For as long as video games have existed, there have been beautifully crafted soundtracks to accompany them. From the 8-bit tunes of the late 80s to the full orchestras in today’s games, players have a wealth of aural art to explore. Many are composed for the games themselves, creating one-of-a-kind songs that capture the spirit of adventure or horror that can fill a game.
A smaller selection, however, uses pre-existing music to accumulate and teach gamers tunes they might not hear anywhere else. These tracks are carefully selected to capture the environment as best as possible, adding a sense of authenticity and immersion that brand new compositions cannot provide.
8 Grand Theft Auto online
Grand Theft Auto online
- Grand Theft Auto
- PS5, PS4, PS3, Xbox Series X, Xbox Series S, Xbox One, Xbox 360, PC
- Rockstar North
Virtually every entry in Rockstar’s open-world crime RPG series has access to a wealth of music that captures the game’s time and geography, but GTA online is particularly expansive given that it is constantly updated with new radio stations that increase the amount of music genres available to players.
Examples include the Latin music station MOTOMAMI, hosted by Rosalia, and the legendary Non-Stop Pop FM, hosted by Cara Delevingne. There are just hundreds of pre-existing songs scattered all over the place GTA online‘c radio stations for gamers to add to their playlists to be listened to whether they’re running errands in the real world or running a criminal empire in-game.
- PS4, Xbox One, Switch, PC
- September 29, 2017
- Studio MDHR Entertainment Inc.
Kristofer Maddigan’s soundtrack to one of the hardest games of all time is a masterful accompaniment to the retro gameplay, using a 13-piece big band to play the swinging sounds of rubber hose cartoons and jazz musicians like Glenn Miller.
CupheadThe soundtrack serves to remind players how great these older styles of music are and hopefully leave them wanting more. If they manage to sneak out or finish the game quickly enough to explore other rubber hose cartoon shows and the music they used, players will learn about a slew of brand new tracks rarely touched outside of the vintage media they originated from.
6 Negative impact 4
Negative impact 4
- I’m falling out
- PS4, Xbox One, PC
The latest single-player entry in the franchise, Bethesda’s Negative impact 4 is a treasure trove of pre-60s songs that capture the mood of the era, offering dated yet catchy tunes to hum all day long.
The addition of other genres of music in Negative impact 4, including a strong classical radio station courtesy of The Institute, makes the post-apocalyptic RPG a much more musically diverse contender than the previous I’m falling out games, although it is worth noting that each of the 3D games offers a beautiful selection of songs that differ from each other.
5 Dark Fandango
- Android, iOS, PC, PS4, PS Vita, Switch, Xbox One
- October 30, 1998
- Point and click
Dark Fandango it may have an original soundtrack courtesy of Peter McConnell, but its continued celebration over more than two decades is a testament to its lasting impression on gamers and wider popular culture. An infusion of jazz, swing, a little Mexicano and other South American folk or noir music, Dark Fandangothe soundtrack brings together so many styles to create one magnificent piece of music.
The music is a textbook example of how such a tune can elevate a game, and the cultural themes of the game and soundtrack, both relatively untouched in Western video games at the time of publication, have sparked more interest in the sounds Dark Fandango captures so well.
4 Burnout Paradise
Burnout Paradise Remastered
- PS4, Xbox One, Switch, PC
- March 16, 2018
- Criterion games
The intense races taking place in Paradise City needed a great soundtrack to complement it, and the combination of rock, pop and rap helped deliver a rocking experience in Burnout Paradise. Featuring legendary musicians such as Guns ‘N’ Roses and Jane’s Addiction, Burnout Paradise was the perfect way to discover iconic songs without having to search for them yourself.
The soundtrack works much like a radio station and as a result allows flexibility when it comes to music; if racers didn’t like a track, they could just skip it. Burnout Paradise provided an excellent selection of bands and groups to help with the setup Burnout Paradise in addition to other, more traditional racing games.
3 The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
- PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X, Xbox Series S, Switch
- May 19, 2015
- CD Projekt Red
- The Witcher
Original soundtracks won’t introduce players to unheard pre-existing songs, but they can showcase traditional styles often underrepresented in the media. The Witcher 3 is a prominent example of this, using Slavic folk styles and instruments to capture the atmosphere of The Witcherthe Eastern European roots of.
So much so that it features singing and lyrics in Polish delivered with great intensity as Gerald takes the Continent by storm. The soundtrack gives players a taste of Slavic folk music that will potentially leave them wanting much, much more.
2 Guitar Hero
Guitar Hero (2005)
- PS2, Xbox 360
- November 8, 2005
- Harmonix Music Systems
- Rhythm, music
Each Guitar Hero introduces players to new music; the number of tracks (and the amount of Guitar Hero games) have grown over time, making the original 64 tracks of the 2005 debut and its DLC seem small in comparison.
However, it’s a great place to start for gamers looking to dig into some new guitar-heavy tracks, and offers a diverse selection that gets lost in some of the later, more genre- or band-specific records. Guitar Hero it still holds its own today as an excellent beat simulator and is sure to introduce those rocking the unusual controller to some great musicians.
1 Hotline Miami
- Android, PC, PS3, PS4, PS Vita, Switch, Xbox One
- October 23, 2012
- Dennaton Games
Inspired by film depictions of the era more than the 80s themselves, Hotline Miami offers superb indie synth wave and electronic music that is as captivating as the game itself. Almost every level has a brand new song, and while they may be less well-known than some bigger numbers from AAA games, great composers like MOON and Sun Araw help boost the game’s neon vibe.
Both Hotline Miami and its sequel are well-remembered for their carefully selected soundtracks, so much so that the game’s two-man development team was able to release vinyl editions of the soundtracks. This is a testament to the extreme popularity of the music, and newcomers will find it hard to forget such blood-curdling tunes.
More: The best games that revolve around music and sound