Whether you love Synthwave, DarkSynth, or Retrowave, either all or most fans (and artists) can recall video games that they attribute to the genre, and oftentimes will replay it over and over again for not just the music, but the aesthetic that comes with it.
Video games have long since influenced the genre and its sound stems from arcade games of old.
We will cover Top 10 RETRO video games, but this one is for video games that have influential soundtracks that grew in popularity and caused the "modern-day" obsession with synthwave and all of its sub-genres.
That being said - I have included all of the soundtracks I could find on Youtube for each individual game. [You're welcome ♥]
This list is not in range of least to greatest so you are free to explore [and encouraged] to play these games and come up with your own opinion!
Onwards to The Good S***.
Top 10 Video Games for Outrun Lovers
Ruiner is a cyberpunk-themed top-down "Shoot-em-up" developed by Polish Indie video game studio Reikon Games and published by Devolver Digital. A well-renowned video game publisher who brought us many of the games featured on this very list.
Plot Summary :
The game takes place in 2091 and is set in a cyberpunk metropolis known as Rengkok. The player takes control of a silent, masked protagonist who attempts to rescue their kidnapped brother from a failing conglomerate, known as Heaven, that controls Rengkok. [Wikipedia]
Did I play it?
I have personally been meaning to play this game. I will most definitely stream it. Once I dust off the abandoned twitch account (heh)... I've heard a lot of amazing things about this game. Some people say it's just a cyberpunk "rip-off" of Hotline Miami. However it was well-received for its time, and the music is a major part of what makes this game so special.
OST short Review [Listen along; Link Below]
This soundtrack is fantastic. It doesn't get heavy until around 17:00 into the soundtrack. So wait for it, you don't be disappointed.
We get those synthy undertones at the beginning that leads us into a bass-heavy action inducing futurewave feel. You can feel the dystopian setting in the somber introduction of this soundtrack. Followed by heavy distortion, audibly drawing the curtain on the main theme of the Call-to-Action: Seek and Destroy.
I am quite the atmospheric synth-junkie and so one of my top picks from this album is "We Move As One" by Antigone & Francois X . Their other track "Journey Home" is also a banger, and a polar opposite. It reminds me of the nightclub scene in Devilman Crybaby. But that is a whole other topic soon to come.
Also, is SynthTrap a thing? Because... "Sleep Paralysis" by Sidewalks and Skeletons and their tag-along track "Disappear" is pretty much what I'd imagine it sounds like. I'll have to look into it. It's so good, and I am not a huge fan of trap, but I love this.
Rating : 8/10 on GameSpot
Ruiner OST [Thank you YouTuber Randy Bitchford]
2. Mother Russia Bleeds
Mother Russia Bleeds is a beat 'em up video game developed by France-based indie development studio Le Cartel Studio and published by Devolver Digital... I told you I'd keep mentioning them. Can I even help it? Nope.
Plot Summary :
Mother Russia Bleeds is set in an alternate, 1980s Russia ruled by the Soviet Union. Four Romani, working for a man named Mikhail, make money by street fighting in the slums. In the midst of a bout, government forces raid the operation and kidnap the four 'Gypsies'.
The party wakes up a month later in an underground laboratory built under a government prison, where they have been made guinea pigs for the concoction of an addictive drug called Nekro. They break out of their cell and escape the laboratory, killing all scientists and security in their way, while suffering increasingly intense hallucinations due to the Nekro, which they also depend on to fight through injury, and give themselves monstrous strength. [Wikipedia]
Did I play it?
I played a bit of MRB but not enough of it. I suck at beat-em-ups but I'll try again soon. It is freaky! Even while dying, I still managed to have fun with it.
This is what I would consider a modern beat-em-up but it gives you all of those retro arcade feels you missed so much. If this were built into a game cabinet, it would be so hype and I'd bet it'd be worth the investment.
On with the music, this hits heavy non-stop. It sets the mood and the tone of the overall game. Beat. Them. Up. Leave no one alive.
OST Short Review :
This entire album was composed by Fixions. It is truly a masterpiece that must be recognized. First of all, I think you'll agree that "Stuck in the Mud" hints heavily on those beat-em-up feels; while also incorporating that "SynthTrap" vibe.
