Video games are really advancing as an entertainment medium. As this generation’s consoles reach maturity, and the PC continues its path of growth, it’s fairly easy to say that developers know pretty well how to do it, these days. Graphics continue to get more detailed, gameplay becomes more accessible and fun, and overall concepts of video games are reaching a new level of polish. Of course, in the midst of all this is a video game’s sound.


So many titles offer cinematic experiences, with fully orchestrated and epic scores that reach out to the deepest chambers of your ear canals. I, for one, love it. Hearing the whistle of a soft flute melody, the bellow of a low brass feature, or the exposure of a singular instrument, I love hearing what the latest and greatest composers come up with. Want examples? Just listen to the deep, moving sounds of The Elder Scrolls, Uncharted, Warcraft, Final Fantasy, and Halo, among many other greats.



As an aspiring musician, hearing these scores for the first time is as exciting as playing the actual game. At some points, I find myself not even playing in the moment at hand, but rather listening to the music in the background. I don’t know what it is about it, but the deep, dark, and mystical feelings of so many great game scores always pull me in. What can I say? I’m a sucker for the good stuff.


Of course, that means that the music is super important. If I like it enough, I’ll look it up on YouTube, and for all-time favorites I’ll buy the OST to a game or movie. The feelings that emanate from such powerful playing, can at some points be overwhelming to the point of chills, and after a good time of listening it’s all worth it. Here are a few of my favorite tracks from blockbuster video games:


I’ll start off with my favorites as of now –



Batman Arkham City Main Theme


The choir and the low brass at the beginning gives the dark tones that are necessary for receiving the atmosphere of Arkham City, and the feeling of the Dark Knight. The part that gets me every time, though, is the buildup that starts around 1:30, and reaches its climax at 1:55. At that point, it’s like you can just HEAR the power of justice. This composer didn’t just throw some notes down –HE really understood what the music of Batman should be.



The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion Main Theme


Probably my second most favorite theme I’ve ever heard. To me, Skyrim’s theme holds no ground in contest. The pulsating cellos, the ringing bass, the triumphant horns, leading into the sweeping line of strings, which in turn evolves into the brooding low brass exposure. When I hear this, the feeling of exploration instantly comes to mind. But before you become to desensitized, it all fades away, leaving the listener to hold their breath, as the beautiful woodwinds pick up the remainder of the melody. It’s all so beautiful… And it captures the pure essence of Oblivion: Exploration, with a touch of civilization.



Halo Reach Overture


By far one my favorite pieces in recent memory, from the legendary scores of the Halo series. Honestly, I couldn’t mention video game music without throwing in Halo and the genius composer Martin O’Donnell. The first half of the theme is exactly what Halo should be, and that in turn can be translated as the sound of something new, foreign, and grand. Basically, it’s epic. But the second half, even more, is what really gets me. It immediately slows down in pace, allowing for the mourning minor key to really emphasize itself. The crying horns, the emotional bass, the empathetic strings… This piece was a great surprise that kept from even touching the Start Game button in Reach when I plugged it in for the first time.




 And while, as much as I love listening to all these great themes, after I while I will eventually begin to replace them with other songs and pieces that I love. It is with this, that I offer you all advice, a theory of musical “feng shui” in video games.


The feeling of each game is different. However, often times games that are divided within their genre or settings can get away with similar genres of music. How about we go through some of my most favorite combinations of music to listen to while playing video games…



First Person Shooters


[Grunge/Alt/Heavy Rock]



My default playlist for when I play games such as Halo, Call of Duty, or Battlefield is always something along the lines of rock music. If it doesn’t have distorted guitar and bass, it’s not heavy enough. Honestly, who wants to relax when they’re shooting people in the face? So, my go-to artists for when I play shooters are as follows.


  • Halo: Reach: Avenged Sevenfold. Listening to their metalcore music, albeit fast-paced or more lyrical, always gets me more aware and energetic when I play. I’m not just zoning out and failing to line up that one headshot that determines the other guy’s death, or mine.


  • Call of Duty: RED. RED is a Christian-metal band, which is kind of contradictory in a sense. But trust me, it works. They pull of a great sound, with heavy, distorted guitars, lyrical vocals, and searing orchestra exposure. Give one of their songs a try, and you’re fired up and ready for a new round.


  • Battlefield: Breaking Benjamin. Okay, first of all, I know a lot of people aren’t the biggest fans of their music. But to me, they’re one of the best alt-metal groups I’ve heard. They’re heavy, but not blistering fast. Vocalist Benjamin Burnley gives off a sincere sense of feeling that kicks me off at just the right pace when I start up a match.








