The Edit

THE 30 BEST VIDEO GAME SOUNDTRACKS

someone using a video game console

The fifth instalment of the Animal Crossing franchise (and the first Animal Crossing game available on Nintendo Switch) put the player in a cute pastoral town that expands as they play. Beloved of both children and adults alike, it offers an escape into a world where the player is benign and has control over (almost) every aspect of their life. Deep, we know.

Reflecting the primary purpose of the game (escapism), the soundtrack, created by Kazumi Totaka, is filled with folksy, feel-good tracks. As it happens in real time, there’s a different track for each hour of the day; for example, at 6am, the sounds are bright and sunny, while at 6pm, it’s relaxed and chilled.

Find Kazumi Totaka inspiring? Take a moment to read about other Japanese video game composers.

Best Video Game Soundtracks 2020

  • Animal Crossing: New Horizons
    • Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time
    • Astro’s Playroom
  • Best Video Game Soundtracks 2019
    • FIFA 19
    • Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order
    • Yoshi’s Crafted World
       
  • Best Video Game Soundtracks 2018
    • Marvel’s Spider-Man
    • Red Dead Redemption II
    • Super Smash Bros: Ultimate
       
  • Best Video Game Soundtracks 2017
    • Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
    • Cuphead
    • Call of Duty: WW2
       
  • Best Video Game Soundtracks 2016
    • Pokémon: Sun/Moon
    • Street Fighter V
    • Watch Dogs
       
  • Best Video Game Soundtracks 2015
    • Batman: Arkham Knight
    • The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
    • Rise of the Tomb Raider
       
  • Best Video Game Soundtracks on Spotify
    • The Last of Us (2013)
    • The Last of Us Part II (2020)
       
  • Best Horror Video Game Soundtracks
    • Resident Evil II (1998/2019)
    • The Evil Within (2014)
       
  • Best Fantasy Video Game Soundtracks
    • Kingdom Hearts (2002)
    • The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (1998)
       
  • Best Ambient Video Game Soundtracks
    • Assassin’s Creed II (2009)
    • Wii Sports Resort Soundtrack (2009)
       
  • Best Sport Video Game Soundtracks
    • Tony Hawk Pro Skater 2 (2000)
    • Madden NFL 19 (2019)
       
  • Best Retro Video Game Soundtracks
    • Sonic the Hedgehog 3 (1994)
    • Super Mario Kart (1992)
       

Best Video Game Soundtracks 2020

 1. Animal Crossing: New Horizons

The fifth instalment of the Animal Crossing franchise (and the first Animal Crossing game available on Nintendo Switch) put the player in a cute pastoral town that expands as they play. Beloved of both children and adults alike, it offers an escape into a world where the player is benign and has control over (almost) every aspect of their life. Deep, we know.

Reflecting the primary purpose of the game (escapism), the soundtrack, created by Kazumi Totaka, is filled with folksy, feel-good tracks. As it happens in real time, there’s a different track for each hour of the day; for example, at 6am, the sounds are bright and sunny, while at 6pm, it’s relaxed and chilled.

Find Kazumi Totaka inspiring? Take a moment to read about other Japanese video game composers.

2. Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time

Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time is a Toys for Bob retcon for the games subsequent to 1998’s Crash Bandicoot 3: Warped. It follows everyone’s favourite mutated bandicoot (Crash) and his friends (including his sister, Coco Bandicoot) as they attempt to stop villains Doctor Neo Cortex and Doctor Nefarious Tropy from taking over the multiverse.

The franchise is riding a triumphant revival as millennials and Gen-Zs get nostalgic for their carefree childhoods. With this in mind, it makes sense that the new video game sequel channels the essence of the original trilogy. Each soundtrack is injected with the same sense of adventure that filled the ears of little ones back in the 90s and early 00s.

3. Astro’s Playroom

Inspired by the PS4’s The Playroom, Astro’s Playroom is a free platform game that’s pre-loaded on PlayStation 5 consoles to showcase the console’s capabilities. The game is set inside the PS5 console, amounting to a magical mystery tour of the new machine.

One of our favourite video game soundtracks ever, it amalgamates every element of the game into a sound that’s concurrently cute, electronic, futuristic and fun-filled. Our favourite track is ‘4K-Rex’ which may or may not play when a big green dinosaur appears…

Best Video Game Soundtracks 2019

4. FIFA 19

The epic FIFA franchise are released without fail every year. Each year, EA Sports drops a new version featuring fresh players, upgraded graphics and previously unseen challenges. The 2019 edition of the game starred Neymar, Paulo Dybala and Kevin De Bruyne on the cover and introduced a No Rules mode that proved popular with more boisterous players.

