Apple Music launched a few days ago, offering unlimited streaming music for a monthly fee and in the process completely breaking boundaries by doing something nobody’s ever done before, certainly not Spotify or Pandora or any of those pricks.
In order to show their new service is the real deal, Apple is currently offering everyone with an iOS device or iTunes three months of Apple Music completely free.
So, in order to help game-loving folks get the most out of the trial period, I’ve put together a little playlist featuring my favourite video game music available on Apple Music.
Here’s the link:
Annoyingly, the playlist URLs don’t seem to be working properly on desktops yet – click the link on a PC or Mac and you’ll merely be taken to a page asking you to download iTunes, even if you already have it.
As such, you can only access the playlist from an iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch with the latest iOS version (and therefore Apple Music) installed. Once you access it there though, you can click the little ‘+’ icon at the top to add it to your ‘My Music’ database, thereby making the playlist available for streaming on the desktop version of iTunes too. Typical Apple, eh?
Some brief notes on the playlist:
• Please don’t ask why a certain game isn’t on it. 99.99% of game soundtracks aren’t on Apple Music, there’s nothing I can do about that. I’d love to have the real Super Mario Galaxy themes and half of the Super Smash Bros Brawl soundtrack on there but until Nintendo adds its official soundtracks to the service they won’t be on this list. One day I’ll do a proper article on my actual favourite game music, not just the tracks on Apple Music.
• Because of the above, not all of the tracks in the playlist are the official ‘proper’ versions. On some occasions they’re cover versions, but I’m very strict about covers so I’ve only gone for ones that are very accurate, or ones that do something interesting with a well-known theme while still maintaining the spirit of the original.
Here’s the full tracklist, complete with notes. Tracks marked with a * are cover versions.
1) The Last Of Us – The Last Of Us (Gustavo Santaolalla)
The Last Of Us won a bunch of awards for its soundtrack and Santaolalla’s beautiful but unnerving score is the reason. This is the theme that plays during the opening credits, following ‘that’ shocking prologue.
2) Thomas Was Alone – Where Are You? (David Housden)
Mike Bithell’s minimalist puzzle platformer won a lot of hearts with its Danny Wallace narration, but to me it’s David Housden’s electronic music that really stuck in my mind after playing this game. This is the lovely opening theme.
3) The Legend Of Zelda – Suite (London Philharmonic Orchestra)*
Nintendo doesn’t have an official presence on Apple Music but its music – particularly that from Koji Kondo – is so iconic that there are plenty of covers on there. Most of them are utter shite but this Zelda suite, taken from the London Philharmonic’s Greatest Video Game Music Vol 1 album, gives Link’s adventures the grandeur they deserve.
4) Dead Island – Trailer Theme (Giles Lamb)
Dead Island’s trailer provided a heart-melting poignancy the game was ultimately lacking in, and this gorgeous composition – which only featured in the trailer and was never in the main game – complemented it up perfectly.
5) Silent Hill 2 – Theme Of Laura (Video Games Live)*
The official Silent Hill soundtrack isn’t available on Apple Music but this version performed for Tommy Tallarico’s Video Games Live concert is a pretty bloody good approximation of Akira Yamaoka’s incredible Theme Of Laura. Creepy yet still rocky as fuck.
6) Super Mario Bros – Theme (London Philharmonic Orchestra)*
Another offering from the London Philharmonic, I shouldn’t really have to explain this one. You know it. This is a brilliant orchestral version of the overworld, water and underworld stages.
7) Scott Pilgrim vs The World The Game – Another Winter (Anamanaguchi)
New York electronic band Anamanaguchi mixes chiptune music with rock guitars to make music that sounds both modern and retro. They composed and performed the entire soundtrack for the underrated Scott Pilgrim game: this track is from the first level, Snowy Toronto.
8) Mass Effect – Vigil (Jack Wall)
Bioware’s space opera has countless hours of incredible music but for me it all started with this, the theme that plays on the first game’s title screen.
9) Metal Gear Solid – Sons Of Liberty Theme (London Philharmonic Orchestra)*
Composed by Hollywood music man Harry Gregson-Williams, this was one of the first soundtracks that proved to me that gaming could truly be cinematic. Given Gregson-Williams’ love for the dramatic, this orchestral version is faithful to the original.
10) Super Mario Bros 2 – Overworld Theme (8-Bit Baby)*
This one’s a bit of a drastic makeover of the main theme from Super Mario Bros 2, but I love it. It’s a lullaby version designed to help put babies to sleep.
