Jukebox Heroes: The 10 greatest MMO soundtracks of all time (as voted by you)

    
16
There was something beautiful and wonderful and it destroyed itself.

A few weeks ago we witnessed the showdown of the ages (or at least the epoch known as “late January 2019”), as Massively OP readers voted on and debated the best MMO soundtrack of all time. All Time, people. This was no trivial matter! There were links to songs, wails over particular titles being overlooked, and not a small amount of vote brigading going on.

When all was said, done, and voted, we ended up with a list. A top 10 list, as a matter of fact. To be sure, a lot of these votes were based on game popularity and familiarity — seriously, if everyone took the time to go through the Lineage II OST, it would be a crowd favorite — but it’s an interesting assortment that shows our mutual ties to video games and their soundtracks.

So let the countdown begin, as we start at number 10 and make the journey to see which title won the day! What’s the best MMO of all time? You’re about to find out…

10. Final Fantasy XI (2% of MOP reader votes)

Narrowly edging out SWTOR for a spot on this list, FFXI shows that its score is still fondly remembered by fans, even as its younger sibling is better known these days. With acclaimed composer Nobuo Uematsu at the helm, this is a more classic “Final Fantasy” soundtrack and one that has more than a few gems hidden amongst its songlist.

9. EVE Online (3%)

EVE players have a strange and wonderful relationship to the game’s soundtrack. The mostly ambient synth does little to reach out and grab immediate interest, but for those who sailed among the stars for years listening to it, this is the soundscape of the galaxy.

 

8. Guild Wars 1 (3%) and 7. Ultima Online (3%) [tie]

An exact tie brings us to these two older titles. Guild Wars boasts an amazing symphony by Jeremy Soule that continues to be among the best music that composer has created, while Ultima Online cashes in on the franchise familiarity and fan loyalty with these well-known MIDI tunes.

6. Age of Conan (4%)

While I don’t quite understand the passion some players have for the Age of Conan soundtrack, it’s hard to deny that it boasts a strong following and an array of impressive awards. So what does the soundtrack to a barbaric world sound like? Very beautiful and majestic, to be frank.

5. Guild Wars 2 (4%)

As we turn into the top five, we’re treated to the score to this sequel — and what a score it is! Guild Wars 2’s base score, as done by Soule, is dependably impressive, but even better (in my opinion) are the follow-up expansion and living world soundtracks that were all done in-house.

4. Lord of the Rings Online (6%)

The score of Middle-earth, created by Chance Thomas and many others, helps to bind this setting together to make a believable sounding world. There’s an “old” tone to many of these tracks, with simple and natural instruments such as the guitar and flute make an intimate environment.

3. Final Fantasy XIV (9%)

There were lots of strong feelings and acclaim for Final Fantasy XIV’s soundtrack in the polls, and for good reason. This game’s enormous soundtrack is packed full of masterful and memorable tunes, including some of the most nail-biting boss themes you’ll ever hear in an MMORPG.

2. World of Warcraft (10%)

The enormous past and present playerbase of WoW makes this entry almost a given, even if the soundtrack wasn’t that good. But — no shocker here — it is pretty incredible with so many fan favorites that it is hard to think of one dominant one. Even the game’s more recent soundtracks — Legion and Draenor in particular — are stunning and part of this storied legacy.

1. WildStar (39%)

Jeff Kurtenacker’s video game opus by and large swept the polls — and for good reason. WildStar’s soundtrack is widely cited as one of the best features of the game and the best that the MMO industry has ever produced. There’s a lot of diversity of styles on display here as well, from solemn hymns to goofy jigs to exciting trailer themes to tear-jerking ballads. It’s well deserving of the top spot on this list.

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!
newest oldest most liked
Subscribe to:
Reader
hypothesizethat

WildStar!!!! :D Well-deserved accolades to Jeff Kurtenacker, once again. There is not a single track he produced for WildStar that I didn’t absolutely love and that didn’t perfectly fit its role.

kofteburger
Reader
kofteburger

Has no one here played Ragnarok Online?

hurbster
Reader
hurbster

By far the best thing about Wildstar. Nice to hear all the good tunes on this list.

Reader
drelkag

Wasn’t even close. Shame I never got around to trying Wildstar.

Reader
Bruno Brito

W I L D F U C K I N G S T A R .

Reader
Oleg Chebeneev

What revisited WOW tune means? They changed music in WoTLK zones?

ps/ dang, that LoTRO tune makes me want to launch LoTRO again.

Reader
Kickstarter Donor
Patreon Donor
Loyal Patron
Alex Willis

I will never tire of hearing Tom Bombadil’s theme. Gets me in the feels every time.

Reader
Fenrir Wolf

I think it’s that it doesn’t really do anything to distinguish itself from the fantasy quagmire that so many soundtracks fall into. In that breath, though, neither does any other fantasy MMORPG, so it’s rather a moot point.

It’s just all so homogeneous that it all sounds rather twee and dull. I’ve seen Jeremy referred to as ‘Jeremy Soulless’ by a professional musician due to this quality, and I can’t say I entirely disagree, or maybe disagree at all?

It’s an insensitive way to put it but sometimes kindness lies in the harshness of truth. I’d love to see Mr. Soul branch out a little more in his music and try something a bit experimental.

The problem with many of these soundtracks is that whilst they’re technically proficient enough to be good, and they’re easy listening (there’s nothing they really get wrong, so it wouldn’t offend the ears), there’s no passion there.

It’s why when it comes to soundtracks I’m much more inclined toward indies or Japanese titles. I just get so much more of the musician’s emotion, there. It pumps me up.

I mean, even with more typical Japanese fantasy stuff, it still stands out as having more of an identity of its own.

And when you step outside of the generic a little…

That’s why I feel a little let down by Final Fantasy XIV’s soundtrack. It seems like they sanitised it for the West, out of fear that original music might blow our tiny little minds. And that’s… disappointing.

Music is really one area where the MMORPG genre could use a little work in order to distinguish one title from the next.

Reader
Oleg Chebeneev

Shows that music is all about personal taste. Since every OST video you listed gave me an instant urge to turn it off.

Reader
Bruno Brito

Wildstar ost is waaaaay more interesting than anything you’ve put here.

Music is really about personal taste.

hurbster
Reader
hurbster

But I do now want to get my Dreamcast out from wherever I hid it in my loft and play SoA again.

Reader
Fred Douglas

Age of Conan, LOTRO, and Eve are my top 3. AoC’s soundtrack was perfect for its world, LOTRO mastered subtle but world-appropriate music (the lute music in Bree-Land still brings back strong memories for me), and Eve, while inconsistent, has some really atmospheric tracks. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lk6nA8cy454

Reader
Fenrir Wolf

Not a bad line-up, though. I still love SEGA’s music the best. I have a weakness for butt rock and whatever other trashy genres they frequent. I guess another thing about it is that so many soundtracks are incredibly operatic, very few veer from that.

I guess that’s the respectable thing to do, which is why they do it, but it results in a homogeneous muck that fades into itself. I wonder if fans could pick out these tracks by listening to them and correctly state which title they’re from?

SEGA’s admittedly trashy rock, pop, techno, and whatnot stands out as a novelty. When almost everyone else is trying to do something operatic, with graaaavitass!, the cheerfully upbeat and punchy music really stands out.

And it’s addictive. Like junk food. I probably shouldn’t like it as much as I do b-but… We battle for free-dom, it is a battle ‘gainst the dawn. So delightfully tacky. I cannot resist it.

I guess it’s just music that wears its heart on its sleeve, as I do mine.