Jukebox Heroes: My top six favorite MMO soundtracks of all time

In ranking MMO soundtracks, there are a lot of ways to do it. You can pull out individual tracks or praise a game for its sheer quantity of musical material. You could even give props to well-known composers such as Jeremy Soule and Inon Zur. You might point to certain game soundtracks as triggers for powerful nostalgia.

Today I want to share my top six favorite MMO soundtracks, but I want to make it clear that the biggest criteron here isn’t whether I’ve played the game or like the composer or have a fondness for a specific track. No, each of these six (and it was agony to choose) is on the list because the overall quality and breadth of each soundtrack has impressed me. Track for track, these OSTs offer a higher ratio of hits to duds and have acquitted themselves well over time.

So what are they? In no particular order, my favorite six are…

1. WildStar

In my opinion, one of the greatest crimes of our time is that WildStar has yet to release its soundtrack. People who don’t play this game still know this OST because it’s just that good. Seriously, Carbine, this needs to happen.

The more I listen to the prolific WildStar score, the more I am in awe of its genre variety — there’s everything from ’50s commercial ditties to new western to ’80s synth — and how expressive and exciting these tracks are. Composer Jeff Kurtenacker has been been slaving away on this OST for years now, and it’s one that I’ll never turn off while I’m playing the game.

2. World of Warcraft

One thing that I can always respect about Blizzard is that it doesn’t spare any expense in creating great art — and that includes creating wonderful soundtracks. World of Warcraft has a body of music that practically shames most MMOs with many memorable themes. I love how WoW’s composers are willing to take detours around the traditional fantasy paths to explore quirky tunes, tavern ballads, and rich, atmospheric soundscapes.

This might be sad, but any time a new expansion is announced for the game, the reason that I’m the most excited is because I know that there will be a new soundtrack release for it.

3. Guild Wars 2

I was really torn between this and the first Guild Wars, but I’m going to give Guild Wars 2 a slight edge due to a more mature-sounding score and all of the additional pieces that the in-house team has provided. In fact, the living world stuff has in some places surpassed Soule’s score and given much-needed variety to Tyria’s sound.

Plus, here’s a game that not only created a retro-style adventure world but a retro soundtrack to go with it. Sunny Glade forever!

4. Runes of Magic

Consider this my dark horse pick. While Runes of Magic might not get much respect among the broader MMO community, the soundtrack has always wowed me with it strong, exciting movements and lovely tunes. It’s also a massively OST if you hunt around for it, with well over 150 pieces out there (and probably still growing).

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IbnF7WmrtaY

5. Lord of the Rings Online

As much as I enjoyed Howard Shore’s movie soundtracks, LOTRO’s score will always be the sound of Middle-earth to me. I can’t overstate how much the score added to the feel and immersive factor of the game, especially with its talent for bringing out such sweeping emotion and echoing the events of the game world. From the first timid steps into Moria to the taverns of the Shire to the plains of Rohan, this soundtrack establishes itself as a masterpiece and doesn’t quit.

6. Final Fantasy XIV

Final Fantasy has a strong musical legacy going all of the way back to its first title and thus had a lot to live up to in the online game. It shouldn’t be surprising that the team poured so much effort and skill into creating a pitch-perfect score that encapsulates beauty and action. While I’m not that thrilled with the high cost of purchasing these CDs (and their general unavailability via digital purchase), I was not disappointed when I listened through A Realm Reborn’s OST one bit. All games should be so lucky to have a score this grand.

MMOs are meant to be heard as well as seen, and chances are that music ties your memories to these games more than you might realize. Every two weeks Jukebox Heroes listens through a game soundtrack and picks out the highlights to share and discuss. And if you like this column, then don’t miss the author’s MMO music podcast, Battle Bards!
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63 Comments on "Jukebox Heroes: My top six favorite MMO soundtracks of all time"

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StClair
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StClair

Estranged Cheating just a bit, considering how much of it is inspired by or outright sourced from the movies and preceding games…
That said, a particular favorite of mine is the background music for the Javaal Fleet Action:

Zariarn
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Zariarn

Lord the Rings Online hands down my favorite.

zoward
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zoward

alexjwillis  According to an interview with Chance Thomas, the music was originally meant as travel music, and when the devs heard it they insisted it be used for Tom Bombadil’s House instead. Good call, devs!

Wiexlon
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Wiexlon

Estranged Yes, this is epic music. Good call man!

akwartz
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akwartz

Dixa Yep, say what you want about the game but its soundtrack is flawless.

zyrusticae
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zyrusticae

Interesting how different our tastes are. Wildstar is okay, but both WoW and GW2 are completely bland and flavorless to my ears, especially next to the melodic glory that is the FFXIV soundtrack. Never played RoM or LotRO, so they’re both new to me. I’ll have to refrain from commenting on those as hearing two sample tracks out of context obviously isn’t fair.

