The music behind a video game might be one of the more underappreciated aspects of a game. Everyone always goes ga-ga for the visuals and the gameplay (for good reason, ’cause, I mean, those things are sort of important), but I feel like a game’s soundtrack isn’t as valued as it should be.
I’ve always had a special place in my heart for soundtracks, so today, I’m going to write about my top ten favorite video games in terms of their music.
That’s right, folks. It’s time for yet another list!
Seriously, these are my favorite kind of posts to write.
Let’s do this.
10. Dead Space 2
The Dead Space series is not known for its soundtrack. (Or at least I don’t think it is.) It’s mostly known for its excellent take on sci-fi horror. In Dead Space 2 you play as Isaac Clarke, engineer extraordinaire, as he deals with yet another necromorph infestation. The terror of these nightmarish creatures is brought to life thanks to the incredible audio design. And, as everyone should know, a video game’s soundtrack is technically part of its audio design. (Kind of.) The Dead Space 2 soundtrack is better than just blaring horns accompanying jump-scares and rapid percussion during a chase sequence. The game also includes some pretty somber melodies, with slow strings depicting the tragedy of the story as well as the fright. It hits you right in the feels. (And yeah, the chase sequence themes can give you minor heart attacks as well.)
Good god, I could hum this theme for hours. I don’t know if the Tetris theme counts as a soundtrack, but I’m gonna include it on my list anyways. If you have never heard the Tetris theme song, I don’t know whether to recommend it to you or not. On the one hand, it is an iconic video game tune that everyone should hear at least once. On the other hand, if you hear it, you’ll get it stuck in your head and you’ll have no one to blame but me.
8. Shadow of the Colossus
If you’re going to be fighting giants in these epic landscapes, you should definitely have great music to accompany you on your quest. I have only ever played Shadow of the Colossus once on the PlayStation 2. (No, I haven’t tried the remake because I don’t own a PlayStation 4.) It was goddamn beautiful. For those of you who don’t know, you play as a guy named Wander who has to take down these slow-moving Colossi. The music is mostly ethereal in quiet moments, but it changes to bombastic, fantastical themes whenever you begin your fight with a Colossus. And funnily enough, the music is able to make you feel simultaneously triumphant and a bit saddened when you bring these magnificent creatures down.
7. The Last of Us
People hype up the story of The Last of Us all the time (as well they should), but the soundtrack should get some love too. It is remarkably simple, poignant, and easily recognizable. If you really listen to it, the main theme can be boiled down to three notes. Gustavo Santaolalla achieved so much emotional impact with such simplicity. It actually reminds me of Jaws’ soundtrack. Not the emotions tied to the soundtrack. (Definitely not.) But how the melody can convey so much by remaining uncomplicated.
6. Red Dead Redemption II
I’ve already gushed about Red Dead Redemption II in its entirety in this post over here, so some of you already know how I feel about its soundtrack. Masterpiece level of music right there. RDR2’s soundtrack rides alongside the story beats in perfect tandem. You know those fortuitous moments in movies when someone is feeling sad and then it starts to rain. That’s how in sync Red Dead Redemption II’s soundtrack is with its story. Something will happen and the music matches it. Also, there is a fantastic selection of songs chosen for choice moments in the game. If soundtracks in general don’t interest you, be sure to at least check out the featured songs sung by many talented artists. My particular favorite is “That’s the Way It Is.”
Prey is a video game that did not get a lot of notice when it came out, which is a downright shame because it is fantastic. It’s a mix of Bioshock, Soma, and Dishonored all rolled into one sci-fi package. Its soundtrack is also great. While it doesn’t stick in your head with defined melodies, it suits the game to a tee. I just found out it was composed by Mick Gordon, who appears in another entry on this list as you’ll soon find out, and I couldn’t be happier. It has a classic synth vibe to it that is nostalgic and futuristic at the same time.
4. Ori and the Blind Forest
Soft orchestral notes greet you as soon as you start up Ori and the Blind Forest, and the high quality of its sound is maintained throughout the entire game. The tempo picks up when your little forest spirit, Ori, is in danger, but it knows when to slow down too. Throughout the game, you travel to various places on a map (Metroidvania-style), and each area has its own theme. Even these background themes are as enjoyable to listen to as the more dynamic story themes.
