The Soundtrack of Your Gaming Journey: Top Video Game Original Soundtracks (OSTs)

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Lalaine_Capucion
edited May 14 in Gaming

In the world of gaming, visuals often steal the spotlight, but there's another crucial element that shapes the player's experience: music. Video game soundtracks, sometimes overlooked but profoundly impactful, play a vital role in enhancing gameplay, immersing players in virtual worlds, and evoking emotions. From rousing overtures to heart-pounding battle themes, video game soundtracks elevate the on-screen action, captivating our senses and etching indelible marks upon our psyche. 

The Evolution of Video Game Music 

Changes in gaming technology have mirrored an evolution in musical scope. Early games were limited by chiptune soundtracks. Yet, creative composers like Koji Kondo (Super Mario Bros., The Legend of Zelda) managed to create unforgettable melodies with only a few channels of sound. As technology advanced, so did the ambition of game composers. We saw the introduction of synthesized soundtracks, fully orchestrated scores, and the ability to integrate licensed pop hits. 

Today, the best game soundtracks often rival the production values of movie scores. Composers are given full orchestras and choirs to bring their musical visions to life, leading to truly breathtaking sonic landscapes.  

Iconic Soundtracks That Resonate 

To encapsulate the medium's rich musical heritage within a mere handful of entries would be a difficult task. Nevertheless, several iconic original soundtracks (OSTs) have solidified their place in the pantheon. So, grab your audio device of choice, whether it’s a portable speaker like the Acer Halo Swing Smart or trusty headphones such as the Predator Galea 310 Gaming Headset, and get ready to listen to some of the best video game OSTs. 

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim 

The Skyrim soundtrack, composed by Jeremy Soule, is widely praised for its immersive and atmospheric orchestral music. Blending medieval influences with fantastical elements, the music effectively captures the epic scope and Nordic setting of the game's world. Notable tracks include the heroic main theme "Dragonborn," the mystical "Sovngarde," and the haunting "Secunda," which has upwards of 58 million plays on Spotify. 

The Skyrim OST has received significant recognition, including nominations at the BAFTA Awards, the International Film Music Critics Award, and the Game Audio Network Guild (GANG) Awards. Beyond its in-game integration, the music has been popular enough to inspire live concert performances showcasing sweeping melodies.  

Doom 

The highly successful Doom video game series features acclaimed music. The soundtrack for Doom Eternal, for example, received a nomination at The Game Awards 2020 for Best Score and Music. It also won for Best Soundtrack at the 2020 Steam Awards. However, this OST was not without its share of controversy, particularly concerning id Software studio director Marty Stratton’s accusations against composer Mick Gordon and the latter’s point-by-point rebuttal

Earlier, Gordon composed the score for the 2016 Doom reboot, a blend of progressive metal, industrial music, and heavy guitar riffs. The track “Rip & Tear” is particularly beloved, with more than 103 million plays on Spotify. Besides being appreciated by fans, Gordon’s work also won multiple awards, including Best Music/Sound Design at The Game Awards 2016 and Excellence in Musical Score at the 2017 SXSW Gaming Awards, testaments to its landmark achievement in modern game music. 

The Last of Us 

The soundtrack for The Last of Us video game and TV series, composed by Gustavo Santaolalla, is a haunting and evocative accompaniment to the franchise's post-apocalyptic world. Santaolalla's minimalist approach, featuring acoustic guitar and sparse instrumentation, captures the desolation and despair of the setting, while also conveying moments of hope and resilience.  

Tracks like "The Last of Us" main theme (which has nearly 85 million plays on Spotify) and "All Gone (No Escape)" underscore the emotional depth of the story, enhancing the player's connection to the characters and their journey. Recognized for its exceptional quality, The Last of Us soundtrack has received numerous nominations and awards, including the SXSW Gaming Awards for Excellence in Musical Score in 2014 and Best Soundtrack at the 2023 Steam Awards. 

Grand Theft Auto V 

The original soundtrack for Rockstar Games’ Grand Theft Auto V (GTA 5) is a sprawling collection of music spanning various genres and eras, designed to enhance the experience of exploring the fictional world of Los Santos. With more than 240 licensed tracks across 15 radio stations, players can customize their in-game music experience to suit their tastes, whether they're cruising through the city streets or engaging in high-octane heists.  

The GTA 5 OST, which won for Best Soundtrack at the 2013 Spike Video Game Awards, features an eclectic mix of artists, from classic rock legends like Queen and The Rolling Stones to contemporary hip-hop stars like Kendrick. In addition to licensed music, GTA 5 also boasts an original score composed by Tangerine Dream, Woody Jackson, Oh No, and The Alchemist. One of the more popular tracks, “r-Cali,” by A$AP Rocky, has nearly 85 million plays on Spotify. 

God of War Ragnarök 

Bear McCreary's soundtrack for God of War Ragnarök blends epic orchestral arrangements with traditional Nordic instrumentation to create a powerful and immersive soundscape. It expands upon the themes established in the 2018 reboot, with a focus on the evolving relationship between the demigod Kratos and his son, Atreus. Standout tracks include “Blood Upon the Snow,” sung by Hozier and streamed almost 33 million times on Spotify, and “Immaterial Plane,” which showcases McCreary’s skill in creating otherworldly soundscapes.   

The soundtrack garnered critical praise upon release, receiving nominations for "Best Immersive Audio Album" and "Best Score Soundtrack for Video Games and Other Interactive Media" at the 2023 and 2024 Grammy Awards, respectively. It also won several awards, including Best Music at the 2023 BAFTA Awards, Best Original Score at the 2023 International Film Music Critics Award, and Best Score and Music at The Game Awards 2022. McCreary's work for God of War Ragnarök effectively complements the game's narrative and action, further solidifying the series' place among video games with exceptional sound design. It’s no wonder that many believe it’s the best video game OST. 

Ultimately, video game soundtracks have transcended their humble origins. From the basic beginnings of 8-bit bleeps to the sweeping orchestral scores of modern masterpieces, video game music has evolved into a diverse and dynamic art form that continues to push the boundaries of creativity and immersion. So, the next time you pick up a controller, take a moment to appreciate the music that accompanies your journey—it may just be the key to unlocking a truly unforgettable gaming experience. 

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About Lalaine Capucion: Lalaine has been working as a freelance writer and editor for more than 12 years, focusing on lifestyle, travel, and wellness. When she isn’t writing, she's most likely curled up with a good book or trying out a new recipe in the kitchen. She lives in Metro Manila, Philippines. 

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