Naturally, with each FIFA game there’s a different soundtrack, and if you’ve read our Best FIFA Soundtracks article, you’ll know we crowned the FIFA 19 soundtrack our ultimate favourite. Just like the others, FIFA 19 boasted upbeat songs to keep heads in the game – but this selection of songs seemed to also transport players right to the centre of the pitch.

5. Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order

In 2019, EA released one of the most riveting Star Wars games ever, Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order. The third-person action-adventure – developed by American-based studio Respawn Entertainment – is set five years after the events of Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith and follows a Padawan named Cal Kestis. One of the reasons the game proved so popular is because it’s considered canon (to our non-nerdy readers, that means that it exists in the same universe as the films).

The reason we adore the soundtrack is because it recalls John Williams’ soundtracks for the original trilogy. Each enchanting orchestral composition is just as formidable as the next, which augments the experience of exploring with a lightsaber in hand. In fact, the music is so powerful, we wouldn’t complain if its composers Stephen Barton and Gordy Haab were put in charge of all the Star Wars film and TV projects from now on.

Want an orchestral composition for your production? Check out our Epic Orchestral playlist.

6. Yoshi’s Crafted World

Yoshi’s Crafted World is an utterly charming Nintendo Switch game that places Mario’s favourite dinosaur forefront and centre. The game’s arts and crafts aesthetic brings a completely unique feel to the side-scrolling platform video game genre and brings out the player’s inner child. What more could you want?

The soundtrack is everything it needs to be – soft, sweet and sugary. Composer Kazufumi Umeda used innocent and slightly naive-sounding instruments (recorders, xylophones and ukuleles) to create a collection of tracks that harmonise well with the delightful pastel world on-screen.

Need something similar for your next production? Take a moment to sample songs from our So Sweet playlist.

Best Video Game Soundtracks 2018

7. Marvel’s Spider-Man

Over the last 30 years, a slew of Spider-Man games have been released, allowing the player to pretend to be Peter Parker. Unarguably, one of the best video games to focus on the superhero is 2018’s Marvel’s Spider-Man, released exclusively on PlayStation. Developed by Insomniac Games and published by Sony Interactive Entertainment, Marvel’s Spider-Man is a stunning open-world game that allows players to web-sling their way across New York, fighting crime all the way.

The soundtrack has been hailed for two main reasons: it encapsulates the atmosphere of contemporary New York, and it sounds just as epic as a soundtrack from an MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe) entry.

8. Red Dead Redemption II

Created by Rockstar Games (of Grand Theft Auto fame), Red Dead Redemption II is the third instalment in the Red Dead franchise. The critically acclaimed Western video game is set in 1899 and follows Arthur Morgan, a member of Dutch van der Linde’s outlaw gang. Jam-packed with intriguing, realistic characters, beautiful landscapes and loads of interactive features, it’s easy to see why it’s had people hooked since it was released back in 2017.

The Red Dead Redemption II soundtrack is exactly what you’d expect from a cinematic, frontier-inspired set of songs, which immerse the player completely in the setting.

9. Super Smash Bros: Ultimate

Super Smash Bros: Ultimate is the latest edition of Super Smash Bros – Nintendo’s fighting game franchise that debuted in 1999. Players can choose from over 75 characters (our favourite being Mewtwo) and in excess of 100 maps, and fight others using special abilities and a seemingly endless array of weapons, special items and power-ups. It’s a little mad, but also extremely invigorating.

With majestic strings, grand brass and pounding drums, lead composer Hideki Sakamoto produced a soundtrack that’s sure to evoke nostalgic for the game in years to come. Each map is also paired with a unique track.

Best Video Game Soundtracks 2017

10. Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

A soft reboot of Nintendo’s world-renowned Zelda series, the open-world game encourages players to go forth to the land of Hyrule in the guise of a young knight named Link, to rescue Princess Zelda from the villain Calamity Ganon. Along the way, Link reconnects with old friends, travels through awe-inspiring landscapes, and gains an impressive range of abilities and weapons.

When Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild was released back in 2017, it impressed critics and gamers alike and was said to be one of the best video games ever created. The soundtrack is just as engaging as the game itself – and in our opinion, it’s at its best – surprisingly – when it embodies the more peaceful, rural aspects.