3. DOOM (2016)
Mick Gordon shines in DOOM. Admittedly, this kind of music might not be for everyone. If you give it a listen and decide it’s not for you, that’s okay. But just try and picture those pulsing and pounding themes as you play the iconic Doomguy, punching and shooting your way through bloody hordes of ravenous demons. No other soundtrack on this list made me feel like a bad-ass the way Doom’s did.
2. Super Mario Odyssey
Okay, I know I’m not including the original Mario theme, which is a super iconic one, but this soundtrack blew me away with how awesome it is. Super Mario Odyssey wowed me on every level. I played it with relatively low expectations, expecting it to be just another Mario game. Imagine my surprise with how playful and delightful it was. The soundtrack embodies the idea of adventure, which is exactly what you go on alongside Mario and Cappy.
Psh. What, did you think I wouldn’t include Halo on this list? Halo is my all-time favorite video game in the history of ever. Its soundtrack is perfection. I love every theme, can predict when each music cue will occur, and frequently play it in the car to the annoyance of my sister. Rest assured, when I say I like the Halo soundtrack, I’m only talking about the Halo games in which Martin O’Donnell was the composer. Halo 4’s soundtrack was all right, with some great tracks like “Arrival” and “117,” but Halo 5: Guardians‘ soundtrack sucked dick. I’m sorry for getting lewd there, but it’s true. You can’t hum a single piece of music from Halo 5 because all of it just sounds like generic sci-fi noise. Anyways, I love Halo’s music so much, I think I’ll listen to some right now!
So that’s it for my list. Do you have any favorite video game soundtracks? Or just favorite soundtracks in general, from movies and TV shows? Let me know in the comments 🙂
9 thoughts on “Top 10 Favorite Video Game Soundtracks”
It’s interesting how everyone thinks of that piece of music as the Tetris theme. I do like how we pick up new information from unlikely sources. I’ve always said that Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors and Virtue’s Last Reward are some of the best educational games you’ll ever play.
Shadow of the Colossus is one of those title that left a gigantic influence on the medium, but it wouldn’t be until quite some time that other people managed to do what it was going for justice (the art game).
Although I didn’t like The Last of Us, I will admit its presentation was immaculate. The soundtrack didn’t grab me as much as Uncharted’s, but it was highly fitting for the kind of mood they were going for.
Super Mario Odyssey has an excellent soundtrack. It proves that, in spite of what journalists and critics may say, Nintendo has still it after all these years.
I have to admit I’ve never played the Halo series (or at least not any of them to completion), but the main theme is amazing.
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I am so extremely jealous of you that you haven’t played the Halo series through to completion. That means you get to live the magic for the first time when you do.
What games would you say Shadow of the Colossus inspired that I should play?
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Hello, how are you doing? Always good to see you out and about! I put it to you… worst video game soundtrack you know?
Regrettably I haven’t played most of these, but I definitely rate Ori and Doom’s soundtracks! I’m pretty partial to music from the Final Fantasy and Zelda series.
Also, yes! Halo 5’s soundtrack is poo poo. If you’re interested, here are two REALLY good videos analysing the Halo OSTs: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HcWQi4Zk5Ss and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mBuRI1qnNWk
Holy moly those Halo edits sound great in the second video you linked me to. Makes me all sad knowing what MIGHT have been.
What’s your favorite Legend of Zelda soundtrack? I’m a verrry casual Zelda player.
Right? I love those deep-dive analyses.
I haven’t played the last few Zeldas, so probably Ocarina of Time and Wind Waker. I, um, have this Zelda alarm clock app so I can wake up to the Song of Storms… *embarrassed*
That is, quite frankly, the most awesome thing I’ve heard this week.
Great list, Swift Horse from Shadow of the Colossus does it for me. Any of David Wise’s work – DKC: Tropical Freeze for instance. Rayman Origins has an astonishing soundtrack, courtest of a quirky Frenchman called Christophe Heral. Skyrim is outstanding as well.
But yeah, Ori and the Blind Forest. Wow. Gareth Coker is wonderbar, I can’t wait for the sequel.
A lot of indie games are like that. Celeste, Owlboy, FAR: Lone Sails… I really have a lot of enthusiasm for video game soundtracks.
Me too! Ori and the Will of the Wisps is one of my most anticipated games yet to be released.
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