Music is like a drug. But listen to the same thing for a couple of days, and you're on, The Dust.
Tommy "The Nightmare" Smith
- K-DST Radio, GTA: San Andreas
I've always been fascinated with game and movie scores and soundtracks. Over the years I've kept a running tally in my head of good tracks I loved, and have written down various lists that are sitting around everywhere, but now that I have a blag, I thought it'd be a good place to consolidate them all and get them all down.
But first, some caveats:
There's going to be a lot of generic comments for/against this list. It's the internet, this isn't my first argument and I doubt it will be my last, so lets clear up some of the more common ones first:
"What about <game> released in <future date>?!?: New games are released all the time. This article is written in 2016, and better tracks may have come out since then. I will not be updating this list, as it represents tracks that I liked at the time of writing, instead I will probably post new lists if my list changes that drastically.
"What about <game> that was released X years ago?!?": I'm not omnipotent, and there's only so many hours in a day. There are songs on this list from games that I haven't played, but if yours didn't make the cut, well sorry; I either haven't heard it or didn't think it was worthy. Thems the breaks.
"<Track> is too much like pop/metal/alternative/modem noise etc": This list isn't about musical talent/genres/innovation or providing a critical analysis of the tracks themselves. Please also don't tell me that I shouldn't listen to something because it shows no talent; Bieber shows no talent, that doesn't stop people liking music he
writes/creates/produces/performs. I'm sure there's some great critically acclaimed game soundtracks out there, and some of those may even feature here, but if they do, it's because I consider it good music, not because someone else thought so.
"But <Track> exists outside of gaming, or is in multiple games!": Sometimes, music is just made, and is then licensed from the music owners for use in a particular work. Licenses to use music can be given to multiple game developers for multiple (sometimes drastically different) games. I will list the games that I know it from, but that list will not be an exhaustive record of every appearance of the track in question.
"Dude you should totes play <game>": I know already! I should play all games! There are more games out right now than I will probably get to in my lifetime, and more come out every day. Saying "You should play <game>" by itself doesn’t mean anything in the context of this list, which is about the music, not necessarily the game itself. The game could be a steaming pile of poop, so long as it has a great song it makes it to this list.
"You chose too many/few songs from one game!" I can't help it if I like multiple tracks from the same game. I did agonise over whether to restrict this to 'one song per game', but decided against it. Think of it this way: if a game is good enough to have more than one winning track on it, maybe it's worth a look in?
Ideally, don’t tell me anything! This is my personal Top 100 game music tracks. You may disagree with some or all of this list, but this is my big shot, so stop arguing with some dumb dude on the Internet and make your own list to prove how much mine sucks :)
Now with that out of the way, onto...
Top 100 - 76
Every other section is pretty much broken into groupings of Decent, Good and Great songs. This one however, has an eclectic mix of tracks, even I'm not sure if this is my final ordering. I spent longer on this section than any of the others, just moving stuff up and down.
100. Action 52: CheetahMen Theme
Ok, now that number 100's title has chased away all the snobs, we can get down to business. CheetahMen is
cancer a game that was basically a cheap cash grab by some greedy execs who thought that trying to copy the Ninja Turtles would make them very rich (Spoiler Alert: it didn't).
It was the best game released as part of the 'Action52' game bundle, which really isn't saying much. It's like saying that you'd prefer to be hit by a bus rather than drown. It is nowhere near what anyone would call a good game.
Having said that, Cheetahmen did have a pretty kickass theme song:
99. Castlevania 2 : Simon's Quest OST - Bloody Tears
I'm told this game is bad for some reason? I dunno, the soundtrack seems pretty kickass.
98. Perfect Dark: Datadyne Central Extraction
I can't remember where I heard this track as I've never played the game. Nevertheless it's pretty good.
97. Descent OST - Level 7 (AWE32)
A track linked to me by my roommate at the time of compiling the list. Pretty cool, for a game I'd never played.
96. PGA Tour Golf II - Leaderboard Music
Ugh, I had to upload this myself. Other PGA Tour 2 music tracks made it onto YouTube, but someone didn't upload this?
