The Best Video Game Soundtracks - You Should Be Listening To!
When it comes to the wonderful world of video games, it's not only about the colorful graphics, epic storylines and amazing gameplay. The music and impressive sound effects play a fantastic role in drawing players into the settings of each of these games. From the chiptune music of the 8-bit era, to the orchestrations that are present with CD quality audio.
With countless numbers of remixes, spanning from even entirely new genres. Spanning all the way from the NES to modern PC games, here are the best video game music soundtracks that you should be listening to.
Table of Contents
- Chrono Trigger (1995) - Yasunori Mitsuda
- Final Fantasy VII (1997) - Nobuo Uematsu
- The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (1998) - Koji Kondo
- Super Mario Bros. (1985) - Koji Kondo
- Halo: Combat Evolved (2001) - Martin O'Donnell & Michael Salvatori
- Donkey Kong Country 2 (1995) - David Wise
- Undertale (2015) - Toby Fox
- Castlevania Symphony Of The Night (1997) - Michiru Yamane
- Silent Hill 2 (2001) - Akira Yamaoka
- DOOM (2016) – Mick Gordon
- Bastion (2011) – Darren Korb
- Hollow Knight (2017) - Christopher Larkin
- Cuphead (2017) – Kristofer Maddigan
- Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2 (2000) - Various Artists
- Persona 5 (2017) - Shoji Meguro
- Minecraft Volume Alpha (2011) - C418
- Super Mario Galaxy (2008) - Koji Kondo
- Risk of Rain 2 (2019) - Chris Christodoulou
- Final Fantasy VI (1994) - Nobuo Uematsu
- Shovel Knight (2014) - Jake Kaufman
- Sonic Mania (2018) - Sega Sound Team
- Mega Man 2 (1988) - Takashi Tateishi
Chrono Trigger (1995) - Yasunori Mitsuda
Chrono Trigger is often referred to as the best RPG game of all time. It's with no doubt that we'd feature it on a list of the best video game soundtracks. The music fits the bill so well from the various environments. From the epic boss battles, to the moments of silence needed to tell a narrative.
Chrono Trigger offers an iconic soundtrack that has been released on CD format during it's release of the SNES game in Japan.
Final Fantasy VII (1997) - Nobuo Uematsu
The soundtrack in Final Fantasy 7 is nothing short of spectacular. While traveling throughout the world of Gaia we could hear the bells and whistles chime in wonderfully.
Originally released in 1997 on the PSX, this JRPG gave us some groundbreaking experiences. It's 3D sprite art helped launch the Sony Playstation as a contender for the powerhouse that the console plays today. The soundtrack is one of those magical experiences that set it apart among the crowd.
The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (1998) - Koji Kondo
When it comes to being able to recognize the tune of a video game, it doesn't get more understandable than The Legend of Zelda. Koji Kondo captured the power of the N64 and delivered on each of the moods, from the eerie dungeons as you carefully make your way through each room, looking for hearts and taking out enemies. To the peaceful trips through Hyrule as you take Epona for a hike.
Koji Kondo delivered some of his best work on the N64 classic game Orcarina of Time. A Symphony release of the Japanese original game music is available on CD format for your listening pleasure.
Super Mario Bros. (1985) - Koji Kondo
If it wasn't the Legend of Zelda as the most iconic soundtracks, we'd have to go with the tune to the Super Mario Bros. As a pack in title for the NES, most people have a copy laying around in their attic or basement somewhere.
The main theme and even some of the level specific tracks are embedded into our minds. With such upbeat and catchy chiptunes, Super Mario Bros features a soundtrack that's nearly impossible to forget.
Halo: Combat Evolved (2001) - Martin O'Donnell & Michael Salvatori
Halo: Combat Evolved blew our minds when it was first released back in 2001 as the killer app for the Microsoft Xbox console. Being able to hop on a Warthog and mow down your friends in the multiplayer mode was so rewarding.
The soundtrack delivers a perfect mix of electronic music coupled with orchestra sounds. Simply hearing the title screen theme will be recognizable immediately for most. Setting up the large battle sequences with massive amounts of hordes to plow through in the game.
Donkey Kong Country 2 (1995) - David Wise
The SNES brought to us a number of platforming games. Some that were extremely generic and some that shined bright. DKC2 is considered to be one of the best platforming games on the SNES.
