The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

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Cantando: Gaming OSTs

Video games are crafted to be well-rounded experiences for any player to immerse themselves in a remarkable journey. The unsung heroes that flesh out the playtime are the soundtracks provided by legendary artists in the world of video games, who created iconic songs such as “World 1-1” in Super Mario Bros. by Koji Kondo, or “Sweden” by C418, also known as Minecraft’s main theme.

Here are a few examples of how soundtracks elevate a video game from something you play once in a while to a meaningful and lasting experience:

SILENT HILL 2 (2001)

The quintessential psychological horror game was paired with an ominous and eerie soundtrack created by Akira Yamaoka, which at times, would play triumphant piano melodies and rock ballads. Yamaoka, who was also the sound designer for the game, helped create a world where the music informs how the player is supposed to feel. 

Players first listen to “White Noiz” in the first cutscene with James arriving at Silent Hill, which sets a tone that puts players on edge. It provides a gloomy atmosphere with reverberating notes, which make it seem as though the song is echoing, illustrating an unsettling tone through the music.

An iconic song from this game that people outside of the player base can recognize is “Promise (Reprise).” Players first hear it in the beginning of the game when James encounters Angela holding a knife close to her face, which is also seen on the game’s box art. The cut scene paired with the song’s piano notes invoke intrigue and suspense.


There was an indie game boom in the beginning of the 2010s through word of mouth and gaming marketplaces, which saw smaller scale games become as defining as the big releases of the era. One of those games was Hotline Miami, a top-down pixel shooter that focused on strategy, where players take out the Russian mafia as an animal mask-wearing vigilante.

The music takes inspiration from the music and games of the 80s, as the electronic synth soundtrack provides an upbeat score for fast-paced and frantic gameplay.

Some songs were licensed from M|O|O|N for the soundtrack, while artists like Sun Araw and Jasper Byrne created music specifically for the game. Perhaps the most emblematic song of Hotline Miami is “Hydrogen” by M|O|O|N, which uses repetition of drums and other sounds to create a blood-pumping tone that fits the gameplay.


At the turn of the millennium, Sega released the colorful cult classic Jet Set Radio on their Dreamcast console. With HD remasters and widespread love for this game, the game is a standout of the early 2000s with players spreading graffiti while battling rival gangs and escaping the police all on powered inline skates.

Hideki Naganuma crafted a soundtrack inspired by hip-hop and J-pop from the era that accompanies the player skating through Tokyo creating works of art. The soundtrack includes original songs by Naganuma and licensed music from artists like Deavid Soul, a Japanese electronic duo known for bombastic dance music, and Guitar Vader, a Japanese indie rock band who contrast the soundtracks’ mostly hip-hop and electronic style with peppy guitars and drum beats.

“Let Mom Sleep” blasts as soon as the game starts with the charismatic Professor K yelling “Jet Set Radio” at the title screen, which lays the foundation for a charming and zany experience.


A defining game of the last generation of consoles, Red Dead Redemption 2 was the long-awaited prequel to its 2010 predecessor, an iconic game of its own time.

Players control Arthur Morgan in the 19th century, trailing through the West with a vagrant band of bandits and general misfits. The game is regarded by some as a cowboy simulator because the very detailed and accurate environment Rockstar Games created fits an adventure fitting of the Wild West era.

Woody Jackson composed the soundtrack with musical motifs from Western films, which fit scenes whether they are somber or action-packed.

Jackson’s composition was paired with contributors Senyawa, D’Angelo, Willie Nelson and more, whose work made the soundtrack the fitting for the Wild West’s chilling thrills and prevailing accomplishments. 

“The Housebuilding Song” is a standout of the soundtrack and plays near the end of the game when players take a break from the outlaw life and build a house to possibly leave that life behind. The song paints the picture of the Wild West ending and a new era dawning.

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