Every single one of us does it: We remember the specific moments in video games that accompanied us through childhood and tough times. As true gamers we recognize the importance of characters and the impact they placed on our thoughts and beliefs. We recognize the beauty that most people discard as child’s play. We see the art and the emotion and we revel in it. And when everything is quiet and contemplative, we remember everything– from the characters to the storylines. The loves and the despair. The places and the adventures. Here’s a look at some of the music that brings back memories, all from video games I know all of you have similar feelings for. Make sure you share your own experiences and memories in the comments below!
Final Fantasy VIII – Balamb Garden
The PlayStation was my official first console, meaning it stayed in my bedroom and my father (who was the one who initially introduced me to gaming) never touched it. It was mine. I was around nine years old when I rented Final Fantasy VIII. I had no idea why I even rented it. At that time gaming was just a fun hobby to do on rainy days. It was something that entertained my wild imagination when I couldn’t be outside acting out the stories in my head. Final Fantasy VIII ended up becoming one of my favorite games of all time.
The very first memory I have, the one that remains the clearest, is Balamb Garden. I didn’t understand the logic of Final Fantasy. I remember wondering why the students were called SeeD. I remember not enjoying the turn-based combat. I remember trying my hardest to pronounce Quetzalcoatl. Its name ended up transforming into Lightning because I knew how to pronounce that. I also remember giggling with my best friend over Ifrit’s Hell Fire… because hell was a bad word.
But Balamb Garden… I always wanted to explore more of it. That was one thing I remember wishing when I was younger. I wanted to explore my school even more. I wanted the elevator to move to more floors. I wanted to actually buy a hot dog in the cafeteria. My mind never understood the boundaries of video games at that time so I kept trying, thinking that there was some door I was missing or some NPC I could talk to that would introduce something more. And in the background, Balamb Garden’s music played until it was engraved in my brain.
Final Fantasy X – To Zanarkand
Final Fantasy X was my second Final Fantasy game. I was in middle school, suffering through the normal pre-teen angst and puberty fun. I hated my school and I hated people in general. Video games came to the rescue once again, and I remember renting this game repeatedly until I finally convinced my mom to buy it for me. I wanted to play way too much blitz ball and I remember swooning over the love story. Titus annoyed me a bit, but it was bearable. But it was this song that really made this game just work for me. Before then, no video game music had ever made me cry.
At that time, that was a big freakin’ deal.
Metal Gear Solid – Calling to the Night
MGS used to give me nightmares as a kid… not sure why considering I would watch friends play Resident Evil and never blink an eye. But there was something about MGS that just got to me and that time, I didn’t know what it was. Metal Gear Solid 4 was the first MGS game that I played through by myself. Granted I was older and understood what was happening, and I know I have to get the other titles to play (Don’t hurt me… I’ll do it eventually). When I heard this song… everything became epic. It became as epic as that one particular moment when I brushed my teeth with E.S. Posthumus playing in the background (look ‘em up). I sang this song. And by sang I mean I belted it repeatedly with the windows open.
My neighbors probably thought there was a dying cat or some strange mating call being performed… but it was epic for me.
TMNT 4: Turtles in Time – Sewer Surfin’
I’m sad to say that I don’t remember much about this game. I remember being able to play co-op and I remember always wanting to be Donatello. Don’s my main man, ya dig? But this song always reminds me of this game. As well as “Big Apple, 3 am.” Now I need some pizza. Cowabunga.
Sonic the Hedgehog 2 – Chemical Plant Zone
I hated Sonic when I was younger just for the fact that I sucked at it. I was absolutely horrible and I’m still horrible at Sonic. But never before had water ever been so damn terrifying. Water had so effortlessly become one of the most terrifying villains around! Used to, this song introduced a level of pain and frustration. Now it offers some awesome daydreaming and reminiscing. Watch out for that rising water!
Donkey Kong Country – Mine Cart Madness
I play DKC for hours at a time and when it was all over and beaten… I’d play it again. I don’t know what was so captivating about this game, but it managed to entertain me way more than it probably should have. One of my favorite parts was always the mine cart level. I was always bad about timing my jumps when those pesky gaps would appear. That’s probably the same reason why I was so bad at Mario…
Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time – Gerudo Valley
Truthfully every song in the OoT soundtrack could fit in this post. I grew up on Zelda. OoT and Majora’s Mask were highly influential parts of my childhood. I didn’t play it as much as watched my dad play at the time… but I do remember fishing with my best friend. I’d even pretend to be sick so I could stay home and watch Dad play. Or try to catch that huge fish without the “illegal” fishing lure.
And while most of the music really gets to me, there was always something about Gerudo Valley that I loved. This brings me back to the awe I felt inside Balamb Garden. I wanted to explore. I wanted to know more about this place. I always wanted to know why the women there were so freaky. I wanted to know way too many things. Shut up, brain.
Mass Effect 3 – I was Lost Without You
I was going through a tough time when I started playing Mass Effect 3. I was stuck at a job I despised despite the fact that I was making awesome money. Mass Effect was my release. ME2 was the first game of the series that I played (the 1st hadn’t been released on the PS3 yet), and the Lair of the Shadow Broker was my actual first introduction of Liara. So when she played a heavier role in ME3, I was addicted. Hearing this song reminds me of her as well as the weight of the responsibility that Shepard carried on her shoulders. And in a way, it seemed to mirror my own problems.
Besides FFX’s To Zanarkand, this was the only song from a video game that made me cry. And like I said… that’s a big deal, yo.