The Best FIFA Soundtracks Ever, Ranked By One Person’s Questionable Taste
While it can be argued that the FIFA series doesn't often change much from one annual entry to the next, outside of generational hardware leaps and engine updates, what is different with each release is the music playing over title screens, pause menus and formation settings.
The first game in the series, 1993's FIFA International Soccer on the Mega Drive (which I adored, but ultimately the Mega CD version trumped it, with better crowd audio and grainy video clips from the 1990 World Cup), didn't have a licensed soundtrack - which is fair enough, given its limited-memory, 16-bit cartridge roots.
The first game to include recognisable tracks from known musicians and artists was FIFA 1998: Road to World Cup, another entry that I devoured on the OG PlayStation, becoming too familiar with its six-track soundtrack, the highlight of which was Blur's rambunctious 'Song 2'.
FIFA soundtracks have come a long way since then, with the latest entry, FIFA 20, including over 100 tracks across its regular modes and Volta option. Genre emphasis has changed over the years, with the early 00s series entries leaning more towards high-energy dance beats, and a more obvious slant towards indie-rock and avant-pop coming through in the 2010s.
The first FIFA to really, obviously mix things up on its OST was FIFA 04, which merged the lumpen karaoke rock of Kings of Leon with the slick electronic sounds of Underworld, via Radiohead and Paul van Dyke. The 50 tracks of FIFA 08 went further still, bouncing from cutting-edge pop like Robyn to the toe-twitching indie-dance of !!!, through to artists that were absolutely lifted from the underground, in the context of a mainstream-appeal video game, like Finnish post-hardcore four-piece Disco Ensemble.
But what are the FIFA series' very best soundtracks? That's a question that, realistically, only you can answer for yourself, because it's unlikely our tastes are going to wholly align. But given I spent the best part of 15 years working full time in the world of music, covering journalism, promotion, management and DJing, I reckon I've half an ear, at least, for a winning melody or some. Maybe.
Which is to say: this is my top five FIFA soundtracks of all time. Yours is likely to be different. So please share your musical memories of gaming's biggest soccer simulation series on our socials - you can find and follow GAMINGbible on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.
5: FIFA 20 (2019)
Straight in with the most-recent FIFA, here - with the biggest number of tracks yet, it's sure to tick a great many boxes. There's plenty of bass for the low-end theorists out there, serving as the base for raps on cuts like Tierra Whack's 'Unemployed' and JB Schofield's 'Stretch It', and indie acolytes get their kicks from the likes of Foals' 'The Runner'.
There's a great many artists on 20's OST that won't be known to the mainstream, and this is something FIFA's been doing for a while: mixing the popular with the wholly new, and giving them a platform to find new audiences. So for every big-seller like Hot Chip and Major Lazer, there's a JyellowL (rapper, Irish, great) and a Fieh (eight-piece pop-swing, Norwegian, also great). The standouts, to these ears: Jai Paul's sumptuous 'He' with its '80s synth-punch percussion and Kojey Radical's incessant, insatiable rattle and rhyme of 'Where Do I Begin'.
4: FIFA 12 (2011)
FIFA 12 might represent the series at its alternative-electronica best, with Crystal Castles' 'Not In Love' (featuring The Cure's Robert Smith), Little Dragon's 'Nightlight', Digitalism's 'Circles' and Monarchy's 'The Phoenix Alive'. Cut Copy's 'Where I'm Going' is a rather less steely, digital-sounding offering from the synth-pop Australians, but it feels at home here beside the warm hums and hollers of Grouplove's 'Colours' and the screamingly raw riffs of Sleigh Bells' 'Kids'.
This player, though, was probably most taken by a pair of quite different tracks. Brooklyn's TV on the Radio are often impressive, but 'Will Do' is one of their lesser-known but most-tender offerings, coming from 2011's Nine Types of Light album - the group's last with bassist Gerard Smith, who sadly died mere days after its release. If 'Will Do' is FIFA 12's music as its most inward-looking, Spaniard El Guincho's 'Bombay' (note that the video above contains nudity and is definitely NSFW, assuming you're in a shared office) is the OST at its most celebratory and extroverted. I don't understand a word of it, but my body can't say no to it. Listen, and be transported somewhere where the sun simply never sets.
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3: FIFA 15 (2014)
Cut through the boring lad-rock of Catfish and the Bottlemen, The Kooks and Kasabian (seriously, FIFA, what's with the Kasabian boner across so many games?), and there are some real treats among 15's 40 tracks. Kwabs' 'Walk' is a real, chest-thumping anthem that achieved number ones across Europe, and tUnE-yArDs' 'Water Fountain' is a deliriously different vision of pop that has you rethinking the possibilities of instant-click earworms.
Lowell's lilting, sad but sun-kissed 'Palm Trees' is a standout from the category marked: never heard of 'em before. But there's something about Jungle's soulful 'Busy Earnin'' that marks it out as the track here, though. It's at once absolutely contemporary yet decades-spanning of design, like it's been sitting on a shelf since the mid-'70s but was put there by some time-travelling musical wizard. I still pop on the London band's self-titled debut album from time to time, as it's an immediate mood-improver.
2: FIFA 10 (2009)
Maybe it's the nostalgia goggles - albeit nostalgia goggles for ears - but FIFA 10 is probably the last entry that I really put too many hours into. I had more free time, back then, to spend in front of my still-relatively-fresh Xbox 360; kids and mortgages and all that stuff was still on the other side of the horizon. But, listening back to these 39 tracks today: this is some strong, still-catchy stuff, right here.
Röyksopp undeniably found their fame with more chilled-our fare, but the Norwegians' 'It's What I Want' is a bubbling dancefloor-filler that showcases their livelier side. Staying somewhat Norwegian, The Whitest Boy Alive's '1517' is a surprisingly funk-leaning slice of freewheeling indie-pop; and (another Norwegian group!) Datarock's 'Give it Up' is all itchy and scratchy riffs over gang-vocal backing chants, which is impossible to sit still to. There are also great contributions from the best-named-band-ever Dananananaykroyd (went drinking with them in Paris once, got fairly battered), Metric (went drinking with them in New York once, got disastrously battered) and Casiokids (never went drinking with them, but I'm sure we'd have had a great time).
But it's South Africa's BLK JKS's spooked and rattled 'Lakeside' (from the Mystery EP, not the After Robots album version which rather loses some vocal punch) that represented, perhaps, the most significant breakthrough moment on this OST. It's just a pure, unfettered joy to behold when it breaks loose of its early reservations, builds its layers with whistles firing left right and centre; and the whole thing swelling to a blood-rushing finish.
1: FIFA 18 (2017)
I'm not sure if any other FIFA soundtrack covers quite so many bases as this one, which flips from the power-pop of Weezer with the sugar-rush eruption of 'Feels Like Summer' to the thwack-attack brain-cracking rap of 'Mean Demeanour' by Run the Jewels, via the sombre sink-into-your-seat introspection of The National's 'The System Only Dreams In Total Darkness' and Slowdive's classic shoegaze euphoria of 'Star Roving'. Does it all work? You bet it does.
Standouts are plentiful on 18's OST, and naturally they're going to vary from player to player. My own favourites here include Kimbra's breathless, bassline-riding 'Top of the World', Lorde's evergreen it's-heartbreak-but-it's-a-banger of 'Supercut', The xx's uncommonly brisk and breezy 'Dangerous', and Washed Out's getting-weird-in-the-Balearics bounce of 'Get Lost'. I can live without the four-chord swagger of The Amazons, but hey, none of these soundtracks are perfect. Damn, now I need to redownload FIFA 18, don't I.
Featured Image Credit: EA
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