11) Final Fantasy VIII – Eyes On Me (Dagmar Krug)*
Continuing with the piano music, this is a brilliantly accurate cover of the Faye Wong song that appears regularly throughout the eighth Final Fantasy game.
12) Super Mario Land – Radio Mix (Ambassadors Of Funk Feat MC Mario)*
Going a bit off-road with this one but this is my playlist so shut up. This cheesy as hell rap song was released in 1992 and reached number 8 in the UK singles charts. And yes, I owned it. On cassette, no less.
13) Child Of Light – Aurora’s Theme (Cœur De Pirate)
Canadian singer-songwriter Cœur De Pirate composed the score for Ubisoft Montreal’s beautiful 2D platformer. As soon as I heard this theme it shot straight into my list of favourites.
14) Silent Hill: Shattered Memories – Acceptance (Mary Elizabeth McGlynn)
Shattered Memories was one of the best games of last generation, and the last Silent Hill to be composed by Akira Yamaoka. This is the song that plays during the end credits, marking an end to Yamaoka’s famous association with the series in spectacular fashion.
15) Ori And The Blind Forest – The Blinded Forest (Gareth Coker)
Moon Studios’ Xbox One platformer is one of the most gorgeous games you’ll ever play and its music only adds to its dreamy atmosphere.
16) Valiant Hearts: The Great War – Little Trinketry (Daniel Jacob Teper)
Ubisoft’s WWI platformer was something of a tear-jerker, in part thanks to Teper’s sentimental piano score.
17) The Revenge Of Shinobi – The Shinobi (Yuzo Koshiro)
Better known for his Streets Of Rage music, Yuzo Koshiro is the master of 16-bit music and this is the first of three tracks on the playlist that proves this.
18) Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag – Main Theme (Brian Tyler)
It would be all too easy to slip into stereotypes when scoring a game about being a pirate, but Brian Tyler’s theme for Black Flag manages to stay away from cliché while still conjuring up images of sailing the seven seas. As you can see, I’m allowed to use clichés.
19) Halo – Opening Suite (Martin O’Donnell & Michael Salvatori)
Microsoft came kicking and screaming into the gaming world with Halo, the big launch game for the original Xbox. This opening suite, with its haunting choral voices, made it clear that shit was on.
20) Mirror’s Edge – Introduction (Solar Fields)
Mirror’s Edge’s unique graphical style led to many ignoring its equally fresh soundtrack, composed by Swedish electronic musician Solar Fields.
21) Medal Of Honor – Medal Of Honor (Michael Giacchino)
Back in the days when nobody gave an eighth of a shit about Call Of Duty, Medal Of Honor was the king of WWII shooters. This main theme from the first game treated the subject matter with the respect and solemnity it deserved.
22) Streets Of Rage II – Dreamer (Yuzo Koshiro)
Many long-time gamers cite Streets Of Rage II as one of the greatest game soundtracks ever, thanks to that man Koshiro. This theme plays during the first section of level 3 as you approach the amusement park.
23) The Sims 4 – Again And Again (Wri Gaddison)
The music in The Sims series has long been a running joke since all its lyrics are sung in Simlish, the game’s made-up language. For The Sims 4 however EA really pushed out the boat, putting together music that, gibberish language aside, is easily good enough to make it into the pop charts. Listen to this one and tell me you couldn’t imagine Taylor Swift or Carly Rae Japsen belting it out. Incidentally, if you fancy singing along, here are the ‘lyrics’.
24) Boom Boom Rocket – Tail Light Sonata (Ian Livingstone)
The underrated Boom Boom Rocket was an XBLA rhythm action game developed by Project Gotham and Geometry Wars studio Bizarre Creations. Its soundtrack consisted of classical music presented in various styles: funk, ska, techno and the like. This is the dance version of Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata.
25) Doom – Level 1 (Square Form)*
Doom blew gamers away when it was first released, as did the high-energy, fast-paced music that played during its iconic first level. This cover is about as accurate as you’ll get.
26) Super Mario Galaxy – Gusty Garden Galaxy (London Philharmonic Orchestra)*
The entire Super Mario Galaxy score is a work of absolute genuis, so it says something about the Gusty Garden Galaxy theme that almost everyone who played the game highlighted it as one of the best tracks.
