Community Picks: The 25 Best Game Soundtracks

15. 'Cave Story+'

Much like Owlboy, Cave Story is a love letter to previous eras of gaming in that it too is a 2D platformer with pixel art graphics and a chiptune soundtrack. Cave Story was released more than a decade earlier, though, and has seen numerous ports and remasters in the years since. Cave Story+ debuted in 2011 with an alternative script, additional game modes, and a remastered soundtrack that let its music really shine.

14. 'Shovel Knight'

Shovel Knight continues our trend of honoring games that play on many gamers' nostalgia for the 8-bit era. The game isn't any more faithful to those consoles than Owlboy or Cave Story, but it does play off nostalgia better in large part because it seems more like an NES game. It turns out the soundtrack is actually somewhat accurate--it's based off Konami's VRC6 sound chip, which was used in some Japan-only Famicom titles.

13. 'The Banner Saga 2'

The same person who composed the soundtrack for Abzu, Austin Wintory, composed The Banner Saga 2's soundtrack. The games couldn't be more different: Abzu is a "visual experience" that revolves around exploring the ocean, while The Banner Saga 2 is a Norse-inspired tactical RPG in which you guide a caravan of people through countless perils. Wintory's soundtracks adapt to their respective titles well--The Banner Saga 2's score is reminiscent of Vikings and drives home the fact that your character has to find a way to save more and more people from impending doom.

12. 'Bloodborne'

Atmosphere is the name of the game for Bloodborne. (Well, technically Bloodborne is the name... oh, never mind.) From Software's PlayStation 4-exclusive followup to the Dark Souls series wears its Lovecraftian inspiration on its sleeve. The environments are dark, enemies are abominations, and the haunting soundtrack always manages to swell in energy right when the game is at its most terrifying. The result? Terror.

11. 'Hitman Absolution'

How do you score assassinations? Anything too upbeat would ruin your immersion, but hitting the same minor chords over and over again would quickly get boring. Luckily, it seems that Eidos Interactive has figured out that problem, because Hitman Absolution's soundtrack made it on this list. The music is often quiet, so as not to distract you from your attempts at murder, yet it's enough to keep you engaged with the game.

10. 'System Shock 2'

Finally a game that could actually be considered "retro" instead of one inspired by those classic games. System Shock 2's soundtrack blends moments of light (synthesized) orchestration with heavy electronic influences to reinforce the game's focus on man versus machine. You have the ethereal nature of space, the foreboding inherent to exploring a dangerous space ship, and then moments of cacophony as things start to get real.

9. 'Tropico'

Tropicois proving to be popular with the Tom's Hardware Community. Not only did you all say the game is one of the best simulation games around, but you also said it has one of the best soundtracks. It's not hard to hear why--the game fully embraces its Caribbean influence in the music department. Tropical drums, bright string instruments, and relaxed singing really make you feel like the ruler of your own island.

8. 'Stellaris'

There seems to be an unwritten rule that games taking place in space must fully commit to electronic music. We aren't complaining, though, and the votes for the Stellarisstrategy game show that you aren't either. As much as we hate to use the word, "epic" is probably the best way to describe Stellaris' soundtrack. Fitting, given the fact that the game's grand scale has you exploring space and waging war on other spacefaring civilizations.

7. 'Chrono Trigger'

This is also Chrono Trigger's second appearance on a recent "best of" list decided by the Tom's Hardware community. It previously got recognized for being one of the greatest RPGs ever made; now it's all about the game's soundtrack. Nostalgia isn't the only reason why you remember Chrono Trigger fondly; the game's soundtrack quickly establishes the mood so you can properly respond to the intricate storyline. (And pitched combat.)

6. 'Need For Speed 3: Hot Pursuit'

Electronic Arts, like Rockstar Games, knows that people like to listen to music while they drive their virtual cars. That's why the company packed Need for Speed 3: Hot Pursuit full of fast-paced tracks inspired by EDM, rock, and metal. Nobody wants to put the pedal to the metal while listening to something slow. If you're going to go fast, your music better go fast too, and Need for Speed 3: Hot Pursuit's tracks do just that.

Nathaniel Mott
Freelance News & Features Writer

Nathaniel Mott is a freelance news and features writer for Tom's Hardware US, covering breaking news, security, and the silliest aspects of the tech industry.

  • darth_adversor
    Skyrim number one...again. How about Oblivion???
  • FaceBob
    I'd personally put Total Annihilation, Sacrifice and most of the Heroes of Might & Magic soundtracks above all of these. Just my opinion, mind.
  • alisamenna
    Quake II
  • icelava
    + World of Warcraft: say what you like about the changes in game design, but they've never failed to delivery mesmerising and splendid music throughout each version.

    And Nier Automata is truly out of this world.
    I'd also the soundtrack of iconic games like Legend of Zelda: a Link to the Past;
    Top Gear;
    Super Mario World;
  • Onus
    I really enjoy the original Guild Wars sound track. As for getting my blood going, the music in Unreal Tournament: G.O.T.Y. is good too.
  • hotaru251
    Xenoblade Chronicles X also had a much better OST than most of these :/

    example being Wir fliegen

    also TWEWY soundtrack would beat every last one on this list hand down.
  • knowom
    Perfect Selection: Dracula New Classic

    Symphony of the Night OST

    I don't know how you miss either of these in this type of discussion.
  • darth_adversor

  • bramahon
    Monkey Island, Divinity series and few Black-Isle games should have made the list. As for theme musics of TES I see things as this - Morrowind + high tempo = Oblivion + higher tempo + Dragon Shout = Skyrim!! Jeremy Soule masterclass ;)