The 25 best Video Game Music Soundtracks Of All Time

Gaming's secret sauce, a video game soundtrack can stay with you long after you finish playing. These are our picks for the best gaming soundtracks in history.

Updated on Jul 18, 2023
The 25 best Video Game Music Soundtracks Of All Time

Video game soundtracks are one of the key factors in any video game's greatness. Since the birth of video game popularity in the 1970s, the best video game soundtracks have become ingrained in pop culture, lasting for decades after their respective games have fallen out of fashion.

The endless possibilities of video game music are explored further in the Reformat The Planet documentary by 2 Player Productions, which explores the use of classic video game soundtracks to create new techno and pop music.

From the days of classic Pacman music, to modern full orchestra scores, video game soundtracks have come a long way, with soundtracks such as the nostalgic Super Mario Bros music having a special place in video game history.

With just how important a game's soundtrack is to overall success, we have created a list of the top 25 best video game soundtracks of all time.


1 /24

Minecraft

  • Released: 2011
  • Platforms: Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, PlayStation Vita, Xbox One, Xbox 360, PC, Mobile (Android & IOS)

From the genius mind of German musician Daniel Rosenfeld, known to gamers as C418, Minecraft's soundtrack is one of the best video game soundtracks of all time

Iconic is truly the best word to describe the music C418 created for Minecraft, with hundreds of millions of gamers recognizing the distinctive ambiance whenever they hear it. Drawing inspiration from previous ambient music musicians such as Brian Eno and Aphex Twin, C418 has easily entered the gaming music hall of fame. Whether it's Sweden or Subwoofer Lullaby, C418 gave Minecraft the perfect soundtrack with a mix of chill ambience and electronic beat.

Minecraft Gameplay

When hunting for animals, surviving the night, or crafting new, powerful enchantments, Minecraft always seems to have the perfect accompaniment for your activities. 

Throughout the soundtrack, C418 uses a creative combination of instruments for different tracks, from layered piano, to harps and violins, to electro beats.

For many, Minecraft music will always epitomise the true gaming experience, and take them back to a time when things were simpler. Minecraft's official soundtrack is proof of the power of music.


2 /24

Super Mario World

  • Released: 1990
  • Platforms: Super Nintendo Entertainment System, Game Boy Advance, Wii, Wii U

Developed by Nintendo during the video game wars, Super Mario World's music score was widely regarded as the best video game Music in the history of Nintendo at the time, and it still stands up today.

It took composer Koji Kondo over a year and a half to develop all the music for the game, finally having access to 8 different sounds at once to create the music, unlike previous games which typically only had four or five sound channels.

Super Mario World

To learn more about the overall process of Video game development, check out our article on how video games are made!

This variety allowed Kondo to compose music with greater depth and variety than most other games at the time, leading to one of the most iconic background music ever created for a game. Kondo used some of the same music from previous titles and created one of the best soundtracks to date.

Songs were typically made to fit specific game levels, and Kondo ensured the tone was always on point, with classics such as Overworld theme song and Chocolate Island matching the vibes of the map. 

And of course, no one can forget the "Invincible" tune that plays when Mario gets Starpower.

Just like many of the games on this list, Super Mario World's entire soundtrack is outstanding, with catchy music and cult classics that continue to be known, heard, and hummed even by a new generation, 30 years after the game's release.


3 /24

Final Fantasy VI

  • Released: 1994
  • Platforms: Super NES, PlayStation, Game Boy Advance, PC, Mobile (Android & IOS)

The sixth instalment in the Final Fantasy series, a series that has been running since 1987 and continues to see new releases to this day, Final Fantasy VI has some of the greatest video game music ever produced.

Composed by series legend Nobuo Uematsu, the Final Fantasy VI score was one of the most impressive feats of soundtrack creation at the time of the game's release, and still sends shivers down many a fan's spine today.

Uematsu carefully works around the technical limitations of the time to deliver an awe-inspiring score, using orchestral music to give the game real presence. In many ways, the game's original use of Leitmotifs underscores Uematsu's genius.

