Before getting into such a topic, it’s important to note that music is highly subjective. In other words, this is what I think are the 8 greatest video-game soundtracks of all time, and not “anything other than this sucks”.

I’ve been a gamer for most of my life, and I’ve realized that music makes or breaks the ambience of a game. Personally, if the music does not fit the tone or the moments in a game, it severely detracts from the experience. There have been instances where I couldn’t enjoy a game because the music either did not fit, or was just plain bad.  Luckily, finding a bad soundtrack is becoming harder and harder in videogames, with talented artists like Amon Tobin and Jeremy Soule attached to these projects.

This may have been one of the most difficult articles I’ve ever written, since it really is hard to whittle down a list of all these amazing soundtracks to a list of top 8 soundtracks. In fact, it’s now a “10 Best Videogame Soundtracks” article since it’s truly heartbreaking to ax some of the choices I picked. But these 10, to me, generate the most emotion, sense of wonder and adventure than anyone else (this is no particular order btw):

#1 – The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

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The Elder Scrolls series by Bethesda Softworks, have always featured amazing soundtracks. Despite the tough competition within the series itself, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim stands above the rest with a phenomenal soundtrack by Jeremy Soule, which gives you a true sense of adventure and discovery. From the moment you step out the doors of a now ruined Helgen, Skyrim features a rich soundtrack featuring standard tavern-fare, to orchestral pieces for battle and honestly some of the most relaxing music I have ever heard.

Since the launch of the game back in 2011, I listen to the Skyrim soundtrack when I’m either stressed or want to take a nap on the train on my morning commute; you play that soundtrack and I guarantee you will be out like a match.

One of my personal favorite songs is “Under an Ancient Sun”, which I feel is probably the most recognizable song other than Skyrim’s main theme “Dragonborn”. With nearly 53 songs in the soundtrack, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is one of the most illustrious soundtracks in gaming in my opinion, and a soundtrack that I will listen to for years to come.

Side note: Want to have the best sleep ever? Listen to track 53 titled “Skyrim Atmospheres” and get ready to pass out faster than a punch by a frost troll.

#2 – Chrono Trigger

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If I could give up every video game ever created for any particular sequel, it would be for a sequel for Chrono Trigger (I’m not counting Chrono Cross). Alas, that will never happen so I’ll have to settle with playing Chrono Trigger for the 11th time at some point. This is not an exaggeration, I have played one of video games most historical treasures close to a dozen times. To say Chrono Trigger is a great game is a severe understatement; it’s the game that defined JPRPG’s even with god knows how many Final Fantasy’s were already out at the time (six, actually).

Apart from being the game that made me fall into love with JPRPG’s, Chrono Trigger features an unbelievable soundtrack crafted by Yasunori Mitsuda, that sets the tone for the entire adventure through time and space.

From the beginning of the story in the Middle Ages, the bleak futuristic wasteland all the way back to 65 million BC, Chrono Trigger features various time periods with music that resonates with the events, characters and the period.

One of my absolute favorite songs comes from this game, “Corridors of time”; this song plays the first time you arrive at the Kingdom of Zeal. I’ve played a lot of modern open-world games, RPG’s etc, but nothing has given me a sense of wonderment more than this moment in the game.

#3 – Mass Effect

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One of the defining role-playing experiences of our time was the Mass Effect series, where we experienced an interconnected story between three games where your decisions, had consequences. This is the game that has made me bond with virtual characters in a way I never have before, and haven’t since; I felt for them, laughed with them and depending on the decisions you made, cried for them in their passing.

The Mass Effect trilogy is another hallmark series that features an amazing soundtrack across all three games in the series by various artists including Sam Hulick and Jack Wall. While each game has incredible and memorable tracks, it is the first Mass Effect that features my favorite song in the entire series: “Uncharted Worlds”.

It’s not a song that happens at any significant time, but the music that plays when you open the galaxy map to chart your course through the unknown. The 80’s science-fiction synth-waves, orchestral pieces tie together into a memorable audible experience that sticks with you long after you finish the series.

#4 – No Mans Sky

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No Mans Sky, one of gaming’s most infamous games, was a polarizing game when released spouting allegations of all sorts. Nearly three years later, it is now hailed as one of the greatest gaming comebacks ever with meaningful and game-changing updates. But the one thing it did in an exemplary manner, was the music. For a game about exploring a randomly-generated universe that could never be fully explored, No Mans Sky had a phenomenal soundtrack that fit a sci-fi adventure of a lifetime.

Created by 65daysofstatic, a post-rock bad out of Sheffield, England, No Mans Sky featured an 80’s synth-wave soundtrack that fit the tone of the game’s 60’s style science-fiction wonderment. One of my favorite songs on the album, “Tomorrow/Lull/Celestial feedback” is honestly one of the most sci-fi sounding things I have ever heard in my life.

#5 – Journey

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Back in 2012, Sony published a little game by developer Thatgamecompany called Journey, which won a ton of awards and found it’s way into every gamer’s heart with its powerful story, beautiful vistas, and emotional soundtrack. Journey was one of those games I just purchased on a whim thinking it would kill some time while I waited for a bigger release. Fortunately for me, Journey turned out to be an unforgettable experience, partly thanks to the music.

My favorite track is the second one, “The Call”, which plays the first time you fire up Journey. The music drifts in as the camera flies over a sea of sand, as the main character comes into view. Slowly moving through the sand on to the top of the hill, the camera shifts up showing a mountain and the words “Journey” across the scene as the peak of the song comes into play. The timing paired with the wonderful music by Austin Wintory, sets up a compelling tone in Journey.

