Welcome to the second part of Bountie’s best video game soundtrack list. Head here for part 1.
To recap, we’re limiting it to the top 30. We only have one major rule for this feature: one OST per game series. Which means you wouldn’t be seeing Mega Man X, Mega Man X2, and Mega Man X3 together on this extensive list. However, we can put in Mega Man and Mega Man X together because one’s the mothership game and the other’s a spin-off. Also, a proper game soundtrack needs to have more than 10 tracks at the very least, enough to make up a single album.
With that said, let’s continue the list with numbers 20 to 11.
The visual novel adventure game soundtrack to end all visual novel adventure game soundtracks. As much as composers like Ryu Umemoto did a bang-up job creating a legacy of immersive Zen-like OSTs for stellar adventure titles, it’s composers like Michael “Garoad” Kelly who amp it up further.
Garoad is heavily influenced by visual novel and adventure game music to create new and upbeat retro-esque synths that match the context of the cyberpunk storyline. Plus it makes for great testing for your speakers, what with the different pitches and synth rumblings. Don’t act too shocked if you end up leaving the in-game’s jukebox playing instead of actually playing the game.
Standout Tracks: Every Day Is Night, Umemoto, Skyline, Drive Me Wild
Arguably the best Metal Gear music ensemble yet. The jazz-laden intro, the dramatic music, and the Cold War era vibe and orchestral sounds are what makes this Metal Gear music entry stand out from the rest. It’s like tuning in to a spy thriller ala James Bond mixed in with Hideo Kojima-isms. Give Harry Gregson-Williams & Norihiko Hibino props for a cinematic-slash-game music experience.
Standout Tracks: The Fear, Revolver Ocelot, Snake Eater
The ‘98 iteration of this SNK fighting game brings in the best of past games and put it all in one dream match package. You’ve got pop music, you’ve got rock, you’ve got acoustics. You even have jazz and creepy ballads thrown in for good measure, because the SNK in-house composers want to go all-out with this remarkable fighting game entry.
While the original OST from the Neo Geo sound board is fine and all, purists should get the arranged soundtrack for maximum fighting game music awesomeness.
Standout Tracks: Fairy, Arashi no Saxophone, In Spite Of One’s Age, Mad Fantasy
Contemporary pop music and rock as a JRPG soundtrack? Yes, please. Composer Shoji Meguro has been doing music for the Shin Megami Tensei mothership and spin-off titles since early 2000. Somehow he has found his niche in making modern music tracks for the Persona games starting from part 3. While Persona 3 and Persona 5 have some memorable tunes here and there with “The Battle For Everyone’s Soul” and “Behind The Mask” respectively, Persona 4 has the best overall number of tracks that work well as a whole compared to the other games.
Standout Tracks: Signs of Love, The Almighty, The Poem For Everyone’s Soul
The culmination of all of Halo’s main themes and leit motifs comes full circle here in this final Xbox 360 entry in the highly-touted shooter series. Halo 3 comes a close second, but Halo: Reach is perhaps the duo Martin O’ Donnell and Mike Salvatori’s strongest work yet for the franchise.
You can check out more of the latter’s work on Bungie’s recent shooter Destiny 2, which is on the previous entry of this feature.
Standout Tracks: Ghost & Glass, Winter Contingency, Overture
The best of JRPGs outside of Final Fantasy, personified by its epic collection of music. Need a tune to cover the grandiose nature of a monster-filled plains? There’s a tune for that. Need a piano-laden theme as a respite before the major adventure? There’s a track for that. Need some edgey battle music? There are 3 pieces solely for the regular battles alone. Need a cheesy J-pop number for those climactic scenes? There’s even one track for that, English lyrics and all.
Then again, with Yasunori Mitsuda, ACE+, and other fine composers in this team, it’s really no wonder that this talented group can blow their audiences away with a packed JRPG soundtrack. If you are a fan of the genre, you’d do well to buy the game’s upcoming soundtrack.
Standout Tracks: Alba Cavenish (Night), Spirit Crucible Elpys, Gormott Plains (Day)
If you’re too young to remember the Streets of Rage series, here is a recap: you and a friend go into the streets and beat up the goons and thugs of Mr X’s criminal syndicate in 8 stages of beat-em-up glory. You also get to hear a pumping soundtrack courtesy of composer and DJ Yuzo Koshiro.
His work in Streets of Rage 2 may be at its peak during the 90s, but it was the first Streets of Rage that laid the strong foundations of his industrial-slash-techno mixes via the Sega Megadrive’s sound chip.
Standout Tracks: Keep The Groovin’, The Last Soul, Fighting In The Street
Of all the Mega Man spin-offs out there, the Mega Man X series is the most monumental of the lot because it added more speed, more graphical fidelity, more action, and most importantly, more catchy music.
When you hear Chill Penguin’s theme without visuals, you can already visualize the icy feel of each note coming in. When you tackle the final few stages leading up to the last boss Sigma, the music gets more foreboding and dramatic. It’s the evolution of Mega Man: all grown-up and rocking the beat with a soundtrack to match its mature tone.
Standout Tracks: Chill Penguin, Opening Stage, Boomer Kuwanger
This action adventure game that is also a love letter to Japanese culture and fables comes with a breathtaking soundtrack. The team of composers (Masami Ueda, Hiroshi Yamaguchi, Rei Kondoh, Akari Groves, JUN) use a ton of traditional Japanese musical instruments to make the experience all the more authentic and reminiscent of the Classical Japan era. If it was filled with ogres, spider-demons, and evil spirits.
Okami takes classical Japanese music to the next level with sweeping epic scores and tranquil string-heavy masterpieces. You’ll feel a sense of awe tuning in to field music like the Shinsu and Ryoshima Plains, and feel tense when hearing special combat themes like Ushiwaka’s Dance.
Standout Tracks: Ushiwaka’s Dance, Ryoshima Plains, The Sun Rises
You’ve got a Duke Ellington ensemble in my 2D Max Fleisher-drawn hardcore shoot-em-up. How classy is that? From the samba beats of Floral Fury to the Satchmo vibe of Die House, Cuphead’s music is proof that you can add a dash of style if you get out of your video game music comfort zone.
You can thank composer Kristoff Maddigan for this. Get the soundtrack here on the official Bandcamp link.
Stay tuned for next week for the epic conclusion. In the meantime, maybe you’d like to check out our thoughts on Creative’s soundbar and speaker duo?