We all have our ‘best video game soundtracks’ that ignite a hint of nostalgia – be it the Sonic Adventure soundtrack from the glory days of the Sega Dreamcast or maybe you’re a fan on 8-bit classics such as The Legend of Zelda?
While I have 8-bit versions of Leisure Suit Larry as my ringtone among others, video game soundtracks aren’t really my thing, generally speaking. Though the Final Fantasy VII Victory Fanfare consistently boosts my mood, and I have the CD soundtrack in the remake Deluxe Edition, I never listen to it.
However, there are so many game soundtracks that are great to listen to when on the road, to chill out too, or a muse when writing features for your website. The following is a selection of my personal favourites that I listen to outside of gaming.
6 Best Video Game Soundtracks – IMHO
Jet Set Radio
Undeniably the first soundtrack that really changed my perspective on videogame music and introduced a selection of artists that would never have been on my watchlist.
A lot of these tracks were exclusive remixes, and the originals naturally differ, but Jet Set Radio introduced me to Cibo Matto, like so many more, Guitar Vader and originals from Hideki Naganuma.
For years I was on the search for the album that wasn’t an overpriced import, and in the end, I settled on listening to various Spotify playlists or on YouTube. While there’s never an excuse needed to play Jet Set Radio, listening to these tracks outside of the game is often upbeat and energetic enough to set your day off.
I love Cibo Matto, but Guitar Vader’s Super Brothers is a guaranteed smile on my face.
Oxenfree was the game soundtrack that inspired this feature in the first place. Picking this up on the Nintendo eShop on a whim, the complete package blew me away from mild The Outer Limits narrative references through to the quips made by the too-old-for-their-age protagonists.
But what really stood out was the original soundtrack by scntfc. The Oxenfree soundtrack has been a staple of my Spotify playlists, and it’s been my go-to ‘life score’ from work to school runs, long haul travel through to Friday feels where I’m looking for inspiration.
When a soundtrack can be extracted from the source material without having that gut instinct of reliving certain scenes and be so influential, calming and uplifting, well… that’s the pinnacle for me.
I never tire of Beacon Beach.
Perhaps a bit of a biased entry as I hold Katana ZERO so dearly and can’t wait for the eventual sequel, it’s yet another standalone score that has been the crutch for my productivity and when needing a little inspiration.
Music is one of my true passions, and while I love everything from metal to hip-hop, instrumental tends to be the genre that I play most, notably for working to without distraction and when driving, if not hijacked by the kids wanting to listen to pop music.
This soundtrack features the work of LudoWic and Bill Kiley, and yet again, is a score that stands on its own two feet, separated from the source material. To listen to the soundtrack outside of the game, check out the BandCamp link here.
The theme for Katana ZERO is a great starting point, but Meat Grinder or Death of a Serpent were pretty cool.
We’re seeing a bit of a pattern now with industrial, cyberpunk influences and based on my NIN taste, that’s no surprise. However, for such a brief game, the tracks made their impact, and it wasn’t long until these joined the ranks of ‘inspire me’.
With music by Cybass that can be listened via your browser on SoundCloud, it’s an almost epic, cinematic series that instils a vision of dystopia and industrial elements that if someone said this was ripped from a Hollywood title, not many would be surprised.
Boss Glitch or Saigo Theme (Akane Version) are perhaps the standouts for me.
Silent Hill 2
Ok, so now we’re back to the territory of my all-time favourite games. Silent Hill 2 is on a pedestal as far as I’m concerned. While I’m not a connoisseur of horror games, not do I seek them out, Konami’s entry is sublime.
We can thank the work of Akira Yamaoka here for his efforts with a consistent eerie and ominous ambience that would have most people shit the bed; it’s yet another soundtrack that helps me ‘transcend’ to a world of ideas and thoughts that make literally has me buzzing. I open my eyes and boom! all gone.
David Lynch can remain unchallenged. The same for everyone else as we all have ideas, it’s putting them into motion that is the biggest step. For now, I’m happy to concede with listening to this on repeat. The highlight for me is White Noiz, if a little too brief.
Grand Theft Auto San Andreas
Such a cheat here, but with the amount of quality in this series, it’s hard not to include. It was a toss-up between Vice City and San Andreas – both I still have tucked away on CD somewhere – the former being rather expensive at the time boxset.
However, when you have the likes of Rage Against the Machine, Public Enemy, James Brown, then my territory; Soundgarden, Stone Temple Pilots and Faith No More, San Andreas gets the win.
There were so many highlights and not just because of the appearance of Axel Rose(!?) and the wicked commercials, but Strutter by Kiss and Freebird by Lynyrd Skynrd were fantastic to drive to.
Honourable Mentions Or Suggestions?
Honourable mentions from older systems include the likes of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater and also Dave Mirra Freestyle BMX, Quake with Nine Inch Nails, and much much more. We could go down the Amiga route, but we’d be here all day.
Yes, there are so many more, but do you really listen to the Red Dead Redemption 2 score on the way to work, or perhaps you like to bump uglies to Puyo Puyo Pop Fever? The other person (if they exist) probably doesn’t.
If you have any recommendations, please share. I love finding new music or reassessing a song if there’s a history to it or someone highlights something I may have missed.