Anyway, so whilst I'm not a fan of sports games, I must admit I enjoyed trying to beat my Dad's tournament winnings... I never did. To my anguish I started up my copy of this game recently to find that the battery had given out and the saved data had been lost :(. I was hoping it'd have enough juice to quickly copy the save to the Retron 5, but alas it wasn't meant to be.
...You won, Dad.
95. Alex Kidd in the Enchanted Castle: Ending A
I never knew anyone that had Enchanted Castle, everyone had 'Alex Kidd in Miracle World' (I believe it was bundled with the Mega Drive for a time?). Nevertheless, while most of the soundtrack is pretty fun, this sweet track is pretty good by itself.
94. Streets of Rage - Boss Battle
Seriously though this bass line is kickass, and pretty much why this made it in:
93. Starcraft - Protoss Theme 3
I love playing Protoss but most of their music is pretty take-or-leave. This was my favourite anyway.
92. Sonic the Hedgehog 2: Special Stage Music
Story time! When I was about 11 or 12 I visited a Novotel with a 'Kids Klub' (0-12), so that the parents could relax or whatever. They had a Sega Mega Drive with about 5 different games, and the currently playing one was Sonic 2.
The overseers/bored hotel staff had instituted a 'hand over the controller when you die or at the end of a level' rule. After the current playthrough had 'Game Over'ed I convinced the other kids to let me handle all the special stages. Needless to say we smashed through the game and took down Dr Robotnik. I just had to make sure I got more lives than the other kids were losing...
Nevertheless, we all had this theme stuck in our heads after that night:
91. Sonic 3 & Knuckles - Doomsday Zone
Very fitting tense music for a very tense situation where your life is on the clock.
90. Crash Bash - Space Bash
A remix of a track from Crash 3: Warped, but a cool one nonetheless:
89. Undertale - Once Upon a Time (Title Theme)
I didn't really understand the Undertale hype, but this track is just lovely. I highly recommend some of the piano covers going around as well.
88. Columns - Atropos
My 'Tetris' theme. Everyone used to sing the Tetris theme to me and I had no idea what they were doing because I never played it. I was too busy playing Columns (which, my Gran can smash you at btw)
87. Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed: Sanctuary Falls
A remix of Sky Sanctuary from Sonic 3 & Knuckles, but one that improves upon the original IMO:
86. Pacman World: Bucaneer Beach
I need to set up this game again at some point, I used to be so good at it :P
85. Age of Mythology - Chocolate Outline
A very interesting OST with a very interesting creation story (I owned the 'making of' video). Apparently they acquired or made period-style instruments (and pots/pans etc) that people would've used to bust out some music back in those days.
84. Myst - Planetarium
A game I played briefly as I borrowed it from a friend, this was an excellent track from it.
83. Where In The World Is Carmen Sandiego? - Panama
For years I had this track stuck in my head and I had no idea where (in the world, ha!) it came from. Well, here it is:
82. Metropolis Street Racer - Richard Jacques - Club París (Dreamcast)
A game I never played but found this track in other 'top game' compilations, and it's actually pretty good that it's made it's way into my regular rotation.
81. Starcraft - Zerg Theme 4
A lot of people apparently didn't like the Zerg Track introduced in the Brood War Expansion. I enjoyed it.
80. Sonic the Hedgehog 2: Sky Chase Zone
Soaring around in the sky... it seems like every 2D platformer had to have a flying level (or two). Rocket Knight, Sonic, Alex Kidd, the list goes on.
79. Empire Earth Soundtrack - 04 Arthurian
I never really got into Empire Earth too much, I only really enjoyed the early-epoch stories and played some clashes vs AI. Nevertheless this ambient track stuck with me:
78. Left 4 Dead - Theme Song
2 weeks after the first infection... I played a lot of Left 4 Dead. To this day this theme gets stuck in my head:
77. The Walking Dead Game - Alive Inside
Continuing the Zombie-game trend, here's the Telltale game based in the Walking Dead universe. This is one of the ambient tracks that can play, a very sorrowful track (for me anyway):
76. Fallout 4: Main Theme
How did I get nostalgic about a game from the Title screen without ever playing it?!? Oh right, Inon Zur. This man is a genius:
Top 75 - 51
Well, now that we've got that weird and wonderful 25 out of the way, we're all set to count down to 50!
