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Not only are most of these original soundtracks iconic in the video game industry, but they have made the jump to Spotify, where nearly 300 million users can listen. These are my personal favorites on the platform.
Again, this list is 100% opinion from a longtime gamer and occasional musician. This is not an end-all-be-all definitive list, though I believe all of these need to be heard (some are popular, some not so much).
I only had a couple rules while making this list. First, each soundtrack must be the original OST recording or artist (made one exception). Second, I looked specifically for orchestra-heavy pieces included ingame, not lyrics-based songs “inspired by” the game involved.
- Halo 2 –Various Artists; Marty O’Donnell: One link for each disc of this incredibly influential collection; Marty changed music in gaming forever
- WarGroove – Phonetic Hero: This lighthearted OST fuses Eastern instruments and Western themes in this strategy adventure
- Ori and the Will of the Wisps – Gareth Coker: If you’re looking for ethereal fantasy, this defines it
- Celeste – Lena Raine: Meditative sounds transform into strikingly emotional, positive anthems
- Awakening (A Metal Tribute to Xenoblade Chronicles 2) – GABOCARINA96: Includes sweeping melodies for traversing an open world and bombastic boss fight aggro
- Gris – Berlinist: Alternates between slow contemplation, anxiety, and inspiration with impeccable drive
- NieR: Automata – Various Artists: Thought provoking, haunting sounds set up a beautiful backdrop to the lifeless world of machines
- Panzer Dragoon – Sega Sound Team: A heart-pumping digitized orchestra sound that would be emulated in dozens of on-rail shooter games for at least a decade
- The Witcher 3 Wild Hunt – Marcin Przybyfowicz: Quintessential European RPG sounds right here
- Fire Emblem Three Houses – Takeru Kanazaki: A pensive piano version of the score telling a story of love, loss, and war
- Crypt of the Necrodancer – Danny Barnowsky: This is a funky/metal synth album that is tasty in any situation
- Final Fantasy VII – Nobuo Uematsu: Couldn’t leave off this classic MIDI masterpiece that defined game music in the late 90’s
*If the music industry worked the way I’d like, a lot of Nintendo work would be on the list–sadly, Spotify doesn’t have original Nintendo music licenses*
The following soundtracks barely missed the cut, for little to no reason, and honestly I couldn’t bear not giving you, Dear Reader, links to hear this beautiful work yourself.
- Sayonara Wild Hearts – Daniel Olsen and Jonathan Eng
- Undertale – Toby Fox
- Lost Ember -Various Artists
- Chrono Trigger – Yasunori Mitsuda
- Journey – Austin Wintory
- Halo 4 – Neil Davidge
- Metal Gear V – Ludvig Forssell
- The Last of Us II – Gustavo Santaolalla
- Red Dead Redemption – Bill Elm & Woody Jackson
- Doom (2016) – Mick Gordon