Yoshitaka Amano


You’ve heard it before, and you’ll hear it more and more – when describing their various sounds and influences, musicians these days bring up things like Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis as much as they bring up other bands or artists. Ultimately, it makes sense when you consider how influential the medium of video games has become over the past couple of decades, and a large part of what solidifies this connection to their audiences is the soundtrack.

The extra-dimensional storytelling properties that music and sound design add to the gaming experience is so recognizable that today, thousands of video game soundtracks (or OST’s, standing for Original Sound Track) are available for your collection. In fact, the following list was originally closer to 100, but we’re going to try to pace ourselves, so if you don’t see something expected here, keep your eyes out in the future.

To bridge the gap, we’ve spent the past couple of weeks refining a list of 32 games that we think math rockers of all generations can appreciate. We avoided some of the more obvious series (we nailed down a Legend of Zelda pick in no time but choosing an iteration of the Kingdom Hearts felt impossible), and since there’s already been some excellent research done into the idea of odd-meter music in video games, we’ve combed through Reddit posts, Youtube videos, and countless forums to boil it down to the ones we think you’ll really resonate with.

Remember, nowadays math rock isn’t just about tapping your telecaster and coming up with the ultimate time-signature. It’s got a particular vibe, you know? Call it an overall aesthetic – for instance, is Stardew Valley an orgy of odd-timed, high-frequency boss music? Not in the least. But is it one of the most math rock things we’ve ever witnessed? A little bit.

Don’t worry, we’ll explain on the way – just enjoy the ride!

1. Stray, 2022 – Yann van der Cruyssen


Let’s kick this list off with two things we can all get excited about – forward-thinking, progressive tunes and the glory of adorable cats. And robots. And unique, physics-based puzzles. And indecipherable cybernetic calligraphy. Yep, Stray damn near has it all. Regardless, Yann van Der Cruyssen’s powerful soundtrack masterfully compliments the game’s cozy-yet-cold atmosphere through layers of spatial, atmospheric production techniques on songs like “Dead City” and “Inside the Wall,” which lend both the game and the OST undeniable weight.

FFO: Alarmist, Monobody, Three Trapped Tigers

2. Plok! – 1993, Tim Follin


Plok! is a platform that came out on the SNES 30 years ago, and before we’d even seen a frame of gaming footage, we’d heard stories of it’s soundtrack. It’s mostly high-octane stuff, but it’s never as straightforward as you’d think it was be – but when it is, it sounds better than you think it should. Check out songs like “Bonus Level,” “Cotton Island,” and “Digging for Amulet” – they sound a lot like 8-bit renderings of bands like Strawberry Girls or standards, and we mean that as a compliment.

FFO: Standards, Strawberry Girls, Coral Zero

3. Duck Tales – 1989, Hiroshige Tonomura


This timeless tale of opulent fowl comes up in a variety of conversations, with the game’s soundtrack celebrated as an achievement that established a true baseline (gotcha) for what music on the SNES could/should sound like. Each stage offers a unique theme, and all of them offer deceptively complex arrangements full of jazz-influenced stops and starts that end up creating a butter-smooth sense of cool that’s often shared with modern math rock.

FFO: Waxamillion, Catbamboo, Moray Pringle

4. Jak and Daxter: The Precursor Legacy – 2001, Josh Mansell and Mark Mothersbaugh


When Jak and Daxter first came out on the Playstation 2, all anyone could talk about at E3 and in the magazines was how they were able to fit so many polygons on the screen. Luckily, underneath the fairly dated (but still charming) visuals there is a vibrant buddy-comedy platformer to contend with all these years later. However, we don’t see it get mentioned enough when it comes to its OST – nearly the entire thing is an exercise in polyrhythmic percussion parts courtesy of composers Josh Mansell and Mark Mothersbaugh.

FFO: Colossal Squid, Luo, Pavlov’s Bell

5. Banjo-Kazooie – 1998, Grant Kirkhope


Among the silliest soundtracks you could ever hope to find, Banjo Kazooie scratched a millennial itch that could only be born from 90’s gross-out wackiness, but meant for those not yet ready for the ‘adult’ world of things like South Park or Conker’s Bad Fur Day. This delightfully delirious romp still plays well to this day, but more importantly, Grant Kirkhope’s lively arrangements of glockenspiel, jaw-harp, banjo, and more to deliver the kind of psychedelic circus one might expect from a Cardiacs album.

