Soundtracks are an essential component of games, but not all games utilize them well. Some games make their scores unnoticeable, placing more emphasis on action and dialogue than on the music. Others emphasize their music but include poor tracks, composing a bad score or implementing ill-suited songs into their games.
For many video games, however, the soundtrack can be the best part of the experience. Some follow a single style while others present a variety of songs to establish musical balance throughout the soundtrack and its game. Whether the songs are original or copyrighted, game companies must work hard to combine tracks into the perfect soundtrack.
Sadly, not all excellent soundtracks are combined with excellent games. Awful games often overshadow their soundtracks: while a beautiful soundtrack plays in the background, the forefront of the game may suffer from bugs, cliché plots, bad voice acting, offensive characters, and poorly designed mechanics. Occasionally, such soundtracks become popular despite their origins, but most soundtracks are neglected thanks to the dreadful games they stem from.
The soundtracks listed below sound amazing on their own, and almost all of them benefit their games. With styles designed for their respective genres, each soundtrack contributes to its game and the emotions players are meant to feel while playing those games. While the games have too many flaws to be fun experiences, their scores undoubtedly benefit the games and are thoroughly enjoyable outside their original context. In recognition of the soundtracks that outshine their games, here’s 15 amazing soundtracks found in terrible games.
15 Dragon's Lair
As a game centered on fantastical adventure, Dragon’s Lair offers excellent music for the genre. The soundtrack is fun, simple, and innocent enough to be lovable. Both the music and animation are perfect for a children’s fantasy game.
Unfortunately, the rest of the experience prevents Dragon’s Lair from being the perfect kids product. The game starts out charming and amusing, with brilliant animations and a hilarious protagonist. The hero’s antics soon become annoying, though, as you play through repeated rooms and watch him perform the same actions over and over. Jarring transitions visually hurt and make the on-screen buttons difficult to see, resulting in frustrating deaths.
Dragon’s Lair could have been a great game, but it has too many problems to please older players and an unspeakable ending that’s definitely not suited for children.
14 Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two
While a cooperative version of Epic Mickey sounds great, Epic Mickey 2 ruins the series by requiring cooperative gameplay. Without a single-player option, the game is unplayable for the majority of gamers. Even the cooperative campaign fails to save the game, for poor mechanics, confusing items, and a frustrating camera prevent players from easily progressing through the game.
The only flawless part of the game is its soundtrack. Combining Disney’s musical style with tracks reminiscent of Banjo-Kazooie, Epic Mickey 2 offers quirky but fun songs that fit the platforming adventure. There’s even a few well-written sing-along songs thrown into the mix. Although the gameplay fails to advance Disney’s gaming industry, the soundtrack recognizes the games and films that influenced it and simultaneously contributes to its musical genre.
13 Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts
When it’s not grotesquely transforming classic Banjo-Kazooie songs into metal garbage, Nuts & Bolts actually exhibits some great music. Much of the soundtrack is sadly unoriginal, with at least half the songs stealing from earlier tracks in the series. Nonetheless, the music sounds great and the changes to Banjo-Kazooie’s tracks work fairly well.
The most original part of Nuts & Bolts is its populated hub world, Showdown Town. Showdown Town presents a new style of gameplay as well as original tracks, with each area of the town presenting different iterations of a single theme. Each iteration works exceptionally well—every song in Showdown Town is a joy to listen to, with some tracks playing slowly and soothingly while others offer quirky fun that perfectly suits a Banjo-Kazooie game.
Though similar to its prequel, Centipede, this arcade game ported into contemporary consoles struggles against its predecessor. A centipede composed of several living entities never made sense anyway, but the gameplay of Millipede makes even less sense as your enemy moves in arbitrary directions. With nauseating changes in color, jarring movements of the screen, and unnecessary items, Millipede sacrifices wonderfully simple gameplay for complicated chaos.
