From the moment you hear start menu music through the credits rolling, soundtracks and scores can make lasting impressions. Imagine playing through the end of ‘The Maw’ on Halo: Combat Evolved and not having the intense music to accompany you on the final drive to evacuate. Or think about playing through any Grand Theft Auto without being able to swap radio stations at your whim; on that note, even the talk radio K-Chat adds an interesting level of enjoyment not found in most games.
For some though, the soundtrack or score can be an afterthought or passive piece of the gaming experience. This is why I feel it’s important to list my top 5 soundtracks for games on Xbox. I will include games not just on the Xbox One, but the entire Xbox family. If you’ve never valued great in-game music, please check out the below gems.
#5 Grand Theft Auto V
The Grand Theft Auto series has always been known for it’s great licensed music and hilarious talk radio. Timely news alerts also comment on the crimes you just committed. But GTA V took it up a notch by bringing in a team to do an original score for missions and other cinematics.
Having this additional element may not seem like a big deal. But when heisting a bank you’re sure to have the adrenaline pumping a bit more with your own montage music. The music changes to your setting too. You will definitely experience more upbeat background music when things aren’t as heated in the game.
As mentioned, the radio has always been a big part of GTA, and this game took it one step further. There are over 200 licensed songs outside of the original score. Each one helps create the atmosphere of the west coast uniquely and vibrantly. The game also includes celebrity DJ’s for most stations, which is a nice added touch. You have a variety of options to non-stop pop, classic rock, and even old western country.
If you’ve ever watched any movie about LA or spent time in the real life City of Angels, it’s evident that music is a huge part of the culture. The game creators took that to heart and I believe captured it perfectly in Los Santos.
#4 Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 3
The smash-hit skateboarding series made its Xbox debut with its 3rd installment during the spring of 2002. Not only is THPS 3 one of the best sports games of all time, it also has a legendary soundtrack that still holds up to this day.
The game has a mix of punk rock, hip-hop, and straight funky jams. A few artists that made the cut include The Ramones, Red Hot Chili Peppers, & Xzibit. Most songs you hear are through the two minute window available to complete tasks before the timer expires. Collect all the ‘SKATE’ letters, find the hidden tape, and finish other level-specific tasks to move on to the next level.
The levels have vastly different visual settings, yet the music constantly fits your surroundings. Sometimes this makes you feel like picking up a board in real life! The game even features music from in-game skater Bam Margera, and his band CKY.
The earlier games in the series also had elite soundtracks. That said, THPS 3 is by far the best to hit the Xbox. Sports media and gamers had little interest in skateboarding during the 90’s. The Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater series helped reverse that trend with incredible gameplay and top-notch tunes.
Celeste provides a unique platforming experience accompanied by soothing strings, keyboards, and other instrumental touches. Even though I died thousands of times while playing, the music always kept me at ease… attempt, after attempt, after attempt.
As you proceed up the mountain, the jumps get more challenging and new themes present themselves. Likewise, the music always turns it up a notch when you are approaching a boss fight or the end of a level. And as I neared that final peak I wanted to do nothing more than keep climbing.
I know most games have original music or scores, but very few do it as well as Celeste.
#2 Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary
You know you’ve “made it” in video game music lore when the opening title music for your game becomes a viral internet sensation. Jokes aside, the Halo series has by far some of the best original music ever. And the Anniversary remaster fine tunes it even more.
Whether you’re exploring Covenant ships, roaming the massive landscapes in a warthog, or blasting grunts with your assault rifle, the music in Halo: Combat Evolved is always spot on. Tell me you don’t FEEL the memories hearing some cues in this video
Halo will always be special to me for the countless hours spent playing co-op and multiplayer before Xbox Live really existed. The surround sound effect four different Xbox’s connected through LAN, ready to commence in match after match of team slayer, wouldn’t feel right without the Halo score.
Memories aside, the Halo series has always excelled in the music department, and Combat Evolved is what started it all.
#1 Fable Anniversary
Like Halo, some games get better with age (or a nice remaster). While the original score is tremendous, the Xbox 360 update cements Fable as the best in-game music for the Xbox family. The world of Albion would not have been as incredible without the accompanying musical score.
From the moment you first are exploring your village to the battle with Jack of Blades, the music is unforgettable. Bringing a fantasy world to life is a daunting task for any game creator. Fable shined in so many ways, and the music really stood out as an overwhelming accomplishment.
One of the main wrinkles in Fable is the balance of good versus evil. Each decision you make slides you on that scale, with bright, happier music for “good” choices and dark, ominous music for “evil” ones.
Fable was very ambitious at the time of release, and the series really hit its gameplay stride in later entries. However, the original score is one I will always remember, particularly for it’s grandeur and making Albion feel like a real place.
Did we miss anything? Let us know in the comments. As always, visit Generation Xbox for all the latest in Xbox news.