There are some games out there that are known worldwide, not just for their killer gameplay, but for their amazing soundtracks. There are games out there that have outstanding original soundtracks, and if you’re looking for that sort of thing, you might want to check out my Best Indie Game Soundtracks list over on Indie Game Culture.
However, there are also games that take advantage of the amazing songs within the music industry and license these tracks to curate some of the finest hand-picked playlists the gaming industry has ever seen. It usually takes a huge franchise to pull off this sort of licensing mastery, not just due to the legal hoops one must jump through, but also the capital needed to use these tracks.
It’s tough, but we have seen games like Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater and Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy, to name a few, but arguably, no one has ever done it quite as well as the GTA series.
Through a series of in-game radio stations, the Grand Theft Auto series has been able to offer some of the finest tracks across various genres of music for players to enjoy while they cause havoc on the streets of Vice City, Liberty City, or in this case, Los Santos.
San Andreas is the undoubted fan favorite in the series for myriad reasons, but the soundtrack is definitely a factor that plays a huge role in this. Whether you want to cruise to some country, lean your seat back and chill with some pure 90s Hip-Hop, or you want to headbang to some amazing classic rock hits, GTA: San Andreas has you covered.
So with that in mind, we thought it would be a fun (and probably controversial) idea to take all the tracks from GTA: SA and rank them from best to worst. A bold move, but one that, however subjective it may be, is a lot of fun.
Regardless of whether you agree with me, this list will serve as a nostalgic reminder of the backing tracks to some of your most beloved GTA missions, and perhaps this can help bolster your Spotify Playlist. So without further delay, here is our GTA San Andreas Every Song Ranked guide.
Hey, hold up a second, a little bit of admin first! Now, in terms of selection, we are going to be including every track, so there is no danger there. However, I just want to give you a window into my psyche and offer my reasoning and criteria, which led me to place each song where I have. So here are a couple of considerations I took down below:
- Overall Song Quality
- How well it fit the setting
- Popularity on Spotify (Listens, Artist Listens, etc.)
- Fits the genre of its respective radio station
Also, just to clarify, I am going to do a top-ten of all songs in the game, and then I will be breaking them down into ranked lists by the radio stations as well, confining them to their respective genres. Okay, all cleared up, gets kick that nostalgia into overdrive!
Our Definitive GTA: SA Top Ten
Now before we break down every single radio station, it’s time to give you our overall top ten, and I’ll be honest, it’s pretty much impossible to do this and not leave out a handful of amazing tunes. So be kind and don’t shout too many expletives at the screen when I list my top ten below. Here are the ten songs that make me stop flicking through radio stations; enjoy!
#01 Lynyrd Skynyrd – Free Bird
If there is one rock tune that cuts above the rest on this list, it’s Free Bird. It may feel like a cheesy pick or low-hanging fruit, but amongst so many strong contenders, I don’t think that’s the case. This song sits top of the pile on merit.
The main reason why this one stands above the rest is the mix of emotions you feel throughout. When you are cruising through Vinewood, and the beginning of the song sends you to a serene place, and you sway your head, it’s almost peaceful if you ignore your own reckless driving. However, as the song kicks into gear in the second half, you suddenly find yourself headbanging, and it’s the way this song eases you into anarchy that I love.
Plus, it’s a certified rock hall of fame classic, so even if you don’t agree, you have to respect it.
#02 Ice Cube – It Was a Good Day
I didn’t want to load my top ten with lots of Dre, Snoop, Easy-E, and NWA, because it would have been a very one-tone list if I did. Those songs fit the theme of the game, and serve as an awesome backing track to your drivebys and elaborate missions, but variety is important too.
So I limited myself to just one contemporary rap song, and my pick of the bunch is It Was a Good Day. Unlike the other tunes of this nature that showcase the violence, the strife, and the hatred of the rap war, Ice Cube uses this platform to make it clear that a day without violence is a good one.
A message I can get behind, all the while running from the cops with a six-star wanted level. It’s a brilliant song, and it’s one of those where you just kick back and bob your head to the beat. I’m sure others would have slotted Express Yourself or Deep Cover in here, but for me, this is a clear winner.
#03 Big Daddy Kane – Warm It Up Kane
Before we pay homage to 90s rap, we have to give their predecessors some time in the spotlight, and while I personally think that rap of the era before Dre and the crew was very hit and miss, Big Daddy Kane is an example of someone that rarely missed the mark.
Kane was one of the most iconic rappers of the Golden Age of Rap, and this tune is just a sample of the flavor that he had to offer. It doesn’t have the same venom as the more modern rap songs on the docket, but the silky skills and lyrical acrobatics are still clear as day. Amongst all the other tunes on Playback FM, this one stands head and shoulders above the rest.
