Video game music has truly come a long way. The simple 8-bit tunes of yesteryears are now replaced by full-blown musical scores that require a whole orchestra to pull off. Today, there are video game soundtracks that are just as good as any movie or TV show score. In fact, some video game music has even been nominated for Grammy Awards! Now, who would have guessed that back when gaming was still in its infancy?
The point here is, video game music has now become an integral part of any video game today. So much so, that it can now be the main selling point of it. And in some cases, it is the main premise all in itself.
In this article, we intend to give the spotlight to the best video game music soundtracks of all time while also discussing their impact on the game they are featured in and the whole gaming industry. Without further ado, here are our picks for the top 5 best video game soundtracks of all time in no particular order.
1. Super Mario Bros. (Koji Kondo)
You certainly have to be living under a rock to not have heard of the iconic Super Mario Bros. theme. This piece of video game music has transcended the industry and has since become a part of pop culture. As a matter of fact, Koji Kondo’s theme is so ingrained in our heads that you can bet anyone you come across can sing or hum its chirpy intro.
It is catchy, upbeat, and perfectly captures the feeling of adventure. We can even go as far as saying that Mario wouldn’t be the household name that he is today without Kondo’s masterpiece of video game music. The Super Mario Bros. theme deserves at least a mention in any list such as this. Notably, it has since been announced that this theme is set to be the very first video game music soundtrack to ever be a part of the US Library of Congress.
2. Final Fantasy Series (Nobuo Uematsu)
Nobuo Uematsu is arguably the most well-known Japanese video game composer of all time thanks to his constant masterpieces for the well-beloved RPG franchise, Final Fantasy. His masterful work is so appreciated in his home country of Japan that he has since become a legend there—and deservedly so. The scores he has provided for Final Fantasy are so well-loved that concerts dedicated to it have been constant sell-outs across the world.
Fan of the franchise or not, there will certainly be something Uematsu has created that you will resonate with. Through several entries in the long-running video game series, his scores managed to elevate players’ experience, making battles all the more impactful and rendering their worlds even more enchanting. Look no further than the melodramatic Final Fantasy “Opening Theme” and the iconic Sephiroth Theme “One-Winged Angel.”
3. Chrono Trigger (Yasunori Mitsuda)
Chrono Trigger is a classic JRPG with a fantastic soundtrack to match. Yasunori Mitsuda, the composer of the soundtrack, created a timeless score that is full of catchy melodies and beautiful harmonies. The soundtrack helps to bring the game’s world to life and makes it even more enjoyable to play.
It has been said that Mitsuda worked so hard on the soundtrack for Chrono Trigger that his team often finds him passed out from exhaustion. Moreover, it has also been reported that Mitsuda suffered from a stomach ulcer and was admitted to the nearest medical facility because of it as well. This only proves his dedication to making the video game music soundtrack for Chrono Trigger legendary—and that, he did.
4. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (Jeremy Soule)
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is a massive open-world game with a soundtrack to match. Jeremy Soule, the composer of the soundtrack, created a vast and epic score that perfectly captures the feeling of adventure. The soundtrack features a variety of instruments, from orchestral to folk to electronic.
In fact, Soule purportedly enlisted a 30-strong choir of barbarian voices to sing in the game’s own invented language. This made everything sound more impactful and authentic to the world the game is trying to establish. All in all, it’s a soundtrack that you can listen to for hours on end without getting bored. And believe us, you’d be dedicating dozens and dozens of hours to playing this game!
5. Journey (Austin Wintory)
Before Austin Wintory’s work in Journey, many believed that video game music will just stay in the gaming space and nothing more. No matter how iconic they become or heartwarmingly good, they won’t ever receive any awards or at least nominations from Grammys or any other platforms. Well, Wintory’s masterpiece for Sony’s Journey broke that mold, taking video game music to newer highs.
Wintory’s work for the game back in 2012 was shortlisted by the Grammy Awards for Best Soundtrack for Visual Media. It went head-to-head with some of entertainment’s strongest scores. This includes The Dark Knight Rises and The Girl with The Dragon Tattoo.
While it sadly did not win the prestigious award, it became the very first video game soundtrack to ever received a nomination from the Grammys. It paved the way for the next generation of video game music to get the recognition they deserve. And for that alone, it has cemented its place in the top video game music soundtracks of all time.
These are just a few of the many great video game soundtracks out there. Video game music is an art form that is constantly evolving. There are always new and exciting soundtracks to discover. So next time you’re playing a video game, take a moment to listen to the music. You might just be surprised at how good it is.