Good video game music is good music, period, and the history of video games has brought us some truly outstanding soundtracks. Video game music is easily overlooked when you’re concentrating on something else - it adds tension and drama to the toughest of boss fights, or sets the atmosphere as you cautiously peek around a corner in a stealth or horror game - but even then it can be brilliant in its own right, and when it takes centre-stage during a set piece or a title sequence, none would deny that gaming has brought as much to the field of music as any other medium that benefits from it. There’s even an art to arranging licensed music, which often introduces gamers to artists that have remained in our playlists for years to come - I’m looking at you, mid-noughties FIFA games with my love for British indie rock.
So we posed the question to you, the Just About Video Games community: what are the best soundtracks of all time in video games? You came forth with a couple of classics, plus some rather unorthodox choices, all of which we absolutely love.
As expected, the legendary Nobuo Uematsu made an appearance in our replies. One of the most prolific and beloved video game composers ever thanks to his work on the Final Fantasy series, Uematsu’s work is so celebrated that it’s received its own orchestral tour, Distant Worlds, which @lanah_tyra was fortunate enough to see at the Royal Albert Hall. Lanah’s nomination is the Final Fantasy VII soundtrack, specifically the song 'One Winged Angel’.
Apparently, One Winged Angel is one of only two songs that never leaves the Distant Worlds setlist on Uematsu’ request (the other being ‘To Zanarkand’).
Next up, @Ross flew in with a huge fan favourite: The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. From the Kokiri Forest theme to the Ganon boss music, there is a mixture of genres and settings, much like every Zelda game, and as always Nintendo got it bang on. He also gave an honourable mention to Burnout Paradise, which is a terrific shout - I long for the day another Burnout game arrives.
A no-less iconic reply, albeit one that relies more on licensed music, comes from @waddenderas, who nominated Fallout New Vegas. Funnily enough, Wadd explained he’s never even played the game - the old-timey earworms simply never left after he watched his housemate do so at university.
“Johnny Guitar” is Wadd’s top song on the radio when exploring the Mojave Wasteland and wishing for a nuclear winter, but there are countless others too. Who could forget Marty Robbins and his 'Big Iron’, or Dean Martin and 'Ain’t That A Kick In The Head’?
Next up is @macgybo, who nominated a few, starting with both EA Sports’ Superbike 2000 and DJ Hero, both of which he actually worked on. Superbike 2000’s original soundtrack is full of the kind of pumping instrumentals that epitomised sports game OSTs of the time, and remind me heavily of SSX. Meanwhile DJ Hero has a lot of massively popular songs - highlights include “Another One Bites The Dust” by Queen, “Ace of Spades’ by Motorhead, and 'Intergalactic” by Beastie Boys.
MacGybo also gave a shout out to Sanxion on the Commodore 64. Composed by Rob Hubbard, this 1986 side-scrolling shooter is best known for its “Loader” tune, which you can listen to above.
In the PS1 era, @dave nominated PaRappa The Rapper, the cult-classic rhythm game that sees you play as a 2D dog with baggy trousers and a beanie, rapping with other friendly creatures as he tries to win the heart of an anthropomorphic sunflower, Sunny Funny. That sentence may seem completely nuts if you haven’t played PaRappa The Rapper (or the sequel, sensibly named PaRappa The Rapper 2), but once you hear the tunes, you’ll understand why it’s so beloved.
Above is one example of a song from the first game, but do have a listen to the full playlist, and pick the remastered version of the game up on PS4/PS5 when you can - you won’t regret it.
Of course, we’re bound to have missed some great ones - let us know in the comments what your favourite soundtrack is. We may even run this bounty again in the future, so remember your suggestion for next time!