For many game developers, the music that accompanies the action or story on the screen is a second thought that gets pushed below quality storytelling, fun gameplay, and high fidelity graphics. But soundtracks are what often generate the most nostalgia from games and a few notes can bring back memories of long hours playing some great games.
Many video game soundtracks, while highly iconic, are not exactly something you’d have on shuffle on your phone, such as the old Mario or Zelda game 8-bit soundtracks. So these entries are the best soundtracks that gaming has to offer that’s something you could enjoy even if there wasn’t an enjoyable or nostalgic game attached to it.
You can poke fun at the game’s predictable plot all you want, but man did this game have a great soundtrack. As players dove into a seedy underworld of corporate espionage and hostile takeovers this game cranked out some deep electronic beets that made the running and gunning much more entertaining.
The song “Nero” in particular was an example of a great electronic epic that fit perfectly with the end part of the game. As the electronic music growled out of the game you truly felt like a man on a mission of revenge.
9 Uncharted 3
Uncharted 3 was a great followup in the series of treasure hunting hi-jinks, this time taking Nate and crew to the deserts of the United Arab Emirates searching for a lost city. The soundtrack does a great job of giving intense action songs sprinkled with middle eastern influences, such as the song “Atlantis Of The Sands.”
The song “Arachnophobia” also lived up to it’s name by using intense beats and eerie sounds to invoke a sense of urgency and dread as the mass of spiders chased players through the tombs.
8 Hotline Miami
A funky game deserves an equally funky soundtrack and Hotline Miami rose to the challenge with theirs. The entire soundtrack is filled with funky beats that invoke an era of neon lights, drugs, and seedy crime in a way that makes the player feel at home gunning down enemies in brutal fashion.
The song “Miami 2” gave a twinkling beat of funky electronic music and “Turf Main” was an excellent song to hear while going toe to toe with enemies. Every song on the soundtrack is unique which seems fitting for a game as unique as Hotline Miami.
When you play as a prophesied hero capable of ripping souls from dragons to develop magical powers, you need a soundtrack that can make you feel like the fledgling demi-god you are. The main theme “Dragonborn” does this beautifully and even had a chorus of men singing in the game’s fictional language Dovahzul or Dragon Voice.
Aside from the epic chants, players could also casually explore the lands of the Nords while listening to some very chill orchestral pieces like “Ancient Stones”. This game’s soundtrack had the power to make you feel like a mighty hero in battle one moment and a calm soul wandering through the pines the next.
6 Mass Effect 3
This epic game had an equally epic soundtrack that added weight to every thrilling action sequence, gripping cutscene, and gut-wrenching emotional moment. Borrowing from the grand orchestra sound of Mass Effect 2 and the brooding electronic sound of Mass Effect, the third game in the series blended them together into a melody that was both haunting and epic.
The song “Leaving Earth” in particular is an example of a piece of music that conveyed both the will to survive and the knowledge that this was likely a suicide mission. And there were few songs as heart-wrenching as “I Was Lost Without You.”
5 Eve Online
As an online MMO, the soundtrack to Eve Online changes over time with songs uploaded and removed every few years. All in all the soundtrack to Eve Online is estimated to be just under 100 songs with nearly 12 hours of music.
While that may sound bad, all of the songs were designed for specific circumstances and many are melodic and ambient sounds that players can listen to on a loop for hours and not realize it’s the same song, it’s that calming. Whether you listened to this while playing the game, doing your college homework, or making spreadsheets for both, this was a great soundtrack to have playing in the background.
4 Assassins Creed 2
As players fought for free will during the battle between the Assassins and the Knights Templars, Assassins Creed 2 had some relaxing, haunting, and melodious music playing throughout the game. Whether it was piloting the flying machine to “Flight over Venice” or fighting in the streets to “Venice Combat Low” this was a great soundtrack.
When you have a man like Jesper Kyd composing the music, you know it’s going to be a soundtrack of frantic beats, thrilling chase music, and dramatic operatics, and Assasins Creed 2 was all of that and more.
3 Halo 3
With a series known for its iconic orchestral epics, Halo 3 had to really put its composers to the test and they rose to the challenge. The entire soundtrack is filled with epic pieces of orchestral instruments, haunting choral melodies, and some of the most memorable violinists in gaming history.
Many players will remember the chilling notes of “Floodgate (Dread Intrusion)” as players had to contend with the newly evolved forms of the Flood as they fought to enter the Indulgence of Conviction cruiser.
Composed by the talented Mick Gordon, the soundtrack for Prey had songs that were all over the place but fit together beautifully. The song “Everything Is Going To Be Okay”’ was a settling and smooth song that contrasted drastically with the chilling notes of “Typhon Voices”.
Perhaps the most iconic song from the whole soundtrack was the female version of “Semi Sacred Geometry” which had players engaging multiple Typhon as they tried to stay alive long enough for the entire song to play out.
1 The Last Of Us
No soundtrack on this list is more heart wrenching and more nostalgic than the songs that are found in The Last Of Us. Everyone who played the game will have a range of emotions pour through their body listening to the menu theme. The song “All Gone (The Outside)” was both eerie and relaxing as players exit the sewer drains and find the bombed out buildings.
But of all the songs in this soundtrack laden with emotion, the best song for stirring deep feelings is “All Gone (Aftermath)”. This was the music playing during the traumatic scene where Sarah died in Joel’s arms and a good example of how powerful this soundtrack is.