While video games are primarily known for their gameplay, a great soundtrack can elevate them beyond anything else in their class. With games taking up time and resources similar to Hollywood films these days, a good score is all but necessary to get a game even close to winning Game of the Year awards.
People who love games are likely to listen to and appreciate the best soundtracks in the industry. If you're looking to add some more gaming music to your collection or just want some nice tracks to listen to, look no further than our list for the best video game soundtracks.
Celeste was an indie platformer that released in 2018 and captured the hearts of gamers around the world. Despite having the pixel art style that many people feel is overdone, Celeste was a masterclass in gameplay, mechanics, and storytelling. Going along with many of its triumphs was a beautiful soundtrack.
The music takes a much simpler approach, reflecting the mental illness that the story deals with as well as the setting of climbing a massive mountain, going from subtle to intense on the flip of a dime. It adds to the presentation, hitting home the narrative and themes that helped define the experience.
By now, you've probably heard of the beautiful PlayStation exclusive, Journey. This game is designed to be completed in one sitting, never holds your hand through mechanics and dialogue, but somehow tells you everything at the same time. You find yourself working with another person despite the game never telling you that it's someone else helping out.
Going along with the subtle beauty of a game like Journey is its soundtrack. The use of deep strings hit home the sense of loneliness out in the desert with rising harps raising the player's hope. The music both portrays the adventure and beauty of the game almost effortlessly.
Bastion came out years ago, but it still stands as one of the more impressive indie games ever released. With its combat, isometric perspective, and eclectic narrator, there's a lot to remember with this game. The choice was always with the player, who could decide exactly how the story ended.
With the game being inspired by many popular western stories, Bastion's soundtrack reflects that as well. There are guitars, lonely strings, and upbeat strums to let the player know that they're in for an isolated yet otherworldy adventure through Caelondia. It impresses at every turn, just as the game does.
7 SHADOW OF THE COLOSSUS
Shadow of the Colossus is a sad yet beautiful game, being one of the most memorable titles back when it released on the PS2. Taking a trip through a deserted ancient land with massive beasts to hunt led to a brilliant game from start to finish.
Part of how Team Ico sold the environment in Shadow of the Colossus was through its soundtrack. Taking a somber and orchestral approach to the music, there was always a hint of sadness to every path in Wander's quest. Yet, in those moments, the soundtrack reminds the player that there is still beauty and life.
Upon booting up Cuphead, you're greeted with a barbershop quartet that sings through the story of Cuphead and Mugman. After that, you're treated with a subtle piano before you embark on getting rid of your contract with the devil. Cuphead is one of the most visually pleasing games ever made, designed as if it were ripped straight out of an old cartoon.
The soundtrack also has to sell this art style, being filled with ecstatic piano keys banging in rapid succession and jazzy saxophones dancing through a series of notes. There's no denying that the developers did their research with the game and its score.
After developing the hit indie game, Bastion, developer Supergiant Games went on to create Transistor a few years later. An action game set in the future, Transistor is similar to Bastion in many ways, but it's clear that the developers built on their design mechanics to make something more modern.
Going hand in hand with the neo-futuristic setting was an upbeat soundtrack that had heavy use of drum sets and techno sounds constantly encouraging the player to push forward. Supergiant Games proved yet again that they had a clear handle on how to communicate tone through their music. Transistor's score is radically different from Bastion's, but it's just as good.
4 SUPER MARIO ODYSSEY
It had been years since Nintendo released a sandbox 3D Mario game, so Super Mario Odyssey was met with a lot of excitement. Along with this triumphant resurgence in gameplay came an upbeat soundtrack that's as much a joy to listen to outside of the game as it is to listen inside of the game.
Each world is met with a thematic and complex soundtrack that's just as catchy as the rest. Best of all is the game's main theme, "Jump Up, Super Star!", which featured an actual live performance and singer. It's arguably the best that Super Mario has ever been in the music department.
3 FINAL FANTASY VI
While there are plenty of new Final Fantasy games with new tones and styles for players, one of the best soundtracks in the series can be found back on the SNES with Final Fantasy VI. Every theme, location, and battle is captured beautifully with a dynamic score that always knows how to accent the game's moments.
This game showed that music could have every bit as much effort in a game as the mechanics themselves. Some people may like the soundtrack in later games more, but it's hard to deny the emotional impact of the music in Final Fantasy VI.
2 THE LEGEND OF ZELDA: BREATH OF THE WILD
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is a gorgeous and nearly perfect reinvention of The Legend of Zelda series. Appropriately, the music was composed to reflect that change and is just as different as the rest of the game.
The soundtrack creates many of its own original themes, only occasionally remixing familiar tunes in new ways. Furthermore, the game relies on subtle pianos as Link explores Hyrule, accenting the beauty of this new version of the world. However, when the game gets epic, the soundtrack escalates to reflect it, creating emotional moments unmatched by most games today.
1 THE ELDER SCROLLS V: SKYRIM
There's a reason Bethesda could get away with releasing The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim on just about every console today. The game is an excellent open-world adventure, and its soundtrack just adds to its greatness. The game opens with an orchestral choir theme that wouldn't be out of place in a big-budget Hollywood fantasy film.
The soundtrack knows how to give players a sense of epicness and grandeur that would exist in a place like Skyrim. No doubt, many players are familiar with the tunes in the game, whether it be the relaxed themes from the various towns or the intense songs that accompany large-scale battles.
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