Whether you're a regular console/PC gamer or drop into mobile gaming apps now and again, you've no doubt realised that the music and sound of a game are integral components of the experience. From the beginning of mainstream video gaming, music has played a fundamental role – would Super Mario Bros. be quite as iconic without that theme tune?
Of course, video game soundtracks have come a very long way from those early days of chiptune jingles. Modern video games are accompanied by licensed tracks from popular artists – Grand Theft Auto, in particular, is known for including tunes from the hottest urban artists in its in-game radio – canny sound design, and orchestrated scores.
Setting the Scene
Music and sound design play a crucial role in gaming because they create an immersive experience for the player. Regardless of the genre the game belongs in, we often judge its ability to keep us engaged, and how successful it is as a gaming experience, based on the sounds and music we can hear.
Take the online slots gaming vertical, for example. Digital slots amp up the gaming experience with cutting-edge mechanics and high-quality graphics, but accurate slot machine sounds are just as important for overall enjoyment. Meanwhile, the dragon battles in Skyrim wouldn't be as epic without those chorus chants.
5 Best Soundtracks in Gaming
Music is one of the best ways to create an atmosphere in video games, as well as being the perfect tool for telling a story and expressing emotions. In our opinion, the following ten scores and soundtracks achieve everything we need to be fully immersed in a video game.
The Legend of Zelda (Koji Kondo)
This lush soundtrack composed by Koji Kondo for Nintendo's fantasy action RPG has set the standard that all games in the genre have since followed. Koji Kondo has worked with the Japanese gaming giant since 1986, composing music for the brand's most famous titles. The music composed for Legend of Zelda has become so universally adored that it was even expanded into a four-movement symphony, Symphony of the Goddesses.
Medal of Honor (Michael Giacchino)
Today, Medal of Honor has developed into a globally popular gaming franchise, but when the game first hit the scene in the 1990s, it delivered on all aspects. Not only did this OG title feature a storyline written by Steven Spielberg, but its atmospheric soundtrack was composed by JJ Abrams' go-to composer, Michael Giacchino.
Silent Hill 2 (Akira Yamaoka)
Silent Hill composer Akira Yamaoka is renowned for drawing on a diverse range of influences, from Trent Reznor to Angelo Badalementi, via Depeche Mode and Metallica. While each of the scores he's created for the horror game franchise deserves a spot on this list, what he created for Silent Hill 2 is a standout masterpiece. This is cinematic scoring on a new level, conveying a wide range of emotions from existential loneliness to outright terror.
Journey (Austin Wintory)
When Journey came along in 2012, it was unlike any other gaming experience that had come before, and central to that sense of uniqueness was Austin Wintory's carefully composed soundtrack. The only video game soundtrack to receive a Grammy nomination to date, each note conveys the weight of this monumental game about “life, death and rebirth”. Last year, in conjunction with the game's 10th anniversary, Wintory's score was reimagined and reorchestrated, but listening to it doesn't quite compare with hearing the original for the first time.
Donkey Kong Country 2 (David Wise)
One thing that gamers can always depend on when playing a new instalment in the Donkey Kong series is that the soundtrack will be excellent. Since 1981, this legendary franchise has been busting out games backed by David Wise's most intriguing compositions. However, it's his sophomore effort for Donkey Kong Country 2 that really stands out as era-defining. Mixing the original game's jungle rock vibes with unexpected industrial beats and sax-heavy sea shanties, the soundtrack is the ultimate atmospheric ride through the wild and wacky world of Donkey Kong.