Playing Twisted Metal this past weekend got me thinking about awesome soundtracks. Between rounds of blowing up cars to Sammy Hagar's "Heavy Metal" and N.W.A.'s "Straight Outta Compton," I started to reminisce about classic gaming soundtracks that made my head bob while playing my favorite games. While there are a ton of great soundtracks out there, to keep this list of soundtracks that you absolutely must own simple, I'm going to stick to soundtracks that featured a good deal of licensed music. Nothing against orchestrated soundtracks, but there's something special about gaming to songs you can sing along with. So with that in mind, let's dive into ten gaming soundtracks that you absolutely must have in your music library.
Note: I'm not counting any of the Rock Bands, Guitar Heroes and DJ Heroes, or Amplitude and Frequency. In a nutshell, no rhythm games.Those choices are too obvious.
While the gameplay of the original Katamari Damacy is responsible for hooking us on the idea of rolling around a ball to pick up crap, it was the soundtrack that made us love coming back for more. The soundtrack to Katamari Damacy was wildly bizarre and incredibly mesmerizing. You could play the game for 15 minutes and then have the game's songs stuck in your head for days. And you know what, you'd be happy about it.
SSX: On Tour
I'll never forget bombing down the slopes while listening to Jurassic 5's "Red Hot" in SSX: On Tour. The SSX games have always been known for their great soundtracks, and On Tour is no different. However, On Tour is one of the first SSX titles to branch away from the series' electronica roots to feature a wider range of talent from all corners of the music spectrum. You get everything from the aforementioned J5 to Queens of the Stone Age to Motorhead to Hot Hot Heat to Blackalicious and more. It was a musical bonanza.
Tony Hawk's Pro Skater
Ah, flashbacks to the good old days of playing Tony Hawk's Pro Skater while listening to it's punk rock-infused soundtrack. Man, that brings me back. The soundtrack to the first Pro Skater title is responsible for opening my ear holes to a number of new artists that I still listen to to this day. It might also be one of the first instances where a soundtrack to a video game proved to be a great opportunity for unheard artists to get noticed, a tactic EA Games would later use for every sports game they would release.
GTA: Vice City
The soundtrack to Grand Theft Auto: Vice City is the perfect 1980s time capsule. This massive soundtrack featured everything a fan of flashy clothing, huge hair and cocaine could ever ask for, and then some. Honestly, the soundtrack to Vice City might be the pinnacle of video game soundtracks. Fans of the 80s should, without question, have this soundtrack in their collection.
Some of the best tunes from the 1930s, 40s and 50s compiled and given a hauntingly eerie new lease on life. I bet you'll never listen to that Carnival cruise line song, "Beyond the Sea", the same way again after hearing it in BioShock. The soundtrack was a mix of orchestrated originals and licensed music from the previously mentioned eras, melding together into a perfect concoction that helped make BioShock even more terrifying.
I looked forward to each chapter's end in Alan Wake not just because I wanted to be hit with the next awesome cliffhanger, but because I wanted to find out what song would accompany that plot bombshell. The licensed music used in Alan Wake is some of the very best I've ever seen in any game. Period. By the time the credits roll and David Bowie's "Space Oddity" is pumping through your speakers, you'd be hard-pressed to disagree with me.
One of the best games of last year also has one of the best gaming soundtracks ever, in my humble opinion. The soundtrack to Bastion, as a friend of mine labels it, is "neo-western flavor with a boatload of awesome." For the record, he's not wrong. Whether you choose to dabble in Supergiant Games' indie darling or not, the soundtrack is an experience you shouldn't miss if you consider yourself a fan of good music.
Red Dead Redemption
The soundtrack to Red Dead Redemption was composed by artists Bill Elm and Woody Jackson, turning the gameplay experience into something truly memorable with a sweeping score that perfectly captured the sad sounds of a dying Old West. In addition, the RDR soundtrack also featured a few amazing licensed tracks from artists such as Jamie Lidell, Jose Gonzalez, Ashar Command and William Elliot Whitmore. If you're a fan of quality western music, look no further.
GTA: San Andreas
This is the second Grand Theft Auto soundtrack to make this list. With San Andreas, Rockstar turned its attention away from the '80s and to the early '90s. The soundtrack to San Andreas is an eclectic mix of gangsta rap, hip-hop, R&B, rock and roll and even country. There is literally something for everyone to love in this collection. You must own this.
PaRappa the Rapper
I'm kicking' it old school with this final selection. Composed by Masaya Matsuura, the soundtrack to PaRappa the Rapper is an instantly memorable listening experience. These sweet tunes will bore themselves deep into your soul and refuse to pack up and leave. Much like the music to Katamari Damacy, all the tracks on this soundtrack are catchy as hell, so good luck getting them out of your head after hearing them.