What did improve between the two games is the music. While Centipede offers a mediocre score, Millipede plays exciting tracks that helps players have fun despite the frustrating events taking place onscreen. The track that plays when you get a high score is one of the most satisfying, triumphant songs you’ll ever hear, making you feel accomplished no matter how much pain you endured beforehand.
11 Guitar Hero: World Tour
The fourth game of the Guitar Hero series made a lot of changes to the franchise and very few of them went well. With confusing elements in the cooperative multiplayer and poor incorporations of the vocals and drums from Rock Band, Guitar Hero: World Tour tried and failed to match its competitors rather than building a series of its own. Even its original mechanics suffered; the three categories of guitar notes are barely distinct from one another, removing the smooth gameplay of World Tour’s prequels.
World Tour offers a variety of older and contemporary songs, most of which are great to listen to, but frustrating to play. While they may work for beginners, the long, slow, and extremely repetitive songs will quickly bore experienced players.
10 Final Fantasy XIII-2
Though not as spectacular as the music of Final Fantasy XIII, the soundtrack of Final Fantasy XIII-2 offers an enjoyable assortment of songs. Many tracks match the style of the prequel, while others contribute a buoyant style that makes the game feel lighter than its dark predecessor.
The variety of emotions in the game works well with the music, but not with the story. Jumping from silly characters to dark plots to destroy the universe, Final Fantasy XIII-2 presents an inconsistent style with a confusing plot involving time travel and a single character dying multiple times.
Combat improved between games and the music wonderfully reflects that. While the first game had great battle music, Final Fantasy XIII-2’s upbeat style makes combat an absolute joy.
9 Robot Alchemic Drive
This game has great ideas, particularly the central concept of controlling a massive robot from the first-person point of view of a human outside the robot. Unfortunately, the game’s flaws make it unplayable. The first-person point of view doesn’t work particularly well and the camera shakes violently whenever you jump or move your robot. The game’s voice acting is equally bad, but you can’t mute the game because its soundtrack is amazing. Intense but catchy music dramatizes battles and reminds you that you’re fighting for the future of the whole world, while the occasional poignant track provides the emotion that’s missing in the voice acting. Robots battling aliens may look epic, but it’s the soundtrack that turns this game into a truly epic experience.
8 Sonic the Hedgehog (2006)
Most recent Sonic games suffer from terrible stories and frustrating gameplay, but Sega’s 2006 game Sonic the Hedgehog is by far the worst. With unintuitive gameplay mechanics, a boring plot, an uncomfortable romance, bad voice acting, and countless bugs, Sonic the Hedgehog is rightfully panned by fans and critics alike.
The only worthwhile component of this game is its soundtrack. Some bosses are accompanied by terrific tracks, while nearly every level pulses with thrilling tracks fit for an action-packed adventure game. Despite the poor story, Sonic the Hedgehog’s cutscenes are nonetheless endurable thanks to beautiful songs that carry the game’s emotional weight. Sonic may lack inventive or interesting gameplay nowadays, but its music thrives in both older and newer games.
7 Ys vs. Sora no Kiseki: Alternative Saga
The soundtrack for Ys vs. Sora no Kiseki perfectly escalates the intensity of the fighting game. Fast-paced tracks with catchy melodies perfectly immerse players within the action. No song fails to match the game’s fervor, yet some tracks also provide lovely—almost relaxing—tunes, using harps, violins, piano, and beautiful vocals.
While the music establishes a quick pace, the gameplay falls short of its soundtrack. Attacks are quick and exciting, but the knockback of those attacks causes players to sometimes spend more time on the ground than in the action. Large maps and a zoomed camera often prevent players from seeing each other—something which should never happen in a fighting game. Loading screens and occasional cutscenes interrupt battles, causing players to test their patience more often than their fighting skills.
