Video game soundtracks have always been impressive and without them games wouldn’t be quite the same. While silence has its own virtue, the immersion that comes from groovy backdrop music is unbeatable.  From the primitive but expressive 8-bit classics of the 1980s to the modern age instrumental masterpieces, video games have been producing original tunes that never cease to amaze. So here are some of the most iconic video game soundtracks of all time.

Tetris theme song (1984)

Tetris Theme Song A (by far the most famous of all the Tetris theme songs) is based off Korobeiniki, a nineteenth-century Russian folk song, popular for the dance style associated with the music, and the gradually increasing tempo. It was adapted into the Tetris theme song we now know by Hirokazu Tanaka (sound designer of Tetris) in the late twentieth century. This is probably what most people mean when they say “Tetris theme song”.

Super Mario Bros. theme (1985)

The Super Mario Bros. theme, officially known as the “Ground Theme” or “Overworld Theme” is a musical theme originally heard in the first stage of the 1985 video game Super Mario Bros. It was one of six themes composed for the game by Nintendo sound designer Koji Kondo. The theme has a calypso rhythm and usually receives a corresponding orchestration in games whose sound synthesizers can imitate steel drums.

The Legend of Zelda theme (1986)

Another one of Koji Kondo’s works, The Legend of Zelda theme has appeared in almost every Zelda game to date. It was first introduced in The Legend of Zelda as the overworld theme, and evolved into the theme song for the entire series. The piece is in march tempo. In most versions, it begins with a slower, pensive version of the main theme, accompanied by ascending sets of three tones.

Sonic the Hedgehog – Green hill zone theme (1991)

The most iconic Sonic the Hedgehog theme is the Green Hill Zone theme. Green Hill Zone is the first level of the 1991 Sega Genesis video game Sonic the Hedgehog. The level is grassy and lush, with environmental features such as palm trees, vertical loops and cliffs, and is the home of numerous forest animals. The scene is described perfectly with the theme. 

Street Fighter 2 – Guiles theme (1992)

Guile is one of the most popular characters in Capcom’s Street Fighter series of fighting games. He debuted as one of the original eight characters in 1991’s Street Fighter II and appeared in the game’s subsequent updates. His music theme, known simply as “Guile’s Theme”, has been used multiple times, usually to give a sense of victory. 

Mortal Kombat theme (1992)

The Mortal Kombat theme, officially known as “Techno Syndrome” is a song composed by Oliver Adams and performed by the Belgian techno duo The Immortals, commonly associated with the Mortal Kombat series since its usage in the 1995 film, which made it subsequently known as “the Mortal Kombat theme song.” Remixed versions of the song continue to be associated with the Mortal Kombat franchise.

Pokemon Red & Blue opening theme (1996)

Music for the game was composed by Junichi Masuda, who utilized the four sound channels of the Game Boy to create both the melodies and the sound effects. He noted the game’s opening theme, titled “Monster”, was produced  on a Commodore Amiga computer, which only features PCM sample playback, and converted to the Game Boy with a program he had written.

Final Fantasy X theme (2001)

The music of the video game Final Fantasy X was composed by regular series composer Nobuo Uematsu, along with Masashi Hamauzu and Junya Nakano. It was the first title in the main Final Fantasy series in which Uematsu was not the sole composer. The Final Fantasy X Original Soundtrack was released on four Compact Discs in 2001 by DigiCube, and was re-released in 2004 by Square Enix.

Halo Theme (2001)

The Halo Original Soundtrack is a soundtrack for the video game Halo: Combat Evolved. Composed and produced by Martin O’Donnell and Michael Salvatori for Bungie, the soundtrack was released on June 11, 2002. The first piece O’Donnell wrote, known as “Halo”, became the basis for Halo’s “signature sound” which has been heard in the other games of the main trilogy.

GTA San Andreas theme (2004)

The “Theme from San Andreas” is the theme song of Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, featured in the opening video. It was written and produced by Michael Hunter. The song appears on the Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas: Official Soundtrack compilation, making it one of only four Grand Theft Auto themes to be officially released to date. 

Uncharted – Nate’s theme (2007)

Nate’s Theme is a musical composition by composer, Greg Edmonson. It serves as the primary theme for Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune. A slightly altered version of it entitled “Nate’s Theme 2.0” is used as the primary theme for Uncharted 2: Among Thieves. “Nate’s Theme 3.0” is another slightly altered version used as the primary theme for Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception.

Assassins Creed 2 theme (2009)

The score to Assassin’s Creed II was composed by Jesper Kyd. It was recorded at Capitol Records with a 35-piece string ensemble and 13-person choir, with featured vocals by Melissa Kaplan. A soundtrack was released via download on November 16, 2009.14 tracks of the soundtrack were also released on the game disc available with the special pre-order Black edition of Assassin’s Creed II.

Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (2011)

Skyrim’s music was composed by Jeremy Soule, who previously worked on Morrowind and Oblivion, to compose the music for Skyrim. “Dragonborn”, the game’s main theme, was recorded with a choir of over thirty people, singing in the fictional dragon language. Creative director Todd Howard envisioned the theme for Skyrim as The Elder Scrolls theme sung by a choir of barbarians. This became a reality when the idea was passed by Soule, who recorded the 30-man choir and layered three separate recordings to create the effect of 90 voices.

Undertale – Megalovania (2015)

The game’s soundtrack was entirely composed by Fox. A self-taught musician, he composed most of the tracks with little iteration; the game’s main theme, “Undertale”, was the only song to undergo multiple iterations in development. The soundtrack was inspired by music from Super NES role-playing games, such as EarthBound, as well as the webcomic Homestuck, for which Fox provided some of the music. “Megalovania”, the song used during the boss battle with Sans, had previously been used within Homestuck and in one of Fox’s EarthBound ROM hacks.

Overwatch theme (2016)

The Overwatch soundtrack is produced by Neal Acree. In Overwatch, he worked under Derek Duke. Discussions were held as to how the music would reflect the game’s relatively optimistic view of the future. He has described the music as being electronic and orchestral, with the former reflecting Overwatch as a game set in the future, but with the music not completely reliant on it. It consists of several tracks used in the game or in animated shorts. It is included in the Collector’s Edition.

Further reading:

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