The Best Video Game Soundtracks
Since there have been video games, there have been video game soundtracks. While the purpose of these curated songs were to provide an atmosphere to the gameplay, game soundtracks have become a subculture in and of itself.
There is consistent debate about which Tony Hawk game has the best music, or which station is the best to set the car to in Grand Theft Auto. We wanted to offer up our opinion, and ask the hard question: what games actually have the best soundtrack?
Here’s what we think.
Basketball culture has long been married to hip hop. Jay-Z courtside at Nets games (see below), Devin Booker getting named checked in Drake songs.
The 2K soundtrack has been a coveted placement for any aspiring rapper, especially when selected by a senior member of the scene. NBA 2K soundtracks are curated by new personnel every year, recent examples of which include: Travis Scott, Noah ‘40’ Shebib and DJ Premier. The NBA 2K14 soundtrack was even entirely curated by Lebron James. Would feel pretty good to think he’d handpicked your song.
Here’s where it really crosses over: Portland Trail Blazers superstar point guard Damian Lillard is also a passionate rapper, under the moniker Dame D.O.L.L.A. The NBA 2K18 soundtrack includes two songs from Lillard, Wasatch Front and Shot Clock. Very fitting.
Grand Theft Auto V
The GTA V soundtrack was entirely composed by legendary producer The Alchemist, along with Oh No, Tangerine Dream and Woody Jackson. It was the first originally composed soundtrack since the inception of the Grand Theft Auto series. Together, the four produced over 20 hours of music that scores the game’s missions.
Rockstar Games took this a step further by adding interactive radio stations in all of the in-game vehicles that players can drive. There are 16 stations, varying in genres, that play 441 tracks of licensed music. There’s also two talk stations for those wanting to catch up on their virtual news.
FIFA, as a games enterprise, are considered to be cultural tastemakers of music. Known for their diverse taste in music curation, the FIFA game has broken songs from MGMT, Dizzee Rascal, Disclosure and Avicii.
Steve Schnur is the President of Music at EA Games. When asked about FIFA’s impeccable soundtracking over the years, he said: “The truth is that musically, we have always focused on people aged 12 to 24, because it is that time that music is so impactful to you. During this age, the music you listen to defines your life.” I’m sure a lot of us still have a nostalgic soft spot for the music that soundtracked our afternoons playing video games with friends once school had finished.
Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater
For years, fans have rivalled over the soundtrack battle between Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater and Underground series. Tony himself has actually ranked the soundtracks of his video games, placing the original Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater at the top of the pile. We’re inclined to side with Tony on this – he knows best.
The game’s soundtrack had a coveted list of veterans and rising stars in the punk/emo scene. Huge tracks from Dead Kennedys, Goldfinger, Suicidal Tendencies and Bad Religion made the cut. Bad Religion actually claim that their song “You” being added to the THPS soundtrack is what made them famous.
Need for Speed: Underground
Nothing made you feel quite as edgy as a middle schooler than virtually driving a lime green Mitsubishi Eclipse (with purple tribals, of course) in a gritty underworld of street racing. To add to the pre-teen angst, the games soundtrack was filled with emo rock anthems to hard hitting hip hop, boasting tracks from Rancid, Lil Jon, Rob Zombie and Nate Dogg.
NFS came at a time when video game soundtracks were a vehicle (excuse the pun) to get your song to the masses. So many songs ended up becoming standalone hits after being tied to the games success. No song experienced quite as much success by association as “Get Low” by Lil Jon & The Eastside Boyz, which was chosen as the game’s theme track. If you’ve ever played NFS Underground and had to stare at the loading screen for a minute or so, you’ll know the song I’m talking about.
Think we missed one? Tag us on Instagram (@serato) and let us know what soundtrack you think still slaps the hardest.