Final Fantasy VI Gameplay

Applying a technique often reserved for big-budget films and TV, Uematsu ensured each major character and every major location had a unique and interesting theme song. This is of course to go along with all the normal video game music such as battle themes, boss battles, and unique cutscenes.

The creation of this large array of leitmotifs for so many elements of the Final Fantasy game ensures every moment feels dramatic and dynamic, and allowed Uematsu to play with each Final Fantasy leitmotif, combining and mixing them together.

The Final Fantasy VI soundtrack is so popular amongst the fans, that in 2012 over $150,000 was raised by fans to remaster the game's original soundtrack with modern equipment and freshly recorded vocals.


4 /24

Halo 2

  • Released: 2004
  • Platforms: Xbox One, Xbox 360, Xbox, PC

Easily one of the most recognisable, memorable, and best video game soundtracks of all time, Halo 2 solidified the Halo franchise's place in the gaming community, etching its soundtrack, and into the public consciousness.

The choir singing, beating drums, and electronic guitar has created one of the most iconic soundtracks of the last decade, with even many non-gamers recognising and humming the tune.

The legends behind this gorgeous soundtrack were Martin O'Donnell and his musical partner Michael Salvatori, the two composers of the original Halo soundtrack. 

Taking what was already great in the first game, they enhanced and improved their music in every way. 

In tackling the project, Martin O'Donnell stated "making a sequel is never a simple proposition. You want to make everything that was cool even better, and leave out all the stuff that was weak." Luckily, he can stand proud as one of the creators of arguably the best music in a video game to date.

Halo 2

Of course, the iconic title sequence music is what everyone remembers, but that is only one part of the overall game's soundtrack. 

Spooky, haunted corridors of a deserted covenant battle cruiser require scary music, just as much as an epic battle needs pumped-up drums and inspiring music.

Many gamers hold Halo 2 up as one of the best, most immersive Halo games ever made. What they may not realise is that it is O'Donnell and Salvatori's great soundtrack that the player feels immersed in every level, every fight, and every gunshot.


5 /24

Celeste

  • Released: 2018
  • Platforms: Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC

An emotional story and an addictive game are incomplete without an equally emotional soundtrack. Celeste blew the indie gaming world away with its unique story, gorgeous graphics, and amazing platforming.

Make sure to check out what other games made it into our top 15 Indie Games article!

Along with every other masterful element of Celeste came the music, tying it all together. Composer Lena Raine, who has also worked on other major title soundtracks such as Minecraft and Guild Wars 2, shows with Celeste's music exactly what gaming soundtracks are an art form.

Celeste Gameplay

Upon the game's release, the musical score was nominated for 4 different awards, including The Game Awards 2018 and the SXSW Gaming Awards. Raine combines melancholic piano with synth wave and techno to create the perfect mix of introspective, emotive, and engaging music for a storytelling platformer.

Certainly one of the best video game soundtracks of the past few years, Celeste's original songs were so popular that an official piano sheet music book, along with a piano album was released just a year later, and an album of licensed tracks with lullaby music was also created, called Prescription for Sleep: Celeste.


6 /24

Donkey Kong Country

  • Released: 1994
  • Platforms: Super Nintendo Entertainment System, Game Boy Colour, Game Boy Advance

After recording three Jungle Demos (which would later merge to become the DK Island Swing track), Nintendo swiftly hired British musician David Wise to compose music for the rest of Donkey Kong Country. He did not disappoint.

With the game's graphics some of the best ever produced at the time, David vowed to create a soundtrack of equal calibre, pouring time and passion into every track. Upon the game's release, critics praised the music selection as extraordinary.

Donkey Kong Country Gameplay

Each level had uniquely composed music, with some levels having iconic soundtracks such as the "Aquatic Ambience" soundtrack for water levels, which took a full five weeks to create.

The original game's success pushed for many new titles, including the brilliant Diddy's Kong Quest, although, it would be virtually impossible to top the original soundtrack of Donkey Kong Country.

Throughout the game Wise blends environmental sounds that fit the level with melodic and percussive instruments, creating a truly atmospheric soundtrack for the king of the jungle.


