Editor's Picks

Top 10 video game soundtracks

Oftentimes, in the midst of blasting zombies or exploring uncharted islands, video game background music goes unnoticed. Every now and then, though, a soundtrack sticks with players long after the credits roll. A good soundtrack can make already good games unforgettable, and can be some of the most iconic parts of a gaming experience. Though this list could be much longer, we’ve managed to narrow it down to our 10 favorite game soundtracks.

Top 10 video game soundtracks

10. Jet Set Radio

jet set radio soundtrack
Image courtesy Sega

Jet Set Radio boasts a soundtrack every bit as unique as its iconic visual style. It’s also equally colorful, combining everything from hip-hop to jazz to pop and beyond. The music itself is central to the game, with the main characters running tagging missions for Professor K, leader of the game’s titular underground radio station. Most of the tracks are fast-paced beats that provide a for the game’s energetic skating and graffiti tagging missions. You can check out some of the tracks here:

9. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 3

tony hawk pro skater 3 soundtrack
Image courtesy Activision

The soundtrack to Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 3 is a love letter to the grungy ’90s kid in all of us. Where else would you find AFI, Motorhead, and the Red Hot Chili Peppers all on the same disc? It’s the perfect backdrop for grinding rails or just for reminiscing on the simpler times when the only handheld console you needed was a Game Boy Advance and your favorite drink was Capri-Sun. Feast your ears here:

8. Ape Escape

ape escape soundtrack
Image courtesy Sony Computer Entertainment

The Ape Escape soundtrack is the brainchild of Japanese composer Soichi Terada. Terada got his start spinning and remixing tracks in local nightclubs before starting to write video game soundtracks, and that influence definitely shows through in Ape Escape. Currently, Terada’s become known for his house tracks, having recently finished a tour of North America and Europe. Enjoy these atmospheric DnB tracks and just try not to bop along to the beats:

7. Final Fantasy X

final fantasy x hd soundtrack
Image courtesy Square Enix

The composers of Final Fantasy X have gone on record saying that they were influenced by pop stars like Elton John and Paul McCartney. We’re not sure that influence shows, but regardless, the Final Fantasy X soundtrack is a beautiful and emotional masterpiece of sound. In particular, several poignant piano pieces anchor this soundtrack and make an indelible mark on anybody who listens to it. Have a listen here to experience this nostalgic soundtrack for yourself:

6. Mass Effect 2

mass effect 2 soundtrack
Image courtesy Bioware

Mass Effect is an epic sci-fi series with a soundtrack to match. The tracks were composed by a team just as skilled and unique as the one you can assemble in-game, and their different styles show in tracks that range from pulsing electronic beats to bombastic orchestral scores and mellow atmospheric pieces. The “Uncharted Worlds” theme is maybe one of the game’s best tracks, and like most of the soundtrack, goes far in establishing a sense of wonder and exploration. Listen to the soundtrack here:

5. Hotline Miami

hotline miami soundtrack
Image courtesy Devolver

If you could see soundtracks, Hotline Miami would be lit in neon. And what better way is there to engage in brutal fast-paced violence than with retrowave bass blaring in the background? Hotline Miami’s soundtrack is a modernized take on the synth-drenched music of the 80s with a dark, industrial edge. The soundtrack to the sequel is just as good, featuring tracks by the like of Perturbator and Carpenter Brut. Take a listen:

4. Life is Strange

life is strange soundtrack max chloe
Image courtesy Square Enix

The Life is Strange soundtrack reads like a setlist to the best Indie show ever. José González, Daughter, alt-J, and Foals are all present and accounted for, weaving a soundscape that puts you perfectly in the mindset of a high-school girl trying to track down a murderer in the forests of the Pacific Northwest. Also of note is the instrumental soundtrack by Jonathan Morali, a series of melancholic and sometimes whimsical pieces that make for a perfectly relaxing backdrop for any activity. Check it out:

3. Shadow of the Colossus

shadow of the colossus soundtrack
Image courtesy Sony Interactive

The swooping orchestral score for Shadow of the Colossus is just as grand in scope as the game’s towering bosses. The tracks that accompany the boss fights, in particular, are incredible, epic pieces of music that leave you itching for a fight after listening to them.  The tone then shifts drastically to more relaxing, meandering pieces that set the mood for exploring the majestic game world, and emotional pieces that weave into the story of the game. You can listen to the soundtrack here:

2. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

skyrim nord dragon soundtrack
Image courtesy Bethesda

There’s not much about the Skyrim soundtrack that isn’t perfect. Jeremy Soule somehow manages to weave an entire world using just an orchestra; taking cues from other high fantasy soundtracks like “Lord of the Rings.” It’s completely and utterly immersive, taking you from windswept mountain peaks to deep green forests to the dark caves filled with Draugr. Truly, you can’t help but feel like you’re about to strap on your armor and sword and go on an adventure. Experience it here:

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1. The Last of Us

the last of us joel soundtrack
Image courtesy Naughty Dog

Much of the soundtrack to The Last of Us sounds like loneliness. There’s really no other way to describe how the post-apocalypse sounds. Composer Gustavo Santaolalla employs a unique variety of instruments and original sounds to create a very particular melancholy, yet beautiful sound. Eagle-eared gamers may also know Santaolalla from his work on the Red Dead Redemption soundtracks, which are also masterpieces in their own rights. The sounds and memorable themes Santaolalla creates for Last of Us will linger long after the final notes play. You can listen to it here:

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