There have been many memorable soundtracks in sports games over the years. Some of them worked because of their great variety and notable title tracks, and others complemented the gameplay in an organic way, demonstrating that the developers had chosen the songs with great care.
It's hard to narrow it down to just a few soundtracks over the years as being the greatest of the bunch, but here are my pick's for the best six soundtracks for sports games in the modern era of sports gaming.
#6 – FIFA '98
While the track list on FIFA '98 may be showing it's age a bit, it still carries a wallop of relevant tracks from the late '90s period, creating a great overall vibe for the soundtrack. The iconic song of the bunch — and of that year, frankly — was “Song 2” by Blur. The popularity of that track alone is enough to elevate the overall strength of FIFA '98, but luckily there was a slew of other worthy tracks, including “Tubthumping” from Chumbawamba, Electric Skychurch's “Hugga Bear,” and several songs from The Crystal Method. All that said, Blur's featured track really delivers, and it got you excited right when you put in the disc.
#5 – MLB 08: The Show
If there was ever a sports game soundtrack that was full of novelty and nostalgia, it was MLB 08: The Show. The soundtrack definitely didn't reinvent the wheel, but it provided a slew of familiar favourites and a few other fun one-offs. It scratched the nostalgia itch with ZZ Top's “I'm Bad, I'm Nationwide” as well as “Low Rider” from War. Admittedly, Thin Lizzy's “Jailbreak” and “Blitzkrieg Bop” from The Ramones have been licensed to death, but they actually worked pretty well in a baseball context. “Award Tour” from A Tribe Called Quest and Franz Ferdinand's “The Fallen” didn't really fit with the rest of the soundtrack, but they were good additions nonetheless. Last, but certainly not least, was “Sweep the Leg” by No More Kings, which is pretty much worth the price of admission on its own.
#4 – NBA Street Vol. 2
NBA Street Vol. 2 had a great soundtrack that really matched the vibe that the game was striving to achieve. Nelly's “Not In My House” sets the tone, even though it's a bit on the nose, and the scratchy mix of “Chief Rocka” by Lords of the Underground is a perfect street ball song. The bouncy rhymes of MC Lyte's “Ride Wit Me” also fit the NBA Street gameplay extremely well, and “Rock the Party” by Benzino really complements the rhythm of basketball. Finally, the sharp verses and violins found in Nate Dogg and Eve's “Get Up” is a great “flow” song as well, mixing organically with Street's gameplay.
#3 – Amped 3
For Amped 3, it certainly had a quantity of tracks on the soundtrack, with its 300 songs bursting the storage limit of the disc. Luckily for us, the tracks themselves were also pretty awesome. Most of the songs on offer were pure “shred pop,” with cuts like “Random Celebration” from A Small Victory and “You're Gonna Die” by Brain Failure. Continuing in this motif, tracks such as “Like Butterscotch” and “Softer Seems the Pavement” from The Kite-Eating Tree as well as “Say Anything” from The Cartel complement the exaggerated nature of Amped 3 itself. Additionally, there are some great dance and hip-hop tracks to provide some variety, including Da Diggler's “Supa Powa,” Lojique's “Case Logic” (a fun track) and the rapid-fire “Bulldoggin'” by The Dirtball. The sheer amount of tracks in Amped 3 is staggering.
#2 – FIFA 2001
FIFA 2001's soundtrack provided a memorable cocktail of industrial techno hip-hop, generating a propulsive nature in the menus and the overall product. The notable songs du jour included Moby's “Bodyrock” as well as “Chinese Burn” by the U.K.'s Curve. Additionally, the menus often featured “We Luv You” by Grand Theft Audio as well as a couple of tracks from the Utah Saints, including “Power to the Beats” (a well-suited choice). I'd say these tracks have aged fairly well, retaining some Y2K-era charm while still getting you going. A great soundtrack overall.
#1 – NBA 2K11
NBA 2K11 provided an incredibly well-rounded soundtrack, starting with its ridiculous (but ultimately awesome) opening theme song by Snoop Dogg. Snoop's rhymes about new game modes and the absurd amount of times “NBA 2K11” is said becomes almost comical, but the beat is memorable as all hell. Big Boi provides the cut “Shutterbugg” with some memorable rhymes, and Drake's “Over” fits the bill, even though it's a bit of a flat song overall. I was also happy to see “Sirius” by The Alan Parsons Project, as it is a quintessential sports song at arenas that never seems to get licensed in sports games. The soundtrack also gets a good dose of quirkiness with “Red Rollerskates” by The Brunettes and “Rocketship” by Big Rock Candy Mountain.
Obviously, this list is hardly an exhaustive summation of all the great soundtracks and one-off songs that have been dropped into sports games over the last 15 years. There are plenty of great tracks to be found in sports games covering every genre, and these six struck me as memorable examples of how a soundtrack can come together into something special.
What say you, OS community? What are some of your favorite soundtracks/songs from sports games in the last couple of decades?