75. Crash Team Racing: Cortex Castle
Like Mario Kart, but with skill involved. There, I said it. Most of the OST is fairly average, about on par for most kart games really, but I particularly like this track.
74. Spyro 2: Gateway to Glimmer: Summer Forest
All the home-level themes were very short, but that doesn't mean they can't make the list. I won't hold it against you if you skip after the first few repeats though. Oh, how I wish for an expanded/extended version!
73. Ratchet & Clank 2 - Planet Boldan (Silver City)
A fairly simple track but it gets my feet tapping.
72. Tombi: The Village of Civilization
I honestly can't decide between 3 versions of this song, so have all three:
71. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 OST - White House Endrun (Ranger's Theme)
Probably the Call of Duty I'd played the most, and the Ranger's theme is one of the better tracks on an above-par soundtrack.
70. Eat Lead: The Return of Matt Hazard Soundtrack - Track 8
A satire-heavy game about a washed-up 80's action game star fighting against a scripted death written by the game development company's CEO, who wishes him replaced with another character based on his own likeness. A hilariously fun game with a halfway decent soundtrack, this epic music plays when you are fighting against the Super-Soaker enemies. No, really.
69. Sonic 3 & Knuckles - Showdown Battle
There are some very good electric guitar/metal covers of this, but the one's I've heard put too much emphasis on cymbal smashing rather than playing out the epicness of this track:
68. GTA: San Andreas Main Theme
One of my favourite games of all time, this track's bass is what gets me:
67. Crash Bash - Pogo Padlock
Despite sounding like it came straight out of a 70s porno, this track has a funky beat and is easy listening.
66. Starcraft 2 - Terran 03
All of Starcraft 2's soundtrack is on point, but I love the subtle references to the original Starcraft 1's music in this track.
65. Minecraft: Cat
A little faster than most Minecraft tracks, but very cool synth work. This isn't part of the ambient tracks, instead it's a record that can be found and played in-game.
64. Sonic the Hedgehog: Starlight Zone
I didn't play Sonic 1 much as a kid, but this track stood out to me even back then:
63. Carcassone - Track 02 (Exozet Games)
I couldn't find this online, so I had to upload it myself!
62. Pokemon RBGY - Route 11
Hell yeah! Adventure! Excitement! Long seaside routes full of trainers and Pokemon! Every re-do of this track has added something new, but the original is still great as well:
61. Oldschool Runescape - Autumn Voyage
Yeah, I played Runescape once upon a time. Not for very long however, I never really made it out of the few starting zones. Still, this track is nice to relax to.
60. Pokemon RBGY - Route 3,10,16,22
As you might've guessed by now, there's a lot of nostalgia in this list. This route music stands out for this reason.
59. Zero Wing - Stage 3 (Pleades)
The infamous Zero Wing, primarily known for it's poorly translated intro which became one of the first memes to gain widespread notoriety in non-tech circles, was actually a fairly decent game. Stage 3 was probably my favourite level, if only for the track:
58. Desert Strike: Return to the Gulf - Main Theme
The 90s were a weird time. This game was fun but it definitely had some raw stereotypes, which apparently you could get away with back then. But in terms of music, this just makes me think of 80's action flicks.
57. Crypt of the Necrodancer - Zone 1 Level 1
A shoutout to Carl for introducing me to this great game. I still haven't finished it, but it's a great game nonetheless.
56. FTL - Cosmos (Battle)
A very bass-heavy track and definitely one to get your heart pumping. The ending took me completely by surprise originally, and in a good way.
55. Starcraft 2 - Terran 01 (Hell's Angels)
Heck yeah! A game that's a great space western with this sort of music on top?
54. Back to the Future: The Game - Nostalgic 3
'Nostalgic' is definitely the correct word for this track
53. Borderlands - Moxxi's Theme
I can see this track making it into a club DJ's mix at some point, if it isn't already.
52. Poker Night at the Inventory - Heavy Theme (Team Fortress)
If you speed this up it's note for note the main TF2 theme. Either way, it's a great cover.
51. Portal 2 - You are not part of the Control Group
Portal 2 is a very ambient game, and this track stands out to me due to it's computer-style tones.
Top 50 - 26
We've just hit halfway, how are you holding up? I'm writing this at 2am for some reason. Dunno why. Let's blame Memes.
