A game's soundtrack might not be as immediately obvious or as flashy as its story or graphics, but it impacts so much of the overall experience. A fantastic soundtrack can help elevate an otherwise awful game. On the other hand, an amazing game combined with an absolutely awesome soundtrack combines to ensure an unforgettable experience.
We're not here to talk about the soundtracks that work. Awful soundtracks are unfortunately common and there's no shortage of terrible soundtracks paired with even worse games out in the world. It's a special tragedy when a surprisingly decent game is gifted with a soundtrack that sounds like boiling dog bile. These games are all, in varying ways, actually pretty fun to play through. But thanks to their soundtracks, they're the rare title that's better enjoyed on mute.
Whether generic or simply poorly conceived, no soundtrack or song on this list can live up to the games they're featured in. Let's dive in and check out the worst of the worst.
15 Halo 4
Unlike some of the other entries on this list, Halo 4 is here not because the soundtrack is obnoxious, but because it's practically non-existent. Previous titles in the series featured powerful, moving tracks (who can forget the epic, titular theme song?).
But Halo 4's soundtrack fails to make an impact. While a perfectly serviceable track, there's just not one theme in the entire album that makes an impact. It's too subdued, too quiet. If you're not paying attention, you'll hardly notice it. The previous games (and titles coming after 4) all had a unique, unmistakable sound to each track. Halo 4 borders on generic, with no musical cues harking back to previous themes nor any elements to set apart Halo 4 from other space-themed games. Martin O'Donnell, due to Microsoft's break from Bungie, wasn't able to return to 4. And while Neil Davidge is by no means an inept composer, he and Halo just didn't click.
14 Marvel VS Capcom 2
For the longest time, the Marvel VS Capcom series were among some of the best Marvel games, period. Featuring dozens of fan-favorite characters, colorful battles, and tight gameplay, they're memorable and Marvel VS Capcom 2 was certainly no exception. Critically acclaimed upon release, it's still considered one of the best games in the series.
Thankfully, no one graded 2 on its soundtrack alone. Because, lordy, it's pretty awful. Just listen to the Character Selection screen theme. With a lone woman begging to take you for a ride and a selection of all-too-perky trumpets and bass, it's a bizarre track for a part of the game players hardly pay much mind to and have to encounter every time they decide to play.
13 Grand Theft Auto IV
What is it with all the fourth entries in a series having awful soundtracks? There is one saving grace to GTA IV and it's the fact that you can switch radio channels at will. Not all the songs are completely awful - we have The Who to save us - but the truly awful ones take the cake.
Take the awkward club track "One+One" by Electro Choc. Like the worst club tracks, it consists of a few repeated loops and a single phrase repeated over and over again. Nothing else. No substance. No soul. Just a dull backdrop to an acid session. There is no such thing as a club fan. It's just someone who's forgotten what music actually sounds like.
12 Serious Sam 3
It's not that Serious Sam 3's soundtrack is the worst thing in the history of gaming soundtracks. The problem with Serious Sam is that it quickly overstays its welcome.
With looping tracks, continual repetition, and little to no variety throughout the game, it's almost a disorienting experience just trying to get through the main campaign. The soundtrack itself sounds fine when listened to separately from the game itself. But combining the two is like spreading Nutella on lasagna. Both are great on their own, but have absolutely no business being anywhere near each other... unless it's for some kind of dessert lasagna, which is a conversation for another time. The less said about Hero's vocal rendition, which is basically death metal swill, the better.
11 Castlevania: Harmony of Dissonance
Even some of the worst entries in the series (we're looking at you Simon's Quest) had perfectly decent soundtracks. Harmony of Dissonance certainly lives up to its name by offering some pretty dissonant harmonies throughout its soundtrack.
While the Game Boy Advance didn't have a lot to work with when it came to hardware, that's no excuse for what many fans now regard as the worst Castlevania score in the history of the series. Awkward synthesizer, repetitive loops, and stereo crackling pitches result in one of the few Castlevania games better enjoyed in complete silence or with something else playing in the background. We suggest looping an old Universal monster movie score for the best results.
