As someone who writes video game music, I tend to listen to a lot of it as well. On my phone, I use a program called ZXTune to play back raw audio files from my favorite classic games, and seeing big clumps of tracks from a single game in my favorites playlist really makes me think about what my favorite soundtracks really are. I'll start off with some of my no-brainers before I actually go in and check the playlist for games that snuck up on me.
Composed by David Wise
This would probably still be my favorite game if every single song on the soundtrack wasn't a masterpiece, but every single song on the soundtrack is a masterpiece. I dont know how Mr. Wise did it. I want to say that this soundtrack inspired me, but to me it always seemed like a level I could never reach. It's unreasonably good. It's the single best video game soundtrack of all time.
My favorite track - Stickerbrush Symphony
Composed by Keichi Suzuki, Hirokazu Tanaka, Akio Ohmori, Ritsuo Kamimura
A very nostalgic soundtrack that I have a deep personal connection to. When I hear music from this game, it takes me right back to being 10 years old, playing the game on my dad's laptop. I have an especially strong reaction to the Onett theme, especially the version with the Pollyanna intro that only plays once at the very beginning of the game, but the ending theme, Smiles and Tears, is my single favorite video game song of all time.
My favorite track - Smiles and Tears
Composed by Junichi Masuda, Go Ichinose
Another hugely nostalgic soundtrack, especially since Pokémon Silver was probably the first game I ever owned all to myself, meaning I didn't have to share it with my older brother. These games have such wonderful music. Calm, peaceful tracks you could fall asleep to, heart-pounding battle themes and some amazing remixes of the music from the Generation I games. I know I'm biased, but the music from the DS remakes of these games could never top the original sound.
My favorite track - National Park, Elite 4 Champion Battle, Legendary Beast Battle (Crystal only)
Composed by Masashi Kageyama, Naohisa Morota
This is one of those Famicom games that used expansion audio, meaning it used more capable music hardware than your average Famicom cartridge. The soundtrack is incredible, and they really made the most of their extra sound channels. In my favorite track, the boss theme for the later stages, they create something akin to an orchestral hit that really blew me away when I first heard the song. It's on another level. I should note that its elusive Scandinavian release, slightly renamed to Mr. Gimmick, has a neutered soundtrack thanks to the NES not having the hardware for expansion audio. Definitely check out the JP original.
My favorite track - Identity Believer
Composed by Nobuo Uematsu
This is a game I never finished, but I almost did, and a lot of the music really stuck with me. Considerably moreso than the story and characters, actually. Lots of wonderful orchestral tracks in this game.
My favorite track - Terra or The Decisive Battle
Edit: I did finally finish the game on 5/12/23, and I can definitely add The Fierce Battle and Dancing Mad to my favorites!
Compsed by Nobuo Uematsu
Unlike its predecessor, I actially did finish this game, and I was a big fan of the story, as you'd know if you've read my review of it. Because of that, I have much stronger associations with the music and the story. I can't hear many songs from this game without picturing the scene they play during in my head.
My favorite track - Aeris's Theme or One Winged Angel
Composed by Yasunori Mitsuda, Nobuo Uematsu
This game has a perfect soundtrack for a story that takes place over several wildly different periods of time. Some super stand-out tracks in this one, and I especially love the forest theme. It's so unforgettably good for a track that's used so little.
My favorite track - Wind Scene, Secret of the Forest or Corridors of Time
Composed by Ippo Yamada, Ryo Kawakami, Yu Shimoda, Hiroki Isogai
The Mega Man series as a whole is known for having some standout famous music, probably most famous is Wily Stage 1 and 2 from the second game, but my vote for best soundtrack overall goes to Mega Man 9, pretty much hands down. I'm a huge fan of the entire Classic Series (except 8, 8 can shove it), and the more time passes, the more I realize that it's a miracle that Mega Man 9 was as good as it was, for what it was. It was an insane return to form, and I'd place it as one of the best games in the whole series. However, this isn't a review of the game, it's a review of the soundtrack... which is incredible. Every track is just sheer chiptune perfection with that distinctive Mega Man style cranked up to 11.
My favorite track - Hornet Dance, Flash in the Dark, or We're the Robots
Composed by Masaya Matsuura, Yoshihisa Suzuki
This one is special to me on a personal level as well. My brother and I bonded over this game when I bought him a copy, and later on, TruKuu and I bonded over it as well. PaRappa is a rhythm game, so good music is more or less required, but this game just has such a unique charm to its soundtrack. Its wacky, goofy hip hop tunes are difficult not to sing along to.
My favorite track - Funny Love or Parappa's Live Rap With MC King Kong Mushi
Composed by Toby Fox
I avoided Undertale for many years because I had a personal grudge on it and, by extention, its creator. I was, and admittedly still am, extremely jealous of this little indie game, as shabby as it looks at a glance, completely taking the world by storm. I refused to play it, and I continued to work on my own projects which would hopefully one day do the same, until finally, the music pulled me in. Undertale has a wonderful soundtrack, and it even invented the concept of leitmotif, if you'll believe what the game journalists will tell you. Jokes aside, you don't need me to tell you how good the music of Undertale is, do you?
My favorite track - depends on the day...
Composed by Kinuyo Yamashita, Satoe Terashima
This has to be one of the best soundtracks on the NES, being amazingly iconic and memorable track after track. Konami originally didn't allow anyone on the team to have their names in the credits; one of their earlier red flags. In fact, they spoofed names from classic horror films as pseudonyms. Going off of those, the game was really composed by James Banana... interesting.
My favorite track - Wicked Child
Composed by Hidenori Maezawa, Jun Funahashi, Yukie Morimoto.
I originally came to edit this page today just to add this game, but it felt wrong to leave out its predecessors. That being said, Castlevania III blows I and II out of the water. It has the most tracks of all of them, and oh boy are there some real jams in there. There are also two versions of the soundtrack, since the Japanese version of the game used extra hardware not present in the western releases. As for which I prefer, it's really hard to say. I learned a few techniques that I've used in my own music from from the western version, so I have a lot of appreciation for it. Just the fact that I really can't pick a favorite between the the original and the technical downgrade should tell you something.
My favorite tracks - Intro, Beginning, Mad Forest, Stream, Aquarius
Composed by Jun Senoue, Kenichi Tokoi, Fumie Kumatani, Tomoya Ohtani
The music in this game is super varied, with all 6 playable characters having their own style of music that plays during their stages. I love most of Knuckles's hip hop tracks, and some of Sonic's upbeat pop rock tracks are great. However, my favorite track has always been the game's main theme. You get tastes of it all over the game, then they hit you with the real deal for the climactic true final boss battle. It's so good.
My favorite track - Live and Learn
Composed by Soyo Oka
I'm actually awful at this game, so I haven't heard much of its short soundtrack in-game. That doesn't change the fact that the whole thing has this calming, nostalgic feel about it. I could sit and let the title screen play all day, and the starting village music sounds like a sunrise to me, and it's fun to hear Dr. Wright's theme pop back up in Zelda: Link's Awakening of all places, acting as the theme of... Mr. Write, who... writes letters. As an honorable mention inside an honorable mention, Oka also arranged and wrote a few original renditions in Super Mario All-Stars. Check the theme for The Lost Levels—it would be right at home in SimCity.
My favorite track - Village
Composed by Kenichi Matsubara
This soundtrack is a lot shorter and more repetitive than its prequel and sequel, but everything here is awesome. I remember when I was a kid, my mom came into my room, so I paused the game with Bloody Tears playing, and she started dancing to it. The power of Castlevania II!
My favorite track - Bloody Tears, Silence of the Daylight