The soundtrack is an essential piece of what makes a game great. As time went by and the industry grew, publishers have invested more and more money into creating (or licensing) the best tracks possible for their games.
Finding soundtracks that genuinely connect with you can be tricky with so many games. But when you do, it’s something truly mesmerizing. It adds an entirely new layer of immersion to games. Or, in some cases, it just carves the experience into your memory, and you immediately associate certain songs with what a great time you had playing a game.
Before diving in, it is essential to note that this list is purely subjective, and you may disagree with it. I grew up playing games almost exclusively on PC and listening to bands like Blink-182, Linkin Park, and Sum 41. I am also not the biggest fan of electronic music. That being said, this list follows a few rules. Only one game per franchise and (for the most part) only one game per dominating music genre from the soundtrack.
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League of Legends
There might be a slight bias here, but Riot’s music division for League of Legends has an almost spotless record. Especially in the last few years, whenever a new champion, event, or esports tournament comes around, it seems people are more excited about the music theme than the release itself. Certified bangers like “Warriors” and “Pheonix” lit up the rock scene, while sweet hits like “Get Jinxed” and “As We Fall” remind us of humble beginnings. With a new OST and theme for every new event or champion, combined with the success of in-house bands like K/DA and over 26 million monthly listeners on Spotify alone, Riot’s music team is doing an outstanding job.
Although EA does not create any original songs for Fifa, and they either commission or license the tracks, they are worth a mention simply because of what they do for indie artists. Say what you want about EA, but you can not deny the greatness of their soundtrack. Drawing in millions of players annually, Fifa is an incredible platform for new and upcoming artists. Songs like “Mercy” by Duffy got their first shot in Fifa 09. EA includes some big names in the mix, like Linkin Park with “Blackout” in Fifa 11 or Logic with “Warm it Up” in Fifa 19. The game’s soundtrack is a celebration of football and cultures from worldwide every year, regardless of what you think of the franchise.
Even though I’ve always been a big PC player, I never played any of the previous Doom games, so I went in not knowing what to expect. Although the game was terrific, the soundtrack was a big part of it for me. I was blown away by how visceral it was and how well it was paced and implemented into the game’s moments. The soundtrack is like the drums, and the player is the drummer, dictating the action and flow of the music with every movement. Doom’s soundtrack creates more “Michael Bay moments” than Michael Bay ever did.
Sometimes the simple pleasures are just what we need. Pokemon Platinum is that for me. I fell in love with a game I played as a kid because of its atmosphere, which is mainly created by the soundtrack. I am not a big Pokemon anime fan, but Platinum managed to draw me in because of the coziness. Everywhere you walk, a calming song awaits you, and in big battles, you can still feel the “Sinnoh” vibe in the songs. Team Galactic feels like a threat, and each town feels unique because of the soundtrack. And who can forget the instant classic bicycle theme?
Red Dead Redemption 2
RDR2s soundtrack is incredibly immersive, but not in the general sense. It sometimes even takes me out of the experience, but, at the same time, it is the closest thing to a cowboy fantasy I’ve ever experienced, and I’ve seen a lot of western movies. With an incredible blend of sad, slow, and upbeat songs, the soundtrack feels hand-crafted to give you an unforgettable experience. Even now, I can associate in-game moments and cutscenes with certain pieces. RDR2s soundtrack feels like your grandfather just put a disk in the record player and is telling you an old story that may or may not be true, and I love every second of it.
Marvel’s Spider-Man (2018)
With such an excellent track record, Spider-Man MUST have a great soundtrack in any video media he appears in. Thankfully, Insomniac delivered and then some. The music in Spider-Man complements the environment and fluid feel of the web-slinger perfectly, with unique tracks and directions. The music reacts to what Spider-Man does in the game, making every punch feel powerful, and every swing feel electric. If you still have doubts about the game’s fantastic soundtrack, here’s the first cutscene in the game. The amazing song “Alive” by the Warbly Jets captures the game’s feel perfectly.
Need For Speed Most Wanted (2005)
If there ever was a game that “got me into” the genres of music that I love, it’s this one. The whole game is iconic, but the soundtrack truly burns it into the mind of gamers that played it back in the early 2000s. While we had a similarly themed soundtrack before from NFS, in Underground 2, Most Wanted to capture the feel of “speed” through music. Every track is high octane and makes you want to go as fast as possible. Most Wanted is NFS at its peak, but the soundtrack created a time capsule of memories and feelings many gamers cherish. Violent, unapologetic, and loud, it is 2005 in a nutshell.
The internet was also not so developed then; many, myself included, would just turn on the game and play to listen to the music.
Tony Hawk Pro Skater 3
To me, THPS3 is not a game but an experience. I’ve lived in Eastern Europe my whole life, and people don’t follow international trends here. But, a few months after it came out, every kid on my block owned a skateboard, myself included. Everyone was doing flips and blasting Zebrahead and Motorhead from their Nokias. We did not understand what they were saying, but it felt right. This is what the Tony Hawk franchise is all about. It’s about the aesthetic, the skateboarding mythos.
The game’s soundtrack perfectly fits the game’s fast and loose playstyle. Every track feels personally picked by Tony Hawk and perfectly captures the “skate-punk” feel. It’s also one of the most diverse on the whole list, ranging from pop-punk to rap and metal, further intensifying the inclusivity and “no judgments” feel of skateboarding. The game’s silly and sometimes unreal feel is amplified by the soundtrack defining a generation.
This unprecedented cultural shock that the THPS franchise brought into the life of many gamers makes it #1 on the list of The Best Gaming Soundtracks by some distance.
Music and Games are both amazingly expressive art forms. They work together very well to create memorable experiences that last a lifetime. With music being so accessible now, and games getting better and better, this is the best time to relive some of your fondest memories or create new ones. To give you a head start, here are 6 amazing playlists for gaming you can find on Spotify.
Based in Romania, Andrei is a Guides Writer at Gamezo. He is an esports, gaming, and film lover. In his spare time, he is a competitive League of Legends and Yu-Gi-Oh! Player and a punk rock aficionado.