The High NotesEarlier this week, Jennifer, our friendly neighborhood editor here at The G.A.M.E.S. Blog, set off on an epic journey across the United States to her new home in San Francisco. I’m sure that we’ll be hearing from her soon enough, but for now, we wish both her and her boyfriend, Kris, safe travels. Its a long road from the Sunshine State to the Golden State (about 2,800 miles, actually), so its safe to assume that they’ll be spending a lot of time in the near future in their car.

In honor of that, this installment of High Notes is focusing on video game driving music. I’m leaving that term as open ended as possible; basically, if there’s a vehicle involved, it counts as driving.

Mario Kart 7 – “Rainbow Road”

The Mario Kart franchise was my introduction into racing games, and the series is still near and dear to my heart. The addictive combination of well-designed courses, amusing power ups, and great music keeps me coming back over and over again. Of course, the pinnacle of every new Mario Kart game is the Rainbow Road, a track that cranks up the difficulty by, usually, removing the guard rails. Depending on the game, this course can range from fun to downright frustrating, as one errant move can send you plunging to the back of the pack. Thankfully, these levels extend a peace offering to players: you might not be able to stay on the road, but at least you’ll have some good tunes to listen to while you careen off into space like a wayward meteorite. This track from the newest iteration in the series, which actually mixes together previous Rainbow Road themes, is the perfect example. It’s energetic, catchy, and just all around a lot of fun to listen to.

Zone of the Enders: The Second Runner – “BAHRAM Battleship”

Zone of the Enders is a series about conflicts between the Earth and its colonies on Mars and the moons of Jupiter. If anyone reading this has ever watched Gundam (it really doesn’t matter which one), they’ll know what is the natural result of this political and social tension: Giant Mech Suits! The franchise was a bit under-the-radar for most, which is a shame, because they offer combat that manages to be both approachable and cinematic in style. It really feels like you’re in complete control of this enormous, agile, badass Orbital Frame as it dances through the battlefield, blowing up other robots with missiles and lasers. This song, “BAHRAM Battleship,” really helps to get you into the mood, with its thumping techno bass line providing the rhythm for the fight. While original copies of the game are hard to come by, the recent HD Collection for the PS3 gives anyone wanting to try this stylish action game another shot.

Final Fantasy XIII – “Pulse de Chocobo”

Now, I’ve given Final Fantasy XIII plenty of flak over the last few years, and rightfully so, in my opinion. After the agonizing wait between XII and XIII, the end product still somehow felt rushed. One thing that Square Enix nailed with this installment, though, was the music; XIII has some of the best themes of the entire franchise. “Pulse de Chocobo” is a perfect example of this. It takes the well-known theme to everyone’s favorite yellow ostrich thing and mixes it up with some jazz piano and horns. The end result is a simple yet brilliant tune that will burrow into your skull and stay there, cheering you up when you least expect it. What’s even better is that when riding chocobos in the game, enemies can’t attack you, so you can just run around and listen to you heart’s content.

F-Zero X – “Mute City”

The F-Zero franchise is fast, ridiculously over-the-top, and a lot of fun. Watching your vehicle of choice (Blue Falcon all the way!) blast down the track, barely in control and with only a tiny fragment of health left is an adrenaline rush that few games can match. In order to do well, you are almost required to get into a zen-like state, barely blinking as obstacles and other vehicles pass you by. To help with this, the series has a ton of great music, the best of which has got to be “Mute City”. I was actually torn between which version I liked more, especially since the Super Smash Bros. versions are pretty awesome as well. For purity’s sake, though, I had to give it up to the N64 version, where the characteristic guitar theme was introduced. A word of caution, though; Do Not Play This Song While Driving! The temptation to speed down the freeway, screaming “You’ve got boost power!” at the top of your lungs is to strong.

Ace Combat 6: Fires of Liberation – “The Liberation of Gracemeria”

Oh, you don’t know how long I’ve been waiting to share this one. I must admit, I’ve never actually played the Ace Combat series, but upon stumbling upon this gem, I was immediately taken in. This one is a long, slow burn in which the orchestra gradually builds  up the intensity over more than three minutes. The main theme is an epic, sweeping piece that tells a story by itself. Even without knowing the proper context or having played the game, I can hear the desperation and determination in music. This song is just awesome, and I can’t help but get pumped up whenever I hear it.

That’s all for this installment of “The High Notes”. Have any other awesome tracks involving vehicles and driving? Share them in the comments below.

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