Videogaming’s Greatest Soundtracks
An often-overlooked element in videogames, a great soundtrack can be as important and memorable as visuals or mechanics. These are some of the best:
Given that Transistor is a game that puts you in the shoes of a professional singer, you kind of expect a great soundtrack. Fortunately, the game delivers, delighting with a fantastic blend of jazz and electronica that fits perfectly with the game’s Art Nouveau cyberpunk world. There are some wonderful moments in this game where narrative beats, visuals and gameplay, are threaded together flawlessly with the game’s music in a way that reflects and enhances what is taking place at that particular moment. It’s also got a hum button.
Fez is evocative of games from the past, yet something completely original at the same time and the same can be said of its soundtrack. Its chiptune inspirations mean that the game’s music has a sense of nostalgia about it, but it is also very different to anything you would have heard from the era of games that inspired it. There’s something ethereal and otherworldly about those tracks and that dovetails beautifully with the sense of mystery that Fez fosters throughout.
Persona 4 Golden
We’re almost embarrassed to argue that a soundtrack that can be as cheesy as this should be considered one of the best. /Almost/. Yes, it’s got a bunch of ridiculously poppy and trashy tunes, but they are so exuberant and cheerful that you just can’t help but be bought along for the ride. Persona 4 Golden is a colourful and eccentric game and its soundtrack reflects that perfectly with an array of catchy and memorable songs that win it a place in this list.
Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2
Famed as they are for their awesome soundtracks, it was difficult to choose from the first three Tony Hawk’s games. Blitzkrieg Bop almost swung it in favour of Tony Hawk’s 3, but it is Tony Hawk’s 2 soundtrack that takes the prize, courtesy of the likes of Rage Against The Machine, Bad Religion and Anthrax. Tony Hawk’s 2 was a zeitgeist game that came along when there was nothing cooler than skateboarding and nothing captures that moment more perfectly that a compilation of skatepunk, hiphop and metal that perfectly encapsulates the era.
Metal Gear Solid
It has a pretty good soundtrack overall, but let’s be honest, it’s the main theme of Metal Gear Solid that really stands out. That rousing, iconic composition is one of the most recognizable in gaming. Iterated on through throughout the MGS series, it’s a classic track that’s stood the test of time and that remains one of our favourite videogame themes ever. Indeed, as good as the all the MGS soundtracks might be – from the first game, through to the most recent – it’s hard to look past that one memorable song.
A videogame’s music is usually at its best when it feels somehow in concert with the world that you are exploring. Such is the case with the brilliant Tearaway. As you move throughout the game’s wonderful papercraft world, the soundtrack changes to reflect each area and its gameplay scenarios perfectly. Characteristically, the soundtrack is fun and full of life, making inhabiting Tearaway’s world as much a pleasure as every other aspect of the game.
Red Dead Redemption
The music of composer Ennio Morricone is inseparable from the great Westerns, playing in our heads whenever we think of classics like The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly. A game inspired by the genre needed a soundtrack that riffed on those classics and Red Dead Redemption obliged. How fitting it is that one of Red Dead Redemption’s most famous scenes is inseparable from the song that accompanies it: the ride into Mexico set to Jose Gonzales’ Far Away.
Final Fantasy VIII
We could have picked just about any Final Fantasy game to be in this list, because they’ve all got brilliant soundtracks, courtesy of one of gaming’s great composers, Nobuo Uematsu. Those rousing orchestral scores form a fundamental part of our Final Fantasy memories and had to gain a place on the list in one form or another. We almost plumped for Final Fantasy VII but, as good as it is, there’s an element of nostalgia talking there. Instead, we’ve gone for the excellent Final Fantasy VIII soundtrack. We’ll never forget that song that accompanies the appearance of Edea.
Grand Theft Auto: Vice City
If you’re playing a GTA game, chances are the airwaves are packed with excellent tunes to choose from. Indeed, the fact that you can find an in-game radio station that suits your tastes makes the game’s soundtrack all the better. Arguably the best game GTA game when it comes to music is Vice City. That game’s soundtrack perfectly captured the essence of 80s Miami and that, after all, was precisely what the game was trying to do. From Kool and the Gang and Michael Jackson, through to Iron Maiden and Grandmaster Flash, GTA: Vice City is packed full of 80s goodness.
There must be something special about games set in Miami when it comes to music, because here we’ve got ourselves another prime candidate for the title of best videogame soundtrack. Hotline Miami’s soundtrack is a crucial part of what makes that game work. Those pulsating, electronic tunes help to create a near trance inducing feeling as you tear your way through the game’s exhilarating levels. The music fits the game so perfectly that you’d think it was tailor made, but in fact, the songs are all existing tracks selected by developer Dennaton Games. The developer repeated the feat a second time, with Hotline Miami 2 also having a banger of a soundtrack.