Top 20 best video game soundtracks of all time
Listing the best video game soundtracks ever which either give us the goosebumps or make us feel nostalgic listening to these iconic songs.
The epic chorus chants in Skyrim get you ready to face a dragon, the lonely piano medley in Breath of the Wild helps sell Hyrule's calm isolation, and The Witcher 3's folksy instrumentals make you feel more comfortable on the Continent.
Visuals in video games have progressed dramatically over the last few decades, with figures and landscapes edging closer to realism.
While older Nintendo or PlayStation 1 titles' graphics can appear dreadful, original soundtracks (OSTs) for video games, on the other hand, can live on long after the games themselves are no longer playable.
While game soundtracks have developed to include orchestras and choruses to create a more dramatic mood, there are some genuine classics too that we’re going to include from the 1980s and 1990s that are just as fun and catchy today, despite being created with restricted bits and synthesized audio.
Top 20 best video game soundtracks of all time We’ll Never Forget
The best video game soundtracks of all time, or at least our personal favorites are included below.
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (2011)
Nothing beats the sound of drums pounding in the middle of a battle or the sound of haunting choruses echoing down the depths of Dwarven ruins.
Jeremy Soule, who previously worked on Morrowind and Oblivion, was hired to compose the soundtrack for Skyrim.
"Dragonborn," the game's primary theme, was recorded with a choir of more than 30 people singing in a fictional dragon language.
Todd Howard, the game's creative director, envisioned the Skyrim soundtrack as The Elder Scrolls theme sung by a barbarian choir.
Soule, who recorded the 30-man choir and blended three independent recordings to give the appearance of 90 voices, helped make this a reality.
The Draconic language was designed by Bethesda's concept artist Adam Adamowicz, who also constructed a 34-character runic alphabet for the game. He added to the Draconic lexicon as needed.
Over 70 actors and over 60,000 lines of dialogue were used in the game's voice-overs.
Timothy Cubbison, casting director, and production supervisor collaborated with Bethesda on evaluating auditions and overseeing the recordings.
Max von Sydow, Christopher Plummer, Joan Allen, Michael Hogan, and Vladimir Kulich were among the Academy Award nominees and other notable actors.
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt (2015)
The Witcher 3 is perhaps as near to a perfect game as you can get, thanks to the attention to detail in the environment design.
The soundtrack incorporates folk music and battle hymns produced with medieval instruments, giving the game a realistic atmosphere while yet allowing for spiritual chanting. It is indeed one of the Top 20 best video game soundtracks of all time.
The game takes place on the Continent, a fantastical realm inspired by Slavonic mythology.
Parallel dimensions and extra-dimensional worlds surround it. On the Continent, humans, elves, dwarves, monsters, and other species coexist, yet non-humans are frequently punished for their peculiarities.
The Witcher, Geralt of Rivia (Doug Cockle), is the main character and a monster hunter who has been trained in battle, tracking, alchemy, and magic since childhood, and has been made stronger, quicker, and more immune to poisons by mutagens.
His lover, the powerful sorceress Yennefer of Vengerberg (Denise Gough), his former love affair Triss Merigold (Jaimi Barbakoff), the poet Dandelion (John Schwab), the dwarf warrior Zoltan Chivay (Alexander Morton), and Geralt's Witcher mentor Vesemir (William Roberts) assist him throughout the game.
Super Mario Bros. (1985)
When you hear the words "video game music," the opening theme from the original Super Mario Bros. is likely to pop into your brain.
The soundtrack perfectly complements the sound effects generated when Mario jumps in the air, breaks blocks, and warps down the pipes.
It's playful, energetic, and at the ideal pace to keep you going forward. When you get underground, the volume drops, and the music changes to a minimalist beat that warns you of impending danger.
Crawl forward in time with the “do do do do do do” of the music, and you just might make it out the other side alive.
Even when you lose, those few notes punctuate your failure, and you can't help but smile.
When you run out of lives and have to restart from the beginning, the game taunts you even more by playing a flat-key version of the theme song's opening notes.
It's back to World 1-1 and the most recognizable soundtrack in video game history before you get a chance to beat yourself up too much.
It’s one of the
Best video game soundtracks of 2021
and all the years to come.
Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (2017)
Manaka Kataoka, Yasuaki Iwata, and Hajime Wakai wrote the original score. Kataoka and Wakai previously collaborated on The Zelda games Spirit Tracks and The Wind Waker.
