In this article, I will take a look – or a listen, I suppose – at some of the best video game music of all time. I will explain why these tracks are my personal favourites. Did your favourite game soundtrack make my list?
The best video game music of all time?
My first experience of gaming was on the ZX Spectrum. I can still remember my mother complaining about how annoying the music was in those games, with remarks such as “It’s not music. It’s just noise and it all sounds the same to me!”
Well, to an extent I suppose she had a point. In addition to game visuals increasing dramatically since those days, we have seen a musical renaissance with game soundtracks. From powerful orchestral scores to futuristic electronica, it is undeniably music now. And the music can be just as important as the visuals for immersing the player in the game.
Here’s a look at some of my favourite game music tracks, starting with One Winged Angel, from Final Fantasy VII.
1) One Winged Angel from Final Fantasy VII. Composed by Nobuo Uematsu.
2) Build That Wall/Mother I’m Here/Setting Sail, Coming home from Bastion, Composed by Darren Korb.
It was too hard to just select one track from Bastion’s amazing soundtrack, so here’s a trio which are thematically related in the one video. Combining acoustic bluegrass with electronic musical elements, it nailed the retro-futuristic setting. The music may actually be my favourite part of the game. Transistor – by the same developer – also featured wonderful music and is well worth playing.
3) Still Alive from Portal, composed by Jonathan Coulton.
This one was chosen primarily just because it’s so funny and perfectly captures the passive-aggressive nature of GlaDOS. The lyrics are great. Even in defeat, GlaDOS is determined to spin it as a victory. I love the juxtaposition of the happy sounding song with her talking about everybody being dead. Portal and Portal 2 are still the funniest puzzlers I’ve played.
4) Hall of Souls from Quake, composed by Trent Reznor.
Trent Reznor (NIN), composed a darkly futuristic and creepy soundtrack for Quake. The developers loved the music so much that they even put “NIN” on the game’s ammo packs.
5) Dragonborn from Skyrim, composed by Jeremy Soule.
It’s such a powerfully bombastic song that I just had to include it. A wonderful theme song for a wonderful game. A great introduction to Skyrim.
6) Theme of Laura from Silent Hill 2, composed by Akira Yamaoka.
At times depressing, emotionally powerful and frequently scary, the Silent Hill games still hold up well today. Silent Hill 2 featured a great soundtrack by Akira Yamaoka that combined lots of different types of music, such as trip-hop and piano.
7) Suicide Mission from Mass Effect 2, composed by Jack Wall.
A track that could be pulled straight from a Hollywood action movie, this rousing futuristic track makes you feel like every inch the hero. Mass Effect 2 featured some excellent tracks. “I’m Commander Shepard and this is my favourite track on the album.”
8) The Forest Temple from Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, composed by Koji Kondo.
This creepy track is my favourite Zelda dungeon theme ever but the whole soundtrack is great. I always look forward to my next visit to Hyrule.
9) Main theme from The Last of Us, composed by Gustavo Santaolalla.
The Last of Us is a post-apocalyptic tale with a whole lot of heart. With wonderful voice acting, a great script and a top notch musical score, it’s an emotional ride.
10) Icarus from Deus Ex: Human Revolution, composed by Michael McCann.
Like the Deus Ex games themselves, the soundtrack reminds me of the original Blade Runner movie. The game’s soundtrack is sometimes mysterious, other times bleak but always brilliant. If there’s a sound of the future, this is it.
11) A Beautiful Song from NieR Automata, composed by Keiichi Okabe.
This is one of the most modern songs to make the list, from NieR Automata. As song titles go, you can’t get more apt than “A Beautiful Song”. This track was featured in the Opera Boss Battle.
12) Far Away from Red Dead Redemption, composed by José González.
A lovely track that brings to mind the Spaghetti Westerns of old but with a more modern twist. I can’t wait for Red Dead Redemption 2.
13) Spiral from Thumper, composed by Brian Gibson.
Described as a “rhythm violence game,” Thumper is still my favourite PS VR game so far. This is partly due to the excellent futuristic soundtrack that gets the adrenaline pumping, then lulls you into a false sense of security before you’re battered by another fast-paced threat. It sounds even better with the in-game sound effects layered on top of it.
- Ave Maria from the Hitman games. Not included as it wasn’t originally done for the Hitman game but now I always think of them whenever I hear that track.
- The entire BioShock Infinite soundtrack. Whilst they were interesting remixes, again excluded due to not being originals. Worth listening to though, especially “Will the Circle Be Unbroken” and “Everybody Wants to Rule the World”.
- The Eternal Sonata soundtrack is brilliant, featuring classical music from Frédéric Chopin. I love the track “Raindrops”. The story is also emotional and utterly bonkers. Chopin also the game’s protagonist.
I hope that you enjoyed reading this article and listening to the music. Which are your favourite game music tracks? Please comment below and let us know.