David Wise brought us countless level music that had our adrenaline pumping from beginning to end. It's still mind blowing to us how Mining Melancholy, David and his team were able to incorporate the humming of people on a 16-bit sound chip. To this day, Donkey Kong Country 2 is some of the best video game music we've ever had an opportunity to hear.
Undertale (2015) - Toby Fox
What may seem incredible simple at first, Toby Fox delivers something unique and very complex in the Undertale soundtrack. It's the little touches throughout the soundtrack that impressed us the most.
The way Bonetrousle makes us feel like doing an ethnic dance at a wedding. To the way that Temmie Village has us sounding like we're munchkins making our way around a tiny village. Undertale delivers an excellent soundtrack from beginning to end.
Castlevania Symphony Of The Night (1997) - Michiru Yamane
Every kick and snare in the OST of the tunes brought to you by Michiru Yamane kicks harder than the previous track. The Marble Gallery theme feels like a James Bond inspired triad.
The way that Wondering Ghosts gives the player the feeling of suspense and joy all at the same time with it's jazzy tones. To the remixed tracks such as Vampire Killer that we absolutely adored. It's the absolute perfect way to hear this classic tune. We enjoyed the soundtrack of Castlevania SOTN from beginning to end and you will as well.
Silent Hill 2 (2001) - Akira Yamaoka
The feeling of horror runs strong throughout Akira Yamaoka's finest work in Silent Hill 2. One of the finest elements is the feeling of having no true rhythm, which makes the person listening feel incredibly uncomfortable.
Rhythmic ambiguity gives you the mind games that make you disoriented, something Silent Hill 2 strives to be with it's horror theme. It's unpredictable and seemingly random adds to the mood of the game. Silent Hill 2 is one of the best horror games with an incredibly strong soundtrack to boot.
DOOM (2016) – Mick Gordon
The heavy metal tunes that are for your ears to feast on in Mick Gordon's excellent Doom soundtrack are simply fascinating. Every guitar riff and solo are executed perfectly as you blast your way throughout the hordes of enemies.
Doom follows a pattern where you'll explore an area, pick up an item to only get stuck in that area when you finish off a predetermined wave of enemies. This is where the heavy metal blasts you in the face. Luckily songs like SkullHacker and Damnation hit so hard that you'll be glad to retry along the way.
Bastion (2011) – Darren Korb
The impressive soundtrack delivered by Darren Korb is absolutely wonderful. It's with no surprise that Darren Korb was able to release a physical release of the soundtrack shortly after the release of the game.
Bastion tells the story narrative as you play through it. Along the way an in game narrator tells the story each step of the way. The harmonic music couples the gameplay perfectly. It really shows how music as a storytelling is the way the gameplay is perfected.
Hollow Knight (2017) - Christopher Larkin
From the very beginning of the epic journey, you'll discover the immense pauses and uses of the chords that Christopher Larkin has on full display. The settle tone of Dirtmouth gives you the sense of ruin and loss the way the violin plays in the background.
The reverb of the strings gives you that open feeling the way that reflection with the use of the bass. The upbeat nature of Mantis Lords that make your adrenaline push new limits as you progress. We wished more game soundtracks were constructed the way Hollow Knight delivered.
Cuphead (2017) – Kristofer Maddigan
For a simple throwback to the run and gun genre, Cuphead simply has no business being this good. Kristofer Maddigan delivered on an entire catalogue of hits the way it feels like a throwback to the 1940s.
The latin-jazz inspired themes simply hit incredibly hard and fast paced. The chords are fairly simple but deliver on so many of the tracks. The styling of Cuphead fits well with the throwback animation style as well as the music rhythm. Hearing the tenner solo's in the background of each of the boss fights are simply magic. If you haven't played Cuphead with the big band style, you owe it to yourself to check it out.
Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2 (2000) - Various Artists
Simply put, THPS2 features a collection of hard rock and hip hop artists. It's not composed from scratch like many of the others featured on this list. It is however one of the greatest video game soundtracks of all time.
From Naughty By Nature, Papa Roach, Public Enemy, Mos Def and Rage Against the Machine there are a ton of options to feast your ears. It's good enough that we won't actually include it as a playlist below.
Persona 5 (2017) - Shoji Meguro
The upbeat nature in Persona 5 delivered by Shoji Meguro is simply stunning. Each of the tracks makes good use of jazz inspired instruments. The end result is a timeless classic that delivers on all angles.
