Top 10 Best Video Game Soundtracks

Just like video games themselves, video game soundtracks are art.From 8-bit to full orchestral scores, the span of various genres and forms of game music is astonishing. Over the years, we not only saw games develop technically and gameplaywise but also musically.
Still, many old game themes and tracks are considered iconic and generation defining to this very day.
Not only in movies but also in games, music can underline and expand several characteristic aspects and moments in the game to make the gameplay experience something that is going to stuck in our mind and memory forever.

In Invisible Kid's Top 10 Video Game Soundtracks, the number of great tracks in relation to their total amount, variety, atmosphere, nostalgia and a bit of personal preference, represent the most important aspects regarding the soundtracks' rankings. Also, soundtracks considered for this lists all have to be original soundtracks, meaning that no compilations soundtracks are allowed (sorry GTA).
Of course, this is not a general list but Invisible Kid's personal picks. So without further to do, here's Invisible Kid's Top 10 Video Game Soundtracks...

Devil May Cry Series
composed by Masami Ueda, Tetsuya Shibata, Combichrist, et al.

We start our list with Devil May Cry - a game that put stylized hack n slash action gaming on the map.
Fitting to its demonic enemies, heaven and hell mood and over-the-top cool protagonist, the Devil May Cry soundtracks feature a well developed mix of industrial techno and metal that works even after 4 sequels. While it may get fairly tiresome for some gamers to listen to over and over, it has a fairly good variety between regular battle- and unique boss battle tracks that keep it interesting and most importantly keep your heart pumping during the action. With Combichrist and Noisia giving the new DmC an even more agressive and updated sound, the franchise stays true to its popular musical roots while simultaneously amping it up.

Standout tracks:  Devils Never Cry,  No Redemption,  Nelo Angelo Battle Theme


Monkey Island Series
composed by Michael Land, Clint Bajakian, Peter McConnell, et al.

If you don't recognize the famous Monkey Island Theme after it's been played for a couple of seconds...get out!
Monkey Island is not only considered one of the best (if not the) best point-and-click-adventures out there but generally one of the finest and funniest games in existence.
Along with it comes an awesome soundtrack that successfully blends Reggae tunes with old fashioned pirate sailor music. Atmospheric sequences like visits at certain shops or towns ar accompanied by fittingly subtle, slow pace adventure music. Aside from its in-your-face theme song, the soundtracks of the Monkey Island games mostly stay background-focused. Yet, in terms of nailing the mood of comedic adventure and variety at the same time, it is one hell of a soundtrack!

Standout tracks:  Monkey Island Theme,  Palace of Prostheses,  Barbershop


composed by Derek Duke, Jason Hayes, Glenn Stafford

Constructing colonies to smash your enemy with your ever growing army is good, but doing it with awesome ambient music is even better.
StarCraft's strictly theme focussed soundtrack can be divided up into three different parts just as its three different species to play as. While the Terran campaign features slowly building up rock style music that encourages the feel of conquering unexplored land, the Zerg tracks sound way more gloomy and creepy to fit the ant-like Zerg formations to serve the colony. Protoss tracks have a religious and slow paced feel to them also fitting their ghostly and wise race. Overall, StarCraft has an impressive soundtrack whose biggest strength is its variety. Not only do you play differently depending on your chosen race, but you also feel differently while doing so thanks to great atmospheric music.

Standout tracks:  Title Theme,  Terran 2,  Terran 3


Mass Effect Trilogy
composed by Jack Wall, Sam Hulick, David Kates, et al.

The Mass Effect trilogy is definitely one of the finest game trilogies in recent memory (despite a disappointing ending). A big factor that played into its great reputation are the bonds and relations that the player forms with his crewmembers and most importantly the different and often very difficult choices that the player is destined to make. All of this wouldn't work remotely as effectively without a great soundtrack to set the tone.
With subtle sci-fi electro beats here and there, slowly played but impactful piano, cello music and a good portion of epicness, the Mass Effect trilogy just oozes atmosphere on a grand scale. Each planet and each mission feature a good variety of different music fitting the sort of danger and task. And despite ME3 going a bit overboard with an overuse of Inception-rip-off tracks, the Mass Effect trilogy is both in gameplay and sound almost perfect.

Standout tracks:  Leaving Earth,  Upper Afterlife,  Vigil


 Mega Man Series
composed by Manami Matsumae, Takashi Tateishi, et al.

I admit right away that this pick is heavily influenced by nostalgia. But original soundtracks don't necesserily have to be orchestral to be awesome.
Some of the mostly recognized 8-bit tunes out there are from the challenging but iconic Mega Man games. Every tune is exactly assignable to a specific boss. With each track having the task to get you pumped for the awaiting challenge that is the boss battle, the tracks never let up.
In my opinion, the Mega Man tracks are easily better than the ones of the Mario games, even if only judged by their sheer variety and catchiness (and that their metal guitar versions sound awesome!).

Standout tracks:  Mega Man 2: Title,  Tornado Man,  Mega Man 2: Dr. Wiley 1-2


Quake Series
composed by Trent Reznor, Sonic Mayhem, Rob Zombie, et al. 

Most probably the most testosterone-fueled pick on the list. The Quake soundtracks' main goal is to keep up with the frantic, brutal action of this competetive ego-shooter from the grandfathers of FPS - id software.
Well known names from the industrial metal genre lend their talents to fill the Quake soundtracks with fittingly dark techno songs mixed with distortion guitars.
While its soundtracks mostly stick to pumping metal oriented tracks , there are some rather gloomy atmospheric and mood-setting pieces in between that help to avoid a metal overkill through delivering great ambient music for the menus.
Whereas the Quake 2 soundtrack mostly focusses on metal, the Quake 3 soundtrack is more of an electronic/techno variant. However, with Quake continously having soundtracks that work so well with its kind of fast and brutal shooter experience, there's a lot that the Unreal Tournament franchise can learn form it.