FFO: Cardiacs, The Residents, Kavus Torabi

6. Psychonauts – 2005, Peter McConnell


Peter McConnell’s soundtrack for Psychonauts tackled the unique challenge of coming up with sonic backdrops for a host of mental conditions and their effects. The game had you diving into people’s subconscious projections, which was a hell of a plot for its time, and the game had an intensely memorable art style as well that stuck with us for years. But what stands out the most to us now are the clever, mischievous riffs on familiar melodies throughout the surreal and swampy soundtrack, which can literally feel like kids teasing you from the bushes. It can border on the disturbing, but it’s appropriate given the game’s cerebral summer camp setting.

FFO: Slint, Modest Mouse, Nels Cline

8. The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom – 2023, Manaka Kataoka, Maasa Miyoshi, Masato Ohashi, Tsukasa Usui


In a series where essentially every game routinely receives multi-generational praise, it would make sense to look both ways before making any adjustments to your formula. But the developers of Tears of the Kingdom tore up the rulebook with their most recent installment, and the soundtrack followed suite (suit?), and much to everyone’s acclaim. In all seriousness, even the main theme of the game will have experienced listeners wondering if they’ve accidentally put on something by Bent Knee or Spirit of the Beehive – the composers experiment with instrumentation and texture like never before, weaving in bits of what sound like vaporwave, slush-core, and more.

FFO: Bent Knee, Spirit of the Beehive, Fire-Toolz

9. Death Stranding – 2019, Ludvig Forssel


Death Stranding’s soundtrack was pretty popular around the time of its release, featuring tracks from CHVRCHES, Low Roar, Apocalyptica, and Silent Poets. However, the base score composed for the game by Ludvig Forssel carries the plot’s seismic weight with uncanny bursts of slippery, synthesized triplets and otherworldly textures. True to the overall feel of Hideo Kojima’s post-apocalyptic tall tale, you never really know what’s coming next, but when the journey’s this good, you savor every second.

FFO: Do Make Say Think, And So I Watch You From Afar, Godspeed You! Black Emperor

10. MDK – 1997, Tommy Tallarico


This bizarre third-person action game from Shiny Studios has a cult following due to its feverish sci-fi aesthetic, and we have fond memories of playing it in our youth. Even if we really had no idea what was going on with the city-sized cruisers, the six-legged dog flying the plane, the cows, etc. We recently revisited the game’s symphonic OST from Tommy Tallarico, and to this day it still fills us with dread – Stravinsky-styled, Between the Buried and Me-influenced dread, that is. You know that part in BTBAM’s “Prequel to the Sequel?” The scary part? That’s what this OST reminds us of most of the time, both in terms of style and scope. So basically, we love it the same way we love heavy, experimental prog.

FFO: Between the Buried and Me, Mr. Bungle, Robby Moncrieff

11. Jewel Master, 1991 – Motoaki Takenouchi


This Sega Genesis gem (nailed it) had insane score overall, and believe it or not it was Motoaki Takenouchi’s first official video game soundtrack where he composed and arranged everything himself. Despite the easily accessible joy the tracks bring, Takenouchi has mentioned some prog-rock influences in interviews like Frank Zappa and King Crimson, and you can easily infer this when hearing the uneven zaniness of pieces like “Intergalactic Strut” and “Gate of Delirium.”

FFO: King Crimson, Poly-Math, Thank You Scientist

12. Spyro the Dragon – 1998, Stewart Copeland


Yeah dude, that Steward Copeland – the one from The Police. We knew he’d done a whole heap of other things over the years, but somehow we missed the part where he wrote the soundtrack of one of the late 90’s most influential video game franchises. Apparently he did it in quite the time crunch as well, but it became kind of a work ethic and mantra for the percussionist throughout the process – you can hear the sweat pouring as the bass-heavy, exotic soundtrack shuffles, scoots, and boogies across the dragon Homeworlds.

FFO: Job Creators, Double Mint Dragon, Tortuganónima,

13. Outer Wilds – 2019, Andrew Prahlow


Andrew Prahlow’s celebrated soundtrack for Outer Wilds is a perfect sonic companion for the player’s isolated wanderings through time and space. It’s full of the things strong soundtracks are generally made of like strong melodies, distinct ambience, and well matched dynamics, but one of the score’s most legitimate triumphs is that it really nails the emotive tension of trying. Of resolve in the face of what seems like impossible opposition. In fact even if you take away the context of the game itself, you’d still be left with what sounds like a folky, post-rock dream come true. Luckily, we live in a world where we have access to both experiences.

