Video games and music have always gone hand in hand. But what are the greatest examples of this marriage? From Nintendo 8-bit classics to stirring cinematic scores that have accompanied modern masterpieces like Red Dead Redemption and The Last Of Us, here’s our pick of the greatest OST’s the world has to offer!
The haunting, memorable soundtrack for the award-winning “Indie” video game “Limbo”. A selection of the mesmerising, sinister soundscapes that helped create the unique atmosphere of this side-scrolling mysterious puzzler.
You only need to look as far as No Man’s Sky and the excellent 65daysofstatic-penned soundtrack for evidence of music taking centre stage. Only a band skilled in delivering complex instrumentalism and towering soundscapes could match No Man’s Sky‘s depth and ambitiously free-roving gameplay. The game relies on generative, endless music so, although this forced the band to think in a different way, the result was achieved through technical wizardry.
The original Silent Hill didn’t have chirpy melodies that you would happily hum along to all day, but it did drip with atmospherics that elevated the chilling gameplay to a new and terrifying level. We will never forget the frantic hysteria that always followed after we heard the shrill sound of static on the in-game radio.
You play as a hug-able abomination rescuing your abominable friends from the evil Overlords of Abomination. Take away the game and you listen in awe of what has to be an Amon Tobin record that never saw the light of day (it isn’t, but you can fool people).
a.k.a. one of the only Playstation stealth soundtracks that doesn’t feel horribly dated.
The Ecco: The Dolphin series is probably a lot weirder than you remember. What seemed like a cute kids game about a dolphin quickly turned into a very difficult, very trippy adventure that involves aliens, time travel, and the lost city of Atlantis. Ed Annunziata played Pink Floyd for his sound team, and for the Sega CD release of the Tides Of Time hired Spencer Nilson to create an even denser new age score. Go for either one, as the Ecco games make up some of the spaciest music of the era.
When people think about the music of Portal they’ll always remember Jonathan Coulton’s tongue-in-cheek acoustic number ‘Still Alive’, and for good reason – nothing else has nailed musical humour in video games quite like it. However, Kelly Bailey’s stellar score is just as important at bringing the sterile test chambers of Aperture Science to life, reflecting its numbing corporate training video atmosphere through a simmering series of claustrophobic ambient tracks and fast-paced escape themes. Portal is a funny game, but it’s also a chilling one – not even in survival horror has a score created such unease so effortlessly.
The sense of pure relief when Resident Evil 4’s blissful, serene save game music bubbles through the speakers is hard to overstate. Capcom’s influential survival horror series was always blessed with great in-game music, but Misao Senbongi and Shusaku Uchiyama struck gold with their cues for the fourth (and best) installment of the saga. Moody and evocative, the soundtrack not only helped to emphasize the game’s creeping dread and heighten the action but introduced plenty of young players to the idea of synth-laced ambience. You don’t have to travel too far on SoundCloud before hearing a sample buried beneath some kind of glitchy 2-step beat or other.
Austin Wintory nailed this one. It took three years for Wintory to write and record the soundtrack to the game, mostly in fits of creative bursts and play testing (plus non-conflicting scheduling for all the musicians involved), and the result is an epic that compliments the ride perfectly. It starts orchestral, dives into electronics and drones, then emerges reborn and symphonic on the other side. As a listening experience, it’s masterfully paced, a true exercise in attack and release. In the game, it’s sublime, and that’s when worlds fail all over again.
One of the Playstation’s early success stories, Crash Bandicoot may have had its fair share of hidden levels, but its real secret? Its soundtrack has the best Funky house riffs this side of Crazy Cousins. Show Jamie xx the door – this is where the real steel drum action lies.
The soundtrack quickly excited fans of ’90s-era industrial rock with its mix of quiet, intensity-building passages and outright brutal guitar and synthesiser riffs, courtesy of one of the gaming world’s rising music-composition stars, Mick Gordon (his tunes were a highlight of the Killer Instinct fighting series reboot as well).
Previously only available in the Stellaris Nova and Galaxy Editions, this soundtrack comes with over two hours fusion of melodic orchestral and synth music for you to enjoy, with themes that evoke discovery and far-reaching exploration through the vast expanse of space.
Video gaming is so often concerned with play, it’s rare that we’re given the opportunity just to take a few minutes to take in the view. Red Dead Redemption’s brutal frontier setting and Bill Elm and Woody Jackson’s spaghetti western-inspired score offered plenty of moments to soak in the scenery, whether you were chasing a steam locomotive or watching the sun rise over the desert. However, it was the ride into Mexico soundtracked by Jose Gonzalez’s ‘Far Away’ that stuck in the mind long after the game had concluded, a moment that showed video games could allow you to choreograph your own cinematic moments just as capably as anything you’d see on the big screen.
‘Nate’s Theme’ is the one theme that has been following the series and it all started with Edmonson’s rousing adventure theme from Drake’s Fortune and that one definitely holds up. It has a beautiful melody line going, both action-filled and a more emotional take. Coupled with the excellent percussion, this is a superb and memorable theme for the ages.
The Last Of Us might be a post-apocalyptic zombie tale on the surface, but at its heart is the tale of a bond that grows between an orphaned girl and the father who lost his daughter several years previously. The game’s tone is closer to The Road than Resident Evil, and 21 Grams and Brokeback Mountain composer Gustavo Santaolalla lends the game’s score the emotional heft it needs. The Last Of Us is rightly hailed as a landmark moment in video game storytelling, writing and acting, but Santaolalla’s reflective score is equally as important, showing that a little more musical subtlety in blockbuster games might not be such a bad idea.