Stories, moments, and characters in video games stick with us for a long time, and all these experiences are so often tied together from a valuable system we might not even realize: soundtracks. Without those beautiful pieces to accompany the gameplay, games would be so much less than what they are now. Let’s take a moment to listen to some of the best orchestral soundtracks in gaming!
Cuphead was a long time coming, but once it arrived it absolutely dominated our time and was definitely a Game of the Year contender. What made it so excellent, aside from the breath-taking visuals, was its beautifully crafted soundtrack. Check out the video below of the composer, Kristofer Maddigan, working his magic designing the music to the Floral Fury fight. What was incredible about the soundtrack was that it increased with intensity during the boss fights, making each moment far more frantic.
Battlefield V has taken games based on war to the next level thanks to its attention to detail in both graphics and audio. The sounds of war have never been as terrifying as they are in Battlefield V, and the intensity of combat – in both the campaign and multiplayer – is ratcheted up another notch thanks to the soundtrack composed by Patrik Andrén and Johan Söderqvist. It takes a special talent to be able to compose music that beautifully and respectfully pairs with World War 2.
Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion
The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion took what was created in Morrowind and increased the ante, bringing a whole new layer of dynamism to the nation of Cyrodiil. What made the experience so memorable was the deeply evocative soundtrack composed by the exceptionally talented Jeremy Soule. Many gamers still remember the first time they heard the track, Reign of the Septims, as it played over the epic vistas and fantastic tale being told by the Emperor. We still get chills listening to the soundtrack as it takes us back to moments trekking through the forests or battling Dremora in the Oblivion realm.
Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
It wouldn’t be wise to make a “best orchestral soundtracks in gaming” article without including the phenomenal entry into the Elder Scrolls series, Skyrim. Jeremy Soule was at it again, creating some truly unbelievable tracks that are immediately recognizable to everyone who was gaming in November of 2011. If you don’t try and sing along to the Dragonborn track, go get yourself checked out by a doctor, because there’s no way you could resist it! Much like Oblivion, we can’t help but feel a heavy sense of nostalgia whenever we listen to this soundtrack.
Journey, released in 2012, was a gorgeous game that set players out on an adventure into the desert to uncover hidden secrets. Along the way a friend might be made, but for the most part, it was a lonesome journey with nothing more than the music and environment to keep you company. Composed by Austin Wintory, the soundtrack was deeply moving and perfectly touched on the emotions of being alone and uncertain of what lies ahead.
Composed by Garry Schyman, the soundtrack to the first BioShock was equal parts wonder and terror. Coming over the rocky plateaus deep beneath the ocean and seeing the sprawling city of Rapture for the first time, all while the gorgeous soundtrack played, was one of the most incredible moments in gaming back in 2007. The soundtrack was an eclectic mixture, including licenced music and Schyman’s own work, with all pieces critical in bringing the city of Rapture to life. Now, would you kindly listen to the BioShock soundtrack once more?
How anyone could take Hollow Knight’s somber and dark atmosphere and match an entire soundtrack to it is beyond us, but Christopher Larkin went above and beyond. Every city, realm, and province in Hollow Knight has its own elegantly matched piece, inspiring all kinds of emotions, from fear and anxiety to relaxation and wonder. There is something magical, yet deeply lonely about the music that plays while down in the almost forgotten City of Tears. The rain pelting down and the gorgeous piano piece is unlike anything else in gaming.
For all the flak Destiny might have received over the years, and all the ground that has been made to recapture the imagination and dedication of its gamers, one thing has remained true: Destiny’s soundtrack is impeccable. Whether you’re still listening to the tunes from the original or rocking out to Destiny 2’s Whisper of the Worm piece, every moment in Destiny has its own equally epic track. These gorgeous sounds come from the creative minds of Marty O’Donnell, Paul McCartney, Michael Salvatori, Skye Lewin, and C Paul Johnson. Ears up, Guardian.
Soundtracks add a whole new layer to video games, and though we can’t list them all, these are some of the best in recent years.