FFO: LITE, Hikes, Heirloom

14. Wipeout – 1995, Tim Wright (aka CoLD SToRAGE)


A phenomenal documentary from game historian Noclip just came out on Wipeout’s sequel, Wipeout 2097, widely heralded as a game that genuinely helped propagate club-friendly electro and DnB to a whole new generation. The thing is, we ultimately prefer the first game’s weirder, wonkier soundtrack. 2097 featured material by the same composer, but he had to compete with popular artists like Orbital and Prodigy for space on the roster. The original just had a slightly more unique personality due to the presence of Tim Wright’s constantly shifting compositions, igniting unsuspecting imaginations in players not unlike Yuzo Koshiro’s work on Streets of Rage II. Anyway, don’t forget to check out that documentary either way here for a great time.

FFO: Squarepusher, Sungazer, Strobes

15. PREY – 2017, Mick Gordon


PREY (not to be confused with Prey, the 2006 shooter that actually had a score by Jeremy Soule of Skyrim fame) is one of the most mind-bending first person action games we’ve ever played. We say first-person action because a shooter is something it decidedly isn’t – it’s far more complex, and at times, we wished it was a shooter because that would have simplified things, and in a way, some people might feel the same way about the game’s OST. It’s emotive, deeply textural, and a far cry from what you might expect from renowned composer Mick Gordon if you only know him from his work on games like Doom and Wolfenstein. The PREY OST leans into another side of his personality, one we only briefly experienced in the Soma trailer, and we wouldn’t change a thing because tracks like “Typhon Voices” and “Everything is Going to Be Okay” take the tension, anxiety, and wonder of the space station to another level entirely.

FFO: Enemies, Stage Kids, Zeta

16. Sonic Adventure 2 – 2001, Jun Senoue, Kenichi Tokoi, Fumie Kumatani, Tomoya Ohtani


Where do we begin with what might be the most punk rock OST in early 2000’s gaming? And we’re not talking in the licensing kind of way either – obviously, Activision kind of defined that with the Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater series, but composers Jun Senoue, Kenichi Tokoi, Fumie Kumatani, and Tomoya Ohtani crafted an original skate-punk and ska aesthetic that offered kids eternal pizza party bliss, particularly on Side / Disc One. The second side offers a bit more of a traditional soundtrack experience for the time, but it still slams with the funky bass lines, odd-time signatures, and a matrix of glitch-y effects.

FFO: Adebisi Shank, Invalids, 1inamillion

17. Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater – 2004, Harry Gregson-Williams, Norihiko Hibino


The soundtrack for one of the most convoluted (and best) video games of all time is, unsurprisingly, a bit of a saga. After Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty was released, the series’ main melodic theme by Tappi Iwase was alleged to bear too close of a resemblance to “Winter Road,” a piece by Stalin-era Russian composer Georgy Sviridov. Considering the game’s Cold War themes, that in itself is interesting, but after the theme was rearranged by series veteran Harry Gregson-Williams, Norihiko Hibino (who previously worked on Zone of Enders) sealed the deal with one of gaming’s classiest original songs with “Snake Eater,” an absolute barn burner of the jazz persuasion.

FFO: Jaga Jazzist, Flanger, black midi

18. Evergrace – 2000, Kota Hoshino


FromSoftware has been a trailblazing team of developers for decades now, with titles like Elden Ring, Bloodborne, Armored Core, and more to their name. But as with any big company willing to take risks, every once in a while an ambitious title doesn’t land the way it should. Evergrace is a surreal and somewhat relaxed experience that seems heavily influenced by Chrono Trigger, but the soundtrack is a captivating work of art entirely worth its own conversation. There’s a lot of traditional instrumentation to be found, but really they’re just used as formant sounds for the hypnotic and heavily warped production – odd-timed phrases everywhere, but you barely notice as the instruments detune, divide, and multiply while the pitched-up samples create a musical language rarely heard in soundtracks today.

FFO: Baths, Flying Lotus, Teebs

19. Attack on Titan – 2016, Shinichiro Nakamura, Yugen Umemura, Junya Ishiguro


In 2024, there’s little debate that Attack on Titan is a cross-cultural reference point for people all over the world, whether its through the anime series, the original manga, or the video game series that debuted in 2016. The eery and dramatic soundtrack provided by Shinichiro Nakamura, Yugen Umemura, and Junya Ishiguro is a perfect fit for the series’ mind boggling sequences, often throwing in bits of industrial and noise-rock friendly moments underneath orchestral hits and futuristic synths before stripping things back to it’s understated and emotional core. It can be overwhelming at times, but it imparts uniquely high-strung joy… kind of like a certain genre we spend most of our days covering.

