Video games and music have been good companions since the rise of the gaming industry and this helped create some truly great game soundtracks. Music in the arcades helped attract players as well as accompany the gameplay and many video game tunes, like Super Mario’s or Tetris’, have now acquired a cult status. As games got more complex, also the music needed to follow and this created the space for amazing soundtracks that, in some cases, transcend the game itself and have a “life of their own”.
Here’s then a list of 10 of the best video game soundtracks of all time.
- Vampire the Masquerade: Bloodlines
- GTA Series
- The Elder Scrolls Series
- Rome: Total War (1-2)
- Fallout Series
- Red Dead Redemption 2
- Formula 1 (‘95)
- The Witcher 3
Vampire the Masquerade: Bloodlines
Vampire the Masquerade: Bloodlines became a cult game. Great story aside, this is also thanks to a wonderful soundtrack that manages to convey the bittersweet feeling of being a vampire. Composer Rik Schaffer created a little masterpiece in this sense with a variety of tracks that really immerse the player in the atmosphere of the game. Aside from the soundtrack, also the in-game music deserves to be mentioned since it features late ’90s and early 2000s bands such as Lacuna Coil and Chiasm.
All GTA games are masterpieces in their own right and great satirical representation of American and Western societies. Radio stations have been present since the first title of the series and offer such a variety of genres and tunes that are sure to make everyone happy. Classic rock, hip-hop, trance, techno, funk, you name it. Some stations, like GTA V’s Soulwax FM for example, have been created or cured by world-renowned artists that managed to recreate believable stations that blend perfectly with the time the games are set in.
The Elder Scrolls Series
Fantasy RPG fans know this very well, few other games give you the level of immersion that Skyrim (and Oblivion before it) gives you. Composer Jeremy Soule has been in charge of the soundtracks since TES III: Morrowind and never failed to deliver. For the latest ESO (Elder Scrolls Online), his work was supported by other game composers such as Brad Derrick and Rik Schaffer.
Rome Total War (1-2)
All titles of the Total War series have good music but, in my opinion, the two chapters of Rome Total War are somehow superior. Jeff van Dyke (Rome 1) and Richard Beddow (Rome 2), though with different styles, managed to recreate a feeling of mystery and majesty that makes the players really immerse in the classic world. Whether it is a thumping drum or a soft harp, you will really feel part of that ancient world.
Another Bethesda title on the list but, this time, more than the soundtracks themselves, we look at the radio stations in-game. Not as vast as GTA but still quite satisfying in terms of immersion and variety. Lovers of classical music have a great selection of classics in Fallout 4, while the mix of Americana (jazz, big band, swing and early rock ‘n’ roll) is perfect to show the contrast between the “happy” propaganda and the fallout world.
When I first played Arcanum, I wasn’t a big fan of strings quartet and XIX Century-like music. Arcanum made me rethink my tastes. When I looked for the author of such great music I found that it wasn’t some great composer of the past but a quite active and creative contemporary one: Ben Houge. An ensemble of great tunes that make you melt into the world of Arcanum and make you feel part of it. It’s also great to listen for a relaxing evening or to calm down after a stressful day.
Space-set games always require some ambiance electronic music that can make you feel as if you’re really discovering the universe. Results aren’t always successful but Stellaris surely offers a fantastic compilation of truly space-ambiance music that it’s perfect both in-game or for a space-themed night. Good variety and the presence of some very good mods give you a few hours of space-traveling experience.
Red Dead Redemption 2
Another Rockstar masterpiece with great acting, story and visuals. Maybe the music is not exactly the best part of this game but it surely plays an important role in helping you blend in the American western mood of the game. In the saloons, theaters and campsites the music is always there to help the player feel part of the game and make some scenes (like the parties at the campsites) truly enjoyable and emotional.
Formula 1 (‘95)
It surely is a bit of an odd choice but, since you won’t find this in many other similar articles, I thought of including it. Formula 1 games aren’t famous for their music but this one is an exception. Tracks from Steve Vai, Joe Satriani and Psygnosis’s own band Overdrive deliver an amazing mini-compilation of hard rock and guitar solos that are an absolute blast. Highly recommended for rock lovers.
The Witcher 3
Another great game with music worthy of its fame. The soundtrack, composed by Marcin Przybyłowicz and Mikołaj Stroiński, is a mix of thumping drums, relaxing strings and spiritual chants. The in-game music is also perfectly fitting the environment and immersive, allowing the player to truly feel in a Slavic-like fantasy world.