11. Cuphead

Cuphead is a 2017 run-and-gun video game by Studio MDHR, inspired by the golden age of American animation: the 1930s. The game focuses on the titular character Cuphead and his brother Mugman, who aim to repay their debt to the devil. How? By collecting soul contracts from runaways.

Just like its visual design, the soundtrack is heavily influenced by the early 20th century: barbershop vocals, melodious piano and the nostalgic sounds of classic jazz. The player is whisked away to Inkwell Isle – the peculiar home of the titular character – which is certainly a distraction from the harsh realities of life. Here’s hoping Netflix takes inspiration from the soundtrack for their upcoming Cuphead TV show.

12. Call of Duty: WW2

Each year, Activision releases a new Call of Duty game; Call of Duty: WW2 won the hearts of gamers worldwide in 2017. The first-person shooter game takes place in the final year of the Second World War and follows the protagonist Ronald ‘Red’ Daniels. Praised for its characters and settings, the game – which largely returned to its roots with this instalment – drops players right in the middle of the action from the start. Thrilling stuff.

The soundtrack evokes a grim wartime atmosphere and simultaneously inspires players to rise to a valient soldier mindset. The orchestral main theme, Brotherhood of Heroes, is sure to be remembered for years to come for its bold, heroic sentiment.

Browse, sample and download some of our military-inspired music over at our Military/War music page.

Best Video Game Soundtracks 2016

13. Pokémon: Sun/Moon

This duo of role-playing games was first released in 2016 to commemorate Pokémon’s 20th anniversary. A must-have for fans of the franchise, they introduced 81 new Pokémon species, as well as improved 3D graphics and a new home for Pokémon, the Alola region (an archipelago inspired by Hawaii).

In common with the rest of the franchise, the Pokémon: Sun and Moon games are bright and colourful – and so, too, are the soundtracks. Each song is just as magical and whimsical as the next and helps keep players invested in the story and the characters.

14. Street Fighter V

This 2016 Street Fighter game is the most advanced in the series to date. The main aim of the games is to knock out your opponent, but this version introduced a story mode to the franchise. By letting players get better acquainted with the characters, it added a whole new dimension to what was already a pretty intense experience.

And the soundtrack is absolutely electric. Fast-paced, compulsive beats energise the player to give their best performance and win We especially love the heavy rock elements throughout.

15. Watch Dogs 2

Watch Dogs 2 is a follow up to the 2014 action-adventure game Watch Dogs which introduced us to a world (not dissimilar to our own) that’s heavily impacted by technology. The sequel moves the action from Chicago to San Francisco and follows new hacker Marcus Holloway as he works with hackers DedSec to take down a central operating system created by a tech company named Blume. Players take control of Holloway as he completes a whole slew of missions around the West Coast.

The series, developed by Ubisoft and published by Ubisoft Montreal, explores some of the 21st century’s most pressing themes. To exaggerate the drama, Scottish DJ Hudson Mohawke produced a soundtrack of high-octane, almost militaristic compositions to keep players on the edge of their seats.

Best Video Game Soundtracks 2015

16. Batman: Arkham Knight

Between 2009 – 2015, Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment released a quadrilogy of video games that allowed players to become Batman, and Batman: Arkham Knight was the final chapter. Developed by Rocksteady Studios, the third person game sees players fight famous DC villains such as Scarecrow, Penguin, Harley Quinn and Two-Face. And the best part? The game allows players to explore the open-world Gotham City any way they like.

Batman: Arkham Knight’s soundtrack – produced by Nick Arundel and David Buckley – is dark, mysterious and majestic. Each song perfectly complements the gritty, sombre Gotham City, the gloomy nature of the hero and the eccentric natures of the villains.

17. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt

An enchanting 2015 video game, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt continues the story of monster slayer Geralt of Rivia, a character first introduced to gamers in 2007’s The Witcher. Based on the fantasy novels by Andrzej Sapkowski, it embraces magic and Slavonic mythology to create a fictional world called The Continent. In this chapter, Geralt goes in search of his adopted daughter ,who is on the run from the ghostly Wild Hunt.

The soundtrack to The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt makes The Continent feel all the more believable. Polish composer Marcin Przybyłowicz opts for spiritual woodwinds, bucolic strings and soft percussion to give the game an Arcadian feel and immerse the player in Geralt’s stunning virtual world.