#04 The Stone Roses – Fools Gold
Here’s where a little bit of my bias creeps in. Now that’s not to say that this song isn’t an iconic one by any stretch, but when you give me a Mancunian band from this era, they are going to place pretty high regardless of other options.
Fools Gold is a song that screams 90’s to me more so than any other on this list. It’s a song that paints a picture, and that picture is full of long-haired teens with huge baggy jeans and a bag of the green stuff, just wasting the day away.
Those are some of the best days you can have, and it takes you to a place from your youth where your time was yours and responsibility was a problem for future you. At least, that’s where it takes me. This is one for the lulls in between missions where you need a reset before causing more carnage, and it’s one to add to a chill playlist, along with a few other Stone Roses tracks.
#05 Rod Stewart – Young Turks
I’m a sucker for cheesy stuff from time to time, but I promised myself that I wouldn’t load the top ten with tracks like Hold The Line, Barracuda, and White Wedding.
I limited myself to one cheesy tune and when limited to just one, if Rod Stewart isn’t the immediate pick, take a good look at yourself. I’ve always had a soft spot for Rod, especially after his drunken escapades during the draw for the Scottish Cup. However, with him being such a character, it can be easy to forget how great of a performer he was, and still is.
Young Turks is a fantastic song that builds into a stellar chorus. I vividly remember using the flying car cheat, and then sailing through the sky overlooking Santa Maria Beach, with the sun setting before me, and Rod’s song was so good it felt like it was keeping the car afloat. It might be a hard sell for some, but I think it’s a bop.
#06 Booker T & The MG’s – Green Onions
Next up, we have one of the most recognizable instrumental songs ever made, and while I can’t claim to be a mod or to have seen Quadrophenia, I do still love this soulful bop. My first encounter with this song was in GTA: SA, but I was again treated to this song in EA Skate, cementing this as one of the coolest songs I had ever heard.
Then when I returned to GTA: SA in my later years, I found myself giving this one a lot more playtime along with Lowrider. This one is a great tune to accompany you while scooting around on a Vespa, or a Faggio if you want to stick to GTA terminology.
#07 Eddie Rabbit – I Love A Rainy Night
This might not be one of the songs that stand out, especially where real-world popularity is concerned, but this one is an iconic song because of GTA: San Andreas. The country music station was strangely one of my more listened-to stations when playing this title, and it’s down to brilliant songs like this.
This one was great for long drives between mission markers, especially at night when the clouds opened up, and it started pouring down. I loved hanging around Angel Pine, where the cars were tuned into K-Rose by default, and having this one liven up my time in this rural area after Tenpenny left me stranded.
#08 Rage Against The Machine – Killing in the Name
If given the option, I don’t think there will ever be a time when I will pass up a chance to endorse RATM’s Killing in the Name.
As a UK resident, I remember the time when we as a country rebelled against the X-Factor, and it’s nailed on Christmas number one slot by downloading and purchasing this 90’s anthem. Safe to say, Joe McElderry didn’t get his number one, and Tom Morrello and company played this song on Top of the Pops on Christmas Day.
There’s something about the lyric ‘F*** You I won’t do what you tell me’ accompanied by turkey and spuds that really warms the spirit. This is an anthem of rebellion, rage, anger, spite, and so much more, and when fighting gang wars, or evading the LSPD, there can hardly be a more fitting song.
#09 Depeche Mode – Personal Jesus
I’ve always been a big fan of Depeche Mode’s brand of weird and wonderful music, and Personal Jesus is a track lifted right out of their greatest hits. From the iconic harmonic notes that sound off the track, to the heavy bass riff that dominates the song, it’s a song that stands out from the pack, and you simply can’t ignore.
It might be because of the original music video based in the desert, but this song was one that I played a lot when visiting Las Venturas, and it just felt like a good fit. Depeche Mode can be a hard sell for those that didn’t grow up with them in the 80s, but give this one a try; I reckon you’ll see the appeal.
#10 Whitey Shafer – All My Exes Live In Texas
At ten, we have one of the most iconic country tracks on the docket; All My Exes Live In Texas. If you asked me to describe an American country song with absolutely no direction or context, one of the first things I would mention would be Texas, Nashville, or Tennesee.
Perhaps followed by a mention of a beer, a pickup truck, and a women that I done did wrong. This song is just quintessential country music; it’s upbeat, it’s catchy, and when you are out in the sticks of Flint County or Whetstone, this one will feel like a comfy pair of cowboy boots, trust me.
The Radio Station Rankings
First up in the radio station lists, we have Bounce FM, the home of funk in the GTA universe. I’m no stranger to a bit of funk if the notion takes me, so I think I can list these with some level of authority.
