We've Got All the Best OSTs
Throughout the years, video games have given us some incredible music. But we're not just exploring games with outstanding soundtracks — we're digging for the absolute crème de la crème. This means we've got some very honorable mentions to get out of the way before we go over the 16 champions. The games with stellar soundtracks that didn't quite make the cut include Cuphead, Bastion, Halo 2, BioShock Infinite and The World Ends with You. These tunes definitely deserve a listen, once you're done enjoying the top 16 best gaming soundtracks to ever grace gamers' ears. Get ready to discover unparalleled OST excellence.
Assassin's Creed Revelations
Assassin's Creed Revelations' score is every bit as eye-opening as the game's title would imply. Jesper Kyd's and Lorne Balfe's work on Revelations' score set the stage for many, many future Assassin's Creed motifs. Among other things, the game gave us the series' continued adoration for chimes and haunting melodies contrasted with beautiful ones. While ACII laid the foundation for these developments with the piece "Ezio's Family," Kyd fully realized his ambitions in Revelations, where he and Balfe swung for the fences to craft something inclusive of all of AC's tones: futuristic and historical, sinister and uplifting. And, on all counts, they succeeded.Assassin's Creed Origins also gets an honorable mention. Sarah Schachner's take on the series' Egyptian installment raised the bar for remixes of tried-and-true AC themes, as well as original compositions.
Far Cry 3
Far Cry 3's score, much like its story, is remarkably melancholy and grounded, even though the actual gameplay tries to rail against such moods. Though FC3's violent gunplay is meant to entertain, it's thematically appropriate for a story about a wealthy, bored young man who realizes that killing can bring him joy and a sense of purpose. As he falls further down the rabbit hole of destruction, so does the music. Brian Tyler makes sure that the protagonist's descent into madness, and the subconscious desolation that goes along with it, are mirrored in the unconventional post-rock score. Pieces like "I'm Sorry" and "Falling into a Dream" aurally illustrate the internal suffering of a morally deteriorating character.Credit: Ubisoft
The Sonic the Hedgehog franchise has always had some of the best music in all of video gaming. From Sonic 2, to Secret Rings, to Zero Gravity, to Mania Plus, Sonic's always brought an S-Rank performance to his games' musical stylings. We'd like to name Sonic Unleashed as our favorite OST from blue blur's soundtrack repertoire. Featuring tunes that perfectly capture the vibe of every major region on Earth — from the saxophone-filled, high-energy streets of New York City to the suling-serenaded, lush jungles of Indonesia — Sonic Unleashed does an immaculate job of capturing the essences of its varied locales. Furthermore, there's the game's magnificent menu theme, main theme and accompanying orchestral remix, as well as a bevyof additionalA-grade tracks, all of which easily solidify the final product as one of, if not the very best, soundtracks in Sonic's history.
For gamers who want some of the smartest electronic music ever created, Remember Me's soundtrack is a must-listen. Every melody in the Olivier Deriviere-composed soundtrack is technological genius; each tune feels as if it were literally ripped from the innards of a futuristic computer. Beats are fragmented, glitchy and fraught with confusion — all part of Deriviere's deliberate design, as he wished to stay thematically consistent with the game's story, which is about a lost woman recovering her memories in a dystopian future Paris. That's also why Deriviere made sure players received the game's full main theme only at the final battle, though bits and pieces of it are scattered throughout earlier portions of the adventure. That amazing degree of foresight and vision is only part of what makes this soundtrack so incredible. The rest of its merits stem from old-fashioned quality and listenability.
There has never been a more jaunty, spritely and adventurous soundtrack in the history of gaming than Ducktales: Remastered's. It maintains the core melodies and spirit of the original 8-bit score while infusing enough contemporary elements (including a liberal dash of orchestral flair) to keep it feeling fresh and relevant. This is a soundtrack where you can deduce what the final level is solely from hearing the music beforehand, as well as pinpoint the geographic location of a level without needing to see it simply because its background tune is so evocative. Thank you, Jake Kaufman (the composer), for doing everyone's childhoods proud.
Though we'll definitely give an honorable mention to Bayonetta 2 for excellent tracks like "Tomorrow is Mine" and "Moon River — Climax Mix," we can't help but award the main prize to the original Bayonetta. This is a game that somehow turned Frank Sinatra's "Fly Me to the Moon" into a jazz-pop anthem that, against all odds, actually works. This game invented the experience of playing as a naked witch who summons monsters with her hair, while a wild, irreverent piano serenades your every move. We give Bayonetta massive props for creating something new while doing Sinatra's spirit proud in the process.
In terms of its soundtrack, Skullgirls is the seedy bar from noir films. It's the gothic horror flick Dracula crawled out of. It's the high-octane, world-spanning action-adventure movie you always wanted. Somehow, this marvelous indie's OST captures every one of those distinctive flavors and swirls them together into a musical smoothie front-loaded with unbridled panache. The snarky saxophones, popping trumpets, operatic singers, electric guitars, electronic melodies and smooth piano notes somehow blend into a series of tracks that, while not totally thematically consistent, are all consistently awesome and befitting of their in-game surroundings.
