When it comes to high-quality fantasy role-playing games, few aspects are as uniquely special as their soundtracks.
Unlike science fiction video games—which I also love, so don't think I'm judging—fantasy video games don't just transport you to the future, but to places that are entirely new worlds.
Here are the best fantasy RPG soundtracks that effectively capture that magical ingredient that no other genre has.
Note: I considered entire soundtracks for this, not just one-off hits or iconic themes. I've also limited myself to one game per franchise.
20. Dragon's Dogma: Dark Arisen
The music of Dragon's Dogma: Dark Arisen was composed by Tadayoshi Makino with heavy influence from director Hideaki Itsuno and producer Hiroyuki Kobayashi.
With everyone having their own ideas for how the score should go, the end result was touched by all kinds of genres, from jazz to rock, from classical to world music. It's one of the most varied soundtracks of any fantasy RPG, yet it somehow works.
While not perfect or even on the same tier as other legendary games, Dragon's Dogma: Dark Arisen leaves a lasting impression with music that's evocative, unusual, and unique.
As the first commercially successful 3D MMORPG ever made, EverQuest holds an important place in the hearts of many PC gamers.
EverQuest transported us to the fully realized world of Norrath, complete with three continents (plus a fourth with its first expansion), which was fleshed out by thousands of NPCs, difficult quests, and memorable music composed by Jay Barbeau.
While EverQuest's music was originally MIDI files, you could always tell there was a great deal of talent in its arrangement and orchestration. Truly one of the greatest fantasy soundtracks ever made.
18. Diablo II
Diablo II has earned its place in gaming history as one of the most influential video games of all time. Its finely tuned gameplay and atmospheric aesthetics were glued together and held by the memorable music composed by Matt Uelmen.
It's not the kind of soundtrack you'd find in a modern RPG. It's actually quite experimental in how it blends dread-inducing ambient scapes with melodic tunes, all while maintaining a strong thematic throughline.
17. Pillars of Eternity
Of the numerous video games that take place in Dungeons & Dragons worlds, Pillars of Eternity is perhaps most noteworthy.
Sure, it doesn't have the same iconic legacy of Baldur's Gate, Icewind Dale, or Planescape: Torment, but Pillars of Eternity is a worthy spiritual successor that takes those games and brings them into modernity.
The music of Pillars of Eternity is wonderfully immersive and plays a key role in establishing atmosphere, but it's also a joy to listen to apart from the game itself.
16. World of Warcraft
I almost didn't include World of Warcraft on this list. Honestly, I tried hard to recall even one memorable tune or melody, and the best I could do was the main menu music—and I played this game for years!
It's sad that the soundtrack, while good, is so forgettable. However, given that it's supposed to be a non-distracting ambient sort of music, it was likely composed that way intentionally—so, I decided to include it.
15. Ragnarok Online
The music of Ragnarok Online is closer in feel to anime than any other RPG on this list. I mean no judgment; it's just an observation.
What draws me to this OST time and time again is how it can manage to make me feel emotions even after all the years it's been since I last logged in to play. Listen to "Theme of Payon" and tell me you don't feel transported to an ancient Asian realm!
While it's about as fantastical as a game can get, Earthbound isn't quite "fantasy RPG." It has one of the most interesting and memorable soundtracks of any game I've ever played—but it's so weird and distinct that it almost felt wrong to include.
That said, Earthbound's music can be beautiful and complex, as evidenced by the Fourside theme.
13. Octopath Traveler
Octopath Traveler is an insanely beautiful game, both in terms of graphics and score. That alone makes it worthwhile, even if the unoriginal gameplay and ambitious-yet-boring narrative drag it down.
Composed by Yasunori Nishiki—a lesser-known arranger who had never been sole composer for a video game prior to Octopath Traveler—put in everything he had and created an experience that recalls retro RPGs but infused with modern sound quality.
12. NieR: Automata
Not only did NieR: Automata win all kinds of "Game of the Year" awards, it also won "Best Original Dramatic Score" by NAVGTR, "Excellence in Musical Score" by SXSW, and "Best Score/Soundtrack" by The Game Awards.
Now, don't get me wrong: this game's soundtrack is certainly excellent, but I think it rode the hype train a bit too far, and it edges toward generic on some tracks.