But moving on: Earthworm Jim is a character that needs a reboot:
50. Earthworm Jim: Snot a Problem
I only ever played this game at a friend's place but I definitely enjoyed this track. I remember the TV show but it was always on at an awkward time, usually in the slot in the mornings where I had to run to school.
49. Plants Vs Zombies: Daytime Pool levels
One of the most fun casual games I've ever played, considering it's just a novel take on the tower defense genre. This particular track is the most memorable for me.
48. Streets of Rage - Intro Music
I'm amazed this wasn't make into a movie at some point. Nevertheless, this main theme is pretty badass.
47. Oldschool Runescape - Newbie Melody
Yeah, I played Runescape once. Fairly decent soundtrack for what was just a java applet.
46. Minecraft: Dog
One of the many tracks that appear as an in-game item drop, and probably the best one.
45. Gizmos & Gadgets Main Theme (OPL3 Version)
An obscure learning-game from the early days of the PC. An actually pretty fun game as far as learning games are concerned.
44. Party Hard - Don't Stop
DON'T STOP. Awesome fun track.
43. Pokemon XY - Rival Theme
It should really be called 'friendship theme', because it's less of a rivalry in the 6th generation of Pokemon games.
42. Starcraft 2 - Sad Ominous
Not an officially released track, which made it difficult to find. There's a few different versions, but the 'No Lead' one is probably the best of the bunch.
41. Octodad: Dadliest Catch: Scarlet's Theme
For a pretty whimsical slapstick game, this theme shot me right in the feels from left field. When Octodad is dancing around the ship with Scarlett, it's actually really nice.
40. Minecraft: Subwoofer Lullaby
Love it or Hate it, Minecraft does have a pretty sweet soundtrack. There's a few tracks I have reserved in a special playlist for relaxing/sleeping, and this is one of them.
39. The Revenge of Shinobi - Ninja Step
I've only ever finished this game once, the labyrinth and final boss really worked me over. Not for lack of trying however, and probably because of that, is why this track makes it in.
38. Sonic the Hedgehog 2: Chemical Plant Zone
I only found out recently that this track is actually pretty well liked across the board. Good to know I'm not the only one.
37. Back to the Future: The Game - Main Title
Oh, the shot of Nostalgia! In all seriousness though, the composers really captured the movies perfectly in this games soundtrack.
36. Golden Axe - Battle Theme (Genesis)
A pretty bass-heavy track, which is what you'd expect from a side-scroller beat-em-up.
35. Pokemon GSC - Trainer Battle Theme
My favourite set of Pokemon games, and there's nothing like a good trainer battle theme to get you pumped.
34. Alex Kidd in the Enchanted Castle: Desert Theme
Alex Kidd's soundtrack is generally pretty great, but the Desert theme gets stuck in my head all the time.
33. Party Hard - Neon Cobra
Bring out your inner serial killer in this 70's/80's inspired game, and this song captures that perfectly.
32. Sonic 3 & Knuckles - Azure Lake (Multiplayer)
The best Sonic game. The best Sonic soundtrack. I tried to restrict myself to a single song however, and the multiplayer 'Azure Lake' level is what stood out the most.
What's that? Michael Jackson's Black or White? Why yes, good ear!
31. Sonic Heroes - Seaside Hill Zone
Literally the only thing good about Sonic Heroes. The controls were clunky, the story was meh, and it focused too much on speedrunning rather than platforming. It even punishes you for going fast in places, sending you headlong into (albeit otherwise fairly useless) enemies.
30. Spyro 2: Gateway to Glimmer: Idol Springs/Fracture Hills
There was never really much to say about Spyro's music, the 'homeworld' tracks were only a couple of seconds long and looped, and the rest of it is generally fairly ambient and not really noteworthy. This track however, is actually pretty great.
29. Ratchet & Clank - Planet Novalis
PLanet Novalis is pretty early on in the game, and yet the music manages to be both a little tense without being overly epic. Plus it features a weird mix of sounds that kinda just work.
28. Halo 2: Blow me away (Breaking Benjamin)
I know I know, this is an actual song. Still, when it plays in Halo 2 it's one of the most epic moments, so it couldn't not make this list.