Credit: Marvelous Autumn Games
No other game spits fat beats and clever, meaningful rap like this one. Lines like "We can do this the simple way, [but] I prefer to keep it complicated," are next-level lyricism, and every ridiculous song in this bonkers soundtrack has a quote like that going for it. The musical magicians behind Anarchy Reigns' score even figured out a way to mix rap with orchestra — a phenomenon that you can hear in the song "Find You." This soundtrack is so over-the-top and full of raw energy that even those who can't stand rap will likely find a lot to love nestled within the OST's mountain of pulse-pounding pieces.
All Civilization games have fantastic scores and themes, with massive honorable mentions going to Civilization VI, Beyond Earth and Civilization IV for their incredible music. (Civ IV's theme won a Grammy and was sung on America's Got Talent, for a frame of reference.) With that said, we feel Civilization V just narrowly edges out the competition. There are just too many outstanding character themes packed into the game to not give Civ V the love it deserves. Plus, the original theme (not the ones bundled with the Gods & Kings and Brave New World expansions) did a particularly nice job of taking each player on a tour of mankind's history solely through music, exploring both the good and the bad of humanity's achievements. Credit: Aspyr
As any video game music fanatic knows, no one can out-score Jesper Kyd. The man once again showcases his immense talent in Darksiders II's excellent soundtrack, which fuses the magical whimsicality of The Legend of Zelda's musical themes with a grim beauty unique to the Darksiders series. It's fitting that a game starring Death — while framing him as a hero — should be so tonally paradoxical. Kyd pulls off this tightrope act with finesse, as you can hear in memorable tracks such as "The Guardian Theme."
Credit: THQ Nordic
There's not a whole lot to say about Syndicate 2012's cyberpunk soundtrack beyond the simple fact that it's got some of the coolest, classiest wubs in all of dubstep. This game features compositions by talented electronic artists and groups such as Skrillex, Nero, Flux Pavilion and Digitalism. Their contributions, alongside the core score by Gustaf Grefberg, really shake up the way the moment-to-moment gameplay operates. There are few games in the entire medium that truly understand how to capitalize on the driving energy of a killer soundtrack, and that's Syndicate's real competitive edge. The game rides its music like a wave and works it to the rhythmic bone.
Credit: Electronic Arts
Mega Man 2
Mega Man 2 is the definition of old-school cool. Rocking the 8-bit genre better than most of his peers, Mega Man saw his musical heyday in Mega Man 2, otherwise known as the game that provided us with killer tracks like the epic "Menu Theme," "Crash Man's Theme" and, of course, "Dr. Wily's Castle." We'll keep you posted if anyone ever composes an 8-bit song cooler than that last one.Credit: Capcom
Jet Set Radio
Rarely does a soundtrack exude as much energy as Jet Set Radio's. Every single rhythm in this game's soundtrack is infused with sass, swagger and enough hard-core funk to keep a James Brown fan happy. Plus, true to the game's wild, speedy spirit, the beats hit hard and fast, helping to reinforce JSR's natural sense of momentum. As an interesting aside, this is the soundtrack that dominated the creative direction of Sonic Rush's score (legendary composer Hideki Naganuma worked on both), just in case you love JSR's OST and need some more wacky music that carries on that game's vibrant legacy.
Uncharted 3's soundtrack is the one that finally set Uncharted apart, making it more than just another Indiana Jones knockoff. Its score took the seeds of brilliance from UC2's OST and expanded on them to the point where Uncharted finally developed its own musical identity. This was a trilogy finale about a plucky, impossibly lucky guy named Nate, whose unflinching loyalty to his pals and unhealthy addiction to treasure hunting constantly landed him in almost impossible situations — "almost" being the key word, of course, as you can hear in the dramatic-but-upbeat music. Plus, the mild-but-noteworthy Arabian flavorings of the score really help sell the adventure's sandy backdrop. One can never have enough oud in their life, after all.Credit: Sony
For metalheads and those who like their rock grungy, virtually no soundtrack in gaming can compare to the one from Doom (2016). It's gritty and aggressive, featuring lethal doses of heavy-metal guitar riffs, tireless drum smashing and endless loops of haunting electronic noises that shouldn't exist in our reality. Heck, the soundtrack literally visualizes itself as hell's calling card, if you put it through a spectrogram. That's the kind of thought and craft Mick Gordon and Co. put into this monstrous OST.
Credit: Bethesda Softworks
Mass Effect 3
Mass Effect 3 has, for better or worse, the quintessential sci-fi video game soundtrack. Thankfully, this is often for the better. Though there are occasional beats in the soundtrack that sound a bit too much like a generic space-adventure score, the soundtrack's most glorious moments outshine these low points by a mile. Pieces like "The Vastness of Space" and "Leaving Earth" set the tone for a game all about interstellar exploration and, ultimately, noble failure. Mass Effect 3's score effectively communicates the tireless struggles of its doomed protagonists and the beauty of their galaxy-size journey to beat seemingly insurmountable odds.Credit: Electronic Arts