"Black Racers" by Fixions made me fall in love with MRB before I even got my hands on it. It's featured in the Gameplay trailer below, that's why. It's a banger, and like the gameplay trailer, inspires partying by trashcan fires and laying wake to destruction. My husband would laugh at me, because I've always said how much I dislike Hardcore Techno, and yet, "Summoning the Mire" makes it easier on me and forces me to warm up to it. There are SOME hardcore tracks that I love - BUT - I'm a synth-head baby. "Helmets" brings me back to some darksynthy heavy bass and just like that, I'm cured. There is a lot to be loved about this album. Listen to it and tell me what your favorites are!
Rating: 9/10 on Steam
Mother Russia Bleeds OST (Thank you YouTuber J.)
3. Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon
Of course Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon is on this list.
C'mon. What do I look like? A Power Glove lover? You're absolutely right. For reasons only listening to this soundtrack can explain.
For introduction's sake; let me give you the spiel.
Blood Dragon is a stand-alone expansion of Far Cry 3, meaning players do not need the original game to play it. Blood Dragon, a parody of 1980s action films, cartoons, and video games, takes place on a retro-futuristic open world island with players assuming the action role of the military cyborg Sergeant Rex "Power" Colt.
Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon is set in the dystopian year of 2007 [pretty far off], where the world is suffering the aftermath of a nuclear war. Ubisoft described the game as "an 80s VHS vision of the future" where the player must "get the girl, kill the bad guys, and save the world." [Wikipedia]
Did I play it?
Once upon a time; when I was really bad at video games and tried my hand at first-person shooters; yes I did play the first mission and a half of Blood Dragon. I sucked, I failed miserably. I might try it again now that I have a few more actually difficult games notched onto this belt of shame. P.S. neither of them includes Dark Souls - Kill me where I stand - but I'll get there eventually. From what I can recount, there is plenty of neon in basically every aspect of the game, awesome enemies like cybernetic dinosaurs and of course the military cyborgs. It is definitely worth playing and I promise I'll pick it up again and give it another go.
OST Short Review :
I love this soundtrack. Yes I love the two most popular; well-known tracks because they are just SO awesome...Don't shame me. B****.
I can show you the best without using any additional words. I'm just going to let you listen on and agree with me. Ready?
3. 2. 1. Go.
Done. Gimmie your favorites in a comment! There are so many good tracks on this album. I want to name more. But I'm sticking to these.
Power Glove showcases his incredible sense of killer vibes and talent in this soundtrack. Everything is straight out of the bookshelf of your 40-year-old dad's 80's VHS shelf and modernized ever so slightly for maximum immersion and nostalgia.
Just give it a listen, and enjoy this with me. Just play it; and you'll enjoy the music too - two birds and all, y'know?
Rating: 8/10 on IGN
Far Cry 3 : Blood Dragon OST [Thank you YouTuber Young Rictoshka]
There is no escaping Furi. I didn't even try.
This game is incredibly gorgeous in it's futuristic aesthetic, color, and a soundtrack to match. Ready yourself for an intense combination of duck, dodge, dive, duck, dodge in this neon bullet-hell storm. A long-haired handsome stranger wielding a sexy glowing katana to hack through elaborate boss arenas? Sign me up!
Furi is a fast-paced action game developed by The Game Bakers, with hack and slash, shoot-em-up, and "bullet hell" elements, consisting entirely of boss fights. Gameplay consists mostly of dodging bullets, parrying attacks, attacking the bosses by melee or shooting, and quick-time events. The game is set in closed world environments. Much of the game's story progresses through these interactions, along with animated cutscenes occurring before and after a boss fight.
A mysterious man spends his existence receiving endless torture within a highly advanced prison, composed of ten islands floating in orbit above a planet's surface. At the beginning of the game, an enigmatic man wearing a rabbit disguise who is known as The Voice frees the Stranger, gives him a sword and gun, and encourages him to fight for his freedom. [Wikipedia]
Did I Play it?
Yes! did I beat it? No! Yes I'm batting for zero. I have to try playing this again too. I honestly suck at multitasking so when you include dodging and parrying and running and slashing through those pesky quick-time events through neon laser blasts - it gets stressful! Ugh. Ready the noose. My shame is calling me. I'll add this to the growing list of games to return to.