27. Borderlands: Welcome to Fyrestone
A game pretty much renowned for being a good at everything, the soundtrack is no exception.
26. Fallout 3: Main Theme
I dunno, I still prefer this over the Fallout 4 version, but where Fallout 4's is almost forlorn, this one is kinda millitaristic.
Top 25 - 1
We're in the final stretch now! It was certainly a struggle picking a 'Top 25' tracks. That's actually how long this entire article was going to be, until it had blown out to about 70 or so without even trying.
25. Crash Bash - Metal Fox
I seriously tossed up between Desert Fox and Metal Fox, but finally decided on Metal Fox:
However, I also found someone had linked all 3 Tank 'Fox' level tracks in the same video, so check it out:
24. Tombi: Boss Battle Theme
Like most Tombi themes, this one is way too short and therefore loops too quickly. Nevertheless, this boss battle music is pretty good.
23. Ratchet & Clank 3: Up Your Arsenal - Arena Combat
'Exciting' is what comes to mind when trying to describe this track from Ratchet & Clank: Up your Arsenal:
22. Age of Mythology - Flavour Cats (In the Comfort Zone)
A very Ambient track (like most RTS games really) and one that set a very earthy, primitive tone, perfect for a game based on the mighty gods and divine intervention.
Also, check out the Mellow Version, which generally seemed to play after home-base battles and suffering heavy losses to buildings:
21. Road Rash II - Vermont
Road Rash II is a motorbike racing game where you can fight off other racers with fists, bats, nightsticks and chains. But when you got in first place and only had to deal with staying safe on the road, Vermont's theme music was the perfect track to chug along to:
20. Dr Mario - Fever
The only Mario game to feature in this list. I wasn't a Nintendo kid: other than Pokemon and Dr Mario for Game Boy I never really played many Nintendo franchises. Still, this theme is pretty great:
19. Rocket Knight Adventures - Stage 1-2
I recently rediscovered Rocket Knight, as I never owned a copy myself and had borrowed a friend's at some point. Honestly this entry was a toss up between the flying level and the boss music, but ultimately, flying won:
18. Mirror's Edge: Still Alive
Alright: I snuck a trailer song into a 'game' list, sue me. I honestly think it's just as influential a song as the "other" 'Still Alive' song from Portal.
17. FTL - Lanius (Battle)
FTL: Advanced Edition introduced a new species and along with it, this epic track:
16. Zero Wing - Introduction (Title theme)
I legitimately enjoyed this game as a 'game' and not just because of the 'All your Base' meme. If you can fight past the Engrish, the intro sequence is actually pretty epic, and so is the music to match:
15. Warhammer 40k: Dawn of War: Space Marine Theme
There's a lot of RTS games represented in this list, but of them all, W40k: Dawn of War is probably the most unique due to it's focus on capturing and holding points as a means of collecting resources, making the gameplay fast and aggressive. This theme always stuck with me though:
14. Halo 2: Main theme - Mjolnir Mix
The original is great as well, but the electric guitar really gives it more energy:
13. Portal 2 - Forwarding the cause of Science
I listened to most of the 3 hours worth of the Portal 2 soundtrack in order to find this song. The scratchy, grindy floppy drive heads get me:
12. Team Fortress 2 - Main Theme
My multiplayer FPS of choice for many years, and probably many more years to come. The theme song is really great as well:
11. Portal - Still Alive (End Credits)
I'm going to have people complaining that this made it in at all, and other people complaining that it isn't in the top 10. That doesn't bother me though:
10. Golden Axe - Wilderness Theme
The Genesis and Sonic All Stars Racing 'Adder's Lair' theme are both great, but the Commodore 64 version is simply stunning. Check it out:
9. FTL - Milky Way (Battle)
Another great track from FTL. To be honest there's only a couple of tracks I don't like from the albums.