27) Halo 3 – Finish The Fight (Martin O’Donnell & Michael Salvatori)
Even long after the Xbox 360 was released, Halo 2 was still easily the most-played game on Xbox Live due to the console’s backwards compatibility. Everyone was massively awaiting the first ‘proper’ Halo game on the 360, so when the trailer launched – complete with this epic music – people lost all manner of shit.
28) The Great Giana Sisters – Intro (Chris Hülsbeck)
I don’t think it’s too harsh to say The Great Giana Sisters was an enormous rip-off of Super Mario Bros, to the extent that Nintendo had a quiet word with publisher Rainbow Arts which led to copies being taken off the shelves. One thing that wasn’t a rip-off however was the Commodore 64 version’s incredible music, composed by C64 maestro Chris Hülsbeck. The little bit that sounds like Depeche Mode’s ‘Just Can’t Get Enough’ is glorious.
29) Xenon 2 – Megablast (CD32 Version) (Bomb The Bass)
Probably the greatest title screen music ever, The Bitmap Bros’ vertical shooter Xenon 2 opened with this catchy as shit dance number complete with a chorus taken from John Carpenter’s theme from Assault On Precinct 13. I defy you not to dance along like a dick to it. This version featured in the CD32 version of the game and features different sound samples at the start.
30) VVVVVV – Pushing Onwards (Magnus Pålsson)
Terry Cavanagh’s brilliant C64 inspired platformer featured a similarly Commodore-esque soundtrack by Magnus Pålsson, who later released the soundtrack on iTunes and called it PPPPPP instead, because hijinks.
31) ToeJam & Earl – Suite (John Baker)
Easily the funkiest music in gaming history, the soundtrack to Mega Drive game ToeJam & Earl perfectly sums up the two funk-loving aliens trying to escape Earth. This eight-minute track is actually six of the game’s most memorable themes in one compilation.
32) Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon – Rex Colt (Jarome & Joel Harmsworth)
Far Cry 3’s brilliantly bizarre standalone expansion paid homage to ’80s sci-fi action movies, and this this Terminator-inspired theme sums up its mood perfectly.
33) Killer Instinct – The Instinct (Robin Beanland)
Rare’s fighting game originally hit arcades before coming to the SNES and Nintendo 64. This fantastically filthy opening theme is from the arcade version and was a real crowd-puller.
34) Out Run – Suite (Hiroshi Kawaguchi)
It’s impossible to choose which of Sega arcade racer Out Run’s iconic themes should feature in this playlist, so here’s all of them in one track. These particular tunes are from the Mega Drive version of the game.
35) Super Mario 64 – Dire Dire Docks (CrazyGroupTrio)*
There are countless sensational themes in Mario’s first Nintendo 64 adventure but the best of Koji Kondo’s offerings for my money is the relaxing Dire Dire Docks theme. This piano cover does a decent job in capturing its soothing feel.
36) Grim Fandango Remastered – Intro (Peter McConnell)
LucasArts’ classic Grim Fandango is a comedy adventure game inspired by film noir detective movies, so this sleazy ’40s style music is a perfect fit.
37) Bioshock Infinite – Can The Circle Be Unbroken (Carter Family)*
Bioshock Infinite’s unique soundtrack consists partly of 1910’s era recordings of more contemporary songs released many years later. Will The Circle Be Unbroken is the exception, having been written in 1907, though this version (with a slightly different title) was recorded in 1935.
38) Star Fox – Corneria (Hajime Hirasawa)
The first game to show off the special Super FX chip which allowed the SNES to create polygonal graphics, Star Fox (Starwing in Europe) was a visual spectacle back in 1993. This energetic music, from the game’s first level, got players pumped for what was to come.
39) Kingdom Hearts – Hikari (Kyle Landry & Joshua Chiu)*
Yoko Shimomura’s soundtrack for Square Enix’s Disney crossover has a large number of fans, most notably for this theme. Square Enix doesn’t have any official albums on Apple Music, so this is a piano and violin cover.
40) The Legend Of Zelda: Ocarina Of Time – Gerudo Valley (Retro Remix Revue)*
No track will have you tapping your toes like this Latin effort courtesy of Koji Kondo. This is also a cover, but given that it uses real guitars and trumpets instead of the MIDI instruments available to Kondo in the N64 days, I dare say this is more how he wanted it to sound.
41) Streets Of Rage II – Good End (Yuzo Koshiro)
I had to end with an ending theme, so why not the best one ever? Koshiro’s fantastic closing theme for Streets Of Rage II is a fantastic example of the way he got music out of the Mega Drive at a quality nobody knew the console was capable of.