Game Music 2: Beyond Thunderdome


Last minute switch from FFVI to VVVVVV for me. Both fantastic tunes. As far as the two epic sci-fi tracks go, I think Outcast’s has a much warmer and understated beauty to it than Stellaris’. Switched my Outcast vs. Cuphead vote, again, I love both but I listen to Aviary Actions loads, even since discovering Shamazaar. Voted Sword & Sworcery too over Stellaris because that Guthrie magic is glorious and unique.


Match 23

@Soren_Hoglund: Frozen Synapse - A Functioning God (by Nervous Testpilot)


@lordkosc: Offworld Trading Company - Red Planet Nocturne (Composed by Christopher Tin)

  • Frozen Synapse

  • Offworld Trading Company

0 voters

Match 24

@Otagan: Freedom Fighters - Main Theme (by Jesper Kyd)


@soondifferent: Deus Ex: Human Revolution - Icarus (Composed by Michael McCann)

  • Freedom Fighters

  • Deus Ex: Human Revolution

0 voters


Match 20 should totally be closed by now, but since it’s not, SOMEONE GET IN THERE AND SAVE VVVVVV FROM THE FINAL FANTASY NOSTALGIA MONSTER!!!

(Sorry, that’s uncharitable. I’m sure folks genuinely love the Final Fantasy track. I think as someone who didn’t own a Super Nintendo, the tonal range of the hardware just doesn’t work for me. I don’t like the Super Metroid soundtrack much, either.)


Speaking of which…

Nex Machina, Hollow Knight, Outcast, Final Fantasy VI, Furi, and Sword & Sworcery all advance!



Looks like Sword & Sworcery is the only wild card still in it (it was the highest-ranked, so that makes sense).

Quite an upset of #4 Cuphead by #20 Outcast!

Some tough match-ups coming up in the future, but I think this round was the really agonizing one. I bet a lot of people know how they’ll be voting on most of the future match ups, but we’ll see.


I’m not too bummed about Cuphead losing out to Outcast just because the Shamazaar theme is probably one of my favourites in the 'dome, and I hadn’t heard it before until it was submitted here.

I think I’m more bummed about Super Hexagon getting pipped by Hollow Night! I’m convinced Chipzel was on fire and melting all her gear while recording that piece and it aligns so perfectly with the struggle of stage 3. It’s charged with energy. The Hollow Night tune is just lovely though.

Kind of amazed the DX:HR Icarus theme has got this far. It’s still a big blind spot (deaf spot?) for me, and it’s looking likely to beat out Freedom Fighters which I think is a much better track still.

It’s a shame Pressure Cooker couldn’t get through but Terra’s theme is also fantastic! Going to be interesting how all this shakes out now…


Match 25

@Papageno: Nex Machina - Dark Shivers ()


@Vesper: Hollow Knight - Greenpath ()

  • Nex Machina

  • Hollow Knight

0 voters

Match 26

@Gordon_Cameron: Outcast - Shamazaar Theme (World of Temples) (Composed by Lennie Moore; performed by Moscow Symphony Orchestra and choir)


@CraigM: Final Fantasy VI - Terra’s Theme (Nobuo Uematsu)

  • Outcast

  • Final Fantasy VI

0 voters


Is this QF or SF?


QF – there are 8 tracks remaining (or at least there will be once I process the results from Friday’s matches).


A lot of the recent and upcoming match-ups are notable for the similarity of the contestants. That is definitely NOT the case for Nex Machina/Hollow Knight! And that’s what’s making it so agonizing. Nex Machina is a monster tune. As intricate as it is exhilarating, and managing both those things at every turn. And it has some great turns, though the pulse of that bass drum always comes back, pushing, squeezing you along like blood through arteries, always alive.

Hollow Knight is just as alive, but in a totally different way. It’s soft and organic. Lush. It’s not trying to win you over or carry you away. It lulls you, gets you nostalgic, hypnotizes you. The opening melody on the viola (I think–correct me if I’m wrong), chased along languidly by the clarinet, is pleasant but not entirely comforting. Eventually it disappears, like an animal in the jungle undergrowth, and we’re left with dappled glockenspiels and harp sweeps flickering like light through trees, the melody occasionally peeking its head above the greenery before it disappears again. Video games don’t often have music like this, so sensitively pitched, so warm (but not sunny), so subtle as to be insidious. I think for that reason, I have to go with Hollow Knight.

Outcast is a soundtrack I’ve adored since it was released, so this is a much easier choice to me. A few things I love about the Shamazaar theme: It feels like it uses the whole orchestra—flutes, horns, clarinet, percussion… they all get their moment. If you stripped any of them away, the composition would be much poorer for it. Secondly, while there are now a lot of games that employ a choir in their score (see Freedom Fighters and Deus Ex, in our current crop), I feel like Outcast employs the choir with much more restraint than most. The last thing I love: That crescendo at 2:10.

