I’ve had the immense pleasure of hearing video game soundtracks grow with time and become increasingly more innovative since I was about seven years old. While gaming is not for everyone, it is for most of us. Almost any gamer that also happens to love Electronic music will tell you that this is where a percentage of that love generated itself.
For years, as new consoles were designed and manufactured, we began to immerse ourselves in ever-changing game soundtracks. It’s as if we didn’t even know that we were being programmed to love Electronic music. We recognized catchy 8-Bit/Chiptune sounds in the cities of Streets Of Rage; electronic textures that would become reminiscent of Electro-funk and Trance. We listened in awe, as Ecco The Dolphin introduced us to a well-beyond-its-time soundscape of the most gorgeous droning, futuristic sci-fi synths that any of us had heard. We even had to suffer through some of the most painfully cheesy (but cute) J-Trance songs that the older mixes of Dance Dance Revolution offered up before we could unlock the rest of the music.
No matter what the platform, developers have gone above and beyond our expectations when it comes to the use of Electronic music in video games. Below is a small collection of titles that offer up some of the greatest and most diverse track listings that I’ve come across.
(Before some of you say “You forgot _______”. I didn’t. I just didn’t like what _______ offered as much.)
1. Wipeout (Basically ANY Wipeout game, on any system.)
Original platform: Sony Playstation
Genre: Racing/Futuristic Racing
From Pulse to XL to Fusion, there’s literally no Wipeout title that falls anything short of spectacular, when it comes to the soundtrack. Wipeout is one of the first games that introduced me to the likes of The Prodigy, Fluke, Orbital and Propellerheads. I’ll never forget racing to The Prodigy’s “Firestarter”, or to this gem on Wipeout 3:
Original platforms: Sega Dreamcast and Sony Playstation
Developer: United Game Artists
Genre: Rail Shooter/Music
Rez is without a doubt one of the most captivating musical experiences I’ve had in the 21-22 years I’ve been able to play video games. Every single track is a built-up, gradual evolution into some of the most driving and high-energy Electronic music I’ve heard in a title. Different drums and synths can be achieved by accurately hitting targets on the screen. You’re basically creating your soundtrack with your own accuracy. Worth it.
3. SSX Tricky
Original platforms: PS2, GameCube, XBOX
Developer: EA Sports Big
First off, let me start by saying that you won’t have a better time snowboarding in a video game. I spent more time on PS2 playing SSX Tricky than I’d like to admit. Top speeds, sick jumps, and all the ridiculous tricks and stunts your heart desires, all set to one incredible soundtrack. Who doesn’t want to get a high score on a hill of snow while accompanied by the likes of BT or Plump DJs? (Protip: Race with Psymon. His control is decent and his favorite bands are Slayer and Napalm Death. ‘Nuff said.) I’ll leave you with this masterpiece from the soundtrack, as an example.
4. Need For Speed Underground 2
Original Platforms: PS2, Gameboy Advance, XBOX, GameCube, PSP, Nintendo DS
Developer: Electronic Arts
Genre: Racing/Street Racing
The Need For Speed series doesn’t just have a strong reputation behind it, it’s got one of the most diverse and killer soundtracks of any racing game out there. I chose NFS Underground 2 in particular, as this was the best mix of music chosen by developers, in any of the formers or the followers. It’s a very eclectic mix of Hip-Hop, Ambient, Electronic and Indie Rock tunes. Naturally, my focus is on the Electronic aspect of things. Electronic Arts came at us armed with adrenaline-fueled tracks by Fluke, Cirrus, Paul Van Dyk, and this monster- created by the always amazing Christopher Lawrence:
Original Platform: PS2
Developer: Harmonix, SCEA
Frequency is in a class all by itself. With a very similar feeling to Rez, Frequency is a massive compilation of some of the best Electronic music you can hear in a title. You’re in an octagonal tunnel, hitting buttons that correspond with the sounds needed to create your very own remix of the song that’s playing. Paul Oakenfold, Dub Pistols, Orbital, Q-Bert and BT all have a place in this collection. Fun fact: About three of the contributing “artists” in the game are actually the aliases of one man, Kasson Crooker. Formerly of the Synthpop band “Freezepop”, Crooker provides some of his own productions to the game. My absolute all-time favorite song in a game will forever be this one, from this very title. A haunting and welcomed remix of an Orbital track:
6. Forza Horizon
Original platform: XBOX 360
Developer: Playground Games
Genre: Racing/Street Racing
I chanced upon the soundtrack for this one in my research while looking up links for other games in this article. I haven’t played it, as it’s exclusive to XBOX 360. (I have feelings about anything with “XBOX” written on it. They aren’t great. My apologies, Microsofties. I live and dwell in Playsation Nation.) 360 or no, I couldn’t help but admire the fact that you have one of three “stations” that you can listen to during gameplay. The Electronic station is called Horizon Bass Arena, and it is full of goodies. Chase & Status, Wolfgang Gartner, Nero, Rusko, and Modestep are just a few of the artists played on this station, all of which are some of my personal favorites. The other two stations you can listen to are Horizon Pulse, which is full of Indie and Retro sounds, and Horizon Rocks. Not a bad way to reach out to a myriad of varying musical minds. Since I adore everything Modestep does, here’s this one, from the title. The DnB break out of nowhere makes me quite happy.
Original Platform: PS2
Acting as the Sequel to Frequency, (number 5 on this list), Amplitude is another gaming experience jam-packed with a wide variety of tunes geared to mostly anyone’s liking, from The Crystal Method, to BT, to even Slipknot. While Amplitude isn’t as heavy in Electronic tunes as its predecessor, it’s still worth mentioning for the sheer fact that gameplay is ridiculously entertaining. Developers upped the difficulty a bit on this one, so it’s as challenging as it is entertaining. One track that will always come to mind at the mention of this title is brought to us by Chris Child:
8. Sound Shapes
Original Platform: PS3, PS4, Playstation Vita
Developer: Queasy Games
Hear me out on this one. This is probably the most obsessed I have ever become with a game in a fifteen-minute period of time. You act as a tiny icon, rolling along through each level of the game. While utilizing your environment and varying platforms, you create the soundtrack to the game with everything you touch. While this is nothing more than an honorable mention, as it’s short and seemingly juvenile, I did find it interesting that both Deadmau5 and Beck are two of the game’s main composers. Each artist composed their own music and designed their own levels in the game, making the personalization that much more enjoyable to the player. If you’re looking to kill some time with a suprisingly cute and entertaining mini-game with a killer soundtrack, this is right up your alley. Take the time.
Jasmine is a Houston-based writer and spoken-word poet, and one of the latest additions to The Department Of Dance. Jasmine has been DJing since 2008, affiliated with various (now defunct) collectives in the past, and currently playing independently. Her choice genres include Minimal Techno, Liquid DnB, and Melodic Trance.