8. Starcraft 2 - Terran 05
Starcraft 2: Wings of Liberty really captured the 'Space Cowboy' vibe. Here's my favourite of the lot:
7. Super Hang On - Winning Run
I'm not really a sports or a racing game person (unless it's kart-based!), which makes it surprising that I didn't mind playing Super Hang On. Having said that: it's soundtrack outshines the game:
6. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 - Enemy of my Enemy
For all the complaints about screaming kids and semi-pro teens attempting to quickscope, the Call of Duty franchise definitely had a kickass soundtrack, and none more so than Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2. Enjoy:
5. Ratchet & Clank 3: Up Your Arsenal - Courtney Gears battle theme
Honestly this has gotta be one of the most fun battles in the series. Courtney Gears (get it? Brittany Spears?!?) battles you on a psychedelic dancefloor while this track plays:
Which is an extended version of her 'hit single': Death to Squishies
4. The Sims - Building Theme 3
I never really got the point of the 'living' portion of The Sims. I spent most of my time building extravagant houses. So it should come as no surprise that I listened to the Build soundtrack the most. One track sticks out miles in front of the rest:
3. Pokemon RSE - Gym Battle Theme
I love the Pokemon series, so it should come as no surprise that one of it's music tracks makes it so high. Having said that, I never played the 3rd generation (Ruby, Sapphire, Emerald) until very recently. I was immediately hooked by this Gym theme however:
2. Sim City 3000 - Magic City
Number 2! This track has stuck with me for many years. The rest of the SC3k soundtrack is very Drumpfet-focused, this one gets me for the sweet piano and violins:
These songs are great, but they aren't primarily 'game' soundtracks per se, they're actual music tracks that featured in game-specific works:
S1. Tony Hawk Pro Skater 4 - Manthem (Bouncing Souls)
I occasionally say the lyrics to this out loud when I'm hanging around with, or on the phone to my friends. Noone's picked up on it yet.
S2. Starcraft 2: Cinematic Trailer - Interstellar (Groove Addicts)
Is linking music from a trailer cheating? Probably. Also now that I know what I'm listening for, I notice that this track pops up everywhere. James Cameron's Avatar for one (the scene where they fly into the floating mountains for the first time):
S3. Sled Storm - Dragula (Rob Zombie, Hot Rod Herman Remix)
Some of you may recognise this from the Matrix - the scene when Neo meets Trinity in the Dance Club. For me, it reminds me of Snow sleds and crazy jumps.
S4. Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 1 - Superman (Goldfinger)
SKA ISN'T DEAD IT'S JUST TAKING A LONG NAP
In all seriousness, this track singlehandedly got me hooked onto Ska-Punk as a kid and that's all because it featured in Tony Hawk's Pro Skater. How could it not get a mention?
S5. Sled Storm - Nowhere Now (Econoline Crush, White Out Remix)
Two great songs from Sled Storm in the same list!. However unlike Dragula, I didn't like the original of Nowhere Now when I listened to it; I much prefer the White Out Remix:
S6. GTA2: Taxi Drivers (Bula Matari)
I don't quite know what to say about this song. Only that most of GTA 2's radio seemed like a garbled mess, and this was the best song to go on random murder sprees with:
S7. GTA: San Andreas - Running Down a Dream (Tom Petty)
Another great GTA game with some great songs being blasted over the radio. Hell, I even quoted Tommy "The Nightmare" Smith at the top of the article! Nonetheless all the songs are, of course, actual songs, but nothing beats blaring Tom Petty's Running Down a Dream while red-lining it down the highways of San Andreas with the police in tow.
I was just getting into that song! It's like licking a Zebra Bar and someone takes it away from you...
Tommy "The Nightmare" Smith
- K-DST Radio, GTA: San Andreas
Phew! We got all that out of the way, so now we move onto Number 1!
1. Starcraft - Terran Theme 1
You know how long it took to write this far? You know what song was on loop the entire time as I typed? If you guess Starcraft's Terran Theme 1, you would be correct:
I don't know if I can put into words what makes this track so great. It's Space, it's Sci-Fi, it's Mabo, it's Justice, it's just the vibe! It was single-handedly the reason I wanted to continue playing Starcraft as a kid growing up, and I never seem to get bored from listening to it. The whole thing too, a lot of people fixate on the part from 0:35 to 1:05 and while that does deliver the shot of nostalgia, I actually genuinely love the entire track.
Thanks for making it this far and I hope you enjoyed my list! I've compiled all tracks here into a playlist for your listening pleasure, you can access it here: Robotnik's Top 100 Game Music Tracks . Enjoy!