I believe it was Shakespeare who coined the now popular phrase “if music be the food of love, play on.” He forgot to mention in this line, however, that music is also the food of angst, distress and fear. Melodies can have a powerful effect on the tone and mood of a game, and game composers have been using this fact to keep the hair on the back of our necks upright for decades now. Here are ten scary game soundtracks that exemplify this point.
Vagrant Story – Catacombs
Vagrant Story launched at a time when Squaresoft were truly the kings of the RPG hill. It released to unanimous acclaim due to its interesting mechanics, story and tone. Vagrant Story was an isolated and desolate experience that felt nothing like Square’s other contemporary RPG experiences. Part of this isolated atmosphere was evoked through the soundtrack: A mixture of dense chords amidst a sparse arrangement that oozed atmosphere. Nothing makes you feel quite as alone as big pauses in the melody.
The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time – Shadow Temple Theme
Of all the temples in Ocarina of Time, the Shadow Temple is the only one that I would describe as an absolute assault on the mind. With blood stand and narrow corridors, tricky visual traps and the worst boat ride in history, the Shadow Temple is not for the faint of heart. The music is of a similar vein, with the vocal tones and sporadic percussion throwing the player out of their comfort zone. Though it isn’t the scariest piece of music on its own, the sheer amount of time your exposed to it while you contend with the Shadow Temple makes it the first thing many gamers think of when they conjure up images of darkness.
Persona 4 – Who Goes There?
Despite its light humour and high school setting, the Persona series has always dealth with some dark subject matter. The music too reflects these eclectic themes, with everything from chirpy J-pop to haunting piano melodies. One such piece is Who Goes There, an easily recognisable piano riff that makes any situation harrowing and awkward. A friend of mine wanted to test the power of the track by playing it from his phone at inopportune moments. Even the most banal of conversation suddenly became terrifying when accompanied by the track.