Terra’s Theme from Final Fantasy IV is classic video game music: A call to adventure, with marching drums, perfect for accompanying a trek across a sprawling world map. It has a rousing and charming flute melody floating over synthetic strings and that ever-present snare drum. But there’s also a fascinating “bloop” sound bubbling along, matching the rhythm of the snare, that sounds like the essence of video games. The track says: Come into this digital world and play. There’s a lot to explore.

Outcast is an easy pick for me here. But I enjoyed listening to all of these a few times through for this round of voting.


I would Like the crap out of your post if I could Nightgaunt; beautifully put.


Agreed! That is a fantastic exploration of a lot of elements that contributed to how I’ve enjoyed all these pieces, but couldn’t pinpoint like that.


It seems to be a cello played in the upper register. Viola doesn’t have that kind of sound projection. Acoustically, the body is too small for it’s range; practically, one can’t hold anything much bigger and thicker on one’s shoulder.


I bet you’re right!

I’ve been hoping you would chime in on some of these pieces, Shimarenda! I could tell from this and your earlier comments that you actually know what you’re talking about on a technical level, unlike me.

@krayzkrok, too!

Glad you enjoyed what I wrote, @Thraeg and @geggis.

(P.S., Is it me, or is Thraeg & Geggis like an orkish comedy troupe or something?)


Frozen Synapse and Deus Ex: HR advance.


Thraeg doesn’t know this but I’ve done a lot of nodding reading his posts over the years (more than most) so I do feel like I’m on a similar wavelength to him at times. That said, I’m not a big fan of metal so… maybe that difference could be our shtick?


Match 27

@ArmandoPenblade: Furi - You’re Mine (by Carpenter Brut)


@geggis: Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP - The Prettiest Weed (By Jim Guthrie)

  • Furi

  • Sword & Sworcery

0 voters

Match 28

@Soren_Hoglund: Frozen Synapse - A Functioning God (by Nervous Testpilot)


@soondifferent: Deus Ex: Human Revolution - Icarus (Composed by Michael McCann)

  • Frozen Synapse

  • Deus Ex: Human Revolution

0 voters


Furi starts out at what feels like an unsafe speed. If the beat’s not enough to hijack your pulse, the long buzzing bass notes will force the air out of your lungs. But a minute in, you think maybe you’ve gotten the hang of it. The melody is smooth, the bass calms down a bit and adopts a friendly funk, and you think you can ride this rollercoaster. It’s going to get scary again–dark and dissonant. Which is a feeling that is going to get undone once again, by a soaring synth-guitar solo. Up and down, smooth then jagged, but never slowing… until in the last few seconds it breaks down, just to mess with you one last time. I really found this rewarded repeated listens because of all the different directions it swerves on you. Grew on me a lot.

Jim Guthrie’s Superbrothers track drops most of its surprises on you in the opening seconds: A baroque piano figure paves the way for its synthetic twin (fraternal). Maybe, you muse, this is a bit of Vangelis-esque electro-classica— WOAH those drums! Did John Bonham just enter the building? No, it’s just the trademark Jim Guthrie beats, with debt owed and paid to the sainted Bonham. They’re bombastic, dominating. The fills are more distinctive and in-your-face than any melody the piece might feign toward. It’s not the music you expect accompanying pixel art–it’s not beeping, jittery chiptunes. It’s future-rock applied in heaps onto a cold but lush fantasy world. Like the game, it is sui generis, gonzo in all the right ways, if you like that sort of thing. (I do, a lot!)

Frozen Synapse v Deus Ex is dystopia vs. dystopia. Frozen Synapse wants you to know it can be an occasionally pretty dystopia–with a classically inflected piano melody inviting you in. When it’s succeeded by a string melody, you’re less charmed and more unsettled. The piece goes on to remind you of the capacious loneliness of the hyper-capitalist future it heralds. When the piano returns, loneliness is all it stands for. It glitches into nothingness at the end. Welcome to your lonely, decaying future.

Deus Ex is happy to paint with a broader brush than the others in this round. This big brush (to squeeze the metaphor further) moves slowly but drops oceans of paint, bleeding out across a canvas whose edges you can’t even perceive. The washes of sound become ambient even while they are intense. The voice, with its ambiguous (to me) ethnic flavor, is like your life raft as all these sounds flood around you. Sometimes it cuts through it all slickly, with steely focus. Sometimes it gets lifted up by a cresting wave and multiple voices call out, all but out of control. This track seems the most manipulative of them all; once it gets going, you have almost no room to think. I think I prefer Frozen Synapse for its variety, but there’s no denying the power here.

(I think your kind words might have gone to my head, guys. I feel like I was a bit more florid this time than last. My apologies if so. These are fun to write, though!)


Nightgaunt: the Lester Bangs of the 'dome