The soundtrack was composed and performed mostly on a piano, with an emphasis on ambient music and sounds rather than the melodic and uplifting music found in prior Zelda games.
According to Wakai, this added "authenticity" to the surroundings and was taken on by the rest of the sound crew as a challenge, resulting in one of the finest Music for video games.
Throughout the game, players are given little instruction and are allowed to explore the world, similar to the original 1986 The Legend of Zelda game.
Collecting various things and gear to aid in objectives such as puzzle-solving or side quests is one of the tasks.
The universe is unstructured, encouraging exploration and experimentation, and the main story objective can be completed in any order.
Breath of the Wild was praised for its expansive gameplay and meticulous attention to detail.
Although it garnered minimal criticism for its technical performance at launch, critics regarded it as a historic moment in open-world game design.
Streets of Rage 2 (1992)
There's a reason Yuzo Koshiro's name is widely displayed on the Streets of Rage 2 title screen: he's a video game composer god.
Koshiro worked his magic on the Genesis' FM synth sound chip, drawing inspiration from the 80s and 90s action films, Detroit house, and the Eurobeat movement to create a soundtrack that's equally at home in a dance club as it is in a sidescrolling beat 'em-up.
The moody, swinging entrance track sounds like an alternate universe's Lethal Weapon theme, perfectly establishing the tone for an urban conflict.
You could definitely slip "Dreamer" into a house music set without anyone noticing.
Who can forget, of course, "Go Straight," which will go down in history as one of the most unforgettable first-stage songs of all time? It's one thing to listen to a superb video game soundtrack;
it's quite another to listen to one that has you stomping your foot and humming the techno synth melodies long after the game has ended.
The soundtrack to Streets of Rage 2 isn't simply one of the Top 20 best video game soundtracks of all time; it's also the epitome of novelty.
Mass Effect 2 (2010)
Jack Wall wrote the majority of the soundtrack for Mass Effect 2 which is considered by many one of
The 20 Best Gaming Soundtracks of All Time.
He previously worked as the principal composer for BioWare's Jade Empire and the original Mass Effect games.
Some pieces by Sam Hulick, David Kates, and Jimmy Hinson (better known as Big Giant Circles) are also included in the score, with Brian DiDomenico providing further editing and in-game implementation.
The composers intended for a darker and more mature sound to complement the game's theme, unlike the previous Mass Effect.
The music has symphonic and traditional sci-fi arrangements that were influenced by the soundtrack of the 1982 film Blade Runner as well as Tangerine Dream's music.
Wendy Carlos' Tron soundtrack's harmonic structure also had a huge influence. The composers assigned each character their unique theme song to represent their personalities and origins.
"It was one of our mandates," Kates says, "to create a dynamic score that expressed a wide range of emotions."
The score for Mass Effect 2 was nominated for both the 7th British Academy Games Awards and the 9th Annual Game Audio Network Guild Awards for Best Original Music and Best Soundtrack Album.
Shadow Of The Colossus (2005)
The haunting and atmospheric PlayStation 2 game by Fumito Ueda casts the player in the character of an anonymous man tasked with slaying a dozen gigantic, lurching creatures.
The soundtrack is a fantastic match for the desolate terrain you find yourself in, which is devoid of any other people.
It alternates between calm acoustic guitar for the traveling portions and dramatic, at times dissonant orchestration for the fights with the Colossi, composed by Kow Otani.
The music for Shadow of the Colossus was created concurrently with the game's production.
The game's basic concept, according to Ueda, was to use a "dynamic and gallant" score in the style of conventional Hollywood film music.
The team's goal with Shadow of the Colossus' soundtrack, as with Ico's, was to set it apart from other video game soundtracks by "expressing restraint in terms of emotional expression as much as possible."
He intended the soundtrack to convey a melancholic ambiance as well as the history of the game's setting, based on the narrative's concepts of death and resurrection and was inspired by the opening theme from Silent Hill.
The original Doom soundtrack, composed by Robert Prince, changed the way composers handled video game music.
Prince's tunes were pummeling and vicious, extracting every ounce of aggression from the crude sound cards of the day, drawing inspiration from punk and heavy metal classics by Slayer, King Diamond, Metallica, and others.
The slower, more ambient tracks are a pleasant break from the brutality. It can even be considered one of the Best video game soundtracks of 2021.
