The Most Beautiful Video Game Soundtracks of All Time
Music plays a vital role in creating a game’s mood and personality. It is a beautiful tool for setting a scene, expressing emotions, and telling a story. However, the way the game’s soundtrack is used and the functions it serves are as diverse as the games themselves. To illustrate it, we have compiled our list of the most beautiful video game soundtracks of all time.
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Ori And The Will Of The Wisps
Ori and The Will of The Wisps sound so good that Gareth Coker’s tinkling ivories were first used to announce the game at E3 2017, where he sat at the piano and played live accompaniment to this incredible footage. Set to a fully orchestrated original score, Ori and The Will of The Wisps continues the Moon Studios’ tradition of carefully crafted platforming action and profoundly emotional storytelling.
Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty
Metal Gear mastermind Hideo Kojima is adept at using music and sound for dramatic effect.
During his work on the Metal Gear Solid series, he explored various action genres in terms of gameplay mechanics and the music that people associate with the genre.
Although set in the 21st century, Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty plays the role of blockbuster action movies from the 80s and 90s like Michael Bay’s The Rock. Kojima approached the film’s music producer (Harry Gregson-Williams) to lend his talents to achieve the same level of grandeur and adrenaline.
This is a fantastic work that proudly announces the cinematic aspirations of the game’s creative director and eventually helps him realize them.
Dark Souls is a magnificent soundtrack by Motoi Sakuraba. Breathtaking and harrowing in equal measure, Sakuraba has created 31 pieces of simply incredible music.
Dark Souls is loaded with typical epic boss fight music such as “Ornstein & Smough” and “Taurus Demon,” but also offers those beautiful moments of clarity felt through “Gwyn, Lord of Cinder” and “Nameless Song.” They are crafted with intelligence and oversight for the game’s themes that work so well that they leave a feeling of emptiness.
While the Dark Souls 3 soundtrack is a close contender, this is where the tone for Dark Souls’ hideous fantasy was first set.
Silence plays a significant role in Bloodborne. However, it serves to emphasize the viscerally mesmerizing score of the game. The game’s most iconic moments, including some genuinely terrifying boss encounters, are given severe gravitas by ominous chanting and choirs emerging from the unknowable darkness.
Bloodborne ost is like a kettle brought to a boil; the music is the steam, slowly rising until it erupts into a terrifying burst of sound and frantic energy. It is insanely good, and if you’re not careful, you might wonder where your sanity has gone.
Jet Set Radio
A long time ago, when inline skates were cool, Jet Set Radio was a neo-futuristic adventure where players could ride around Tokyo, leaving graffiti and blazing beats wherever they went.
The soundtrack contained several licensed tracks, but the real piece of history here is Hideki Naganuma’s original compositions. Inspired by trip-hop, J-pop, big beat, and rave, these charged tunes made you feel like you were skating into the future.
If you appreciate good metal, then you’ll definitely like the sound of DOOM. Mick Gordon’s soundtrack is a work of art, as it brought the reactive musical transition to a new level. DOOM suggested varying levels of metal intensity depending on what was going on.
A breakout hit of the 2010s, DOOM was a great throwback to ’90s industrial rock while feeling fresh and new. The dynamic soundtrack was composed in conjunction with how each player experiences the game. As sections become ominous, creepy, or downright violent, the music reflects and adapts to forms that become downright epic.
Persona V is a stylish and loud game, but its vibrancy is established mainly through Shoji Meguro’s incredible soundtrack. It’s an exceptionally brilliant example of the power of thinking outside the box and deserves its status as one of the most innovative video game soundtracks of recent years.
Its identity consists of a fusion of seemingly disparate elements. Pieces from funk, jazz, pop, opera, 8-bit video game music, and rock all appear – sometimes in the same song. It’s a versatile soundtrack that you can incorporate into your daily life for studying, workouts, etc.
While Halo: Combat Evolved redefined what a first-person shooter could be, its soundtrack left an incredible mark on the industry. Halo 2 took everything that made the first entry of the series and turned all the dials to 11. Action, tech, score, and budget were more significant; somehow, Halo has become even more of an icon.