7 /24

Silent Hill 2

  • Released: 2001
  • Platforms: PlayStation 3, PlayStation 2, Xbox 360, Xbox, PC

A brilliant horror game is incomplete without a suitably scary soundtrack, and Silent Hill 2 certainly delivers. Following up from the popular original game, Japanese composer and musician Akira Yamaoka re-joined the team to help improve upon his work in the previous game.

According to the man himself, Yamaoka spent three full days locked away producing the game's main theme, "The Theme of Laura", aiming to combine both a sad melody and a strong beat to invoke feelings of sadness and fear in the player.

Silent Hill 2

In fact, Yamaoka was very aware of the importance of creepy ambience in a horror games musical score, and endeavoured to have every piece evoke potent emotions in the player, matching his soundtrack with the carefully placed ambient sounds of broken glass and footsteps in the game.

Aiming to create a truly terrifying experience, Yamaoka carefully blended harsh synthesisers, industrial punk-rock, and the occasional dash of absolute, deafening silence to through the player off throughout Silent Hill 2.

Silent Hill 2 doesn't hit you over the head with intense killer tunes or overbearing creepy music. Instead, it carefully balances its music score to match the game's pace, drawing the player in and slowly ramping up the stakes to match the horror that unfurls on screen.


8 /24

Wii Sports

  • Released: 2006
  • Platforms: Wii

It seems like the whole world knows the iconic game soundtracks of Wii Sports and Wii Sports Resort - tunes like the Wii sports title theme and the boxing music never fail to absolutely slap, and remain staples of pop culture long after the game world has been forgotten.

Easily one of the best video game soundtracks, both the game and its music are masterpieces of creativity and fun. In charge of the musical score was Ryo Nagamatsu, who used primarily a variety of pianos and Harp/Harpsichord sounds to create the iconic tracks of the game we all remember fondly.

Wii Sports gameplay

The music of Wii Sports is unmistakable and is as light and as joyous as the game itself is. Each sport from tennis to boxing received its own theme, with even smaller elements such as each sport's training mode getting its own score.

To this day Wii Sports music is consistently used in memes and other formats and continues to revive itself again and again. In the original game, it was the perfect accompaniment for sitting back, relaxing and playing sports against your family all from the comfort of your living room.


9 /24

Cuphead

  • Released: 2017
  • Platforms: Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC

A nostalgia trip back to the "good old days" of simple platforming gaming, Cuphead's music is just as deceptively simple as the game itself. The entire game is created in the style of 1980s cartoons (think Disney's Mickey and Minnie in a game), and the music complements this beautifully.

Composed by Kristofer Maddigan, Cuphead's music consists mostly of jazz, big band brass, and ragtime music. As such, most of the game's soundtrack was recorded with a live orchestra, giving the soundtrack an extra element of weight and class throughout the game.

Cuphead gameplay

The use of Jazz perfectly fits the overall tone of the game, and can quickly go from charming and peaceful during the early levels to rambunctious and chaotic when facing one of the game's many bosses.

The game quickly became a hit, bringing gamers back to simple, yet still challenging games. The game is, of course, not as simple as it seems, with lots of complex movesets, difficult and unique bosses, and awesome level design.

Similarly, the 51 jazz tracks on the game may seem standard throughout the game but are subtly created to match the mood and atmosphere of the game at any given time, ensuring players always feel immersed.


10 /24

Mass Effect 3

  • Released: 2012
  • Platforms: PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Wii U, PC

The entire Mass Effect trilogy is beloved by gaming fans across the world, with each new title improving on the last game. Each game could lay claim to having the best soundtrack, but it seems clear that at least in the music department, Mass Effect 3 is the culmination of some of the best music ever produced.

Completing the saga started with Mass Effect 1 in 2007, Mass Effect 3 saw most of the previous composers return, including Sasha Dikicyan, Sam Hulick, Christopher Lennertz, and Cris Velasco. The music team also gained Clint Mansell to help them develop the game's music.

Mass Effect 3 Gameplay

According to Hulick, the team had a clear aim from the start to combine the orchestral style of Mass Effect 2 with the synthetic and computerised soundtrack of Mass Effect 1. They definitely succeeded, managing to balance the two styles without them clashing.