6 Raven's Cry
Although its gameplay, story, characters, and voice acting are too painful to even think about, Raven’s Cry possesses a wonderful soundtrack. Set in the Caribbean in the 17th century, Raven’s Cry features a soundtrack that functions as a slower and more atmospheric version of Pirates of the Caribbean. Despite its occasionally creepy tracks, the soundtrack manages to always be lovely; the game wonderfully uses its creepiness to establish tone rather than terrify the player. Whether creepy or soothing, the music follows a slow, consistent rhythm that imitates the varied repetition of ocean waves. The songs all follow a similar style, causing a few songs to be sadly unoriginal, but the soundtrack as a whole is very enjoyable to listen to.
5 Don't Starve
Don’t Starve is a survival kids’ game meant to challenge players who explore its world and the game’s soundtrack perfectly supports that goal. With tracks unique to different areas and seasons of the game, Don’t Starve always rewards daring players through new materials and excellent music. The music matches the game’s aesthetic, imitating gothic stop-motion films like The Night Before Christmas. Like those films, the soundtrack successfully portrays spookiness and danger without making players feel too scared or endangered—which works perfectly for a children’s game. Some great uses of banjo and jazz add some spice to the soundtrack as well.
Despite its smart design as a children’s game, Don’t Starve is not without its flaws. Though initially intimidating, Don’t Starve is actually fairly easy, making survival and exploration uninteresting after the game’s first hour.
Through an outdated game engine, controversial advertisements, and poor fighting mechanics, Daikatana suffered at its release and continues to be one of the most criticized games ever made. However, a lot of effort went into the game and the soundtrack shows the creators’ commitment to the project. From organs and xylophones to cricket noises and screaming men, Daikatana tries everything and, for the most part, succeeds in building an adventurous soundtrack. The soundtrack is perfectly balanced, switching between fast-paced tracks designed for action-packed levels and slow, dramatic songs meant to escalate the story. With some of the most exciting action music in the gaming world, Daikatana provides one of the greatest soundtracks in one of the worst games in history.
3 GoldenEye 007 (2010)
As an overly cinematic game that resembles Call of Duty more than the original GoldenEye 007 made in 1997, Eurocom’s 2010 game GoldenEye 007 is a sad attempt to remake a classic game. The music, however, recalls the game’s predecessor while wonderfully contributing to the game’s combat. Although some tracks sound similar to the scores from the Call of Duty series, GoldenEye 007 adds an extra flair that instills adventure rather than dark, chaotic action. The soundtrack feels sleek and powerful like the well-dressed secret agent you play.
With music that advanced a genre of music from excellent games like Perfect Dark and the original GoldenEye 007, the game had the potential to carry a classic style into contemporary gaming but sadly chose not to do so.
2 Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Blue Rescue Team
Although its music would make much more sense in a Mario game than a Pokémon game, Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Blue Rescue Team presents amazing music that perfectly matches its action-adventure genre. The quirky sounds found throughout the score fit the cartoony children’s game and constantly provide a fun atmosphere.
Sadly, the gameplay fails to sustain the excitement found in the soundtrack. Poor AI, repetitive dungeons, and a lengthy campaign drain the fun out of the game. The concept of a live-action Pokémon game in which a team of Pokémon work together sounds odd and fun at the same time; the game could have been excellent if it had made a more linear design. A multiplayer option would have greatly benefitted the game as well, as the soundtrack would work wonderfully in a multiplayer setting.
1 Link: The Faces of Evil
The three Legend of Zelda games developed for the Philips CD-i are widely renowned as the worst Zelda games and some of the worst games in history, but the soundtrack for Link: The Faces of Evil is absolutely amazing. Every dungeon involves a single theme with multiple iterations—some iterations are repetitive while others nicely alter the original theme, but every track manages to sound great. Some songs resemble the tracks from later action games like Perfect Dark, accompanying Link’s adventure with an intense and thrilling score. The remaining tracks are extremely fun and equally suited for fast-paced action, establishing an adventurous tone. Unlike many action-adventure games, Link: The Faces of Evil lets you have fun while you battle the forces of evil, playing music that’s so catchy you’ll be bobbing your head as you fight your way through enemies and horrific animations.