Composers Michael Salvatore and Martin O’Donnell returned to work on the Halo 2 OST. Still, this time legendary producer Nile Rogers and a 50-person orchestra joined them to help soundtrack the game. Not to mention literal guitar god Steve Vai, responsible for the guitars added to Halo 2’s remastered rock ‘n’ roll Halo Theme.
Bastion was a strong debut from Supergiant Games. It’s a lonely, beautiful, and perfectly soundtracked action game released in 2011.
By using sampled beats and an acoustic guitar, composer Darren Korb developed a unique acoustic hip hop sound. The game’s soundtrack was released as a separate release, including additional songs not included in the game, and can be streamed on Amazon Music, Spotify, and Bandcamp.
The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
The magical soundtrack of Ocarina of Time made a lasting impression from something as simple as its title theme. Over the years, composer Koji Kondo never failed to pull together such catchy melodies, the kind of sequences that even the most high-class musicians would envy.
Ocarina of Time had two soundtracks; that which played to the boisterous, nonchalant adventures of young Link and the often gloomy compositions which appeared in the downtrodden Hyrule, which was destined to save the older Link.
Motifs were created for many of the game’s characters and zones, often musically similar to the simple notes players learned on Link’s ocarina. This soundtrack breathed life into the game like few others in history had done, creating subtle neural connections between characters and locations – sometimes before you even knew they were there.
Another soundtrack filled with synth and electronic noises, Hotline Miami, keeps the pace up with its music. A third-person shooter in a brightly-colored 8-bit world, the game is equally frustrating and hilarious. Since you repeatedly die on the same level, it often seems like the music encourages you to keep going.
Multiple musicians worked on the Hotline Miami soundtrack, creating a noisy but hypnotic soundtrack filled with entrancing electronics and often a good beat for beating people up.
Koji Kondo’s theme for Super Mario Bros grabs your attention with the first notes of the intro and doesn’t let go. Kondo is considered one of the best video game composers in the industry. Nobuo Uematsu said that the Super Mario Bros earworm is a masterpiece and should be Japan’s new national anthem.
A sequel, Super Mario Galaxy, was released in 2007, and the space setting gave Kondo more musical flexibility. Teaming up with Mahito Yokota, Kondo used a symphony orchestra for the first in the series.
The Last of Us
At first glance, The Last of Us may seem like a post-apocalyptic zombie tale, but at its heart is the bond that grows between an orphaned girl and the father who lost his daughter years ago. The game’s tone is closer to The Road than Resident Evil, and the composer of 21 Grams and Brokeback Mountain, Gustavo Santaolalla, gives the soundtrack the necessary emotional heft.
The Last of Us is rightfully hailed as a landmark moment in video game storytelling, acting, and writing. However, Santaolalla’s reflective score is just as important, showing that a little more musical subtlety in blockbuster games might not be such a bad idea.
Silent Hill 2
Silent Hill 2 is a moody, mysterious and eerie soundtrack that captures the atmospheric quality of the game. It doesn’t hit you in the head with signs of survival horror, but it lures you in and makes you wonder what’s next.
In addition, the mysterious notes that evoke anxiety and inner reflection match up flawlessly against the main plot of the game. Some songs like “Promise (Reprise)” stand out as iconic Silent Hill tunes, but the soundtrack has stood the test of time and continues to bring players back. Back to those restless dreams where they see that city, Silent Hill.
Final Fantasy VI
Any list of the best video game soundtracks of all time without a fight for the Final Fantasy position is ridiculous. The Super NES sound chip is pushed to the limit with the help of the sheer variety of tracks the game needs, from the gripping, dramatic “The Decisive Battle” boss battle tune to the tragic opera scene.
In the days when the series’ characters were nothing more than loosely arranged groups of pixels, the music gave players a window into the world’s soul. Final Fantasy VI has one of the series’s most touching, affecting (and dark) narratives, and longtime composer Nobuo Uematsu missed no note, delivering a legendary score of staggering resonance and emotional range.
With over 230 million sales, it’s hard to imagine any game where as many human hours have been lovingly poured into it as Minecraft. When creating a new world in Minecraft, you can be surprised by how many beautiful sounds there are. Nearby animals, monsters, and villagers await your attention out of the gate.
