To hell with those who say video games are not an art form; these are people who have clearly never played a video game with the sound on, because if nothing else the music behind so many video gaming gems propels them into undeniable artistry.
If you’re still a doubter (or if, like me, you just want to take a trip down Nostalgia Boulevard), get your listen on below at some of the all time, tip-top video game music masterpieces!
The Very Best of Video Game Music
1 – All Gone [The Last of Us]
played experienced the emotion-sapping story of The Last of Us will know that, though you play as two characters, there’s a third character that’s just as poignant to the story: the soundtrack. All Gone has several different versions that reprise as the tale is told, but the No Escape version is unforgettable.
2 – Building Mode 1 [The Sims]
The Sims is a game that even non-gamers grew to adore, whether because of the ability to build the houses of your dreams (or nightmares!) or because you could play god for a while with your very own virtual family. But this little simulation game would have been nothing without the truly charming soundtrack. What a joy!
3 – Trainer [Pokémon Red / Blue / Yellow]
There’s this crazy idea floating around that Pokémon is a kid’s game. Pfft. Please… Like a child could grasp the use of Proteins and tactical evolutions! What separated this Japantastic RPG from the rest of the rabble was the video game music that accompanied every battle. Feel the tension, the drama, the PASSION!!!
4 – Open Your Heart [Sonic Adventure]
Whilst the Sonic the Hedgehog games may have peaked in the 2D era, the accompanying music is still kicking serious Eggman ass even to this day. In the blue blur’s first true foray into the third dimension, a little band called Crush 40 flat out struck gold with this fine opening theme. Air guitar much?!
5 – Far Away [Red Dead Redemption]
A man has only three real wishes they long to fulfil in their lifetime: rule the world, be a cowboy and successfully flick his underpants from his foot onto his head. Red Dead Redemption helped us to complete the second of those wishes, and featured a flawlessly-immersive soundtrack. Video game music at its finest.
6 – Mechanical Man [Command & Conquer]
The best video game music not only pumps the player so they’re ready to play, but encapsulates the mood and atmosphere of the entire scenario that’s presented. Command & Conquer might not be the first game to jump to mind when you think of artistic video games, but I defy you not to tap your foot to that bass – what a soundtrack!
7 – The Best is Yet to Come [Metal Gear Solid]
The Playstation’s original Metal Gear Solid game may not have been the first Metal Gear video game, but it was the one that shot Snake into the video gaming hall of fame – and with tracks like this, it’s not hard to see why this momentous adventure still has a fond place in many people’s hearts. Shiver-inducing stuff.
8 – Safe Room [Resident Evil]
Some games are so heart-stopping that they simply had to give the gamer a moment to breathe. Resident Evil is one such game, featuring the world’s most terrifying corridors, balconies, gardens and greenhouses. Every time you walked through a new door, you prayed this music would kick in on the other side.
9 – Main Theme [The Legend of Zelda]
You’d be hard-pressed to find a song from The Legend of Zelda series that isn’t an outright masterpiece; whether you’re after eerie and haunting, brave and bold or just downright charming, there’s an original piece of music that’ll have you swinging your Master Sword in time. The main theme is unforgettable.
10 – Main Theme [Jade Empire]
Being styled after feudal Japan, the use of Eastern instrumentation in a full orchestra is sheer gold. The theme of Jade Empire is utilised at key moments in the game’s arching story and firmly places this title in the highest echelon of RPG gaming. Fellow writer Will still weeps uncontrollably at the mere mention of this song.
11 – Downstream [Braid]
Visually one of the most magnificent titles out there, Braid boasts a truly touching soundtrack that is simply unmatched by other video games out there. Featuring a deeply-rooted sense of traditional instrumentation, there couldn’t be a better backing for this unique gaming experience.
12 – The Unsung War [Ace Combat 5]
As with so many of the video games on this list, it was hard to pick one song from the Ace Combat series to feature as the games feature some of the choicest video game music available. And what better way to build the necessary apprehension of a deadly dogfight than with a chanting Latin chorus?!
13 – Aerith’s Theme [Final Fantasy VII]
Widely recognised as the moment that video gamers learnt to cry, the tragic events of Final Fantasy VII demonstrate just how moving and magical video game music can really be. There’s not a bad Final Fantasy song out there, so no matter which your favourite is, you’re in for an audible epiphany.
14 – Kraid’s Lair [Metroid]
You wouldn’t immediately imagine that video games that were around in the 80s could produce dramatic musical moments, but then along came Metroid. More modern audiences might know this track under the name Brinstar Depths from Super Smash Bros, but this is where the music originated 20 years earlier!
15 – Promise (Reprise) [Silent Hill 2]
Fear isn’t something that occurs without all of our senses being brought to the brink of madness, and few horror games have perfected a masterful manipulation of the airwaves quite like this simplistic piano piece. It conjures a truly unnerving sense of unravelling – one you’ll be familiar with if you’ve ever stepped foot in Silent Hill…
16 – Jungle Groove [Donkey Kong Country]
There are sincerely few video games that stand the test of time quite like Donkey Kong Country has. The platforming perfection is bananas, and the soundtrack is a mash up of cool modernity and tribal trimmings that really captures the imagination. This track from the original game really encapsulates this excellence.
17 – Halo Theme [Halo]
Whether you love or hate the Halo series, you can’t deny the brilliant execution of its soundtrack. The video game left its mark on many people’s childhood, and this was largely down to the lively, foot-tapping tunes it had shooting from the foundations. An elegant mix of genres and styles build to a tremendous crescendo here.
18 – The Yoshi Song [Yoshi’s Story]
I could have included any number of Mario Bros songs in this list as they all overflow with childhood happiness and glee, but the true epitome of that vibe comes from a lesser-played title in Yoshi’s Story. Overly cute and overtly saccharine, this song is unashamedly kiddy and sentimental. Gotta love dem little dinosaurs…
19 – Escaping Gotha [Medal of Honor Frontline]
A lot of modern video games deal with the event of war, but none quite capture the strange coupling of cruelty and grandeur like Medal of Honor: Frontline‘s soundtrack. What made this particular track even heftier was the realisation that the vocals in the song were performed by a small boy…
20 – Main Theme [Super Smash Bros Brawl]
The love for Nintendo has waned for many over recent years, but if they’re still the masters of one thing it’s video game music. No single game they’ve personally produced has a bad soundtrack, and their Super Smash Bros series features a close-to-complete history of their musical glory. The theme is bad ass, too!
Which original video gaming soundtrack is your favourite? Let us know in the comments.