23 amazing game soundtracks you don't remember

Shadow of the Beast (Amiga and PC Engine)

If ever there was a game for beardy prog-rockers, it was Psygnosis' Shadow of the Beast. If being draped in surreal mystical imagery and featuring box art by the guy who did Yes' album covers wasn't enough, the densely atmospheric new-age score by David Whittaker sealed the deal. The original Amiga version is a powerfully evocative and often bleak classic of game music, but in some ways the PC Engine rework is even better. Try both out and see what you think.


PC Engine

Shenmue (Dreamcast)

Just another thing to love about Yu Suzuki’s epic series of obsession and revenge, Shenmue’s score is an orchestral powerhouse. It should be, mind, as Sega almost crippled its wallet making the game. Those Yen were well spent though, and they lured esteemed composer Takenobu Mitsuyoshi – of Virtua Fighter and Sega Rally fame – to write a score on a par with anything Hollywood could produce.

Silver Surfer (NES)

The last Tim Follin entry, we promise. But seriously, just listen to this one and think about it. It's a throwaway comic book licence on the NES. It's not the sort of game that anyone involved would give two sh*ts about today. In fact today it would be Iron Man. Yet it sounds like this. That's how good this guy was.

Sonic Xtreme (Saturn, cancelled)

If you want the full story on why we mourn Sonic Xtreme's still-birth to this day, click here. But aside from how different the game could have made the future of the franchise, one of the things we're most sad about is the fact that we never got to hear more of its soundtrack. Chris Senn's work is a radical departure from traditional Sonic tunes, actually being quite reminiscent of the more mellow parts of Die Hard Trilogy, but it had a lush sound, a thick atmosphere, and would have made SX even more of a joy to play through than it already looked to be.

Wizards and Warriors III (NES)

How a soundtrack as varied as David Wise's for Rare's Wizards and Warriors III holds together, we don't know. But it does. Brilliantly. Taking in medieval sounds, classical conventions, thumping techno and things we can't even define, it's historical but modern; atmospheric but resolutely upbeat and fresh. It's one of the most fun soundtracks on the NES, and if you need any further proof of that after watching the video below, check out the joyously bonkers Gold Knights' Guild theme too. Consider it a little bonus because we really like you.

NOW! That's what GR calls crap music
The worst videogame music you've ever heard

NES: King of the dance floor
Meet the musicians using old-school gaming kit to make very cool new sounds

Soundclash! The Best Custom Soundtrack Mash-ups Ever
Cinematic, atmospheric, or completely subversive. These tracks will make your games new again

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  • Theonik - March 19, 2009 6:20 p.m.

    Plus awesome article i can't believe some of these songs are overlooked. Oh and i guess second and third.
  • peaceful765 - March 19, 2009 6:25 p.m.

    I agree with Skidd777. Although some of these tunes bring back memories, Bioshock and JGR are tracks I would listen to outside of a game.
  • GR_DavidHoughton - March 19, 2009 6:34 p.m.

    Skidd and Peaceful: I'm totally with you on those two. The best soundtracks are the ones that work out of context. JGR is brilliant sunny day music and Bioshock is seriously relaxing, despite being massively dark in places. Bobby Darrin FTW! (Not a phrase I ever expected to use on Radar)
  • Russianred90 - March 19, 2009 7 p.m.

    my favorite game soundtrack is banjo kazooie just such a friggen awesome xylophone usage FTW
  • GR_DavidHoughton - March 19, 2009 7:01 p.m.

    That was the brilliant thing about when most games came on CD. You got a game and an album at the same time. :D So much easier than the old days when I had to rig my SNES up to my stereo and use the cassette recorder to make my own. Yes, I really have always been that nerdy about games music. :) Keep the recommendations flowing guys.
  • Theonik - March 19, 2009 7:44 p.m.

    Also the metal slug series had a good soundtrack although usually overlooked ReCAPTCHA: September $100,000
  • GamesRadarBrettElston - March 19, 2009 7:50 p.m.

    Shadow of the Beast is so effing good. I listened to it every day even before I'd ever played the game or a Turbo CD at all. Just got the music from a friend and wore a tape out rewinding over and over. Plus yeah, BCR is one of the best ever.
  • averagejoe - March 19, 2009 9:20 p.m.

    You know, I think my favorite soundtrack of all time (second maybe to JGR/JSRF) is actually the soundtrack to Sonic Advance on the GBA. The track for 2-1 is just fantastic for a handheld, and the piano solo in stage 1 of the casino world was one of the first solos I ever transcribed. I've always had a soft spot for the music of sonic games; even the overly synthy, cheesy stuff they put in the 3-d sonics. I did a tribute to Sonic Team's ridiculously synth-heavy music here, by the way: Apart from that, I liked GX's soundtrack a lot, as well as (of course) the mega man II soundtrack. I'll occasionally put on the soundtrack to Bust-a-groove II if I think nobody's around to hear it-- couldn't help but like Kelly's and Bi-O's tunes, weird as they are. Also, the soundtrack for Donkey Kong Country 2 was waaaay better than the (admittedly pretty good) stuff in DKC. Bramble forest? Classic.
  • dynomit272 - March 19, 2009 9:24 p.m.

    got to have the Zebrahead only version of His World from Sonic the Hedgehog (next gen.) Amazing song but this is an amazing list
  • Zaphers - March 19, 2009 9:41 p.m.

    Die Hard Trilogy was great. The song strangely reminds me of what is love now.
  • dibber - March 19, 2009 9:44 p.m.

    Great article. Made me want to rush over to OCRemix and grab some remixes from these games. Reading about the FZero GX music made me remember how much I really liked the original F-Zero's "Red Canyon" stage soundtrack. I confess to putting a cassette recorder up next to my stereo speaker to dub that to tape.
  • garnsr - March 19, 2009 9:47 p.m.

    God, I hated Shadow of the Beast.
  • jhr_151 - March 19, 2009 9:56 p.m.

    I remember playing Festor's Quest on the original Nintendo more times than the game deserved just because I loved the soundtrack. Wish that had made this list. Check it out
  • ELpork - March 19, 2009 10:03 p.m.

    WTF!!! No mass Effect. Best underrated album ever!!!
  • Wordup95 - March 20, 2009 midnight

    God, I loves the Jet Set Radio franchise. They better make a sequel or I'll have a hard time resisting to send Sega a package with a disease in it. :P
  • hun23 - March 20, 2009 1:39 a.m.

    @Hobojedi: Yes, its a shame that none of the Hell March's were on this list. If you listen to that, you are almost guaranteed to get chills. And yes, people who used this song in Killzone 2 "Music" videos. Even though Red Alert was about the Soviets. Recatpa: 1980's armor
  • RedBandit - March 20, 2009 1:47 a.m.

    i think pretty much all games have a great soundtrack, if you take the time and actually listen to the music, and not just the screams of decapitated zombies...
  • RedOutlive10 - March 20, 2009 2:20 a.m.

    There was a tune from Banjo-Tooie that I couldn't get out of my head when I first played it, the tune from the water/pirate world, in the starting area. Jolly Roger's Lagoon is the world's name.
  • Red - March 20, 2009 2:34 a.m.

    I STILL listen to the music from Jet Grind Radio and Jet Set Radio Future on a dailey basis.
  • diddly - March 20, 2009 3:15 a.m.

    First off, this is a great feature, but i was just wondering why the medal of honor frontline soundtrack was left out? it was a true pioneer of video game music, and i personally always think of it when thinking of great pump up moments. Once again great stuff here otherwise. thanks.

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