VGM Playlist #8 – ‘Westerns’

This is a series of posts and playlists showing off video game equivalents to the themes of Classic FM’s Saturday Night at the Movies shows – this week, Westerns

We’re back! Due to unforseen circumstances I wasn’t able to cover last week’s theme and rather than play catch up I’ve decided to just go full steam ahead but with a couple of changes. While the initially we’ve looked solely at classical-styled music, I’ve decided to expand this to include other styles of game soundtrack where appropriate – the focus will still be looking at classical pieces in games but a little bit of extra diversity won’t hurt. I’ve also decided to include a tracklisting in the main body in case in case you fear Youtube will steal your soul.

On to this week’s theme. Following Red Dead Redemption’s success, westerns were the in-genre for video game fans to pine after, and while there aren’t a lot of westerns compared to other settings (for example, sci-fi), there are a decent amount of titles which do delve into the world of spurs, whips and cowboys.

Of course we’re going to start with one of the most famous gaming westerns ever, Red Dead Redemption. Bill Elm and Woody Jackson’s score feels like it’s straight from The Dollars trilogy (Ennio Morricone) and fits the tone of the story and John Marston’s character well. Composing for an open world game is a tough task given the amount of time the player will hear the music in the environment but the music in Redemption never feels boring. Of course, this isn’t the first game in the Red Dead series; Revolver was release 6 years prior and its licensed music from classic spaghetti western movies, while not composed for the series, may actually fit better than Redemption and is in my opinion a much better soundtrack for that.

The other big recent game series based around westerns is Ubisoft’s Call of Juarez series, with the soundtrack by Polish composer Pawel Blaszczak. With the story told by an unreliable narrator, none of Red Dead’s open world issues crop up in Blaszczak’s soundtrack, meaning the music is more focused to the story, while also capturing the western feel.

Elsewhere in the Wild West, we have a couple of more strange outings; one by name, the other by nature. First we have Stranger’s Wrath, the 4th title on the Oddworld series. Here, we have Michael Bross’ more atmospheric, almost industrial soundtrack to the actions of the gruff Stranger, a bounty hunter in Oddworld’s version of the wild west. There are a couple of twangs to remind you you’re in a western setting but the game definitely takes its own route in the genre. Second, we have Steamworld Dig, a world where you play in a robotic steampunk version of the wild west, digging for treasure and finances to rebuild your inherited town. The deeper you go, the further the western themes fall away from the score replaced again by a more mechanical sound, but these early themes are memorable and build up the world you’re in.

Just a quick note on my less orchestral tracks; something from the Oregon Trail series had to be included given how famous it is, and the soundtrack to 1996’s sequel is rather memorable, composed through MIDI for Windows and stuck in the mind of anyone forced to play though it. There’s also Sunset Riders, a western brawler for the SNES and Genesis and more recently 2912’s Gunman Clive, which mix western with chiptunes. Obviously, these are two very difficult styles to mesh and while it doesn’t always work out, some of the pieces just work providing a refreshing twist on the gun toting, cowboy laden themes that a popular within the genre

Tracklisting
Red Dead Redemption – Born Unto Trouble
Red Dead Revolver – Lucas
Call of Juarez – Home
Call of Juarez: Gunslinger – Main Menu
Oregon Trail II – Title Theme
Wild Arms – Into the Wilderness
Gun – Main Theme
Red Steel 2 – Kusagari Blues
Oddworld Stranger’s Wrath – Fight for the Native Village
Gunman Clive – Runaway Train
Sunset Riders – Stage 1
Desperados: Wanted DOA – Stage 1
Lead and Gold – Sinner’s Gulch
Steamworld Dig – Theme
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2 thoughts on “VGM Playlist #8 – ‘Westerns’

  1. You should check out ‘Outlaws’. It’s a 90’s Lucasarts FPS. It’s not that great & one of the least Lucasartsy Lucasarts games ever. Soundtrack is great though.

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    1. I’d actually never heard of this until you suggested it, which is surprising given how much I like adventure games. Will have to give a playthrough a watch on Youtube – soundtrack seems to fit very well.

      Like

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