Posted By Robert H. about 1 month, 3 weeks ago
Well, it’s that time of the year again. The time when I’m obligated to talk about the scary side of gaming and discuss everything we have related to horror. Last year, I discussed the soundtracks for two of the most classic horror games in the entire medium, but I’d like to do something a little different this year. After all, creepy songs don’t always come from the scariest games. Sometimes, they can pop up in the most unassuming titles and still be just as unnerving as they would be in a horror game. On that subject, I have a small collection of tracks here that fit just that description. So, let’s get right to it.
First up, we look to the Legend of Zelda series, specifically Twilight Princess, for a song that can easily blindside the player in terms of shifting tone, “Light and Darkness.” Despite being a game that had a huge focus on darkness, it generally wasn’t all that dark in its storytelling, although it did have a darker tone than the previous games in the series. However, there were occasions where things became quite creepy, such as a scene where the main villain appeared out of nowhere behind Link, accompanied by this very appropriate song. The slow, methodical bells keeping pace throughout the piece make the song very off-putting to start with, and the constant noises sound almost like tortured moans and screams. Zant is already an off-putting villain, but this song went above and beyond to make him seem creepy, and it clearly succeeded in that task.
Although a vast majority of JRPGs would not generally be called horror-based, it seems as though nearly every example of the genre has to have at least one character or area that is meant to be far more sinister than the rest of the game. The Xenosaga series is no exception to that rule, and although I would never call the games generally happy, Albedo and his theme are on an entirely different level in terms of creepiness. As I’ve explained previously, Albedo is absolutely insane in every conceivable capacity, and his theme clearly reflects that, with an intimidating backbeat alongside a number of screams and voices that seem to be an analog for madness. As a result, the theme is incredibly eerie and, although the Song of Nephilim from the same game gives it a run for its money, certainly presents the creepiest audio in the game.
Ah, I knew I’d eventually have to get to Kirby. While the games may seem to be among the happiest in the entire medium, there has always been an undercurrent of darkness to the series, with examples such as recurring boss Zero being an eyeball that cries blood and abominable noises like Marx’s scream. As such, there were numerous choices to consider when looking for creepy songs throughout the series, although I decided to settle on “Ripple Star Catacombs” from Kirby 64. Playing in the underground of the evil-infected Ripple Star, this song relies on a series of four tones that keep increasing in volume to set the disturbing mood and form the main melody of the tune. The additional instruments act as very subtle support to the main theme and only enhance the dark feeling of the place. It says quite a lot about how “horror” can affect games if it even manages to get into something as outwardly pleasant as Kirby.
Metal Gear Solid may be a series about espionage and war, but more than a fair share of supernatural elements make their way into the games as well, occasionally with some rather unnerving results. Case in point, the ever-popular Psycho Mantis from the first Metal Gear Solid, a psychic soldier who could read your button inputs and memory card in addition to taking control of your support, Meryl, who proved to be quite a surprise for most players the first time he was encountered. Equally fitting to the situation is the music that plays in the cutscenes with Psycho Mantis, “Mantis’ Hymn.” The song sounds almost like a chorus of mournful voices and portrays the sinister nature of Mantis’ character quite well. The discordance of the voices also contributes to the uneasiness the song evokes, and, although there were a couple other times in the series where the games tried to be creepy, neither left quite the impression this boss and song did.
For a company that has the public perception of being the family-oriented video game developer, Nintendo sure does have a lot of creepy bits mixed in with some of its most popular and cheery franchises. After all, this will be the third pick from the company already, and even though the previous two songs are surprisingly creepy for the games in question, “River Twygz Bed” from Super Paper Mario outclasses them both handily. In fact, I’d be willing to say that it may be the creepiest “song” I’ve ever heard in a game. As the river in question is a clear analog to the mythological River Styx, it should be obvious that the River Twygz is a river of “those whose game has been ended,” as the game so eloquently puts it. Upon touching the bottom of the river, the above-shown cacophony of twisted noises and warped voices begins playing. In fact, I almost hesitate to call it a song, as much as the voices of the Underworld reaching out to the world of the living. It’s already a creepy enough background track to stand out on its own, but the fact that it comes from a Mario game of all things really puts it in a special position. I haven’t yet found a creepier song in a normal game, and I have unshakable doubts I ever will.
Music is one of the best ways to convey emotion that there is in video gaming, and it can be generally assumed that any game attempting to insert darker elements will have an equally dark song to go with it. Naturally, this means that a bit of scary music can find its way into nearly any game. Although I gave some solid picks here, there are certainly many more out there that are equally conflicting with their overall game, so be sure to comment below with your particular favorites in the subject. Next time, I’ll be getting into something a bit more traditional.
Music Mondays is a weekly column by Austin Yorski and Robert Heck dedicated to discussing the most interesting audio experiences in electronic interactive media. Tune in every week for more original game soundtracks that you need to hear. Feel free to disagree with, add to, or question everything. I welcome your feedback.