#6 – Red Dead Redemption

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I have a big soft-spot for westerns in general; the idea of outlaws trying to carve a life in the wild west, and the lawmen trying to stop them from harming innocent lives. I was in heaven when Rockstar released Red Dead Redemption, a story of an ex-outlaw trying to go straight and protect his family while tracking down his old gang. With a hauntingly beautiful western themed soundtrack. Rockstar succeeded in transporting players into the wild west not as players, but as people who lived and breathed that era.

When entering Mexico during the campaign, the song “Far Away” by Jose Gonzalez kicked in adding to the moment your character crosses the border, and continuing his hunt for his ex-gang members. This song is the reason I’ve downloaded all of Jose Jonzalez’s works on Apple Music, his folky style was a masterclass in selecting pre-existing music to fit the tone of the game.

#7 – Halo

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If you don’t know the Gregorian monk chanting’s of Halo, there’s a good chance you haven’t lived. In a way I envy you; you’re about to experience the Halo series for the first time, including its seminal music that set the series apart from its predecessors as well as its peers. With seven games in the series, and two spin-offs in the form of RTS’s, Halo has had some pretty amazing music over the years. Whether it be the well known and established “Halo Chant” which has become a cultural icon, to the lesser known somber pieces of Halo 3: ODST, the series music has always fit the tone of what is occurring in the massive sci-fi epic.

But across all the games over the last two decades, it is Halo Reach which to me had the most amazing soundtracks. Storywise, it was the prequel to all the Halo’s which signified both its importance to the overarching story, as well as the importance of the events and how it led to the eventual conclusion of the first trilogy.

Halo Reach is a story of loss; the moment you start playing the game, every fan knows the story of Reach. This prior knowledge coupled with the triumphant music creates a melancholic soundtrack where it contrasts victory and loss so damn well. My favorite track on the album is “Winter Contingency” which highlights this contract perfectly.

#8 – Life is Strange

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A few years ago, I was doing some shopping at my local Wal-Mart and figured I would “treat-yo-self” over to the electronics section to see if I can score some cheap deals on a game. Inside the locked cases, I saw what appeared to be a special edition of a game by SqaureEnix called Life is Strange.

I figured “It’s only $15 bucks, what’s the worst that could happen?” Life is Strange turned out to be an unforgettable narrative experience; unfortunately for me, it was also an emotional roller coaster and that gave me the feels throughout the course of the episodic adventure. The game also features one of the best-licensed soundtracks I have ever heard.

It’s one of the rare occasions were every song selected by the developers, fit the moments in the game so perfectly. I can’t even select a specific favorite song, because it’s all very good and I’m thankful that they were selected since I now have a lot of these artists works on my phone now.

If I did have to pick a few, it would be “Get well soon” by Breton and “Crosses” once again, by Jose Gonzalez. The latest release in the series, Life is Strange 2, is already shaping up to have a phenomenal soundtrack. It’s also important to mention that the original soundtrack is also really well made, check out some of them below.  

#9 – Enslaved: Odyssey to the West

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If there was an award for criminally-underrated game, Enslaved: Odyssey to the West would win all the awards and then some. Released back in 2013, the game flew under most radars and much like my Wal-Mart adventure and discovery of Life is Strange, I found the game in the bargin bin and threw caution to the wind.

Thankfully, I did, because Enslaved is a very special game due to its emotional story, carefully developed characters and a stunning world. The game didn’t have the best gameplay ever, but by god did I fall in love with the story and the two main characters, Tripitaka and Monkey (fun fact, Monkey was voiced by freakin’ Andy Serkis!).

Here’s another fun fact, Enslaved’s soundtrack is so good that for a while I couldn’t stop listenin to it. Tracks like “The Right to Enslave” and “No Death in Love” are all so eclectic in style, but tie well together as a cohesive whole. It’s an absolute shame that we didn’t have a sequel to this game, because we were essentially robbed of another soundtrack for a very special game.

#10 – Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory

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You wouldn’t normally think a military stealth-shooter would have a great soundtrack, but here we are. Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory has one of the most slick soundtracks for a stealth game/game/anything ever. Produced by famed DJ Amon Tobin and artist Jespyr Kid, Chaos Theory’s soundtrack is filled with trip hop beats, dark soundscapes and effects that give weight to every mission and moment in the game.

There are a lot of great songs in Chaos Theory, but one of the best songs on the album is “Theme from Battery” and “El Cargo” which sounds like it would fit perfectly in something like a James Bond movie. The combination of instrumentals, trip hop really provides a unique musical palette that I haven’t heard since in either Conviction or Blacklist. Amon Tobin’s expertise as a house DJ really helped Chaos Theory a bizarre, electric experience for the senses.

Also, if there is a god, please give us a new Splinter Cell and attach Amon Tobin on it.

There you have it! My favorite video-game soundtracks of all time. If you want to dispute my choices, or give me some contrarian choices let me know in the comments below!

About The Author

Robin Ghosh (a.k.a. SpectreRobin) is a Sr. Staff Writer at GAW. He is a published writer, photographer, videographer and budding filmmaker and is currently the content director of TABOOZAPP. Having recently finished his masters in media production at Ryerson University, he is gearing up to take his career to the next level (ha, gaming pun). Robin is in love with role-playing games, sim-shooters like Deus Ex and Prey and has a soft spot for survival games like DayZ. He will play anything with a good story and a compelling world to explore. That being said no matter what year it is, he will probably at some point have a craving to play Skyrim again for the 3rd time..4th? Who knows, he really....really likes Skyrim.