Id hired composer Bobby Prince, who also worked on Wolfenstein 3D, to produce the music and sound effects.
Prince was directed by Romero to create music in the techno and metal genres. Many of the songs were influenced by metal bands such as Alice in Chains and Pantera.
Prince thought ambient music would be more fitting, and he recorded a number of tunes in both styles in the hopes of persuading the team, and Romero incorporated both.
Because the soundtrack was composed before the levels were finished, Prince did not compose music for individual levels; instead, Romero assigned each track to each level late in development.
Prince based the sound effects on brief descriptions or concept art of a monster or weapon, then tweaked them to fit the finished animations.
Journey by Thatgamecompany is the first video game to be nominated for a Grammy Award for its soundtrack.
It also exemplifies music's enormous potential in an interactive medium, changing tone and intensity in reaction to the player's actions.
The music is composed by Austin Wintory and features the cello as the primary instrument, with other sounds being added as the game proceeds.
All of Journey's music took three years for Wintory to develop, and it reflects that amount of time. Check out the soundtracks for Assassin's Creed Syndicate and Abzu if you like his work.
Music for video games is absolutely essential to give life to them.
Unlike many games, where different pieces of music represent different characters or areas, Wintory chose to base all of the compositions on a single theme that portrayed the player and their adventure, with cello solos expressing the player in particular.
Because of the electronic elements, Wintory characterizes the music as "like a big cello concerto where you are the soloist and all the rest of the instruments represent the world around you", however he does not describe it as orchestral.
Nier: Automata (2017)
Nier: Automata's early hours are complemented by a gloomy and occasionally joyful soundtrack that plays largely in the background as you roam around the open world.
The song Rays of Light has an unforgettable and simple piano tune that you'll often find yourself humming especially since there's little noise in the game's City Ruins but the jingle's final few notes shift toward a more depressing tone that's indicative of the emotional torture you'll face throughout the game.
It’s most definitely one of the
Top 20 best video game soundtracks of all time
The amazing soundtrack reaches its pinnacle in the game's concluding scenes. The Weight of the World, a quiet, sorrowful tune that begins with a solo performance before transitioning to an orchestral anthem with an entire choir of voices joining in as you progress to the game's touching conclusion.
Persona 5 (2017)
Video game audiophiles love the jazzy Persona soundtracks, and the Persona 5 OST is packed with upbeat music that encourages you to "wake up, get up, get out there."
The game's music features a synthesized tone that makes your character's daily Tokyo routine feel just as exciting as the Metaverse, thanks to composer Shoji Meguro's frequent usage of the electric piano and guitar.
Toshiki Konishi, Kenichi Tsuchiya, Atsushi Kitajoh, and Ryota Kozuka provided additional contributions, including general sound design; all of them had previously worked on the series.
Lyn Inaizumi, who plays a dozen or so pop / R&B songs that will stick in your head and have you singing them long after you beat the game, is one of the soundtrack's highlights.
Depending on the time of day, they emerge in both vocal and instrumental forms, which is a nice touch.
Furthermore, the game adds lyrics to some of the fight music, which is a risky move that few other games have taken.
With that said, we can certainly claim that it is one of The 20 Best Gaming Soundtracks of All Time.
Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag (2013)
Brian Tyler, who also produced the soundtrack for the previous Ubisoft game Far Cry 3, wrote the Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag (Original Game Soundtrack).
Sarah Schachner, Omar Fadel, Steve Davis, Mike Kramer, Jeremy Lamb, Matthew Llewellyn, and Robert Lydecker contributed further pieces and arrangements. On October 14, 2013, the soundtrack was published on Amazon MP3 and iTunes.
French composer Olivier Deriviere created the score for the DLC Freedom Cry.
It was recorded with the Brussels Philharmonic at Galaxy Studios in Belgium and Avatar Studios in New York with La Troupe Makandal, a specialist group for Haitian music.
With over 15 million copies sold as of 2020, Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag gained critical praise and was one of the best-selling games of 2013.
The open-world gameplay, enhanced naval combat, side quests, graphics, narrative, characters, and pirate theme were all acclaimed by critics.
Unlike previous games in the series, gameplay components are primarily focused on ship-based exploration of the continuous open-world environment, while the third-person land-based exploration, melee combat, and stealth system remain fantastic.
It’s been quite a long time, but the songs in this game are definitely one of the Best video game soundtracks of 2021.
