20. Megaman 2
It really is a testament to how great Megaman 2’s soundtrack that a mere 25 minutes of music has managed to stay so thoroughly catchy to this day. From something as small as its title theme, it hypes you up for the adventure ahead with a fast tempo and annoyingly catchy triplets. Then this is followed by the ominous evil at the centre of the select screen, preparing you for the 8 equally challenging bosses that await you. Luckily, after your 50th attempt at Wily’s fortress, the music stays just as catchy and memorable. A much needed accompaniment.
19. DOOM (2016)
Just kill stuff. This is the central command Doom repeats over and over again. Whilst the original few games are totally iconic, Mick Gordon’s accompanying soundtrack to DOOM (2016) expresses this the most. Fitting somewhere between industrial djent, power and prog metal, opening track “Rip & Tear” fits this headbanging, demon-killing niche to the best ability. It pairs the chug of djent guitar ideas with industrial and drone and tops that off with killer riffs for the total cathartic package. It doesn’t leave behind its roots in a nice callback to the classic “At dooms gate” with its own much harsher cover. This encapsulates the experience of DOOM (2016) incredibly well. It’s not just a reboot but a total faithful reimaging and this works incredibly well in its favour
It’s hard to really surmise the extent that Minecraft’s popularity explosion has really had on the gaming landscape but now, 11 years after its release, C418’s music is still heard everywhere from video essays to Tik Toks. It seems clear why. Tunes like “Subwoofer Lullaby” and self-titled “Minecraft” are both bright yet rather lonely songs. Every instance of Minecraft promotes the multiplayer aspects it was built on and this, fundamentally, is why we remember it so fondly. It’s simple, fun and reminds us of friends online long gone off our profiles.
17. Street Fight 2 Turbo
Blasting out of the side of arcade machines then tiny home TV’s Street Fighter 2 Turbo made a lasting impression back in the ‘90s with its wide roster of characters and surprisingly tight combat controls. The music only helped solidify this with easily hummable yet widely varied tunes. From something as simple as its “Character Select” theme, you know you were in for a hell of a fight. You’d have to like it with how long your opponent took picking the right counter only for you to spam quarter-circle forward for the entire fight. Fight!
16. Sonic The Hedgehog 2
Consistency. Whilst Sonic has never been able to pull off consistency, Sonic 2 absolutely does. Every theme and song just feels so succinctly part of their level. “Casino Night Zone” captures its level to great effect and the likes of “Chemical Plant Zone” is so wildly catchy you won’t be able to hum anything else after you hear it. In a greater sense, both Sonic’s personality and music sum up their time in wonderfully nostalgic ways. This has always been one of Sonic’s biggest strengths and why he’s so fondly remembered to this day. It’s now “way past cool” but that’s why it’s so enjoyable.
15. Super Mario 64
Super Mario 64 is the second N64 exclusive to be included on this list and well deserved at that. Whether it be hearing the theme while pulling Mario’s face across the screen or letting him freeze to enjoy “Cool, Cool Mountain” Super Mario 64’s music sure is infectious. Like OOT before it, music exists as a crucial part of the experience of Mario. Every track has this deliberate design that complements the level greatly through things like the eerie noises in “Haunted House” or the chomping of the piano as it chases after you. Super Mario’s world is innately musical and Mario 64 shows that with great glee.
14. Halo 3
There is something truly great about Halo 3’s soundtrack. Sometimes, it's something as subtle as a flute and some strings, sometimes it's a full orchestra and choir. Going from the ominous foreboding of “Luck” to the earthy archaic sound of “Three Gates” annunciates what it is that Halo 3 offers the player. A magical galaxy defining epic. This is before mentioning its theme song, a perfect combination of all the above. Angelic voices sway back and forth as the string section warms up and wraps around the central melody. Then the drums hit. It shows a battle between the angelic and the archaic, the dark and the light. This is Halo.
13. The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
Ocarina Of Time managed to make a lasting impression from something as simple as its title theme. It simply moves from an F to a C with the gentle clip-clop of Epona’s hoofs operating as soft percussion and manages to captivate millions. The music only gets better from here. Going from the jingle that plays when you open chests to the composition at work in the temple of time, It has managed to stay relevant more than two decades after its release. This isn’t all without its share of annoyance. Hearing “Kepora Gebora’s theme” through button mashing or “Hey Listen” for the 1000th time is grating but it just makes Ocarina Of Time all the more lovable for it.
12. Dark Souls
One scroll through Motoi Sakuraba’s Wikipedia page shows the wide range of musical styles he’s had a hand in. From his little known electronic prog album Gikyokuonsou to his work in Eternal Sonata, it’s clear he’s a composer with a depth of knowledge in the field. Nothing quite exemplifies this more than the Dark Souls soundtrack. It’s loaded with your typical epic boss fight music like “Taurus Demon” and “Ornstein & Smough” but also offers these beautiful moments of clarity felt through “Gwyn, Lord of Cinder” and “Nameless Song.” These pieces are made with intelligence and oversight for the game’s themes that work so well they leave you feeling a little hollow.
11. Animal Crossing: New Horizons
Animal Crossing: New Horizons offered something very important this year. Joy. This is only pushed further as you indulge in the soundtrack. As “Welcome Horizons” greets you in the startup menu and you get to watch your villagers go about their life, it’s easy to get caught up in the monotony of every day as you relax and enjoy the soft trumpet. Each hour has its own interpretation with early hours fitting a soothing lazy town whilst evenings have a soft acoustic guitar and accordion for you to stroll around to. It might not be the most varied soundtrack but it certainly is the most inviting.
Turn to the next page for our top 10 best gaming soundtracks...