Having never played the game, I feel like it lacks its own identity—but if I'm looking for something to throw on in the background while I'm working, this is exactly what I'd turn to.
11. Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together
Tactics Ogre, a tactical RPG, flew under the radar when it released in 1995 and was soon overshadowed by the success of Final Fantasy Tactics. Both games share many similarities across gameplay, atmosphere, artwork, and yes, even the music.
But while Final Fantasy Tactics outshines it, Tactics Ogre's music is surprisingly good when considered on its own. Definitely more of a moody soundtrack, if you ask me.
10. Super Mario RPG
Super Mario RPG's soundtrack is the farthest thing from the "serious" fantasy music featured in the other games on this list, and rightly so.
A Mario role-playing game ought to be a fun and bouncy adventure punctuated by emotional moments—and that's exactly what this OST accomplishes.
With this, Yoko Shimomura crafted dozens of memorable tunes that you'll be humming years later. What a feat!
9. Chrono Cross
I've never played Chrono Cross, but I've heard so many bits and pieces of its soundtrack over the years that one day I decided to listen through the whole thing—and what a joy it was.
"Time's Scar" is a sublime opener, and the soundtrack is riddled with gems like "Home Arni," "Dream of the Shore Bordering Another World," and "Home Termina."
8. Secret of Mana
Being the first RPG I ever played—at least from what I can remember—Secret of Mana holds a dear place in my heart. But even taking nostalgia into account, I think its soundtrack holds up as one of the best RPG OSTs ever composed.
Within the constraints of the SNES audio subsystem, Hiroki Kikuta still managed magic.
7. Wild Arms
I never had the privilege to play Wild Arms, so I think it says a lot that I enjoy this soundtrack as much as I do even while I have zero experience of its original context, gameplay, or story.
There are no rose-colored glasses coloring my appreciation here—the Wild Arms OST is downright fantastic, and there isn't much else to say. Have a listen and let the music speak for itself.
6. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
Another masterpiece from Jeremy Soule, who arguably put himself on the map when he composed the Morrowind soundtrack.
But the music for Skyrim is even more iconic and refined, and Soule brings the sprawling world of Skyrim to life with his music. One could even argue that half of Skyrim's success can be attributed to its now-iconic soundtrack.
5. Guild Wars 2
Jeremy Soule may not be the most tolerable of people, but we have to separate the art from the artist here. The Guild Wars 2 soundtrack is simply incredible.
The tracks are so expressive and varied, with different parts of the in-game world having their own identities primarily thanks to the wide range of Soule's talents.
4. The Witcher III
For all the exciting freshness that The Witcher III brought in terms of story and setting, it's the music that propelled what could've ended up being "generic fantasy" into something truly unique.
The soundtrack is beautiful and absolutely fitting for the game's setting and themes, and evokes many different emotions from start to finish.
3. Divinity: Original Sin II
The soundtrack to Divinity: Original Sin II (and its prequel) is pretty much the epitome of a medieval fantasy adventure. Nearly every track is pleasing to the ear and captures that historical-but-otherworldly feeling of a next-level role-playing experience.
It almost comes close to being on the same level as the Lord of the Rings film soundtrack.
Bastion flew under my radar when it released in 2011, and if it weren't for author Brandon Sanderson mentioning how awesome the soundtrack was, I never would've played it.
Turns out, the game is OK. A bit too short and handholdy for my tastes. But the music? Simply phenomenal with its blending of Western and fantasy elements.
1. Final Fantasy Tactics
It was a close one between this and Final Fantasy VII, but I think Final Fantasy Tactics edges it out with how complex and masterful the compositions are at conveying the atmosphere of the setting and the mood of individual scenes.
Listening to the FFT OST on its own is like a cinematic experience. I come back to this one every year. That's how good it is.
Even More Awesome Gaming OSTs
With so many awesome RPG OSTs out there, I'm bound to have missed a bunch of good ones. There are just too many that are worth listening to, and I'm sure there are plenty I haven't even heard yet.
Want to listen to more excellent gaming soundtracks? Check out our roundup of the best indie game soundtracks, which include beautiful scores as found in Celeste, Stardew Valley, Hades, and more!