Nothing else on earth has the ability to transport the soul and capture our hearts quite like video games. From landmark story-telling to mind-bending graphics, there will always exist a group of nostalgic audiophiles who revere video game music like holy relics.
We have already compiled the best video game soundtracks on wax, so if you’re one of those beautiful people who likes vinyl and games then boy have we got a treat for you.
Digging deep through the memory banks we have compiled a list of the best video game music that have ever been made.
Care to reflect on a childhood well spent? We have compiled a bulletproof list of the best video game music every composed.
10. Silent Hill – Akira Yamoaka
Survival horror had already blossomed into a successful genre by the time Silent Hill hit the shelves in 1999. Playstation gamers had been scared shitless by Resident Evil and its successful sequel. What set Silent Hill apart however was the gruellingly slow gameplay, immersive sound effects and experimental soundtrack.
We can thank Akira Yamoaka for both incredible scores. Silent Hill’s ingenious in-game device for tracking its horrifying villains was a small radio which would constantly rumble static and screech scratchy signals. Combined with the nauseous, wavering FM synth sounds, the result was anxiety-inducing enough to creep the living hell out of thousands of young players and here we are. In 2019 it’s commonplace for horror games to mine the rich seam of experimental ambient music, and we can probably thank Akira Yamoaka for that.
9. NieR – Keiichi Okabe
Almost everyone was generally confused by NieR when it came out in 2010. The sheer innovation from Square Enix desiring to make a landscaped RPG that appealed to both the East and West was impressive, though it resulted in a bizarre mosaic of hermaphroditic psychopaths, talking books and some of the most confounding and moving new age music ever written thanks to Keiichi Okabe.
Even if the game has become a cult classic thanks to the genius of NieR: Automata in 2017. However the soaring orchestration and Spanish guitar still moves us to this day.
8. Resident Evil 4 -Misao Senbongi and Shusaku Uchiyama (1995)
Capcom has always been blessed with incredibly good in game music. However, their legendary survival horror games take the cake. While Misao Senbongi and Shusaku Uchiyama had already scored some remarkable video game music in previous Resident Evil titles, their fourth effort is platinum stuff.
It not only upped the anti and heightened the every impending dread it introduced a lot of people to synth laced ambience which was creeping into video games and film in a big way. Plus nothing beats the serene peace of entering that safe zone music.
7. Super Metroid – Kenji Yamamoto and Minako Hamano
In the early ’90s SNES was easily one of the best consoles around and many of it’s titles will endure for all time with their 16-bit brilliance and iconic glitchy music. Controlling Samus Aran on a rescue mission through nature reversed scenes and desperate boss battle the score was certainly more alienating than the original.
However, amidst the miasmatic drones and amphibious themes of the sunken world of Maridia, came a little heroic melody empowering us to continue on and defeat Mother Brain in one of the most emotionally charged boss battles of all time.
6. Halo: Combat Evolved – Martin O’Donnell and Michael Salvatori
I for one can sing the Gregorian chant of Halo: Combat Evolved anytime, anywhere, in pitch perfect resonance. Okay, maybe it’s not pitch perfect but the fact is I won’t forget Halo’s score until the day I die.
Halo: Combat Evolved had the small task of pitting Microsoft’s Xbox against Sony’s Playstation at launch and the reason we have to thank for it’s success is the soundtrack from Martin O’Donnell and Michael Salvatori. Nothing gets the heart pounding like the drums when you’re barrelling through the Flood on the final level.
I know you didn’t ask but here’s a 24 hour soundtrack of the first four Halo games. That’s one whole day of glory to be had below:
5. Crash Bandicoot – Josh Mancell
Something about the ’90s was a very special time for video game music. Perhaps it’s because that’s when I grew up, but surely nostalgia doesn’t pack that potent a punch? While many of his Asian contemporaries were scoring landmark ambient and experimental soundtracks Josh Mancell was creating some of the downright funkiest dance beats to ever hit the console.
From the bonus levels to cunning Cortex, Crash Bandicoot had a serious jive going and it also frustrated our little brains to the end of the earth. Some of those levels in the first game were tough!
4. Super Mario Bros. – Koji Kondo
The theme just popped into your head didn’t it? Yep, it’s one of the most instantly recognisable tunes in video game history and embodies everything that made Super Mario Bros. so great… fun.
The first time you squashed a goomba or uppercut that coin box Koji Kondo merged with your subconscious forever. What was even more revolutionary for the time was that the music changed when you went underground or underwater.
There have been better Mario games and arguably better scores but it all started here in 1985.
3. The Last Of Us – Gustavo Santaolalla
Fitting that this follows Crash Bandicoot because The Last Of Us if arguably Naughty Dog’s greatest game and a masterpiece that is worlds apart from their origins with Crash. The post apocalyptic zombie tale is eerily close in tone to that of Cormac McCarthy’s The Road and the music is a perfect fit.
21 Grams and Brokeback Mountain composer Gustavo Santaolalla adds a much needed emotional heft to a game that is rightly hailed as a landmark game for script, character development, and acting. With the impending release of The Last OF Us 2 the musical selection seems to have certainly held its own with James Shawn’s Through The Valley being plucked out by Elle in the trailer.
2. The Legend Of Zelda: Ocarina Of Time – Koji Kondo
The Legend Of Zelda: Ocarina Of Time was my first gallant through Hyrule and thus has a very special place in my heart. If you couldn’t get this soundtrack out of your head, nay years, then it’s no surprise because Koji Kondo also wrote the music for Super Mario Bros. Yep, Kondo has penned some of the most memorable and instantly recognisable video game music in history.
Classics like Kakariko Village, Lon Lon Ranch, Lost Woods and the dungeons Dodongo’s Cavern, Shadow Temple, Spirit Temple still rattle through our head when the wind picks up in the park or on a dusty road. Plus the titles even held secrets for passing the levels. How’s that for ingenious composing.
1. Final Fantasy VI – Nobuo Uematsu
There will always be a lot of hot debate surrounding which Final Fantasy title has the best soundtrack, but that’s just a testament to the power, and sheer awesomeness of each score.
Nobuo Uematsu was already unstoppable by 1994, but when second the franchise traded medieval fantasy and swordplay for steampunk and explosives, Uematsu entered the gaming lexicon permanently. 21 years later, we still get chills the first time we see Kefka’s true colors, or when the curtain rises on the opera scene. No matter what they say Final Fantasy VI is Nobuo Uematsu’s magnum opus and the greatest video game music ever written.