OST Short Review:
It's all good. It really is. I love quite a few tracks on here. It starts off a bit slow, and then the tracks gradually speed up to match intensity. With every cut scene and it's dramatic introductions of The Stranger, and that creepy bunny known as "The Voice" , a new atmospheric track plays in accordance to the cut scene. I love how these tracks sound industrial and yet indescribably ethereal. It's honestly no wonder this game has one of the best soundtracks out there ; with artists like Waveshaper, Carpenter Brut, Lorn, and Toxic Avenger, everything on this OST is worth listening to. I am warming up to Danger ; and if you love them , you will enjoy this thoroughly. My favorites include "You're Mine" by Carpenter Brut ,
Rating: 9/10 on Steam
Furi OST [Thank you YouTuber das_Apo vs]
5. Hotline Miami [1 & 2]
We aren't listing these games from least to greatest; but if we were, Hotline Miami would be #1.
Devolver Digital stakes the publishing claims on yet another game on our list, and Hotline Miami paved their way to the top.
Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number was a co-development creation between the original creators Dennaton Games, and Abstraction Games. It was also published by...you guessed it. Devolver Digital.
This critically acclaimed game series won multiple music awards. Nuff said.
Hotline Miami Plot Summary:
Set in 1989 Miami, the game revolves primarily around an unnamed silent protagonist—dubbed "Jacket" by fans—who receives messages on his answering machine instructing him to commit massacres against the local Russian mafia. The game blends top-down perspective with stealth, extreme violence and surreal storytelling, along with a soundtrack and visuals inspired by 1980s culture. The game itself was influenced in part by the 2011 neo-noir crime film Drive, as well as the 2006 documentary Cocaine Cowboys. [Wikipedia]
Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number Plot Summary:
Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number takes place in a heavily anachronistic order before and after the events of the original, focusing more on the latter between October and December 1991. During the events of Hotline Miami, the player's character, "Jacket," is unwittingly manipulated into killing off the leadership of the Russian Mob by 50 Blessings, a neo-nationalist terror cell that masquerades as a peaceful activist group. [Wikipedia}
Did I play it?
Guess what? I PLAYED BOTH GAMES. I BEAT BOTH GAMES. Am I a hard mode pro? No. BUT I DID IT AND I LOVED EVERY MOMENT. I screamed I danced, I cursed and shook my fist, I cheered myself on through it. I absolutely love this series. If you haven't played it - please do. It is known as an arcade murder simulator and that's probably the best description of it, in all accuracy. The storyline is obscure and keeps you wondering - who the hell keeps calling that phone? Who is in charge of this operation? WHERE IS MY KATANA?! Dual automatic rifles will do I guess. For now. And then you're dead again.
I am going to say it right now, and I'm going to say it loudly: Hotline Miami is the perfect pre-Dark Souls game that gets you used to dying over and over again and building the confidence you need while having fun and jamming out. It's perfect and the graphics you might think are too old school, and too pixellated, but trust me - there are details in those pixels. Many gory details.
OST Short Review:
Listen to it. Listen to all of it. You're going to love discovering your favorites in this soundtrack. My favorite aspect of this game is the fact that death doesn't interrupt those amazing tracks. Each "Stage" has one dedicated track. Each cutscene or area has its own dedicated track. Alright, I'm ready to list my favorites but there are too many. Seriously I have at least 80% of each album on my Spotify playlists. There's El Huervo, there's Perturbator, there's Carpenter Brut, it's just an amalgamation of the greats. The Originals who brought this genre we love just a bit closer to mainstream within a portion of the gamer culture. So I'll provide three from each game. Ready?
I've said enough to know I've got you jamming out in your seats; So comment below what your favorites are or if you haven't played - GET ON IT! I know for a fact that the Playstation Store will place both games on sale from time to time. Go check! Right now!
Rating: 10/10 Euro Gamer
Hotline Miami OST [Thank you YouTuber SoundtrackVideoGame]
Rating: 9/10 GameSpot
The truth is guys - I didn't think this post would get as lengthy as it did! So I am currently working on Part 2 of this top 10 and it will be published sooner than later. I have a lot more game soundtracks to immerse myself in. Some of the games in Part 2 you may or may not have heard of. We'll see. Once completed I will go ahead and add the link to Part 2 <- Here.
Until next time, pick up a controller, play or replay some of these games, and of course, don't forget to enjoy the music!