
Jason lives and breathes gaming. Legend tells that he taught himself to read using Wheel of Fortune Family Edition on the NES. He's been covering this industry for three years, all with the Node, and you can see his ugly mug once a week on Hot Off The Grill.

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