I personally really like NCSoft’s soundtracks. Both Aion: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=38ACAg1XAv8
And Blade & Soul: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=laWCpQmtphU

They’re full of beautiful melodies that really capture my attention – which, I suppose, is a big point of difference in our tastes. Whereas you might prefer the music to complement the setting, I prefer the music to be a character in and of itself. Music that is only there to ‘set the mood’ tends to just make me zone it out completely (or turn it off and put on something more exciting).

Also fun, PSO2 has some standout tracks (though admittedly a significant chunk of the soundtrack tends to be forgettable):
Dark Falz Double’s Inner World – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MH-sovXsm30
The Tower Defense Theme – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JHtjiVZ6JTM

There is a LOT of music in this game. For all its faults, it strongly suits the setting and when it gets going, it REALLY gets going. Just wish more of the field themes were less chaotic and/or boring.

Dragons Dogma Online is also looking to have an excellent soundtrack, just like the original game:

So much good music out there. So much to listen to!

DahkohtLewin
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DahkohtLewin

Not really , much prefer lineage 2 , age of Conan , etc. those types of soundtracks to me are much more what I want to hear in an mmo. Wild star music struck me as decent at times but nothing epic.

zoward
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zoward

Nordavind  While the statement is kind of hyperbolic, I liked the comment anyway – it’s a wonderful piece, and I always wondered what Helen looked like!

zoward
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zoward

Oleg Chebeneev  TSW’s music is too atmospheric to be listened to outside the game.  If it comes up when I have my media player set to randomize, my first thought is: “Damn, I wish I was playing TSW right now”.

Archebius
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Archebius

EVE – Red Glowing Dust. It’s my go-to track for testing out speakers, and the whole soundtrack is really good ambient music.

Dragonchirps
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Dragonchirps

Glitch’s soundtrack was just such a perfect fit for the game, and I still love the music. It really set the mood for each area. I especially love the score for Nottis, which opened up after it was announced Glitch was closing, if I recall correctly. The music there was so haunting and pensive.

Estranged
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Estranged

Something huge is missing.  

SWTOR soundtrack:  

Nordavind
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Nordavind

squidgod2000 Nordavind DahkohtLewin Of course not. I even implied the opposite.

Oleg Chebeneev
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Oleg Chebeneev

ApathyCurve Its cool how they found him. He was on school tour to CCP office when they were still developing the game and asked about music. CCP didnt have it back then, so Jon asked if he could send them samples. They loved what the heard and hired him immedately.

Gangrel
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Gangrel

Restark not surprising seeing as Jeremy Soule worked on both games for the soundtrack

Superbrak
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Superbrak

There’s no way they could be listed as objectively better than than any of the listed ones already… but I’ve always really liked Vanguard’s OST and Hellgate London’s music. I think both hit that sweet spot of being atmospheric, mood setting background music without being overpowering.
GW2 is probably the best IMO… but when I want to yell “SHUT UP!” at Tequatl so I can jam to his epic boss music instead of fighting him… well it kind of misses the point of being video game music at that point.

ApathyCurve
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ApathyCurve

EVE.  Jon Hallur is one of the most talented electronic composers on the planet.

TogashiKokujin
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TogashiKokujin

Oleg Chebeneev While I don’t know the TSW one, Lineage 2 and EVE Online are spot-on for me. I love those!

RickMills1
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RickMills1

I know it’s not an MMO, but Morrowind still has the best.

BryanCole
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BryanCole

Hravik OSTs, not main themes.  I agree the EQ theme is pretty memorable though.  I prefer it EQ2 style, with full orchestra myself.  Love the diversity of EQ2 music too.  That’s a soundtrack I really enjoy.

BryanCole
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BryanCole

Dajhryne ESO music is ok.  The problem with ESO is that it’s only like 3 tracks that mostly all sound similar.  There really is no divide from the main theme to multiple themes, it’s just the main theme.  tIt’s one area I think they lost a good opportunity at making the game zones not feel similar.  If each zone had it’s own music theme, a la WoW, Lotro, EQ2, etc it would have kept me playing a lot longer.

Syppi
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Syppi

squidgod2000 I’ve never been a fan of the AoC soundtrack. Vastly overrated IMO, awards notwithstanding.

Syppi
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Syppi

Oleg Chebeneev Lineage 2 has a great OST to be sure. Lots of the Asian MMOs do, in fact.

chosenxeno
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chosenxeno

Final Fanasy XIV has the most good music I’ve heard in one game since SOTN.