FFO: Closure in Moscow, Trust Fund Ozu, clipping.

20. Donkey Kong Country – 1994, David Wise, Eveline Fischer, Robin Beanland, Yukio Kaneoka


This OST is apparently getting a Tik-Tok moment due to the post-traumatic effects of the game’s water / submarine level. However, you’ll find Donkey Kong Country on almost any list of original soundtracks for video games, PTSD be damned – with the composers intentionally pushing the available hardware to their limits, the game set an ambitious new standard when it came to authentic, memorable sound design, and in regards to this list, the classic “Bad Boss Boogie” more than earns it a competitive spot. They even published this on a CD titled DK Jamz, so it’s pretty apparent they knew they were sitting on some premium goods.

FFO: Battles, Wølfy, Bearded Youth Quest

21. Stardew Valley – 2016, Concerned Ape, Chucklefish


Now, we wouldn’t call this pick controversial per se, but we do realize it might stick out. Like we mentioned in the intro, it’s not a frenzy of highfalutin’ calculus. However, it shares many elements with math rock’s various distillations, like Midwest Emo and various acoustic projects – but not just in terms of sound. The math rock community’s emotional core might be viewed as fairly sensitive, which in the end we see as a genuine strength, as contradictory as it might sound. Games like Stardew Valley, Outer Wilds, Animal Crossing and puzzle games in general cater to this quality without coddling players, using mellow tones and shading to de-escalate the same way your go-to comfort records would.

FFO: Covet, Mylets, Pretend

22. Bomberman 64 – 1997, Akifumi Tada


This is another weird one that’s been stuck in the background of our memories since it came out. We often find ourselves asking “was that soundtrack as weird as I remember it?” and after finally revisiting it, honestly, yeah. It is. The surreal level design and action sequences definitely contribute to the game’s cult status, but Akifumi Tada’s crazy mashup of dance tracks, compound phrasing, and cough-syrup ambience is still fun and novel today, almost bringing to mind some kind of jazz fusion vapor-wave.

FFO: Anton Eger, Joshua Blackmore, Angus Bayley

23. Control – 2019, Patri Alanko, Martin Stig Andersen, Various Artists


So this one ain’t even fair – not only do Patri Alanko and Martin Sting Andersen pepper this outstanding action game with some of the creepiest, goosebump-inducing textures we’ve heard since Silent Hill, it also has an insanely well curated soundtrack featuring bands like Porcupine Tree, Tricky, and Remedy’s house band Old Gods of Asgard. All of these sort of fit seamlessly into Control’s mind-bending gameplay, but early in the game, you come across a radio that will play “Salmon Soup” from Socks and Ballerinas, making for one of the most math rock moments in an OST of all time.

FFO: Tera Melos, Town Portal, Giraffes? Giraffes!

24. Pokemon Red / Blue / Green – 1998, Junichi Masuda


Many have celebrated Junichi Masuda’s work on the first Pokemon variants as one of the most iconic 8-bit OST’s ever made, and we can’t help but agree. Much like Final Fantasy composer Nobuo Uematsu, Pokemon’s soundtrack whimsically combines Western, European, and Japanese themes, but Masuda’s fascination with Igor Stravinsky gave him a pensive edge, almost flexing more than he needed to on pieces like “Viridian Forest,” “Cerulean City,” and “Gym Leader.” There’s also humorous and atonal motifs throughout that take our minds to mathcore, and ultimately had us considering that without soundtracks like this in the 90’s, it’s possible that the ironic blast of keyboards and chip-tune in early 2000’s post-hardcore (Bubblegum Octopus, Cutting Pink With Knives, Fucking Werewolf Asso) might have followed different paths entirely.

FFO: Fang Island, Gallops, The Armed

25. The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion – 2006, Jeremy Soule


While it’s well known that Jeremy Soule was the composer for fourth official Elder Scrolls game and it’s timelessly GOAT-ed sequel, but of the two he worked on, Oblivion is the one that fits today’s unique criteria. Skyrim of course had a beautiful and effective OST that we listen to all the time, but it’s more cavernous moments would make it a better choice for a “Most Post-Rock” OST list. By contrast, the serene melodic movements in songs like “Watchmen’s Ease” and “Harvest Dawn” harmonize perfectly with hunting herbs, duplicating cheese wheels, and stalking some of the most meme-worthy NPC’s ever created.