The video game music composer was inspired by ambient luminaires such as Brian Eno and Aphex Twin, and accordingly, C418 now stands side by side with them as one of the few who have managed to bring ambient music to the masses.
Minecraft music has been a constant staple over the years, perhaps even more so than its macro gameplay experience. There aren’t many moments in the game that rival walking through a grassy area to the soothing sounds of Rosenfield’s layered piano. Whether you started playing Minecraft in beta or just jumped into it in 2021, the music will always be an integral part of its DNA.
Work on Kingdom Hearts has made Yoko Shimomura one of the most iconic composers in the video game world. The piano is the heart and soul of the series soundtrack, conveying the dark and wistful yearning of “The Other Promise” from Kingdom Heart II, which mirrors Roxas’ longing for identity as effortlessly as the energetic, bouncing notes of “The 13th Struggle”, dancing like figures on a battlefield.
Chrono Trigger is a creative endeavor that you can’t repeat even if you tried. The soundtrack composers, Yasunori Mitsuda and Nobuo Uematsu did an incredible job.
Mitsuda worked tirelessly to create something marvelous and out of this world. Fortunately, he succeeded with it, and the resulting soundtrack is a mixture of rock, jazz, and grunge, all of which seem incredibly harmonious one after the other.
The game includes 60 tracks, each lasting about two minutes before repeating, which was unheard of in the 16-bit era. Since its first release in 1995, the soundtrack has been re-released on disc, remastered for several remakes, performed live, and can be streamed on Spotify and Amazon Music.
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
This swords-and-dragons epic has a soaring soundtrack provided by Jeremy Soule.
The central theme was recorded with a 30-man choir in the game’s invented language of dragons. This was a sign that many open-world games with expansive and immersive orchestral soundtracks would soon follow.
There is nothing like drumming amid battle or the sound of ghostly choruses deep in Dwarven ruins. Perhaps it isn’t surprising that Soule is known as ‘the John Williams of video game soundtracks’ – it’s symphonic, melodic, and exciting, and even made the Classic FM Hall of Fame!’
Katamari Damacy is one of the weirdest, most impressive, and catchiest pop records of the last decade, never being repeated and always maintaining a god-level tier in terms of production.
Everyone loves this music. And here’s where it gets funny: look at every top list of the decade’s best music, and you will realize there is a gapping hope where that record should be.
Much of the success of this quirky 2004 cult classic can be attributed to its wholly unique soundtrack, directed by Yuu Miyake. The game had some catchy songs stuck in your head as you played, mixing samba, jazz, and traditional electronic sounds. The soundtrack’s heavy use of vocals was also very unusual for the time and added to the pop cultural appeal
The soundtrack composer, Austin Wintory, made a name for himself after the game. Actually, it took him three years to write and record that soundtrack, mainly in the form of creative explosions and playtesting.
The result is an epic that complements the game perfectly. It starts with an orchestra, dives into electronics and drones, and emerges reborn and harmonious on the other side.
The music was considered so sophisticated that Wintory won various awards after Journey.
Shadow of the Colossus
Kow Otani had a colossal order when composing Shadow of the Colossus. Team Ico’s second, and to date, final attempt, the game carefully balanced the adrenaline rush of climbing the ridge of a walking mountain and the emotional and moral ambiguities of descending it.
The game and Otani put you through a tiresome ringer, but the main strength of the score is that it doesn’t play at all. The land you are in has long been abandoned. You only hear the sounds of birds and wind for long stretches of time. It is expected to be peaceful, but it’s the opposite. So, when you finally face the next Colossus and Otani’s music returns, the impact becomes twice as devastating.
It is still pretty wild to think that just one person created Undertale: Toby Fox. The developer made the characters, charming dialogues, and every single piece of music. At the same time, the soundtrack for the game seems incredibly varied, and it is all the more surprising that each track was crafted by one creator, not by a team of composers.
It’s tough to get tired of this soundtrack, especially as you move from the subtle and twinkly early game tracks Once Upon A Time and Memory to the alternatively upbeat melodies of ASGORE and MEGALOVANIA. There are over a hundred pieces of music in Undertale; none are the same, and it’s surprising how many of them are deeply rooted in your memory.