This genre is ultimately just slightly harder to place above the rest, simply because there is so much variety in gameplay and setting. However, I think I’ve finally found a rotation of music that fits the games well. As I’m sure everyone’s noticed, publishers are really starting to push dubstep in their video game trailers, what with all the action and crazy stuff they throw in. While dubstep does really well, the over-arching genre of rave music is generally a good fit. Here are my impressions of what works best:


  • Assassin’s Creed: Drum n’ Bass. The whole feeling of Assassin’s Creed is how tense you get in the moment in which you’re about to strike your target. Especially in multiplayer where you are constantly on the prowl, listening to a good DJ like Armin Van Buuren or Deadmau5 is great.


  • Batman Arkham City: Glitch. For me, there’s no doubt about it. Listening to something that can be so mellow, but so crazy, is something that really fits. While it’s really hard to explain in words, having this play in the background while focusing on navigating the large environment of Arkham City is engrossing. For this, just look up the best in the biz –The Glitch Mob.


  • God of War: Dubstep. You all knew it. The over-the-top, crazy action of God of War or games in a similar vein is just begging to be accompanied by the filthy drop of a good dubstep beat. You want something fast? Easy, just look up “Filthy dubstep” on YouTube, or listen to some good Skrillex. If you want something a little easier on the ears, try the “Crave You (Adventure Club Remix). It’s some good stuff.








This one is a little peculiar, as some may find this a little contradictory. Many RPGs now have fully-orchestrated soundtracks, but after I’ve heard them for a while, I put on a good rotation of classical music, or modern orchestral. There’s not much that else is really as good of a fit. The longer nature leads to more down-time, and that’s great for the extended nature of classical. Here are some good fits:


  • Western RPGs: Dark Classical. Not really sure what this means for all the nitty-gritty symphonies and suites that exist? Easy enough, just look up “The 50 Darkest Pieces of Classical Music”, by the London Philharmonic Orchestra. There’s some slow stuff that may not catch the attention of a lot of modern gamers out there, but the fast stuff will be sure to keep your attention.


  • Japanese RPGs: Modern Orchestral. You may be wondering what the difference is here. Well, not much, but this is newer, and has more ‘new’ influences that feature peculiar evolutions in the use of keys, scales, and arpeggios. If you know what I’m talking about, then cool. If not, it’s never too late to learn. Try going to and listening through their MP3 section. One that’s not on there, though, that is one of my personal favorites, is “Angels and Airwaves”. It’s a truly great piece, and sounds almost experimental at times. If anything, give this stuff a try!





So, that just about sums up my lecture. I hope you guys enjoyed reading, and perhaps even learned to appreciate the music the same way as I do. There’s some fantastic stuff out there; you just have to listen for it.


If you guys liked it, have ideas, or simply want to have conversation, that’s what the comments section is for! Sound off below guys, I’d love to learn what your music set lists are for gaming.








So, this is in response to Sora3Ben, but may be useful to many others, as well. If you're interested in hearing more awesome orchestral music from video games, or just like the sound of a symphony, these are great pieces that I would love to recommend.


If you're looking for Final Fantasy, Chrono Trigger, or Secret of Mana in orchestral form, buying the CD of Symphonic Fantasies is an absolute necessity. Check out a video here:


Next, are some individual pieces that I personally enjoy listening to all the time. God of War III's Main Theme/Overture, The Hikari Kingdom Orchestra theme from Kingdom Hearts makes me well up every time. Finale, Tip of the Spear, Roll Call, Behold a Pale Horse, Never Forget, and Finish the Fight are some of the best renditions of the classis Halo theme's throughout the entire franchise.


If you want to get the most bang for your buck, go ahead and shoot for "The Greatest Video Game Music", by The London Philharmonic Orchestra. Nearly every famous game franchise is represented, and represented beautifully. Also, there is the ongoing "Video Games Live" concerts, that also have CD's on iTunes that are definitely worth purchasing. In these albums are orchestral versions of great classics like Mario, Zelda, Tetris, and the greats, like Call of Duty, Battlefield, Mass Effect, Bioshock, Final Fantasy, Uncharted, Metal Gear, Grand Theft Auto, Elder Scrolls, Fallout -Even Angry Birds.


If you want some good 'ol classical music, I recommend once again the work of The London Philharmonic Orchestra, as they have recently put out The 50 Darkest Pieces, and The 50 Greatest Classical Pieces of all time. My favorite picks are well-known favorites, such as "In The Hall of the Mountain King", "Mars, Bringer of War", "Symphony No. 7 in A Major, Ride of the Valkyries, Carmina Burana: O Fortuna, Suite gothique pour grande orgue, A Night on the Bare Mountain, Symphony No. 5 in C Minor, among so many others. Please give all these songs a try, guys. I promise you won't regret it!




Happy listening,





~ GoldvsSilver