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There’s nothing quite so special as a well-made soundtrack for a fantasy role-playing game. Unlike science fiction—which I also love, I ain’t judging—fantasy music doesn’t just transport you to the future, it places you into brand 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, and I’ve limited myself to one game per franchise. Feel free to yell at me in the comments for missing your personal favorites.
It was a close one between this and Final Fantasy 7, 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 taking in a cinematic experience. I come back to this one every year. That’s how good it is.
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 is phenomenal with its blending of Western and fantasy elements.
The soundtrack to Divinity: Original Sin 2 (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.
For all the exciting freshness that The Witcher 3 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.
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.
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Another masterpiece from Jeremy Soule, who arguably put himself on the map when he penned the Morrowind soundtrack back in 2002. 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.
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.
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.
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.”
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!
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.
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.
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 for it to take up a space. That said, Earthbound’s music can be beautiful and complex, as evidenced by the Fourside theme.
14. 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. I dare you!
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.
Even More Awesome Gaming OSTs
With so many awesome RPG OSTs out there, I’m bound to have missed a bunch of good ones. Let me know which ones also deserved to be on this list, and be nice!
If you want to listen to even more excellent gaming soundtracks, check out our roundup of the best indie game soundtracks, which include beautiful scores like those found in Celeste, Stardew Valley, and Hades!