Silent Hill 3
Music for video games
is almost as well-known as the games they appeared in, with deep blends of rock, trip-hop, industrial, drone, and more.
Yamaoka produced a signature sound as distinctive as Prince's guitar or Dre's beats when the furiously plucked mandolin gave way to rhythms, guitar, and piano in the original theme "Silent Hill."
While the music of Silent Hill 2 comes close, the soundtrack of Silent Hill 3 is the crown jewel of Yamaoka's legacy.
The quiet, lulling strums of "End of Small Sanctuary" give way to a plucked counter-melody that sounds like Joy Division's afternoon slumber.
“Breeze - In Monochrome Night,” a shuffling menace, using cresting, looping piano to create an air of frantic excitement that is never properly released.
Then there's "You're Not Here," a rock song so pure that you can almost hear Chrissie Hynde shaking her head in agreement as it plays.
Mary Elizabeth McGlynn (credited as Melissa Williamson) performs most of the vocalized tracks, with Joe Romersa contributing the chant on the tune "Prayer" as well as the vocals on the ending theme "Hometown."
Final Fantasy VIII (1999)
Everyone has a favorite Final Fantasy soundtrack, but Final Fantasy 8 is the one that deserves to be on the list of Top 20 best video game soundtracks of all time.
Nobuo Uematsu, the series' composer, was clearly aiming for something cinematic with the opening track, "Liberi Fatali," which is a million times better than Star Wars' "Duel of the Fates."
Pick any song from the soundtrack's 74 songs, and your mind will be taken away on a spectacular sci-fi/fantasy trip.
There's also "Blue Fields," which is the best overworld theme in Final Fantasy's decades-long history.
"Don't Be Afraid" is a fast-paced, blood-pumping melody that can be enjoyed even after dozens of hours of random battles.
And then there's "Force Your Way," which sounds like Rush took up a side gig composing video game music.
Every song is a masterpiece, a strange mix of prog-rock, classical music, and Uematsu's characteristic style that comes together to produce something not just unique to Final Fantasy, but to video games in general.
Final Fantasy 8 may not be the most obvious option, but it is, without a doubt, one of the best.
Donkey Kong Country (1994)
There's a reason why people flipped out when David Wise was confirmed as the composer for Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze on the Wii U: his SNES Donkey Kong Country soundtracks were insane, especially the first one.
Songs like "Jungle Groove" combine ragtime piano with animal noises, synthesized beats, and clarinet to create a jazzy new age jumble that is entirely Wise's own.
Wise, on the other hand, is never a single note in Donkey Kong Country. Minimalist chill-out compositions like "Aquatic Ambience" are opposed to DKC's more energetic jams, but they still feel well-matched to the game's pre-rendered universe and are delightful to listen to.
Wise's musical style was shaped by his work on Donkey Kong Country and turned into one of Top 20 best video game soundtracks of all time.
The technological limitations of the NES hampered Wise's ability to write video game music in the 1980s.
When he heard Nintendo's composers make music for them, he was inspired to go back and improve his work.
Such constraints taught him the value of a console's sound channels and led him to adapt his composition approaches as a result, which he used in Donkey Kong Country.
Bastion began as a cartography game in which the user moved and a world grew further around them, a physical experiment separate from the emotional survival story generated by Supergiant Games. Bastion's heart, despite its text, visuals, and wonderful action, would be missing if it weren't for Darren Korb's music.
A dusty combination of folk like "Build That Wall," country like "The Pantheon (Ain't Gonna Catch You)," bluegrass like "A Proper Story," and even weird tribal-like "Percy's Escape" clumps and evolves into a ripe whole, similar to Bastion's in-game ruins. Try not to get carried away when listening to "Mother I'm Here."
Korb composed all of the soundtrack's lyrics in addition to composing the music.
Supergiant Games had not intended to release a full soundtrack album for the game, but in response to public demand and the fact that it was one of the
Top 20 best video game soundtracks of all time
, they did it on August 5, 2011, in digital format, featuring two tracks not heard in the game.
"Get Used to It," which features a voiceover written by Greg Kasavin and spoken by Logan Cunningham, and "The Pantheon (Ain't Gonna Catch You)," which contains lyrics written by Korb and sung by Cunningham, are the two songs. By November 2011, the soundtrack had sold 30,000 copies.