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
The Witcher 3 is probably so close to a perfect game, partly because of the attention to detail in world-building. The soundtrack includes folk music and battle hymns written using medieval instruments, making the game as authentic as possible while leaving room for spiritual chanting.
You can buy the original game soundtrack, the Hearts of Stone, and Blood and Wine expansions, or stream the soundtrack on Apple Music, Spotify, and YouTube Music.
The soundtrack for NieR: Automata is loaded with small but incredibly pretty beautiful pieces that can be skipped on the first three or so playthroughs. Luckily, Automata is created to be played over and over again.
The devastating human world was made up for with the soothing piano and string pieces. Game director Yoko Taro invented a fictional language mix of German and Japanese. This language can be heard in the NieR: Automata’s soundtrack. While it might be completely nonsensical, there is no denying how beautiful it sounds.
Castlevania: Symphony of the Night
It was impossible to make this list without Castlevania. The pure scope of Michiru Yamane’s favorite soundtrack is incredible, as she blends bizarre metal, techno, and even classical elements without missing a beat. What could easily sound like a b-grade anime score ends up sounding majestic and deeply Castlevania.
This game gives you the name of the track playing in specific sequences, almost like you are participating in a bizarre 2D platforming music video, and for some reason, that makes perfect sense.
Mega Man 2
The Mega Man 2 soundtrack is so great that a mere 25 minutes of music has remained catchy. From something as small as its title theme, it sets you up for the adventure ahead with a fast tempo and annoyingly catchy triplets. Then it is followed by an ominous evil at the center of the select screen, preparing you for the eight equally challenging bosses that await you.
Fortunately, after your 59th attempt at Wily’s fortress, the music remains catchy and memorable. Mega Man 2 is the best soundtrack the NES has ever produced and an example of why simple songs on an 8-bit machine continue to inspire things like this
Seen through gameplay and heard through music, Cuphead draws inspiration from the early 1930s. As a result, it is an incredibly jazzy and loud soundtrack, accompanied by visuals reminiscent of old-school animations, such as Disney’s early shorts Mickey Mouse and Silly Symphonies.
The soundtrack was composed by Kristofer Maddigan, and each piece of music was performed live by a 13-piece big band, accompanied by more musicians and even a tap dancer. The greatest inspiration for the soundtrack came from Duke Ellington and Scott Joplin, highly reflected in a soundtrack that is a hybrid of ragtime, jazz, and experimentation.
Everybody's Gone to the Rapture
Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture was a first-person game that wasn’t only a game but also a work of art. This powerful game expresses and sings emotions and feelings that are hard to explain. It fits so meaningfully into the themes and stories of the game that removing them should deprive some of their power.
Opening song “All the Earth” hits you on the second note with a piercing howl of emotions, accompanied by a low drone rumble and strings that tease the melody at its center. It follows and builds up around that tune with wonderful countermelodies and additional voices in “Finding the Pattern,” only to be stripped away and built up again.
Like the soundtrack, the game follows the idea of getting to the root of something only to have it disappear from your fingers.
Sonic The Hedgehog 3
There is a legend that Michael Jackson wrote the music for Sonic 3 anonymously. Even if it isn’t true, this Sega Genesis game is full of some of the most formidable hits of the 16-bit era.
Tracks like Ice Cap Zone and HydroCity Zone Act 2 are catchy, driving songs that complement the action perfectly.
Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy's Kong Quest
It’s impossible to choose a favorite soundtrack when killer tunes accompany all Donkey Kong Country games. The franchise’s sophomore release makes this list thanks to the truly inspirational work of composer David Wiser. Based on rock-infused jungle mixes, oceanic beats, and industrial factory beats, Diddy’s Kong Quest takes on a catchy pirate theme with a flute and saxophone medley.
Even though Nintendo has made it almost impossible to listen online all these years later, you can still play the game if you subscribe to Nintendo Switch Online. If you are craving new beats from Wise, Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze is a good choice on Switch.
Thus, Setting games to music is by no means a lost art. There are a lot of more recent soundtracks that are already poised to become future classics. Video games have spawned a library of unique pieces of music. Given the wide range of themes video games cover, the music they create is often amazing, evocative, and distinctive.