FFO: Genghis Tron, Rolo Tomassi, Cult of Luna

26. Halo 2 – 2004, Michael Salvatori, Martin McDonald


Halo: Combat Evolved was critically lauded for having an instantly recognizable OST, but Michael Salvatori and Martin McDonald took a bit of a gamble with it’s sequel Halo 2 and gave the score a radical facelift. This aesthetic hyper jump complimented the sequel’s groundbreaking new mechanics like dual-wielding and playing as The Arbiter. On top of that, we also got original contributions from Steve Vai, Incubus, and Breaking Benjamin, making for one of the biggest cultural grand slams achieved on the Xbox.

FFO: Cleft, Alpha Male Tea Party, Body Hound

27. Scott Pilgrim vs. The World: The Game – 2010, Anamanaguchi


Anamanaguchi was, and still is, the perfect kind of band to jump into making OST’s, and their partnership with the Scott Pilgrim franchise made for a marriage made in chip-tune heaven. The game went into limbo for a few years while rights were juggled around in courts, but the 2010 side-scrolling adventure’s OST had already made an impact on both fans of the series, not to mention fans of the band. The game was re-listed in 2021, and Anamanaguchi scored the Scott Pilgrim: Takes Off anime in 2023.

28. Eastshade – 2019, Phoenix Glendinning


Eastshade was a truly surreal experience, with creature-human hybrid characters that solicit you for paintings in stunning, dynamic environments. Almost throwing things back to the pure, trance-like qualities of Pokemon Snap, there is definitely a therapeutic quality to putting on the game and just wandering around while absorbing the OST, which falls somewhere between the feel described in Oblivion above, but with a mindset a little closer to Myst.

FFO: Kaguu, Adobo, The Kraken Quartet

29. Terraria – 2011, Scott Lloyd Shelly


Scott Lloyd Shelly brings an abundance of playful energy to Terraria’s mysterious realms, throwing things back to the days of Super Mario and Donkey Kong where no matter what emotional dynamic is being explored, there’s pep to spare in the arrangements. Much like the Terraria itself, there’s some dramatic world building in the game’s music, from the deeply modulating, chromatic synths in “Boss 2” and the Euro-wave underpinnings of “Jungle” and “Underground.” The next time you’re not sure what lo-fi channel to tune into, throw this on instead and find yourself entranced.

FFO: Don Caballero, Cuzco, Clever Girl

30. The Invincible – 2023, Brunon Lubas


This atmospheric sci-fi running simulator makes for a truly unique experience as you advance through the narrative of its source material. Despite not having a ton of mechanics to rely on as far as engaging your thumbs, the stunning planetary landscape leaves little to be desired. There aren’t a tone of games out there like it, and there also aren’t a ton of soundtracks that experiment so deeply in the realm of science fiction. There’s little to no hokey throwbacks, but there is a mountain of well composed content that you might miss if you’re just hoofing it through the plot. Stop and smell the roses, you know? Even on the foreign planets. Okay maybe not you could die. You know what we mean.

FFO: HEALTH, Autechre, Oneohtrix Point Never

31. No Man’s Sky65daysofstatic


Procedurally generated soundtracks featuring live musicians that already specialize in turning jams into post-everything anthems of time and space? Now that’s math rock… maybe it’s more progressive. Whatever. Either way, in what has to be one of the best experiences out there as far as games about discovering planets, unraveling ancient mysteries, and exploring various ruins. It seemed like a lofty idea at the time, and of course, it was, as No Man’s Sky was one of those first games that had a post-release redemption arc. Thankfully, that arc continues to this day with new expansions and content being announced fairly frequently, not to mention an official 65daysofstatic curation of the hours of music they came up with for the game.

FFO: Mogwai, Caspian, Bossk

32. Final Fantasy X – 2001, Nobuo Uematsu, Masashi Hamauzu, Junya Nakano


Trying to determine which Final Fantasy game had the most math rock soundtrack started to feel like an insult to Nobuo Uematsu’s clandestine body of work, but the 10th official game in the series marked the last in which he’d be credited as the main composer so we felt like that was the best capstone. His signature melancholic reflections are present as ever here, but he and his assistants arranged them across more atmospheric breaks and rippin’ guitars (“Otherworld”) than ever before thanks to newly available hardware on the PS2. Maybe it’s just rose-tinted glasses or the benefit of hindsight, but it just felt like a special time. We’ll have to see if people discovering the FF series for the first time thanks to recent remasters are saying the same things in twenty-odd years. We’ve got a good feeling about it.

FFO: JYOCHO, CHON, Save Us From the Archon

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