Friday, December 20, 2013

Top Ten Franchises With Consistently Superb Soundtracks

To end the work week leading up to the last weekend before Christmas, SuperPhillip Central has a new top ten list to share with our readers and any passersby. Video game music is something we adore-- we listen to it outside of games, we even have our own list of favorite VGM that we add to every Monday. Today's top ten list is all about game series with soundtracks that are consistently excellent and of the utmost quality. Do you think you can guess what some of the franchises will be without looking? After you've combed through our list, feel free to list some of your own favorites!

10) Donkey Kong

Donkey Kong is one of gaming's oldest mascots, so he has a lot of history to him. From the humble chiptune theme from the arcade game to his rebirth as a platforming hero in Donkey Kong Country, Donkey Kong has seen a lot of action over the years, and he's had a whole heaping of great soundtracks. The most obvious of these is the Donkey Kong Country trilogy. Then there's Donkey Kong 64, though this soundtrack is more akin to Banjo-Kazooie than the SNES trilogy, and there's Donkey Kong: Jungle Beat, a game whose composer would go on to score the Super Mario Galaxy games. There's no doubt that Nintendo's main monkey has earned himself a spot on our list.

9) Kirby

Masahiro Sakurai's creation is number nine on our countdown. The pink puffball has starred in so many games across so many genres, across so many systems, across so many console generations. With his debut in Kirby's Dream Land on Game Boy, many recurring themes were born that have continued to be heard throughout the franchise's life. Through Kirby's Adventure, various spin-offs like Block Land and Air Ride, games on both consoles (Super Star, Dream Land 3, Kirby 64, Return to Dream Land) and handhelds (Dream Land 2, Amazing Mirror, Canvas Curse, Mass Attack), the series has held a high standard for its cute and whimsical music.

8) Pokemon

Is the fad over yet? Just kidding, fellow Pokemaniacs! Our pick for number eight on our list is the ever popular and ever addicting Pokemon series. Sure, the craving to catch them all is always there, but we also get the craving to sit still and listen to each game's wonderfully done music. While the formula was getting a bit stale, the music has always been consistent in its quality. We remember listening to the sounds coming out of our Game Boy speakers with Viridian City playing in the background. Ah, childhood...

7) Castlevania

Whether playing as a Belmont, Soma Cruz, or Alucard, you know your vampire slaying will not go without awesome music to accompany you. Castlevania is a series heralded for its catchy music, whether heard in the NES trilogy, Super Castlevania IV, or the various games directed or assisted in the creation of by Koji Igarashi. Even the Western reboot has themes that are quite good, though to be honest they aren't anywhere near the quality of their Japanese superiors.

6) Ys

Ys is a series that has been around the block more times than we can count. However, its gameplay continues to amaze and engage, and its various sequels add to the series' lore on a constant basis. One factor of Ys that we probably don't even have to spell out to most familiar with the franchise is the music. From its classic tunes by famous video game music composer Yuzo Koshiro, to its more modern rock arrangements, the Ys series is one of the role-playing franchises with the greatest soundtracks.

5) Sonic the Hedgehog

Outside of some errant games with less than stellar soundtracks (we're looking at you, Sonic Chronicles), the Sonic the Hedgehog series has had a myriad of magnificent soundtracks. Whether you're into orchestral music, cheesy rock music, old school 16-bit sounds, rap, jazz, vocal, whatever-- there's probably a Sonic the Hedgehog soundtrack for you. From Masato Nakamura's original Sonic the Hedgehog soundtrack to current day Sonic with the music of Sonic Colors and Lost World, the series continues with its phenomenally well composed and performed music.

4) Mega Man

For a character who has been through many incarnations with numerous sequels attached to his name, it's astounding to us that the majority of Mega Man series soundtracks are so well done and engaging to listen to. Whether it's classic Mega Man, Mega Man X, Mega Man Legends, Mega Man Zero, Mega Man Battle Network, Mega Man ZX, or Mega Man Star Force, the music of the series maintains its abundant quality. Just have a listen to our selection of Mega Man tunes. So when is Mega Man going to get a new game on consoles or handhelds? ...*sob*

3) Mario

When we say Mario, we're talking about the main Super Mario series. No spin-offs, so that excludes all of the sports games, dance games, RPGs, etc. Still with the music being chosen from the mainline games, there is a lot to experience and enjoy here. Even New Super Mario Bros. has well composed music, despite not having the best sounding instrumentation. Regardless, who can resist one of the most recognizable themes of gaming with the main theme of Super Mario Bros., the orchestral magic of the Super Mario Galaxy games, and Koji Kondo's magnificence in creating the majority of the Super Mario World soundtrack through using the same theme only in different keys, tempos, and time signatures?

2) The Legend of Zelda

A series known for its famous main theme, The Legend of Zelda series features many other recurring themes such as Zelda's Lullaby, the theme played when selecting a file, Hyrule Castle, Kakariko Village, among others. Dating back to the original NES hit, moving from there to its black sheep sequel, then the blueprint for which all 2D Zelda games are measured with A Link to the Past, the 3D Zelda games with Ocarina of Time, Majora's Mask, Wind Waker, Twilight Princess, and Skyward Sword, the music in the series is always sensational. While veteran Nintendo composer Koji Kondo might not compose much for later Zeldas, his influence and direction is still followed to this day, making The Legend of Zelda franchise an easy pick for number two on our list.

1) Final Fantasy

For our number one pick, it's really difficult to even come up with a poor soundtrack from all of the various Final Fantasy spin-offs and mainline games that have come out over the span of 25+ years. From the series' humble beginnings on the NES/Famicom to its debut on the PlayStation, to music heard in the present, Final Fantasy games may not have consistent quality, but the music is second to none. Besides the obvious picks of Nobuo Uematsu's numerous rightfully heralded works, there's Hitoshi Sakimoto's splendid Final Fantasy Tactics scores, Kumi Tanioka's fabulous worldly Crystal Chronicles score, Masashi Hamauzu's fantastic Final Fantasy XIII score, and so much more. It is with these reasons that SuperPhillip Central picks the Final Fantasy franchise as the series with the most consistently awesome music.

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