Starting off our list is the soundtrack for Halo: Legends, a whopper of a soundtrack in terms of remixes; most of the soundtrack consists of songs that had already made an appearance in the Halo franchise before the release of Halo: Legends, which was not a game, but a series of animated episodes explaining the story behind the Spartan program that conceived Master Chief, as well as the history of the Covenant's holy Arbiter. Because of the presence of so many remixed songs, I can't fairly say whether this soundtrack is decidedly Halo in comparison to the other soundtracks.Machines and Might
, while being the shortest track on this list at just over one minute is an original song from the soundtrack that builds in tension, something a lot of Halo music does, and does so with a distinct Halo vibe captured by the two composers of the soundtrack, Tetsuya Takahashi and Yasuharu Takanashi.9
Halo 3: ODST
- Asphalt and Ablution
Halo 3: ODST won and was nominated for many awards musically. It's probably, alongside Halo 4, the most distinct soundtrack in the Halo franchise with its obvious jazz influence and fusion of electronic sounds and African percussive influence while still reverberating the overtones of the game it is composed for in a noir style. It's hard to play a song off of Halo 3: ODST and not have a Halo fan identify it from the game.Asphalt and Ablution
is a piece of music that, like many other songs from the soundtracks, consists of different moving parts. All of the influences stated above can be heard in this one ominous package of a song. It is the epitome of the soundtrack, though probably not the most iconic from it. And I could listen to it over and over.8
Halo 4's soundtrack has been widely lauded and largely criticized for how distinct it is compared to the other soundtracks out there. The music is quite exceptional, with some songs blending the electronic and the orchestral, something that Halo has repeatedly done, however, most of the music from Halo 4's soundtrack doesn't work as a standalone piece, only finding its place when in-game. After the fallout from the music, Neil Davidge, member of trip hop duo Massive Attack and lead composer of the Halo 4 soundtrack, was subsequently not brought back for the next major soundtrack in the series, and instead, his co-composer Kazuma Jinnouchi, who scored all of the considerably more iconic themes in Halo 4, including the intense Arrival
, was brought back to lead the creation of the upcoming Halo 5: Guardians' soundtrack.
Probably the most recognized song from Halo 4, Arrival
is a song that builds up intensity through its percussion and through orchestral means, and does it twice. Most people introduced to this tune encounter it on the final mission of Halo 4, where it serves as a backdrop for the emotional onslaught Chief is about to face when confronting the Didact.7
- Spirit of Fire
Halo Wars' soundtrack was composed by Stephen Rippy who considerably succeeded in paying homage to Halo's musical roots while creating a collection of pieces that could stand on their own. Unfortunately, the game it was composed for never met critical success and a lot of the music from it is often overlooked in favor of the more major games' soundtracks.Spirit of Fire
is one exquisite example of the soundtrack that is Halo Wars. Combining Gregorian chant with electronic flitting sounds and an overreaching orchestra, the song is very fitting for the game and serves as the menu music for it.6
- Tip of the Spear
Halo: Reach's soundtrack is often described as percussion-heavy, and rightly so. It still does not lose focus with what Halo is musically and enhances the themes already present in Halo with great instrumentation not seen before from 5-time Halo composer Martin O'Donnell, who decidedly left the Halo universe with a bang since Halo: Reach's unique soundtrack.
The aptly titled Tip of the Spear
is found in the mission Tip of the Spear in Halo: Reach and does a great job of what it's there to do, blast an anthem for blasting aliens while laying the overtones that the planet of Reach will fall to the Covenant.5
Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn
While many Halo fans are aware of the episodic film titled Forward Unto Dawn, even fewer are aware of the lovingly hand-crafted soundtrack for it. Composed by another one-time composer for Halo, Nathan Lanier, the soundtrack captures the ominousness of impending doom in the film but also the live-action intensity it brought with it.
At the forefront of the soundtrack is a song dubbed Axios
, which can mean either, "worthy" or "he is worthy" depending on context. It is the motto of the military academy in the film Forward Unto Dawn. With this song playing in the background, how could anybody not feel worthy of fighting to see another day?4
- One Final Effort
Halo 3 was an amazing conclusion to the original trilogy, and musically it is one of the best. The soundtrack has many pieces of music that are brilliant, incorporating the aggressive aspects of electric guitars and electronic sounds into what is actually a more orchestral collection of musical pieces. Because the music works so well as a whole and not any individual track, I have much more to say about the song above than the album itself
Most often recognized as the music that plays during "the warthog scene" in which the player as Master Chief makes his getaway off of the Ark before the replacement installation detonates, One Final Effort
encapsulates everything that was and is Halo 3: intensity, achievement, epicness, the finishing of a fight, and contains that iconic sequence of piano notes scattered throughout the soundtrack that signify unexpected hope.3
Halo: Combat Evolved
The original Halo soundtrack is remarked as the first of its time: a full orchestral sound to accompany a video game. At the time, soundtracks were hardly even full of enough musical content to be used the way Halo: CE's soundtrack was triggered during different scenes of the game. There were so many options to choose from to represent this soundtrack, but none symbolizes Halo's mission more so than the above closing track.
With this closing track off of the original and definitive Halo score we have come to the theme that the previous song on the list is derived from, Halo
. Be sure to brave the silence to listen to the closing of the song.2
- Mjolnir Mix
Halo 2's soundtrack is legendary, that is no question. Building upon the foundation of what was Halo: CE's musical success, Halo 2 brings more musical content to the table along with legendary guitarists Steve Vai and John Mayer doing guitarwork for the score. Returning composer Martin O'Donnell set out to do the impossible, top the musical precedence that was Halo: CE's famous soundtrack that had now set the tone for other game publishers to include musical accompaniment that not only stood by the game, but by itself.
Among the most well-known pieces of music is Mjolnir Mix
, which features Steve Vai taking the helm and melodies of Halo to a new level in terms of awesomeness. When this song played, you felt like a badass among badasses.
So you may be wondering, what is THE Halo soundtrack that is best representative of the Halo universe.
And you may be naming off Halo games in your head searching for another piece of Halo content that has a fully composed score.
...it's none other than the most infamous Halo game put forth.1
Halo: Spartan Assault
- Finishing the Fight
Everything about the game Halo: Spartan Assault makes me absolutely hate that I spent money on it.
The soundtrack however, couldn't be a more definitive representation of what Halo music is. Composed by Halo fan and musician Tom Salta, every track off of the soundtrack is everything that the Halo franchise has established up to this point and is everything the Halo universe is about: an epic orchestral sound, drums and percussive instrumentation coming out your ears, a sense of hope along with a sense of dread surrounded by the iconic riffs, melodies and sound that is considered Halo.
While the song above, Finishing the Fight
, is only a sample, and is my favorite track among many favorites, I fully recommend hearing it as the closing of the album and culmination of all the music that came before it....
Thanks for reading and making it this far. Lastly, I'd like to ask for feedback. If you are entirely new to the Halo universe, I'd be very interested in knowing the following:
What does this music evoke for you?
And if you're an old-timer to Halo about to belch a rebuttal of my order, consider that I may be more interested in hearing your interpretation:
How you would order the 10 soundtracks above and their music?