God of War (2018)
The new God of War has a strong story that is only excelled by its incredible score.
Bear McCreary (who also composed the soundtrack for 10 Cloverfield Lane) employs instruments like the hurdy-gurdy to truly capture that ethereal, Norse vibe.
What's more, if you're familiar with the God of War series, you'll recognize some of the bars:
"I took my memories of that classic God of War soundtrack, the deep choirs, pounding drums, and shrieking brass, and reinvented them for a Norse age," writes McCreary.
"I wrote new themes, and introduced to the music exotic instrumentation and languages from various Northern European folk traditions."
The way it ebbs and swells in response to action and emotion adds to the game's pace and impact.
But it's just as wonderful when you're alone and that’s why it is included in our Top 20 best video game soundtracks of all time.
Sony wanted McCreary to perform his original composition with a live orchestra during the press conference when it was agreed that God of War would be introduced at E3 2016.
Before revealing God of War, McCreary opened the show with the new main theme and performed the gameplay demo's music live on stage.
Dragon Age: Inquisition (2014)
Raney Shockne wrote a set of songs that are played at a tavern at the player's base of operations by a non-player character named Maryden Halewell, who is voiced by vocalist Elizaveta Khripounova.
Elizaveta described the video game recording process as private and restricted, with no room for collaboration or input from the performer, because clients usually know exactly what they want and specifically request it.
Shockne gave her the instrumentals and lyrics for a "folky ballad, Celtic troubadours-style" tune, and she recorded the tracks in her bedroom with only a microphone connected to her laptop.
As surprising as it sounds, she created one of the Top 20 best video game soundtracks of all time in her own bedroom.
She had to re-record several times because the pronunciation for the tavern songs was supposed to be very specific.
The tavern songs and song sheets were included in Dragon Age Inquisition: The Bard Songs, which is separate from the game's Deluxe Edition's digital original soundtrack (OST).
BioWare gave The Bard Songs free to download from January 26, 2015, to February 9, 2015, due to high demand, after which they were made available for purchase on multiple digital platforms.
Chrono Trigger (1995)
Chrono Trigger is one of those once-in-a-lifetime creative projects that, no matter how hard you tried, you couldn't duplicate.
While most people will remember the game's design team, Yasunori Mitsuda and Nobuo Uematsu, the game's composers, did an excellent job as well.
The game has 60 tracks, each of which lasts about two minutes before repeating, which was unheard of in the 16-bit era.
The soundtrack has been re-released on disc, rewritten for many remakes, and played live since its first release in 1995.
It's a true musical masterpiece and one of the
Top 20 best video game soundtracks of all time.
Mitsuda even returned in 1999 for Chrono Cross, which had an even more broad selection of tracks, despite the game failing to live up to expectations.
Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (1998)
We couldn't have a list of the Top 20 best video game soundtracks of all time without mentioning The Legend of Zelda twice.
The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time soundtrack is, in our opinion, one of the best of the bunch.
It incorporates ideas and concepts from A Link to the Past and the original Legend of Zelda, but it aimed to reintroduce Hyrule to a younger, yet still familiar audience.
Furthermore, you were a part of it while playing the Ocarina in-game, solving puzzles, casting spells, and generally drowning in Koji Kondo's magnificent harmonies and melodies.
These are also the themes that have gone on to distinguish and elevate the rest of the Zelda franchise, so it's not just great music, but history in the making.
Halo 2 (2004)
The series' iconic, choir-heavy theme music debuted in the first Halo game, and the third game finished with an emotional piano number that provided what we thought was a conclusive resolution to Master Chief's narrative.
Neither, though, can match Halo 2's electric guitar shredding. We're reacquainted with the Covenant's deadly Hunter foes early on in the game, who usually strike dread into our hearts the moment they appear.
We had the confidence to charge in with our guns blazing since Steve Vai's solo was blasting in our ears.
When we take control of the Arbiter and switch views, the music takes on a horror tone, with somber, sorrowful moments that remind us of the impossible mission he must perform.
The soundtrack helped to make the game's contentious cliffhanger ending palatable.
Marty O'Donnell's score crescendos when Master Chief utters his iconic "Sir, finishing this fight" statement, and the screen fades to black.
Fans would have to wait three years to find out how the Human-Covenant battle ended, with the score still ringing in their ears.
It can no doubt be considered one of The 20 Best Gaming Soundtracks of All Time.
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