The Japanese pop inspired hits could have easily been delivered to a boy band instead of the Persona 5 soundtrack. The feeling of progression and suspense that can only be compared to a James Bond theme in Escape Arrest. This was the standout track in our eyes in a series of unbelievable tracks.
Minecraft Volume Alpha (2011) - C418
Minecraft is one of those games that you'll load up for about 20 minutes or so, to later realize you have a full beard grown days later. What seemed to be a quick game could set you back hundreds if not thousands of hours.
The piano in Minecraft is simply incredible. The synthesizers in Minecraft are used to the full capacity and it is in massive effect on tracks like Moog City. For a game that will have the player sink tons of hours in, it's well deserving of a soundtrack this good.
Super Mario Galaxy (2008) - Koji Kondo
Originally wanting to be a latin inspired soundtrack, Kondo wanted to have Mario be thought of as cool instead of cute. Miyamoto selected the orchestral music themes to be delivered as the soundtrack as he felt that it would feel space oriented.
Each of the synthesized themes makes you feel like you're in, well a galaxy on your way to run through space. The melodies are simply incredible in Super Mario Galaxy. It deserves to be played in an opera house for years to come.
Risk of Rain 2 (2019) - Chris Christodoulou
The adrenaline pumping themes that Chris Christodoulou was able to deliver in Risk of Rain 2 was simply stunning. Each of the clicking sounds and settle effects deliver a piece of music that's greater than the sum of it's parts.
There's so many little things going on in the background as there are in the foreground during the gameplay. The soundtrack matches the hyped gameplay to perfection.
The way that the music gives you pure emotions without even understanding the instruments or rhythm placements. This is the wildest part about the official soundtrack of Risk of Rain 2.
Final Fantasy VI (1994) - Nobuo Uematsu
The orchestrate symphony sounds that Uematsu delivers on is simply wonderful. It's structured in fantastic fashion, giving you the idea that the story builds as the soundtrack does.
The brother's Coin Song theme makes fantastic use of the trumpets completely gets changed to a solo harmony piano completely switches up the song. The battle themes really give you the sense of urgency as you spell cast your party along to victory. The music in Final Fantasy 6 is simply fantastic and should be experienced by anyone who's a fan of video game music.
Shovel Knight (2014) - Jake Kaufman
Chiptune is an art form that was once the norm and the tool not by choice but simply by definition. Being able to reproduce something you would normally hear in a Mega Man game, Jake Kaufman was able to deliver a sound the is incredibly vast. Something that shouldn't be able to be produced with the instruments that are being worked with.
The end result is something that is simply marvelous. Each of the tracks is incredibly upbeat, with the bass that adds melody to each of the chip tunes on display. Something you would expect from an NES game, amped up to maximum power.
Sonic Mania (2018) - Sega Sound Team
The OST in Sonic Mania is so darn fun, we loved it each track of the way. The use of the guitars play such an important role where speed is the name of the game. Gone are the days of blast processing and here are the days of modern PCs and game consoles that share the love that was once a killer app on Sega's flagship console.
The eclectic vibes you get from Encore Mode make you feel like you're listening to a Chaka Khan hit. To the revamped hits that will make you fall in love with the nostalgia running through your veins like in Angel Island Zone. Sonic Mania has it all in the soundtrack department. Something we've grown to love over the years and something for new fans of the series.
Mega Man 2 (1988) - Takashi Tateishi
Chiptune soundtracks are an acquired taste. Some fell in love with the sounds the moment they popped that cartridge in. Others needed to give it a few listens before they could enjoy the quality produced.
The way Mega Man's hair blows in the wind as the opening intro blasts through your speakers sets the tone for things to come. The way that Dr Wily's castle stage plays throughout the background leading up to an epic boss battle is simply marvelous. Yes, this feels more like a rock album than what Tateishi was used to as an orchestra sound designer. We thanked Capcom for making this decision as it's simply fantastic.
These soundtracks have become famous for what the games represent and have stood the greatest testament of time. They have been countlessly remixed, covered and replayed by fans alike.
The elements of sound play such an important part in the game's ability to deliver. The games we've covered in our list of the best video game soundtracks will continue to be enjoyed by fans of music for decades to come.