In this sense, Mansell can take a lot of credit, acting as the "disk-jokey" who decided when and what music to play throughout the game.

The soundtrack perfectly captures the combination of legacy, combat, and terror that comes with the final game. All life in the galaxy is in jeopardy, and the player experiences a universe on the brink of extinction.

The track "leaving Earth" is both inspiring and beautifully poignant, reminding the player of all they have lost, and all they still have left to fight for. There's no doubt that the Mass Effect 3 soundtrack has some of the best music ever produced for a game inside.


11 /24

Prey

  • Released: 2017
  • Platforms: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC

In a world where humanity has expanded far into space, the player must survive inside a derelict space station, swarming with deadly, shape-shifting alien creatures. Considered by many to be the best game released in 2017, Prey is a first-person shooter/horror title with great gameplay mechanics and an awesome soundtrack.

Prey Gameplay

Just like Silent Hill, horror games are incomplete without a solid soundtrack, and Prey has more than just an atmospheric soundtrack to match its creepy gameplay. 

Composed and produced mostly by Mick Gordon (the composer of the Doom soundtrack), the Prey soundtrack combines synth, techno and percussion instruments to induce a sense of dread in the player.

The game also has some guest tracks to add to the immersive experience, as well as a special musical feature. As the player progresses and must hide from the aliens, the music can act as a warning system for approaching danger, increasing or decreasing in volume as aliens get closer or further away.


12 /24

Tony Hawk's Pro Skater

  • Released: 1999
  • Platforms: PlayStation, Nintendo 64, Game Boy Colour, Dreamcast, N-Gage

The third highest selling PlayStation title of 1999, Tony Hawk's Pro Skater is etched into the public consciousness; a brilliant skateboarding game with cool graphics, fun tricks and levels, and an influential soundtrack.

Almost the entire soundtrack consists of licensed tracks of the punk rock and ska music genres, including songs like "Superman" and "Cyco visions", matching the culture of skaters in the USA.

Tony Hawk's Pro Skater

With fun and upbeat songs like "Superman", Tony Hawk's Pro Skater had a significant cultural impact as much of the gaming world spent hours practising kick-flips or their "McTwist". Across the soundtrack, famous bands including the Suicide Machines, Dead Kennedys, Unsane, Speed Dealer, and the Vandals gave their songs to the game.

For those who remember playing this when it first came out, these songs bring on waves of nostalgia, and for newer gamers they help immerse you into the times and gaming attitudes of the 1990s.


13 /24

Journey

  • Released: 2012
  • Platforms: PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, PC

A touching game with music at its core, Journey was the first ever video game to have its soundtrack nominated for a Grammy award. If that doesn't tell you just how amazing Journey's soundtrack is, we don't know what will!

Composed by Austin Wintory, the primary instrument used for the game's soundtrack is the Cello, although many other instruments are woven into multiple tracks and songs throughout. The true greatness of Journey is how it seamlessly blends music into gameplay.

Journey Gameplay

In Journey, you play as a robed figure in the desert, attempting to climb a mountain. Along with basic movement and jumping, the player can produce a single musical note with a button. The volume and length of this note depends on how hard and long the player holds the button.

This game mechanic is vital for progression, as the musical note can help the player interact with others, as well as magically convert grey cloth into red cloth, which is used to progress. What is truly stunning is how this note always harmonizes and stays in tune with the background music, no matter which game track is playing.


14 /24

Assassin's Creed II

  • Released: 2009
  • Platforms: Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, Xbox One, Xbox 360, PC

Building upon the success of the first game with improved mechanics, a new time, location, character, and story, Assassin's Creed II has easily one of the best video game soundtracks of all time.

Now decorated video game music producer Jesper Kyd composed the entire score for Assassin's Creed II, recording his music at Capitol Records with a 35-piece string ensemble and 13-person choir. The soundtrack also includes a feature by vocalist Melissa Kaplan, adding to the orchestral presence of the tracks.

Set in Renaissance Rome, Kyd perfectly captures every moment of the game with each note, from the nail-biting chases and stealth missions to rooftop running and combat. One of the best tracks ever produced in video game history is of course "Ezio's Family", becoming the iconic signature track for the Ezio trilogy.

