Top 10 Gaming Soundtracks


Most people focus on the wrong things in video games. Graphics are nice to look at, but age with time. Gameplay is also key, but we think one of the most underrated aspects to games is the music, which has run the gambit over the decades. 8-bit retro soundtracks, sweeping orchestral scores, and everything in between, we love gaming music so much we wanted to rank our favorites. If you disagree, or think we missed any obvious choices, let us know on Twitter or Facebook!

Franchises that deserve honorable mentions because they got close to being on this list:

Kirby, Final Fantasy, Kingdom Hearts, Journey, Super Meat Boy, and Super Smash Bros.

10.) Parappa the Rapper (Playstation 1 and 2)

There is a good history of rap music in games, and we could have selected from a number of places. But the mascot and character known for rapping in his game, and being quite amazing at it, is Parappa the Rapper. His rhymes and flow are unparalleled, and those games were all about wholly original and hilarious songs, and rapping your way through an adventure. Those catchy tunes are still in our heads. KICK PUNCH IT'S ALL IN THE MIND

9.) Red Dead Redemption (PS3, Xbox 360)

Red Dead had one of the single greatest moments in gaming history, the mission that sent you to Mexico, and with it came a breathtaking acoustic cover that played you into the game, and made you fall in love with the soundtrack. It really grounded you in the old west, and is not something we hear typically in games. It was multicultural, rugged, entrancing, and authentic.

8.) The Last of Us (PS3 and PS4)

Maybe the saddest and most visceral music we've ever heard in a game, which is why we like it so fondly. For such a beautiful and haunting experience, Academy award winning composer Gustavo Santaolalla gave us another award winning score to accompany an award winning game. It added so much ambience to a game brimming with it already, and you can listen to it outside of the game completely and it holds up just as well.

7.) Tetris (Just about every console)

One of the most recognizable and famous theme songs in gaming history, it was 50% of the reason we played, and still play, Tetris. Just an ear worm that will not leave your head ever, and it just feels wrong to play the game without the music. For the single greatest puzzle game of all time, it definitely helps to have one of the best songs as well.

6.) Mega Man (Also on a ton of consoles)

Capcom has a reputation for being a studio to pump out the killer jams, and over the years they have delivered on some of our favorite franchises (they're below again if you don't believe us). The Mega Man games are the pinnacle of 8-bit retro tunes, and they make the difficulty of these games much more acceptable and tolerable. We've seen metal covers, disco covers, and they all work. Mega Man 2 gets our vote for best in the series, and the soundtrack is the main reason why.

5.) Katamari (PS2, PS3, Xbox 360, iOS)

We have never, and will never, hear anything remotely close to the wonder and majesty of Katamari Damacy's J-pop soundtrack. It was pure magic, a dreamy mix of funk, jazz, samba, rap, electronic, electric, dance, avant-garde and instrumental genres. It is goofy, it is bizarre, and it is a classic in every way. Those games were made better by the music, and we've been in awe ever since 2004. We're still listening to those albums, in fact, as I write this, I got it on right now!

4.) Street Fighter (Everything under the sun)

It is safe to assume that Street Fighter might not have taken off in the '90s without the accompanying soundtrack for each fighter and stage and country. It was a global mixtape of music to get you pumped up and fight your friends, and they've been (rightfully) remixing the same songs for over 25 years now. It blew up in popularity and has retained its place in the gaming world as iconic, and we dare you to not instantly remember Ken's theme, Ryu's theme, or the Guile theme. They even made a meme out of it!

3.) Halo (Xbox, Xbox 360, Xbox One, PC)

2001 was when Halo dropped on us like a bombshell, and it was when we started taking video game music seriously as an art form, and not just a collection of catchy tunes. Marty O'Donnell gave us the Star Wars of scores, something everyone recognizes, and is so idiosyncratic, every time we hear monks chanting we just assume it's Halo starting up. And as sweeping and epic as the music can be, Halo 2 added in electric guitar solos, and we have been hook line and sinker ever since. It's a religious experience to listen to Halo's score live, and there have been so many games worth of all-time greats, it was impossible to not put this in the top 3.

2.) The Legend of Zelda (Every Nintendo console)

The room gets a little dusty anytime we hear Legend of Zelda music playing, we aren't afraid to admit it. It reminds us of our childhoods, the adventures we used to go on, and over our lives there has been an outrageous amount of Zelda music that has blown our socks off. We don't know how Nintendo keeps pulling it off, but it's some of the best gaming music to listen to live, and is maybe some of the best stuff we've heard in general. Just gorgeous and inspiring stuff here.

1.) Super Mario (Literally every Nintendo console, even the Virtual Boy)

It could not have been anything else. There have been SO many Mario games in so many genres on so many consoles over so many years, it was the only choice. Mario has the most iconic music for games, and has only gotten better as time goes on, we are going to give you the best of the '80s, and '90s, and '00s just so you can cheer up your day a little. Or a lot. Mario has hands down the best themes of any game, and is our favorite. It's why it's the best, has been the best, and remains the best. Mario is video games incarnate, and his music only solidifies that, if not outright proves it.

Originally published