18. Rise of the Tomb Raider

In Rise of the Tomb Raider, American video game developer Crystal Dynamics rebooted the franchise in style. The new Lara Croft returns with a completely fresh look, demeanour and back story, but is just as brave and resilient. In this game, Croft goes on a quest to discover the legendary city of Kitezh.

The soundtrack to Rise of the Tomb Raider is all about adventure, with each scene carrying emotional depth and a thrilling sense of discovery. Is it on par with the music from the original games? We certainly think so.

Discover our treasure trove of adventure tracks over in our Fantastic Adventure playlist.

Best Video Game Soundtracks on Spotify

19. The Last of Us (2013)

The Last of Us is an action-adventure game, developed by Naughty Dog for Sony Computer Entertainment, and is set in a post-apocalyptic United States in which an infectious disease has spread havoc. In it the hero, Joel, is tasked with smuggling a 14-year-old girl (Ellie) to a safe place. Excitingly, the story is soon to be adapted into a HBO series starring Pedro Pascal.

Music is key to The Last of Us – it tells the story in ways that can’t be expressed visually. The warm, emotional sound seals the bond between the two main characters, and contrasts against the cold, dystopian aesthetic of the game. We also love that The Last of Us soundtrack – created by two-time Academy Award winner Gustavo Santaolalla – is available on Spotify.

20. The Last of Us Part II (2020)

The sequel to The Last of Us was critically acclaimed, and picks up with Ellie five years later. When the 19-year-old’s peace is disrupted in Jackson, Wyoming, she goes on a mission to seek closure. Players are introduced to the (playable) character Abby, who becomes increasingly important as the story unfolds.

For the second The Last of Us Part II, Gustavo Santaolalla created an intense, angst-driven soundtrack; in an instant, the music switches from welcoming to brooding, throwing curveballs to the player in every scene.

Best Horror Video Game Soundtracks

21. Resident Evil II (1998/2019)

In 2019, Capcom remade one of their most popular games ever: Resident Evil II. The 1998 game provided players with an immersive experience that was, frankly, completely addictive. The aim of the game is to get playable characters Leon S Kennedy and Claire Redfield out of the zombie-infested Racoon City. As you can imagine, the 2019 version upgrades it on all levels, but never loses the spirit of the original.

One of the ways Capcom immerses players into their horror story is by using horror music. For the 2019 remake, the Japanese video game developer enlisted the help of one of the original composers, Shusaku Uchiyama, who teamed up with Chinese musician Zhenlan Kang to refresh the 21-year-old soundtrack; and what an excellent job they did. Creepy and intriguing, the music they created is sure to go down in video game history.

22. The Evil Within (2014)

Directed by Resident Evil series creator Shinji Mikami, gamers were excited about the horror video game The Evil Within long before it was released. Fortunately, it lived up to the hype. The game focuses on Sebastian Castellanos, a detective in Krimson City Police Department, who is thrown into a nightmarish world while investigating a mass murder.

There’s no denying that The Evil Within is a horror video game; fittingly, the soundtrack delivers: thundering drums, screeching violins and creepy accordions leave players nervous about their every move.

Want to explore more of this kind of music? Listen to our Horror playlist if you dare…

Best Fantasy Video Game Soundtracks

23. Kingdom Hearts (2002)

Action game Kingdom Hearts is the first in a series that combines the worlds of Disney and Square Enix. The first instalment puts the player in the (extremely oversized) shoes of a 14-year-old boy named Sora, whose home is infiltrated by darkness. Sora teams up with Donald Duck and Goofy to explore different worlds – from Hercules’ Olympus to Aladdin’s Agrabah – in a fun-filled adventure.

The soundtrack mixes sci-fi fantasy with a touch of magic and, as you’d expect, each world has a distinctive musical vibe.

24. The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (1998)

The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, the fifth game in the franchise, is the first to boast 3D graphics. The young knight Link is out to stop the villainous King Ganondorf; the game incorporates time travel and a very important ocarina (an ancient wind instrument) along the way.

The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time soundtrack set a new standard in video games. The charming thematic music brought the kingdom of Hyrule to life with an idyllic, pastoral soundscape.

Best Ambient Video Game Soundtracks

25. Assassin’s Creed II (2009)

In 2009, Ubisoft released the second instalment of the Assassin’s Creed franchise, a game hailed as one of the most stimulating video games ever released. It puts the player in control of Desmond Miles as he relives the genetic memories of one of his ancestors; this time, during the Italian Renaissance.