Assassin's Creed 2 Gameplay

The use of strings and an in-person choir helps keep the game immersive, creating the tone and atmosphere of a Renaissance Italy, all whilst capturing emotionally poignant moments such as (spoilers) the hanging of Ezio's family.

Peaceful, fitting music plays as you explore the orange rooftops or golden fields of Italy, while drums and upbeat guitar instruments are brought in during combat and chase sequences to add intensity.

Widely regarded as one of the best Assassin Creed games ever made, Assassin's Creed II's soundtrack is a vital element of the game's overwhelming success.


15 /24

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

  • Released: 2017
  • Platforms: Nintendo Switch, Wii U

Breaking from the more upbeat, melodic songs used in previous Legend of Zelda titles, the composers for Breath of the Wild's soundtrack opted for minimalism, and man did it pay off.

The composers Manaka Kataoka, Yasuaki Iwata, and Hajime Wakai, understood that the soundtrack should match the vast, sprawling open world of Breath Of The Wild. Knowing this, they decided to primarily use a piano for the main theme, playing simple and peaceful notes on most tracks.

The Legend of Zelda Breath of the Wild gameplay

Although simple, this minimalist approach matches the tone and atmosphere of the game perfectly, bringing a sense of wonder, naturalism, and exploration as the player embarks on quests and travels the world.

The ambient piano music is also supported by a range of other instruments used sparingly throughout the soundtrack. These include horns, wind instruments, and even the occasional accordion, all adding to the relaxing ambience of a beautiful game.


16 /24

Undertale

  • Released: 2015
  • Platforms: Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, Xbox One, PC

Created by the now infamous Toby Fox, Undertale is easily one of the most impressive one-man indie projects ever created, and its soundtrack is a major element in its success. As the sole developer of Undertale, Toby Fox is also the composer of all the game's music, using FL Studios.

Toby Fox has since stated that just as with the game's graphics and RPG elements, Fox's Undertale music was inspired by early Super NES RPG games such as EarthBound and Touhou Project, as well as Webcomic HomeStuck.

Undertale

If you're interested in the best video games based on comic books, check out our article on the top video games inspired by comic books.

Fox created multiple themes and tracks for Undertale's wide range of scenes and bosses, often mixing and combining multiple themes when bosses and storylines converge, such as with the track Hopes and Dreams. Using mostly synth and techno beats in his 16-bit game, Fox actually created many of the tracks from scratch before writing and creating the game scenes.

This results in excellent cohesion between the game's storyline and its soundtrack, always matching the gameplay and story that is being played through.

Of course, the most infamous track is Megalomania, being so popular in internet culture that Nintendo decided to add it to Super Smash Bros Ultimate.


17 /24

Hotline Miami

  • Released: 2012 - 2020
  • Platforms: Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, PlayStation Vita, Xbox One, PC, Mobile (Android)

A top-down shooter game with a pixel art style and a 90s synth punk colour theme, Hotline Miami has a killer soundtrack with a large mix of licenced synthwave tracks. Featuring popular synthwave and techno artists such as Pertubator, M|O|O|N, Jasper Byrne.

Matching the warmly coloured 8-bit game, the Hotline Miami soundtrack is fun and upbeat with fast and engaging tracks to go with the constant action of the game. With 11 contributing artists, the Hotline Miami soundtrack plays much like an 80s radio of pop hits.

Hotline Miami

One of the standout tracks is "Miami" by Jasper Byre, really encapsulating the lucid, nightclubbing feel of the game as you attempt to beat each level's hordes of enemies. The soundtrack was considered so good it won multiple awards, including "Best PC sound" (2012) from IGN, and "The Best Music of the Year 2012" from PC Gamer.


18 /24

Castlevania: Symphony of the Night

  • Released: 1997
  • Platforms: PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, PlayStation, PlayStation Portable, Sega Saturn, Xbox 360, Mobile (Android & IOS)

Although the entire Castlevania franchise has amazing soundtracks, Symphony of the Night easily takes the top spot for the most brilliant music of the series. 

Described by IGN as "sometimes daunting, sometimes rousing and always doing what music should—enhancing the action.", Castlevania Symphony of the Night's music is truly outstanding.