10 Sonic Chronicles: The Dark Brotherhood
Give your twelve-year-old brother a MIDI keyboard and he'll come up with something sixteen times better than what the time rushed composers behind Sonic Chronicles: the Dark Brotherhood were able to compile.
Post-90s Sonic games are often a mixed bag, but for the most part, the handheld titles are fairly solid. The Dark Brotherhood is by no means a legendary game, but it's an enjoyable title that sees Sonic and friends embark on a quest to save an echidna-napped Knuckles all the while fighting against a mysterious organization.
The soundtrack, comparatively, is abominable. Featuring remixes of previous Sonic hits and MIDI sludge, it's both inept and an atrocious listening experience. Rumor has it that the composers were given only 24-hours to design the soundtrack due to contractual issues and if so, it definitely shows. My dog ran for the hills as soon as I started playing the score, as the high pitches that loop throughout The Dark Brotherhood are enough to scare off anyone.
9 NHL 17
It's hard to screw up hockey. And for the most part, NHL 17 was an alright follow-up to EA's long-running series. The soundtrack, however, leaves much to be desired. With this wispy entry from Air Traffic Controller headlining the mix, nothing on this track fits the game. It's as if your fifteen-year-old sister cobbled together the score and called it good. There's no bombast, there's nothing you'd actually listen to outside of the game. Previous entries had track lists that were actually fun to listen to. How about 14's hefty list featuring mainstays like Wolfmother's "Joker and the Thief" and Dropkick Murphy's epic "The Boys Are Back?" You wanted to play the game just to hear the mix. 17 fails in this regard. Nothing on the set list stands out and when you do notice it, it's because the songs are especially awful, not because they have merit.
8 Burnout Paradise
With previous entries in the Burnout series featuring fairly solid soundtracks, there's no excuse for the horror that is 99% of the Burnout Paradise OST. Featuring bottom tier Guns and Roses songs, this atrocity from LCD Soundsystem, and other songs no one ever wants to play on repeat (though there's classic music throughout the game. We can only assume they were included because they were public domain), nothing on Burnout Paradise's collection of pop and R&B tracks really stands out, save for Avril Lavigne's "Girlfriend." And when Avril Lavigne is among one of the best artists featured in your title, you know you're on a sinking ship.
7 Devil May Cry 3
It's hard to even call Devil May Cry 3's soundtrack a soundtrack, considering how all the title's tracks blend together. We can thank the handiwork of Shootie HG for that. And don't worry. We'll encounter him again in this list.
The sad thing about the Devil May Cry 3 soundtrack is that you actually hear pleasant snippets of church choirs and bombast orchestration once in a while. If the developers had left it at that, we would've been fine. But that Shootie song keeps looping throughout the game. Awkward lyrics that have that unmistakable 2Edgy4U vibe aren't helping matters. And by the end, it's enough to make any devil cry.
Clunky and aggressive, this soundtrack is the drunken fat uncle of gaming music. Drakengard is a pretty solid title. A cult classic, the game features innovative twists and elements such as multiple endings (which not every game can easily pull off), a plot that tosses players around various timelines, and gorgeous character designs.
Drakengard's soundtrack is a far different story. Thankfully, later installments of the series received a musical upgrade, but there's little to love about the first game's tracks. They're bumbling and inelegant. Electronic trumpets barge in at the most unwelcome moments. At best, the soundtrack is unmemorable. At worst, it fails to match the tension of emotionally-rapt scenes.
5 Street Fighter 4
When you play a Street Fighter game, you're not exactly expecting Beethoven. And yet when you compare Street Fighter 4's soundtrack to other entries in the series, it's clear that 4 falls drastically short.
From the mediocre character themes, which fail to live up to each character's larger-than-life persona, to this breathy excuse for a main theme that seems like it crawled out of R-Kelly's nightmares, there's nothing to write home about. I'm reminded of Arin from Gamer Grumps, who described this soundtrack as being "good in a terrible way." I'd go one step further and omit good from being associated in any way, shape, or form, with 4's soundtrack. At least V learned its lessons from its predecessor and gifted us with a peppy, dynamic track that you actually look forward to hearing every time that you pop in the game.
