Video games like Pandora’s Tower can be considered art because they share many characteristics with things that have defined each individual culture that inspires them. The appearance of games has evolved considerably, as technology is more and more capable of reaching the pinnacle of what various characters and environments can achieve in transition from paper to pixels. The beauty of a game like Xenoblade comes to mind—and what’s more, Xenoblade is also a great example of how far storytelling has advanced in games. But, there is no greater characteristic of how videogames can be considered art than a game’s soundtrack, in my opinion. The evolution of music in games is so fascinating to me because something like the theme Super Mario Bros has aged just as well, in many people’s minds, as a fully orchestrated track featured in Super Mario Galaxy 2.
My personal library of music boasts an uncomfortably high number of video game soundtracks. But I knew it was going to be like this from a very young age. “Tal Tal Heights” from “The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening” was the first song from a video game to really get to me. I remember sitting in my room back in 1995 when I first played it. I would advance one screen up from the Mysterious Woods just to reach the tiny corner of a space where the song was first played. Even though there was nothing to do there, I would just sit and listen through my headphones.
As I played through the game and certain pieces of the story unfolded when I reached The Face Shrine, Turtle Rock, and eventually the final boss—I knew the songs from this game would transcend. As my tastes grew to encompass games from every genre, I realized that a game’s music is perhaps the most definitive way to set the tone for a particular environment. Regardless of how much a game’s graphics and story are held back because of a system’s processing power, music can make even a dull set of blocks seem scary if it’s well-executed enough. This concept is best illustrated in the survival-horror genre, where a composer’s arrangement can make you jump out of your own skin in the right moment.