To celebrate the five-year anniversary of GamesRadar, we’re bringing back some of our favorite features from the past. This is one I have a particular soft spot for, so I've added a little bit of content to this new version. I did, you see, discover a rather amazing and little-spoken-of soundtrack after publishing this the first time round, and ended up kicking myself as a result. So I've tagged it onto the end. Just think of this as '23 amazing game soundtracks you don't remember: Turbo Edition'.
We're pretty damn passionate about our game music here at Radar, so we find it frustrating that some of our favourite sounds often fall by the wayside when it comes to widespread recognition. Certain games and composers are (deservedly) lauded on a consistent basis, but other, equally good music never seems to be mentioned. Sometimes the game was too obscure. Sometimes the music was too leftfield. Sometimes the tunes were just overshadowed by rival works, and sometimes other elements of the games themselves became better remembered.
So I decided to put that right. Over the next few pages you'll find 23 of my favourite overlooked soundtracks, with the reasons they deserve your attention and the reasons they perhaps haven't grabbed it yet. So take some time out, sit back, open your ears up and enjoy.
Atelier Iris (PS2)
Where many JRPG scores grab the attention with a sweeping, brooding, overblown sound, Gust's 2004 role-player has a fresh-faced gem of a soundtrack. Light, airy, and more than a bit folky, there's a sparkly cleanness to its compositions, proving that you don't have to be heavy to be atmospheric.
Bionic Commando Rearmed (XBLA/PSN/PC)
The original NES soundtrack is unremittingly badass, but the tunes that come with the HD remake are some of the best you will ever hear in any game anywhere. Aside from being club-worthy in their composition and modernity, they're the perfect aural accompaniment to the game's ecstatic celebration of 8-bit gaming.
There's so much to love in Bioshock that the soundtrack is often overlooked in discussions of the game. And that's just a crime, because Irrational Games' masterpiece has one of the most unique, striking and affecting scores of the last couple of console generations. Mournful, terrifying, exhilarating and occasionally close to heart-breaking, it makes one of the most complete game/music packages we can think of. And that's before you even get to the classic '30's, '40s and '50s licensed tunes, which are an absolute gift.
Blast Corps (Nintendo 64)
The soundstrack to Blast Corps is classic Graeme Norgate. While not as recognised as widely as the great man's work on Timesplitters or Goldeneye, it's got everything that makes his scores great. He squeezes in bouncily energetic club tracks, silly countrified banjo tunes and as many cheeky goth/industrial tinges as he can plausibly get away with, making this one of the most fun and jubilant soundtracks on the N64. The level replay tune is below, but we'd also recommend Tempest City and Sleek Streets if you want something (a lot) heavier.
Call of Duty (PC/Mac)
COD’s soundtrack is solid and well written throughout. But it not’s until you reach the Russian campaign that the score truly resonates. Charged with a seemingly suicidal mission – to charge German artillery entrenched in Red Square with just an ammo clip – the music reaches a swelling crescendo.
Powerful, uplifting and disquieting, it perfectly sums up the futility of war and the power of patriotism. Granted, Infinity Ward might have nicked the melody from James Lowell’s 'Once to Every Man and Nation'. But a bit of creative pilfering is a small price to pay for such a memorable eardrum massage.
Die Hard Trilogy (PS1/Saturn/PC)
This is nothing like what people expected from the music to a Die Hard game. Ignoring cinematic bombast in favour of soaring synths and moody electronic work, DHT's soundtrack is an utterly unique stand-out selection. Check it all out through the links at the end of the video, particularly the EBM-tastic Construction theme.