Video games have always been a great gateway to forming music tastes.
Whether it’s there to strengthen the experience or simply as background fodder, music is an integral part of any game, no matter the genre. And sports games definitely fall into that category, with the soundtrack to the NHL video game series always being a popular talking point heading into launch.
It’s a great way to revisit favorites and learn about new songs and bands you’re not familiar with. Myself, a lot of my favorite bands were introduced to be from the NHL video game series.
And that’s why we’re looking at the best EA Sports NHL video game soundtracks released to date. The 90s games had some good original scores, but we’re focusing today on the licensed soundtracks: something that often had a rock-heavy focus to it but has branched out in recent years.
Here we go:
1. NHL 2004
C’mon, how many 90s kids kickstarted their taste in music based on this soundtrack? Bands like Avenged Sevenfold and Bullet for My Valentine opened up many young kids to the world of metal and Bowling for Soup and Gob, Less Than Jake and Bowling For Soup made a case to get excited about pop-punk. The list was full of great tracks and it still holds up today, even if most of the bands are either inactive or well off the face of the earth at this point. The drum-dominated intro of A7X’s “Chapter Four” will go down as one of the most epic video game intros you could ever ask for.
2. NHL 2006
For a game that seems so beloved by most NHL video game fans from the 2000s, this soundtrack brought back EA favorites Avenged Sevenfold and Bullet for My Valentine and brought in Fall Out Boy with the aptly titled “Our Lawyers Made Us Change The Name Of This Song So We Wouldn’t Get Sued”, bangers from American Head Charge, Kaiser Chiefs and Pennywise and who can not forget the intro to Billy Talent’s Red Flag?
3. NHL 09
The last game to also be featured on PC (EA: please do us a favor and expand back to the platform), this game had a few heavy hitters like Avenged Sevenfold and Billy Talent, but some of the best songs cames from acts like Phantom Planet, Black Tide and From First To Last – the band that helped launch Skrillex into the mainstream. It also featured the fan-favorite “Nine in the Afternoon” by Panic! At The Disco, the violin-powered “Grace” by Apocalyptica, and helped further Airbourne’s strong rise with “Runnin’ Wild”.
4. NHL 03
Fans of pop-punk definitely grew up enjoying this soundtrack – and the game was so much fun for its time, too. There wasn’t a ton of variety in the EA games at the time, with Default and Gob both getting two tracks each, but they didn’t miss with their offerings. Queens of the Stone Age’s “No One Knows” was a great hit to get you prepared for a big game, Papa Roach came out swinging with “She Loves Me Not” and who can forget “Headstrong” by true one-hit-wonder Trapt?
5. NHL 10
With a host of big-name hitters – Scorpions, Nickelback, Green Day and Megadeth, among others – the first game to be fully featured on the seventh generation of video game home consoles. Other favorites came from Cancer Bats, CKY, Dragonforce and Ministry to add to a soundtrack that puts a focus on high-energy – something the game tried to push as well.
6. NHL 11
As the seventh-generation console games started to up the “wow” factor, the soundtrack for NHL 11 definitely lived up to the game’s reputation as a fantastic offering. Bullet for My valentine’s “Your Betrayal” hits hard and acts as a tremendous opening and Europe’s “The Final Countdown” – a popular tune in rinks across the world – also fits so well. In fact, it’s just solid all around, from big-name acts like Airbourne and the smaller ones like The Bouncing Souls and Black Box. But it’ll always be remembered for the game that featured the meme-worthy hit from Darude, “Sandstorm”.
7. NHL 07
Notable for being the first NHL game to feature a salary cap and the only NHL game on the Playstation Portable, NHL 07 also had a pretty strong soundtrack. If you’re a punk fan, Anti-Flag’s “This is the End” and NOFX’s “Wolves in Wolves’ Clothing” got you pumped while Protest The Hero was unleashed to the world with “Divinity Within”. Mobile’s “Montreal Calling” is a franchise favorite and Good Riddance’s “Darkest Days” has some fantastic moments. Overall, a solid, yet underrated, tracklist.
8. NHL 2002
With just seven songs, it’s definitely the shortest one on this list. The thing NHL 2002 has going for it, though, is that every song is a hit. Sum 41 came out slamming with two of the band’s top hits, “Fat Lip” and “Makes No Difference”, Gob’s “I Hear You Calling” just works, Treble Charger’s two songs both hit hard and The Tea Party’s “Temptation” is always fun to listen back to. Oh, and while “It’s Only Me” by the Barenaked Ladies may not fit the soundtrack perfectly, don’t lie: you loved it.
9. NHL 2005
This one always will seem underrated because the game was based on a season lost to the NHL lockout. But going back and playing NHL 2005 – especially the World Cup of Hockey mode – can be a fun time. Three songs instantly shoot back into memory when thinking about this game: “Take Me Out” by Franz Ferdinand, “Time to Go” by Dropkick Murphys and “From Out of Nowhere” by Faith No More. In fact, there wasn’t a bad song in the game, even if 11 of the 14 songs appeared in other games (mainly EA titles). It also had a surprise appearance by Green Day/not Green Day side project The Network with their single, “Roshambo”, something completely devoid of any true Green Day sound. But they’ll make sure to definitely tell you they’re not Green Day.
10. NHL 21
Maybe it’s because the generation that grew up learning about music through video games grew up with a completely different type of music, but it’s hard to get excited about the more indie-driven soundtracks in recent years. But while most people switched to the EA-original music that instead graced the game, there were some hidden gems in it. Arkells’ “Years in the Making” will remain stuck in your head, Broken Witt Rebels’ “Rich Get Richer” is solid, Royal Blood’s “Trouble’s Coming” is a radio hit for a reason and Suzi Wu’s “Eat Them Apples” is a good listen, too. But the highlight is IDLES’ “Mr. Motivator” just because the nonsense lyrics are hilarious.