ZenDadaist
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ZenDadaist

I’m a sucker for the old atmospheric stuff. Anarchy Online, for example. FC makes such good soundscapes. TSW is pretty good too. Eve Online is such a classic as well.

But otherwise there just hasn’t been much that stands out to me in newer games. I turn it off (I keep SFX on ofc) and listen to my own.

Oleg Chebeneev
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Oleg Chebeneev

I’ll list Top3 from my personal experience (over 100 MMOs including every popular one).

1. Lineage 2. Even though I dislike the game itself it has by far the best, most atmospheric and emotional soundtrack in MMO genre. Pure masterpiece of a genius composer.

2. EVE Online. Setting the mood perfectly for the game.

3. The Secret World. Same here, really atmospheric and fitting.

Check out this and second part to have an idea what ost you didnt include in your list:

Estranged
Guest
Estranged

Look up EMDR. Go to a doctor once and thank me later.

Estranged
Guest
Estranged

Wowsers. That is all I have this morning.

squidgod2000
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squidgod2000

Nordavind DahkohtLewin
If they’re in “no particular order” there’s no reason to number them.

squidgod2000
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squidgod2000

List fails without AoC.

ColdinT
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ColdinT

DahkohtLewin You gotta admit that Wildstar has some great music.

aboomwithaview
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aboomwithaview

Nordavind Its too early to be giving people thumbs up but youve got it:)
The AoC soundtrack in general is one of the best out there & my personal fave.

Although its not an mmo soundtrack im still going to mention Blood Dragon because the game has Michael Beihn as a cyber commando fighting dinosaurs backed up with some meaty synthwave.

Dajhryne
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Dajhryne

While ESO wasn’t really my cup of tea as far as games go I was impressed with the music in it. Surprised it hasn’t even been mentioned.
Granted there’s a lot of music in a lot of games that I haven’t heard but of what I have my all time favorites would have to be the Cimmerian tracks in Age of Conan.

Nordavind
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Nordavind

DahkohtLewin Not number one, just the first to be listed. The list is “in no particular order” even if it’s numbered.

Nordavind
Guest
Nordavind

This is the single best piece of music from any game at any time:

Arthwyndar
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Arthwyndar

MMO music is especially evocative and at times easy to miss, so hearing everyone else’s favorite pieces is awesome.

Wrath of the Lich King had some great music, but my favorite tracks all came out with the Argent Tournament update.

“Tourney 5”

“Night 2”

Hravik
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Hravik

No EQ1 on the list? The main theme still gives me goosebumps to this day.

Estranged
Guest
Estranged

Also, this Blood Elf music from WoW is as beautiful as any I have heard at the symphony.  

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NHwIvXK-TZE

Estranged
Guest
Estranged

I listen to this while driving.  

The Secret World Soundtrack

DahkohtLewin
Guest
DahkohtLewin

Wildstar #1 and no Age of Conan , or even Lineage 2 ? No Age of Conan……………………………but Wildstar #1 ? I just can’t……..

DahkohtLewin
Guest
DahkohtLewin

Dixa ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ This x10000.

DJjazzy
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DJjazzy

Aldrnari 
I might prefer other soundtracks but WoW is always up there with their music

Dixa
Guest
Dixa

No Age of Conan invalidates this list entirely.

DamnDirtyApe
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DamnDirtyApe

Aldrnari Oh that’s not rose tinted, those tracks are still incredible and I still listen to them now and then.

Aldrnari
Guest
Aldrnari

Regardless of my rose-tinted glasses on the subject, I think the Wrath of the Lich King soundtrack will always hit me in the feels. I had a lot of fun back then.

Peregrine_Falcon
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Peregrine_Falcon

I still love (and occasionally listen to) the background music in Steel Canyon.

Vorender
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Vorender

1. EVE Online
2. Guild Wars 2
3. Age of Conan
4. Everquest 2
5. Lord of the Rings Online

Restark
Guest
Restark

Guild Wars 2 by far for me. Here Be Dragons is just such excellent boss fight music that I could see it in any of the Shadow of the Colossus fights, and Battle for the Breachmaker is just such an excellent piece all around. The piano solo in it is reminiscent of a Final Fantasy game’s boss fight track.

The only issue with Guild Wars 2 for me is that some of the older pieces are practically interchangeable with Skyrim. Literally got a few of the pieces mixed up until I replayed both games.

DJjazzy
Guest
DJjazzy

Wildstar’s soundtrack is pretty boss. I like GW2’s soundtrack for being a bit understated. My added pick here that hasn’t been mentioned yet would be Age of Conan

Sigbjorn
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Sigbjorn

Pure fail. #1: FFXI. I still get feels listening to the Gustaberg or Sarutabaruta tracks.

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