4 Final Fantasy XIII-2
Listen to this and you will know what the inside of Satan's bowels sound like. We're not saying that Final Fantasy XIII-2 was the best game ever or even a notable Final Fantasy title but it still has plenty of things to offer both returning fans and new players alike. But be ready to press the mute button. Final Fantasy XIII-2's score was passable but I'm throwing it on this list purely for the monstrosity that is the "Crazy Chocobo" song.
A heavy metal cover of Nobuo Uematsu's classic Chocobo theme by the forgettable Shootie HG, there's no rhyme or reason to the cover. Who in the Square Enix board room listened to this drivel and deemed it acceptable to include in the final game? Who sat in the sound studio with Mr. HG and allowed this utter desecration of Uematsu's work without blinking an eye? We can only wonder and shudder. We can better accept Shootie HG in a Devil May Cry game (though just look at 3), but Final Fantasy, of all things? When lyrics like "Gas 'em up with the greens and let him go/Stand back, stand clear as he puts on a show/So cute yet fierce, is he from hell?" blast by your ears while you're riding your noble chicken steed, it's enough to justify the extinction of the entire Chocobo species.
3 Yoshi's Island DS
In an iconic franchise that's gifted us with some of the most memorable tunes know to gamer-dom, it seems like absolute blasphemy that a Mario related title would have such a crummy soundtrack. And yet Yoshi's Island DS manages to do just that.
The first Yoshi's Island game had a perfectly serviceable score. So what went wrong here? Just take a listen. With awkward, blundering squeaks and a clunky xylophone piped in throughout the score, it's hard not to be converted into an outright Yoshi hater by the end of the game, just thanks to its awful soundtrack. The game itself was received well by critics and fans. But just play this island adventure on mute. You'll thank yourself later.
2 Sonic Arcade
Sonic Arcade might not enjoy the same recognition as the franchise's other endeavors but all in all, it's a fairly enjoyable title. All the classic elements of Genesis-era Sonic are there. Robotnik, ring collecting, high-speed romps through exotic landscapes, etc. But if you can sit through the infamous "King of the Ring" song in the Radio Zone, you boast a far stronger constitution than I'll ever hope to have. Or something's up. Are you sure you're okay?
It's as if the composers wrangled together the worst elements of 90s soundtracks. Half-hearted dance tracks? Check. An off-key children's choir? Throw it in. It all melds together to create the awful "King of the Ring" song, which I still have flashbacks about. There's really no such thing as an objectively good club song, but it takes a truly awful one to rise above them all. Not only is this one of the worst Sonic-related tracks of all time, but it's just a horrific song in itself. If you're ever far too nostalgic for those long-gone days of electronica, raves, and leather pants, just listen to this song and remind yourself of the follies of club music.
1 Resident Evil: Director's Cut
There's no denying that the early installments of the Resident Evil franchise were groundbreaking for their time. While they don't exactly hold up today (the abysmal controls and voice acting leave much to be desired), the first game has an undeniable charm.
This charm doesn't extend to the soundtrack. And even for its time, the soundtrack is still one of the most awkward scores ever conceived for a horror game. Bloated with synthesizers and repetitive loops, it's a deeply unpleasant listening experience when separated from the game. But the king of the title's worst track must go to the Mansion Basement theme, encountered in the Director's Cut. If you've ever wondered what farting clowns at a funeral sound like, wonder no more. It's as if the composers imprisoned their three-year-old nephew in a concrete bunker, lobbed an electric keyboard at the poor kid, and demanded that he mash something together in trumpet mode while blindfolded. There is no God, only Midi-trumpets.
Die-hard Resident Evil fans know that the original soundtrack was supposedly crafted by genius composer Mamoru Samuragochi, up until it was found out that Samuragochi hired a ghostwriter. The real tragedy is that Samuragochi didn't hire a better one.