Standout tracks:  Rage,  The Underworld,  Audio Adrenaline 


Castlevania Series
composed by Kinuyo Yamashita, Masanori Adachi, et al.

Another franchise whose soundtracks breath and live mostly through nostalgia.
Regarding 8-bit and 16-bit music, the Castlevania franchise made amazing music tracks possible on the original NES and SNES.
The sheer ingenius composition of notes alone created an incredibly effective illusion of organ music in most tracks. Along with it, the music got blend together with iconic themes that underlined not only the franchise's creepy atmosphere but also its adventure-character.
From 8-and 16-bit to Symphony of the Night, the franchise turned out to stay true to its musical stylistic roots but mixed in some electric guitar sounds which did suprisingly well for a game that also dared a new approach and gave birth to its name "Metroidvania".
Long story short, especially regarding its older 8-bit to 16-bit soundtracks, the amount of memorable tracks that exactly nail the tone of each stage is ridiculous. Furthermore, future games like Symphony of the Night or even Lords of Shadow also have new approaches to the franchises constant horror-adventure-theme that keep it fresh and show that this franchise's soundtracks never disappoint.

Standout tracks:  Vampire Killer,  Blood Tears,  Dracula's Castle


Halo Series
composed by Martin O' Donnell & Michael Salvatori

A game soundtrack that even surpasses Mass Effect in terms of emotional music? What could that be? - Halo

It doesn't matter if you love or hate this franchise, every gamer just has to admit that the Halo soundtracks have to be considered some of the absolute best video game soundtracks of all time.
While it's very piano and choire heavy, the Halo tracks flawlessly deliver the atmosphere and emotional impact towards the player. Doesn't matter if its the iconic opening theme, the fall of Reach, or Master Chief having to "finish the fight", every track has a specific task and mood to deliver that make each track an important individual piece in a masterful soundtrack that in its own seems to tell a story through its music.
It's epic, grand, very emotional and pulling each player directly into this world or at least making him feel like he wants to take part in the Halo universe and the Chief's adventures.
Even if Halo is not for everyone, only judging by how much love for emotion and feel is put not only into Halo's fantastic marketing campaigns and adverts but just as much in its actual game soundtrack is something that easily earns it its number 3 spot.

Standout tracks:  Halo: Main Theme,  Finish the Fight,  Perilous Journey


Jazz Jackrabbit 2
composed by Alexander Brandon

Bet you didn't see this coming.

Jazz Jackrabbit 2 is not only an immensely underrated game that most gamers never even heard of, but it also has hands down the best jump n run soundtrack i have ever heard.
The sheer amount of variety of different musical genres in its tracks is ridiculously big. Composer Alexander Brandon gave Jazz Jackrabbit 2 a gianormously colorful palette of various tracks focusing on several genres: Reggae, Electro, choire mixed with Electro, Rock, Christmas music, etc.
Also, being released as a 2D sidescoller in 1998, the soundtrack does a surprisingly interesting and fantastic job in finding a sound that perfectly embodies the transition from 16-bit music to actual score music in games. In that way, Alexander Brandon paid tribute to the old classics in jump n run gaming while also embracing the new generation of video games through his music.
Each stage switches genres and hits the player with extremely catchy musical tracks that are so good that i even listen to them to this very day.
Whereas the game itself has to be praised as well, this is one rare instance where the awesome soundtrack almost completely overshadows the game itself.

Standout tracks:  Dark Groove,  Medieval Jam,  Labratory


Deus Ex: Human Revolution
composed by Michael McCann

For me, Michael McCann's soundtrack for Deus Ex: Human Revolution is the pure essence of an absolutely perfect game soundtrack.

Honestly, this is such a great soundtrack that it's even hard to decide where to start praising it.

McCann perfectly nailed Deus Ex's Blade Runner-esque, cyberpunk tone with a general electro focused soundtrack. Without shoving it into the players face, mysterious and extremely atmospheric tracks subtlely follow the player's every move and adapt to his situation. While the electro tracks are blended with desperation-underlining choires during sections where the player traverses poor, rundown parts of the city, other situations like gunfights get scored with slowly building up and finally pumping electro music. The track of one situation blends flawlessly into the next, never making the transitions feel forced.

Emotion probably plays the biggest part in McCann's soundtrack:
In a world where seemingly nobody can be fully trusted and mankind is on the brink of losing its sense for humanity due to technological evolution, melancholic choires and electro beats perfectly encapsule this dystopian vibe. I can't think of any other music that would fit this exact game as greatly as Michael McCann's work.
In my opinion, Deus Ex: Human Revolution's soundtrack easily surpasses all of its competition in terms of nailing the atmosphere, delivering emotion and getting you excited during gameplay. It's just that impactful without constantly overdoing its situations and moments with its music.

With that said, Michael McCann's soundtrack for Deus Ex: Human Revolution is Invisible Kid's number 1 pick for the best video game soundtrack.  

Standout tracks:  Icarus,  Return to Hengsha,  HongHua Brothel


Honorable Mentions:

Battle Arena Toshinden
Battlefield 1943
Borderlands 2
Command & Conquer
Crysis 2
Donkey Kong Country Trilogy
Doom 2
Earthworm Jim 2
God of War Series
Half-Life 2
Killer Instinct 2
Max Payne Trilogy
Metal Gear Solid Series
Ninja Gaiden Series
Pokemon Series
Shadow of the Colossus
Sonic the Hedgehog (original) Trilogy
Street Fighter Series
Super Mario Series
Super Meat Boy
Uncharted Series
Zelda Series

and too many other individual games than to name them all here...

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