Composed by video game composer and pianist Michiru Yamane, Castlevania: Symphony of the Night mixes many different musical genres to create a unique and varied game experience.

The soundtrack includes elements and influences from classical music, gothic rock, techno, synth, jazz music, new-age music, and even some sub-genres of metal music, specifically thrash metal.

Castlevania Symphony of the night gameplay

Technically the thirteenth game in the Castlevania series, the player must play as Alucard, Dracula's son, who is exploring his father's castle and ridding it of many foul and disturbing creatures.

The mix of action-packed rock and jazz with victorian-Esque orchestral gothic rock really brings the game alive and fits surprisingly well with the ancient castle's backdrop. Over 33 tracks provide an atmospheric theme as the player heroically explores the strange and decrepit ruins of his father's castle.

Runner-up for the "Best Music Award" from Electronic Gaming Monthly the year it was released, Castlevania Symphony of the Night is an all-time favourite for side-scrolling adventure games, and its awesome soundtrack only secures the game as a fan favourite of the Castlevania series.


19 /24

Doom

  • Released: 2016
  • Platforms: Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC

One of the most famous apocalyptic game franchises around, almost every single Doom game released has had an excellent soundtrack, all starting with the brilliant original Doom in 1993. But it is Mick Gordon's rendition of the classic heavy metal Doom soundtrack that stands out the most.

Given the specific instructions to not include any guitars, Gordon set about composing his masterpiece by taking inspiration from the game lore. 

Taking the idea of corruption and warping of human devices, Gordon took basic sound waves, distorted and compressed them, and then added in 7, 8, and 9-string guitar elements, mixed with harsh drums.

All of this strange distortion with classic heavy metal elements creates a harsh and brutal soundtrack to match the brutal reality of the game. What makes this soundtrack even cooler is its integration into the game mechanics.

Doom 2016 gameplay

Every time you kill, the guitars and drums get increasingly louder, building an intensity as you play. The music is also used to signal other events in the game, such as new bosses and demons appearing, as well as the player reaching low health.

Of course, a game with demons and hell would be incomplete without some evil easter eggs, and Gordon made sure to hide quite a few in his soundtrack. Pentagrams hidden in the steganography, callbacks to previous Doom songs, as well as the number 666 placed everywhere.

The Doom 2016 soundtrack won the Best Music / Sound Design award at The Game Awards 2016, cementing it as one of the best video game soundtracks of the past decade.


20 /24

Chrono Trigger

  • Released: 1995
  • Platforms: Super Nintendo Entertainment System, Nintendo DS, PlayStation 3, PlayStation, Wii, PC, Mobile (Android & IOS)

One of the best RPG games of the 16-bit era, Chrono Trigger's soundtrack was truly something special. Composed mostly by Yasunori Mitsuda with a decent contribution from Final Fantasy composer Nobuo Uematsu (mentioned earlier in the article), the Chrono Trigger soundtrack masterfully mixes a broad range of genres.

Chrono Trigger Gameplay

From jazz and rock to grunge and synth, Chrono Trigger combines and harmonizes multiple different music genres to create the perfect video game soundtrack. Having desperately wanted to compose music for the game, Mitsuda poured his heart and soul into Chrono Trigger's soundtrack, and this passion is self-evident as you play.

Drawing upon two years of previous work, Mitsuda deliberately set out to create "music of an imaginary world", hence the wide range of genres used. Over 60 tracks were created for the game, all about 2 minutes in length and designed to be repeated.

In order to add structure and consistency throughout the game, Mitsuda attempted to incorporate the leitmotif of the main Chrono Trigger track throughout the entire score, ensuring there was a clear link between all the tracks.

What's truly amazing about this soundtrack is just how many outstanding songs it contains, many of which continue to be remastered and covered today. Songs like Frog's Theme and Zeal Palace still sound amazing today!


21 /24

How Are Video Games Made? The Whole Process From Inception To DLCsSuper Mario Bros

  • Released: 1983
  • Platforms: Nintendo Switch, Nintendo 3DS, Nintendo Entertainment System, Wii, Wii U, Game Boy Advance

Released in 1983, the Super Mario Bros soundtrack is not only a brilliant soundtrack, but deserves to be on this list because if its historic influence on the future of all video game music.

