5. "The Starlit Wilds" - Shovel Knight (Wii U) - Jake Kaufman
I've written about how much I enjoyed last year's retro indie release Shovel Knight in my last list, so check that out for more on the game. I mentioned in that list how much I enjoyed the music in Shovel Knight, but there was always one song in particular that stood out above the rest.
"The Starlit Wilds" was the music that accompanied all of the campfire scenes in the game (you'll have to play it to know what I mean!) and every time I made it to one of those moments I would instantly relax and take in the pseudo 8-bit world of Shovel Knight. It's a really beautiful piece from Jake Kaufman aka virt. I'd never heard of his name before Shovel Knight, but he's been in the business since 2000's remake of Q*Bert.
I don't know if there are plans for a Shovel Knight sequel at Yacht Club Games, but I'd love more retro-inspired games with music from Mr. Kaufman!
4. "Colony 9/Night" - Xenoblade Chronicles (Wii) - Yoko Shimomura
Although I loved my Nintendo Wii from the moment I opened it back in 2006, nearing the end of its lifecycle the "Little System That Could" received some serious titles, and none so famous as Xenoblade Chronicles, which many can thank Project Rainfall for having released here in North America.
There is so much to love about Xenoblade Chronicles, but I think anyone playing it for the first time will be gripped by two things: the spanning, gorgeous landscapes and the beautiful orchestral soundtrack that accompanies them.
There are a great many tracks from composer Yoko Shimomura's Xenoblade Chronicles soundtrack that stick out in my mind, but none so beautiful as "Colony 9/Night". It's a moving, calming piece that I typically don't go through my workday without listening to at least once.
Yoko Shimomura has had a mind-blowing career, which includes creating music for such classics as Street Fighter II, Parasite Eve, and the Kingdom Hearts series, but make sure to do yourself a favour and listen to some of the tracks she composed for Xenoblade Chronicles.
3. "Conquest" - Fire Emblem Awakening (3DS) - Hiroki Morishita
Another game to knock my socks off in recent years was 2013's Fire Emblem Awakening on the Nintendo 3DS. I had only played one other Fire Emblem title many years previous on the Gameboy Advance and the time was nigh for a new tactical/strategy RPG experience.
The soundtrack for FE: Awakening has many stand-out titles to choose from, but the moment I heard "Conquest" by composer Hiroki Morishita - whom from what I can tell is a relatively new composer with a handful of Nintendo titles under his belt - I instantly had to search the song out and add it to my aforementioned video game music playlist. In fact, it is the first song I listen to from that playlist daily.
From what I can tell "Conquest" is only played when you take on random encounters with enemies and in some of the DLC battles from FE: Awakening. If you were to play the entire game only battling the story-required fights and didn't play any DLC you might never hear it, which would be a crying shame!
2. "On the Beach of Dreams (Another World)" - Chrono Cross (PSX) - Yasunori Mitsuda
The first time I played Chrono Cross was with a sense of trepidation. I had a great reverence for Chrono Trigger on the SNES and I knew that this game was not a direct sequel to that, but some sort of spiritual successor and I wasn't sure how to feel about that.
I remember that all those thoughts were dashed away in an instant the first time I booted up that game on my Sony Playstation. The music that plays in the intro of the game is called "Scars of Time" and you are instantly swept up in it. Created by Yasunori Mitsuda, composer of hit games like Xenogears and Chrono Trigger itself, "Scars of Time" takes you on an emotional roller coaster and coupled with the exciting video montage from the game I knew in a matter of moments that I was going to enjoy Chrono Cross.
And I'm not even here to talk about that song! It's far from mellow, but you should most definitely check it out.
It's been about 15 years since I've played Chrono Cross, and the details are a little hazy, but I believe "On the Beach of Dreams" is the main theme for the world map in Another World. If you want to know what I mean, you'll have to play the game!
It's an incredibly soothing piece comprised mostly of guitar and violin, but most definitely captures the feel and beauty of El Nido and the world of Chrono Cross.
1. "Aquatic Ambiance" - Donkey Kong Country (SNES) - David Wise
There are a lot of songs from video games that hold a very dear place in my heart, but I don't know if any hold a candle to "Aquatic Ambiance". The instant I hear it I'm drawn back to another time and place; to my Mom and Dad's house in 1994, a cold, wintry setting outside, the houses on the street lit up with Christmas lights, and my little sister and I warm in my bedroom wiling away the evening playing Donkey Kong Country on my Super Nintendo.
The soundtrack to DKC, by composer David Wise, stood out for me as something I'd never heard before in a video game. He so perfectly captured each setting in the game with a different theme; in the mines everything is industrial, in the cold, mountain settings the music is desolate and foreboding, and in the underwater, swimming stages you have "Aquatic Ambiance", which perfectly captures the quiet of the deeps and its constant ebb and flow.
I have such an attachment to this song that I can often have different reactions upon hearing it, depending on my mood. I listen to it almost every day while I work and it has an instant calming effect, but also some times it can play on my nostalgia and make me very homesick for those old days back at my Mom and Dad's without a care in the world.