Video game soundtracks have become a crucial element in the gaming experience, contributing significantly to the emotional depth and immersive quality of many titles. The music composed for games now rivals that of films and television in complexity and artistry, often becoming iconic in its own right. Memorable soundtracks like those from "The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time" not only complement the gameplay but also resonate with players long after they've set down the controller. These compositions can evoke a wide range of emotions, from the whimsical melodies of an adventure to the intense scores of a dramatic battle scene.

The influence of video game music extends beyond gameplay, with soundtracks being released for purchase and streaming, demonstrating their standalone artistic value. Games like "Undertale" have seen individual tracks like "Megalovania" gain popularity independent of the games they originate from. The cultural impact is significant, with some soundtracks being recognized in prestigious awards, such as Christopher Tin's theme for "Civilization IV," which made history by winning a Grammy in 2005.

These soundtracks shape the identity of their respective games, often being essential to the storytelling and world-building elements. They support the narrative and engage players, crafting a complete sensory experience. The appreciation for video game music has grown, with concerts being held worldwide to celebrate these compositions, illustrating the importance and recognition of video game soundtracks in both the gaming community and the music industry.

Evolution of Video Game Music

The shift from the simplistic beeps of early consoles to the full orchestral compositions in modern games marks the dynamic evolution of video game music.

From 8-Bit to Orchestras

In the early days of video games, limited by technology, composers worked with 8-bit sound chips that produced monophonic melodies. Iconic games like Pong and Tetris featured simple yet memorable loops. As technology advanced, the 16-bit era brought richer polyphonic sound, allowing for more complex compositions as heard in games like Final Fantasy. In contemporary gaming, the use of full orchestras to record soundtracks is commonplace, providing an immersive auditory experience. Games like The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Skyrim offer moving, detailed scores that can stand alone as serious music works.

EraSound CapabilitiesNotable Advancement
Early 1970sMonophonic, simple loopsPong's impacting sounds
Mid-1980s8-bit chips, memorable melodiesSuper Mario Bros. theme
Late 1990sCD quality, orchestral recordingFinal Fantasy soundtracks
2010s and beyondFull orchestras, interactive musicThe Legend of Zelda series

Influence on Pop Culture

Video game music has transcended gaming, influencing pop culture and beyond. With memorable tunes like the Super Mario Bros. theme, video game music has become recognizable to even those outside the gaming community. These compositions have inspired numerous remixes, performances by symphony orchestras, and appearances in other media such as television and concerts. The emotional connection fans have with game music is evident in the popularity of soundtrack releases and live performances showcasing video game soundtracks, affirming video game music as a legitimate and impactful art form.

Iconic Game Soundtracks

Iconic game soundtracks play a pivotal role in enhancing the gaming experience, providing memorable melodies that evoke a wide range of emotions and cementing the game's status in popular culture.

Final Fantasy Series

Final Fantasy VII, a game that redefined the RPG genre, is renowned not only for its compelling story and gameplay but also for its beast soundtrack. Composed by Nobuo Uematsu, the soundtrack is an achievement that elevates the emotional impact of the game. Each composition, from the hauntingly beautiful "Aerith's Theme" to the pulsating energy of "One-Winged Angel," is crafted with precision and passion. It is truly an auditory experience that remains a benchmark for excellence in video games.

The Legend of Zelda Series

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild revolutionized the franchise with its expansive open world and equally expansive soundtrack. Composed by Manaka Kataoka, Yasuaki Iwata, and Hajime Wakai, the soundtrack is a departure from the series' traditional musical style, favoring subtlety and ambiance over grand, sweeping melodies. This minimalist approach beautifully complements the game's focus on exploration and discovery. Ambient piano notes echo the vastness of Hyrule's landscapes, while the gentle, sporadic melodies evoke a sense of adventure and the unknown. 

We can't talk Zelda though without mentioning Ocarina of Time because it is equally celebrated for its groundbreaking soundtrack. Composed by the legendary Koji Kondo, this soundtrack is a blend of traditional fantasy elements with musical storytelling. Each melody, from the haunting notes of the "Song of Time" to the lively rhythms of "Gerudo Valley," is crafted perfectly to complement the game's diverse environments.

The Halo Series

Halo 3, a cornerstone of the iconic Halo franchise, boasts a soundtrack that is as memorable and impactful as the game itself. Composed by Martin O'Donnell and Michael Salvatori, this musical masterpiece perfectly captures the epic scope and emotional depth of the game's narrative. The soundtrack blends orchestral grandeur with electronic elements, creating a sound that is both futuristic and timeless. EPIC.


Cuphead stands out with its jazz-infused compositions reminiscent of 1930s animation. Composed by Kristofer Maddigan, the soundtrack perfectly complements the game's unique art style and challenging gameplay, offering a toe-tapping experience that captures the era's spirit.


Toby Fox's Undertale is a testament to the power of a memorable soundtrack with a smaller indie title. The track "Megalovania" has gained a cult following, embodying the game's quirky, humorous, and emotional journey through its chiptune-infused score.

Speaking of Megalovania, that definitely wasn't on my Apple Music highest plays of the year list... nope. Here's Undertale at the 5th anniversary concert.

The Industry Behind the Music

The video game industry has professionalized soundtrack production, creating diverse roles and career paths. Each role is instrumental in delivering the emotive, award-winning soundtracks recognized across the gaming world.

Soundtrack Production Roles

Soundtrack production for video games involves multiple key players:

  • Composer: Tasked with writing original music that complements the game's tone.
  • Sound Designer: They design audio assets other than music, such as in-game sound effects.
  • Audio Programmer: Develops software for sound playback and manipulation within the game.
  • Music Supervisor: Selects and licenses pre-existing tracks and works with composers and artists.
  • Orchestrator: Arranges the composer's music for live orchestras or other performances.
  • Audio Engineer: Records, mixes, and edits the music and sound for optimal in-game use.

Career Opportunities

Various career opportunities within the soundtrack production industry exist:

  • In-house roles: Larger studios may employ full-time composers and audio teams.
  • Freelancing: Many composers and sound designers work on a project basis.
  • Education: Positions in academic settings to teach game music composition.
  • Music Licensing Specialist: Professionals who manage the rights and permissions for music in games.

These roles come together to create immersive soundscapes that are integral to the video game experience.

Which video game soundtracks are considered best for focused studying?

Instrumental and ambient tracks, such as those found in games like "Stardew Valley" and "Minecraft," are favorites for providing a non-intrusive background conducive to concentration and study.

What are the most epic songs featured in video games?

Songs like the main theme of "Skyrim" and the intense battle music from "Final Fantasy VII" are frequently cited as some of the most epic for their grandeur and ability to enhance dramatic moments within the games.

Which retro video games are known for their exceptional soundtracks?

Vintage titles like "Super Mario Bros." and "Mega Man 2" not only shaped the early gaming landscape but also set a high standard for impactful music with their memorable and catchy 8-bit tunes.

What are your favourite video game soundtracks? Let us know in the comments below!