August is typically remembered as “The Dog Days Of Summer” for baseball fans. Teams have slogged through the majority of the season, and the games start to run together for not only a lot of teams, but fans as well. It gets hard to tell the days apart. For a young boy in the early to mid 2000’s, August was typically remembered as “The End Of Summer.”
In the Southern regions of the United States, school typically started for kids in the middle of August. While Summer ended during this time(and school began), it was also the starting point of my gaming year. My favorite childhood game had an August release date. That game was Madden.
Madden NFL Football, in many ways, was one of the pioneers of sports video game gameplay. Not only was it a gameplay pioneer, but it was a soundtrack pioneer as well. The songs on the Madden NFL soundtracks have shaped the musical taste of my friends and I. We could not wait to hear the music on the soundtrack every year! Once we got the game, we would shuffle through the playlist, find our favorite songs, and cycle them on the game for the rest of the year. These songs shaped our summer, and –a bit of hyperbole here– our lives. To this day, soundtracks are my favorite thing about sports games.
There’s been many debate amongst gamers about which sports game has the best soundtrack of all-time. Luckily, I’m here to lay rest to those debates. First, let’s cover some of the ground rules and get to a few Honorable Mentions :
All sports games are eligible. This includes the famous Skateboarding genre made popular by Tony Hawk as well as the “Def Jam” series of fighting games. This does not include Mario Kart or Super Mario Tennis. Sorry.
Yes, folks. Hopefully you’ve caught up and realized it’s 2016. Skateboarding always was, and always will be a sport. Not sure why there was any debate on this.
The songs listed that will represent each game are not necessarily the best songs. They are often the most catchy or most memorable in the game.
Playback Nation, hear me now! I’m not here to tell you which songs are the best(actually, I am.) Also, please note that these rankings are 100% official and anybody who tries to argue these rankings will forever be barred from playing any future video games. Without further delay, let’s get to the Honorable Mentions…
Other than Madden, FIFA is the other gaming soundtrack pioneer. Back in 1998, they stocked the game with Blur’s “Song 2” as well as “Tubthumping” by Chumbawamba. Alas, the ’99 version of the game makes our honorable mention list because of the inclusion of Fatboy Slim’s “The Rockafeller Skank.” As one of the most catchy songs of all time, this track alone elevates FIFA 99 despite the alarming lack of other quality musical offerings in the ’99 version.
MLB 08 The Show
MLB The Show was still a relatively young franchise at the time of the 2008 release. They were starting to gain serious market share from the MLB 2K Franchise. Of course, this soundtrack helped the cause. The crown jewel of the ’08 iteration was of course, “Award Tour” by A Tribe Called Quest. Everyone remembers trying to fantasy draft a team with “We on Award Tour with Muhammad my man…” mesmerizing you in the background. MLB 2008 also had some classic bangers next to Tip, Shaheed, and Phife. The Ramones pitched in with “Blitzkrieg Bop”, Thin Lizzy contributed with “Jailbreak”, and ZZ Top lent its bad-assery on “I’m Bad, I’m Nationwide.”
Smack dab in the middle of a weird time for music, Madden NFL 2005 was there to put it all together. Indie-Punk-Alt-Euro was making a big time push on the airwaves and Franz Ferdinand delivered with their now classic, “Take Me Out.” Green Day had just put out the American Idiot album, and that song made the soundtrack as well. The Hives dished us “Two-Timing Touch and Broken Bones” which is still a favorite of mine to this day. Those bands were accompanied by the obviously similar Will.I.Am, DMX, David Banner, and Lil’ Flip. BIG year for Dirty South rap artists.
Alright, now that we’ve gone over a couple of good but not great soundtracks, let’s get to the Gold Medal round. These 10 soundtracks are the best of all time. They’re all influential in some way, shape, or form. Some of the soundtracks even elevated a good game to a great game!
