8 Platformers With The Best Sound Design

8 Platformers With The Best Sound Design

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A game’s music and sound design at large is an effective, often-overlooked technical and artistic tool. If utilized in the right way, the audio can add atmosphere, character, and immersive elements to the experience. And whether through simple 16-bit synthesizers, ambient noise, or full-blown epic orchestras — a good soundtrack can color a scene, invoke emotion, tell a story, and even enhance the fun factor.

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The platforming genre is one that particularly shines when it comes to deep, enjoyable audio. It’s easy to see why, as dynamic sound design meshes well with the alluring, exciting, and colorful nature of 2D and 3D platformers. These are some examples of such platforming romps — whose well-crafted sound adds to the already great experience.

Super Mario 64

Most will point to the quasi-open-worlds and new progression system when it comes to Super Mario 64’s groundbreaking nature. But more underappreciated is this 3D platformer’s charming music and memorable sound effects. Mario’s iconic “wahoo!” and other enthused noises — coupled with satisfying sound effects — add to the exciting flow and bring a tactile, impactful feel to the game’s action.

These all help paint the picture and add a sense of immersion. And of course, the diverse, multi-layered soundtrack is one to remember, aging far more gracefully than the visuals. Who can forget the serenading melodies of “Dire Dire Docks”, or the catchy new spin on the classic Star Theme when Mario uses a power-up?


The puzzle-platforming hit from 2010 reaffirms the notion that sometimes less is truly more. Whereas most studios stress bold, multi-layered music, voice tracks, and sound effects, Playdead takes a far more minimal approach — and is all the more effective. Crafted by specialist of “acousmatic music” Martin Stig Andersen, Limbo utilizes bits of vague, not-traditional music and sounds of nature. Like the shrowded visuals, this audio is meant to be both realistic and abstract, complementing the off-kilter vibe of the game.

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The soft ambient noises sprinkled throughout add to the eerie, isolated sense that Limbo so greatly conveys, adding to the palpably thick atmosphere. These subtle sounds absorb you as you trek through dark, silhouetted maps, working through puzzles and evading hazards like glowing worms along the way.

Sonic The Hedgehog

It’s tough to think of a more delightful soundtrack and audio in early-’90s platformers than this Sega staple. The iconic blue mascot has seen his share of boundary-pushing sound design, even zipping through stages to campy rock songs. Yet, it’s the classic Genesis efforts, and in particular, Sonic’s debut, whose audio design still shines today. Despite relative limitations of the early 16-bit hardware, Sega does a lot with a little, hitting you with melodic tunes right out of the gate; notably the ever-catchy Green Hill Zone.

This is fleshed out by a bombardment of fun, satisfying sound effects reminiscent of the “dings” and “chimes” of Vegas slot machines. The sound design in Sonic grows more impressive still when you realize a mere two sound engineers worked on the original game.


A game’s sound design can prove almost as iconic as the characters that accompany them, as is the case with this 3D platformer from Rare. As you might expect from the title, Banjo-Kazooie is not shy about making music and audio a focal point of the experience.

Not only does the game’s bear-tagonist strum his favorite instrument from the outset of the intro, but players also collect music notes and other goodies that trigger charming sound bites. And of course, the soundtrack holds up its end, with a selection of bouncy, quasi-bluegrass and polka tunes. It’s these distinct songs and sound effects that bring an authentic, instantly-recognizable flavor to the game; almost serving as a third character alongside Banjo and his bird pal.


Despite — and perhaps because of — its simple pixel art, Celeste is one of the most moving platforming experiences in modern gaming on multiple levels. While exciting and fun in its own right, this indie platformer also serves as a deep visual allegory for overcoming obstacles of depression and anxiety. You’ll assume the role of the burdened heroine as you run, jump, and dash your way through grueling trials made up of distinct, vibrant biomes.

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This is further colored by the soundtrack of developer and composer Lena Raine. Using a melodic fusion of synthesizers and piano, the diverse music adds to the emotional tone and gives us a sense of what the lead character, Madeline, is feeling. This is taken a step further, as different characters prompt unique instrumentals to further convey their traits — guitar cues representing Theo, for instance.

Earthworm Jim

Earthworm Jim flew a bit under the radar on account of its brutal difficulty — and being overshadowed by other ’90s platforming greats. Yet it enticed many with its zany sense of humor, thrilling action, and over-the-top premise starring a robotic worm superhero. The game brings a unique element of fun with its worm-swinging and whipping mechanic, ample gunplay, and absurd feats like propelling a cow with a falling refrigerator.

But amongst Earthworm Jim’s most standout features is its superb sound design, helmed by composer and musician Tommy Tallarico. The frantic game truly comes to life thanks to the thumping tunes, spot-on sound effects, and sporadic yelps from the unique hero. To get a sense of the popularity of its rocking soundtrack, fans have actually requested Earthworm Jim performances of Tallarico’s music at concerts. On top of this, the sequel’s equally enthralling tunes have been featured on Game Central’s Best of the Best CD mix of gaming music.

Ori And The Will Of The Wisps

Ori and the Blind Forest by Moon Studios seemingly came out of nowhere in 2015, luring gamers with fluid platforming, puzzle solving, and rewarding Metroidvania gameplay. It colors in even more gorgeous detail from a gameplay and presentation standpoint. Even more than its predecessor, Will of the Wisps shines through with a gorgeous soundtrack.

Wrought with multi-layered classical melodies and vocal tracks — the score feels akin to a Howard Shore composition for a fantasy epic rather than a 2D platformer. The music invokes atmosphere and grandiosity, which ebbs and flows throughout; complementing the experience as we follow Ori in his journey through the wild.

Donkey Kong Country

In the mid-’90s, Nintendo’s ape mascot was emphatically reimagined with this delightful platformer by Rare. Donkey Kong Country blasted its way on the gaming scene and garnered much attention, with its dynamic visuals and appealing gameplay that was easy to get into.

DKC feels more like an experience than a game, wrought with lush locales dripping with atmosphere and character — and its stellar sound design is a key factor. From the delightful music at large to the “drip-drips” of cavern interiors to Donkey’s chest-thumping, there’s much to love about DKC’s audio. To this day, many point to composer David Wise’s featured tunes, like the soothing Aquatic Ambience, as among the best scores in gaming.

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