The soundtrack is impressive for its sheer range – from intense and dramatic to nonchalant,  Mediterranean-inspired instrumentation. It brilliantly mirrors the ups and downs of the narrative to keep even the savviest gamers on their toes.

Speaking of Assassin’s Creed, Audio Network is partners with a duo named The Flight, who have worked on two instalments in the franchise: Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag (2014) and Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey.

Find out more about The Flight’s Joe Henson and Alexis Smith in our  The Flight Q&A article.

26. Wii Sports Resort Soundtrack (2009)

Wii Sports Resort was created by Nintendo to showcase the almost intuitive Wii Motion Plus accessory. Set on the fictional island of Wuhu, the game allows players to take part in summery sports such as wakeboarding, power cruising and disc golf. And, just like the original Wii Sports, players can compete against other players or CPU characters.

The soundtrack is unforgettable – to us, it’s the true sound of summer. We often find ourselves humming the main theme, a piano-led track with lilting strings, woodwinds and electric guitars – a testament to its perennial appeal.

Best Sports Video Game Soundtracks

27. Tony Hawk Pro Skater 2 (2002)

Back in the early 00s, Activision’s Tony Hawk Pro Skater 2 was the game to own. The second version upgraded all of the lovable elements of the original and added manual and cash reward features. What does the game involve? Skateboarding, pure and simple.

The urban setting of the Tony Hawk Pro Skater 2 game was paired with a stellar punk rock soundtrack to create a cool virtual world that everyone wanted a piece of. Featuring songs such as You by Bad Religion and No Cigar by Millencolin, it introduced thousands of youngsters to the punk rock.

Take a moment to explore our Punk Rock playlist.

28. Madden NFL 19 (2019)

Madden NFL is a series of American football games that are released every year across the world. Each new version features improvements; Madden NFL 19 featured Real Player Motion, so characters’ complex movements made them appear more life-like than ever before.

In general, Madden NFL soundtracks are renowned for featuring the most effective in-the-zone hip hop beats, but the Madden NFL 19 is, in our opinion, the most memorable to date. Featuring songs such as Pusha T’s ‘If You Know You Know’ and ‘Money Bag’ by Cardi B. We admit we still have a copy of the 2019 version of the game at home.

Best Retro Video Game Soundtracks

29. Sonic the Hedgehog 3 (1994)

SEGA’s side-scrolling platform game Sonic the Hedgehog 3 puts the speedy blue creature and his flying friend Tails up against the evil Doctor Eggman. And, as with any Sonic game, players are expected to collect rings (chiefly for health reasons) along the way.

Rumour has it that the one and only Michael Jackson helped create a portion of the Sonic the Hedgehog 3 soundtrack. It is believed that MJ didn’t want to be credited for his role, as the poor sound production of nineties consoles made the songs sound basic. Do we believe the rumour? Yes – simply because the soundtrack is super impressive.

Find this interesting? Feel free to read more about our take on retro video games.

30. Super Mario Kart (1992)

This Nintendo’s SNES game kick-started the world-famous Mario Kart franchise. The 1992 racing game allows players to take control of eight characters from the world of Mario – including Yoshi, Toad, Princess Peach and, of course, Mario – and race each other on a go-kart track. Along the way, players collect power-ups to help them improve their chances of winning.

The soundtrack inspired all nine versions of the game that succeeded it, which is why it belongs on our list of the best video game soundtracks of all time. Joyful, colourful and completely bonkers, each composition ties in seamlessly with the theme of its racing track – so the Ghost Valley song has an eerie feel, the Choco Island song sounds exotic…

More Music Content

If you’d like to read more about music, we invite you to explore The Edit, where we dive into a whole host of topics – from BAFTA-winning film soundtracks to traditional Japanese music to the latest songs to appear in our catalogue.

To help you navigate The Edit with ease, our content slots into three sections: Inspiration, Expertise and News.

In our Inspiration section, you can find articles such as The Best 80s Soundtracks, The ‘Je Ne Sais Quoi’ of Renault Ads and The Best Harry Potter Soundtracks.

Over in Expertise, you can find articles such as How Much Does it Cost to Advertise on TV?, Shot Lists: What Are They & How Do You Create One? and Best Camera for Streaming 2021.

Last but not least, over in our News section, you can find articles such as A World of Music, Made by You, Soundtracked By Us: The Latest Syncs and Discover New Music From Martin Felix Kaczmarski, Trox and More.





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