10. Gran Turismo 2
Gran Turismo 2 still holds up as one of the greatest racing sims of all-time. Everybody remembers buying the Supra, 3000GT, and Skyline. Modifying the cars and racing in Tahiti are highlights of my life! What gives GT2 its inclusion on this list, however, is how well it captured the musical landscape. Soul Coughing’s “Super Bon Bon” is ultra catchy, while the following artists lend their musical talent to the track : Beck, Hole, Garbage, Stone Temple Pilots, The Crystal Method, Foo Fighters, Rob Zombie, and Moby. If that’s not a list of 90’s alt-rock legends, I don’t know what is. GT2 captures the 10 spot with quality offerings all around, much like the Detroit Pistons of the mid 2000’s.
9. Tony Hawk’s Underground 2
First, please watch the music video above. “Top Billin'” by Audio Two embodies rap in the late 80’s, and the music video is just crazy enough to be awesome! THUG2 makes the list because of it’s extensive and eclectic music selection. Underground 2 features more than 50 songs, and it’s soundtrack includes Rock, Hip Hop, and Punk. Less Than Jake makes an appearance here, as well as early punk bands like The Melvins, Rancid, The Germs, and the Ramones. Jimmy Eat World is included alongside Pete Rock & CL Smooth. The Sugarhill Gang follows Frank Sinatra and Johnny Cash. Yes, folks. This soundtrack is one for the ages. The game was fun, to boot; which is why Tony Hawk Underground 2 takes the 9 spot on our countdown.
8. MLB 2K7
MLB 2K7 was, in my opinion, the last great baseball game that Visual Concepts and 2K made. With it, they brought together an amazing group of rockers. The high paced energy of The Walkmen’s “The Rat”, along with Ska favorites Sublime, made this an awesome summer soundtrack. 311, Nerf Herder, Bishop Allen, The Jealous Sound, Nirvana, The Pixies, The Thermals, and Wolfmother ; those are just some of the incredible rock bands 2K delivered to us in this great game. I’m sure many of you played this game all year because of the soundtrack, if not for the gameplay.
7. NBA live 2003
Our first basketball game on the countdown is NBA Live 2003. The early 2000’s were a sweet spot for a variety of music. Rap and Hip Hop were just coming out of the late 90’s and re-creating their sounds. NBA Live 2003 gave the new era it’s launching pad. Busta Rhymes and Flipmode Squad come through with a banger titled, “Here We Go.” Snoop Dogg, Joe Budden(can we get a diss response from Drake please!?), Just Blaze, and Memphis Bleek give us some tracks to be proud of as well. My favorite song, though, is from Angie Martinez. “If I Could Go” mixes sweet rhymes with a crooning voice and some basketball allegory. One of the first basketball soundtracks that represented the listening wants and needs of its fan base, NBA Live 2003 makes the list.
6. Madden 2003
The 2nd straight video game of 2003 on our list, Madden 2003 rounds out the back half of our All-Time Soundtrack countdown! Just as 2003 was a good year for a new hip hop sound, it was also a good year for new-era hard rock. Andrew W.K. and his party anthem, “Party Hard”, highlighted the soundtrack. Along with Good Charlotte and OK Go were hard rock staples Seether and Audiovent. Bon Jovi gave us “Everyday” while Nappy Roots and P.O.D. teamed up to give us a dirty south anthem in “Awnaw.” The eclectic mix of genres is why Madden 2003 makes our list. Having an in-their-prime Good Charlotte doesn’t hurt either!
5. Madden 2007
Rock and Electronica once again rule the day at the mid way point of our countdown! Madden 2007 brought us an excellent mix of both genres. We’ve attached Less Thank Jake’s “A Still Life Franchise” here because of its Ska rhythm and soothing vocals. 30 Seconds To Mars, Dashboard Confessional, Keane, and Rise Against give us some pantheon rock soundtracks while AFI, Anti-Flag, and Taking Back Sunday give us righteous punk anthems. The Rapture and Spank Rock take us down Electronica Avenue with catchy hits like “Backyard Betty.” Oh, and Wolfmother makes yet another appearance in a video game. What a run those guys had!
4. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2
The second Tony Hawk rendition to make our countdown! There is no debate, Tony Hawk’s video game series put out some amazing music along with some addicting gameplay. THPS 2 takes the number four spot in our countdown because of how well the music fits with the skate culture. Millencolin’s “No Cigar” was perfect for the game as it’s a fast paced punk anthem. With Rage Against The Machine lending “Guerrilla Radio” to the soundtrack, credibility was instantly built. Along side both of those bands were: Bad Religion, Papa Roach, and Dub Pistols with “Cyclone.” An intuitive soundtrack no doubt, THPS 2 grabs the number four spot in our rankings.
3. NBA 2K13
NBA 2K13 was a special basketball game. Not only for its next-gen gameplay, but because it was one of the first video games to have its soundtrack “curated” by a hip-hop and rap mogul. That mogul was Jay-Z. We all knew HOV could rap, but could he give us a full soundtrack of music to match the playing experience and culture that NBA 2K was trying to give us? The answer was a resounding yes! Littered with all-time rap hits and some alt-rock greats, Jay put together the number three soundtrack on our list. Kanye West was featured heavily, with “Mercy” and “Amazing.” Jay-Z also featured himself heavily, and brought us some great rock music in Coldplay’s “Viva La Vida” and Phoenix’s “1901.” We can’t forget Daft Punk’s electronic classic, “Around the World” either. All told, NBA 2K13 gave our ears what they were yearning for, making it one of the all-time great video game soundtracks.
2. Def Jam Vendetta
Def Jam Vendetta was one of the more interesting games of the early 2000’s. The game featured a who’s-who of rappers and hip hop artists, all while the gameplay matched early entries of the WWF/WWE franchise of games. Def Jam’s story line included “beef” between many rappers set in the streets, the club, and in makeshift wrestling rings. What made the game amazing, however, was that each character(rapper) in the game lent their music to the soundtrack. East Coast legend, N.O.R.E, set off the atmosphere with the New York club favorite, “Nothin’.” DMX’s “Party Up(Up In Here)” also gave the soundtrack a second headliner, while Ludacris, Method Man, Red Man, and Joe Budden gave the soundtrack some more flair. Oh, you know the rap pioneers Public Enemy? They brought their protest anthem, “Fight The Power” with them to Def Jam Vendetta. With its collection of rap greats, DJV gets the runner-up position on the all-time soundtrack ranking.
1. Madden 2004
We’ve reached the number one spot on our countdown! We’ve seen two editions of Madden NFL in our top 10 as well as one as an honorable mention, which goes to show you how influential the Madden NFL franchise has been for artists. Madden 2004 takes the cake easily with small but amazing mix of music. You have the heavy hitters in Blink 182 with “Feeling This.” The 2004 edition of Madden also had Yellowcard’s teen anthem “Way Away”, Alien Ant Farm’s “These Days”, and AFI’s “The Leaving Song Pt. 2.” In addition to those early 2000’s punk-rock hits, we were also treated to some great rap and hip-hop by Bonecrusher, Bubba Sparxxx, and Outkast. Nappy Roots made another appearance for the franchise, and hip hop legends, The Roots, made a special mix just for Madden. Punk stalwarts Jet and Gob round out the heavyweight soundtrack giving the most dominant cover athlete in Madden History(Mike Vick) the most dominant soundtrack as well.
Well there you have it folks! We’ve just counted down the most influential and greatest sports video game soundtracks in history! I implore you to go through each game and listen to the entire soundtracks! Trust me, it sure is a trip down memory lane. Hopefully, future games will crack our list. The oldest game on our countdown is from 1999, making 17 years worth of gaming history. What will the landscape of video game soundtracks look like 17 years from now?
We would love to see your rankings and how they differ from ours! Don’t forget to leave some comments in the space below. Or, you can like us on Facebook at Playback Gaming Network and hit us up on Twitter @PBG_Network . You can follow me personally on Twitter @TrapGodFelton for all the hot takes on Music, Movies, Games, and the New York Knicks.