Produced by Koji Kondo, Nintendo's primary music man at the time, the Super Mario Bros score consists of six tracks, each designed to coincide with specific in-game animations and events to enhance the gaming experience.

Super Mario Bros gameplay

What makes Super Mario Bros' music so important is its revolutionary use of music throughout a game as a full soundtrack, as many games previously had only short snippets of music and sound effects.

Although some previous games such as Space Invaders had incorporated music into the game design, the true revolutionary technique of Super Mario Bros was including Koji Kondo in the development process.

This is something that no other game had done before, with Kondo being presented with the game's prototype to help him match his music to the game design. This absolutely paid off, creating one of the most integrated video game musical scores of the time, and something that is still iconic today.


22 /24

Hollow Knight

  • Released: 2017
  • Platforms: Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC

Composed by Australian musician and relative newcomer Christopher Larkin, Hollow Knight's score is an excellent example of atmospheric music matching and enhancing a game's tone. 

A dark and brooding platformer set in the decaying world of a bug empire, Larkin has composed a gorgeous melancholic soundtrack that fits the game perfectly.

Hollow Knight gameplay

Throughout the score violins, harps, and other string instruments are used commonly, often in a minor key, to convey a sense of darkness and doom. Other tracks speed up and become more energetic to accompany boss fights and exploration.

Other instruments such as pianos and synth music are used sparingly throughout to create a sense of otherworldliness and the lost grandiosity of a fallen mystical empire. It really cannot be understated just how powerful and layered Hollow Knight's score is.

Larkin has stated that he took a lot of inspiration from Studio Ghibli composer Joe Hisashi, with this really shining through in the use of pianos throughout the score.


23 /24

The Last of Us

  • Released: 2013
  • Platforms: PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3

A game that took over popular gaming culture with its endearing story and awesome game mechanics, The Last of Us (one of the best single-player PlayStation games) was made so emotionally investable in part due to its amazing soundtrack.

Composed by Argentine musician Gustavo Santaolalla, the Last of Us soundtrack is dark and haunting matching the game's storytelling and was designed to be minimalist and simple to fit with the game world.

Amidst the masterful mixing of traditional musical instruments, it is Santaolalla's use of silence throughout the score that truly affects the player, adding a silent terror throughout the game.

The Last of Us Gameplay

Attempting to fit in with the post-apocalyptic world, the Last of Us score is made up mostly of deep cellos, nylon guitars, and rich percussion instruments. This gives the score a grounded, earthy feel, and fits in nicely with the overgrown world the player finds themselves in.

For other great PlayStation games, check out our article on the best single player games on PlayStation.

Also part of the team for general sound design, Santaolalla made sure to keep his music in keeping with the overall soundscape of the game. He uses silence in his tracks to accentuate the horrifying creaks and clicks of the game environment and the many zombies the player encounters.

There's no doubt that The Last of Us' music is one of the core pillars that makes it one of the best zombie apocalypse games to date (like some of the top CoD Zombies which by the way have great music as well in Zombies).


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Dark Souls

  • Released: 2011
  • Platforms: Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, Xbox One, Xbox 360, PC

One of gaming's most infuriating titles ever created, Dark Souls is infamously difficult to beat, yet something about it brings players back time after time. A small part of this strange addiction to Dark Souls must definitely be its awesome music.

The Dark Souls world is full of evil monsters and terrifying bosses, and Motoi Sakuraba made sure to capture this dark high fantasy element with his soundtrack for the game. Throughout Dark Souls players will hear a mix of melancholic string and percussion tracks to the infamously bombastic and swelling orchestral tracks for boss battles.

The consistent use of classical instruments throughout the game ensures every area of the world feels linked through music, whether it's grand castles or dark catacombs.

Although many of the following Dark Souls titles also had amazing soundtracks, there is no question that the original Dark Souls soundtrack is the best of the series, and arguably one of the best ever made.

And that's our list! Make sure to check out some of the games, and remember you can find a lot of these soundtracks on YouTube and Spotify!

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