Our top track this time around is Johny Harris’ Oddessy, and that’s purely because this is the tune that serves as a backing track to your lowrider battle within the game, but there are so many great funk tunes. Here is my ranking of those funky tunes GTA SA has to offer:
#1 – Johnny Harris – Odyssey
#2 – Ohio Players – Love Rollercoaster
#3 – Dazz Band – Let it Whip
#4 – Ronnie Hudson – West Coast Poplock
#5 – The Gap Band – You Dropped A Bomb On Me
#6 – Maze – Twilight
#7 – Kool & The Gang – Hollywood Swingin
#8 – Roy Ayers – Running Away
#9 – Lakeside – Fantastic Voyage
#10 -MFSB “Love Is The Message”
#11 – George Clinton – Loopzilla
#12 – Zapp – I Can Make You Dance
#13 – Ohio Players – Funky Worm
#14 – Fatback Band – Yum Yum
#15 – Rick James Cold Blooded
#16 – Cameo – Candy
#17 – The Isle Brothers – Between the Sheets
Next, we have Playback FM and its brand of ‘Classic Hip-Hop.’ Now you might be thinking Dre, Biggie, and the like, but remember, this game was based in the 1990s; those classics were very contemporary then. So here is Playback history lesson in Hip-Hop greats:
#1 – Big Daddy Kane – Warm It Up Kane
#2 – Public Enemy – Rebel Without a Pause
#3 – Rob Base & DJ EZ Rock “It Takes Two”
#4 – Biz Markie – The Vapors
#5 – Brand Nubian – Brand Nubian
#6 – Kool G Rap & DJ Polo – Road to the Riches
#7 – Gang Starr – B.Y.S
#8 – Spoonie Gee – The Godfather
#9 – Ultramagnetic MC’s – Critical Beatdown
#10 – Eric B. & Rakim “I Know You Got Soul”
#11 – Masta Ace – Me & The Biz
#12 – Slick Rick – Children’s Story
Up next, we have K-DST, the home of Classic Rock. Again, this is classic from the perspective of a rock enthusiast in the 1900s, so expect a lot of tunes from the 60s, 70s, and maybe a few from the early 80’s too. That’s the thing about classic rock, though; if it’s a classic, it transcends age. Here are K-DST’s songs ranked below:
#1 – Lynyrd Skynyrd – Free Bird
#2 – Toto – Hold The Line
#3 – Heart – Barracuda
#4 – Billy Idol – White Wedding
#5 – Rod Stewart – Young Turks
#6 – Creedence Clearwater Revival – Green River
#7 – Eddie Money – Two Tickets To Paradise
#8 – America – A Horse With No Name
#9 – The Who – Eminence Front
#10 – Boston – Smokin
#11 – Grand Funk Railroad – Some Kind of Wonderful
#12 – Kiss – Strutter
#13 – Foghat – Slow Ride
#14 – Tom Petty – Running Down A Dream
#15 – David Bowie – Somebody Up There Likes Me
#16 – Humble Pie – Get Down To It
#17 – Joe Cocker – Woman to Woman
Now we move on to the Dub/Reggae station of choice for the Los Santos faithful, K-Jah-West. Now, I’m not about to claim to be a Reggae enthusiast here, but I have been to Amsterdam a couple of times in my life, so let’s just say I get the vibe, and I get what criteria make a good reggae tune. However, to a certain extent, I will be choosing purely on vibes alone. Alright, here we go; let’s mellow out to some K-Jah!
#1 – Blood Sisters “Ring My Bell”
#2 – Max Romeo & The Upsetters – Chase The Devil
#3 – The Pliers – Bam Bam
#4 – Black Uhuru – Great Train Robbery
#5 – Black Harmony – Don’t Let It Go To Your Head
#6 – The Maytals – Pressure Drop
#7 – Augustus Pablo – King Tubby Meets Rockers Uptown
#8 – Dennis Brown – Revolution
#9 – Barrington Levy – Here I Come
#10 – Shabba Ranks – Wicked Inna Bed
#11 – Toots & The Maytals – Funky Kingston
#12 – Dillinger – Cocaine In My Brain
#13 – Willie William – Armagideon Time
#14 – I Roy – Sidewalk Killer
#15 – Reggie Stepper – Drum Pan Sound
#16 – Buju Banton – Batty Rider
We now make our way over to SF-UR and check in with our German friend Hans Oberlander, the host of this radio station that champions house music. Again, I like some more notable house tunes myself, but it isn’t my comfort zone. So vibes will once again play a role in my decision-making.
I’ll just close my eyes and picture myself in my local nightclub, Kelly’s Portrush, gone but not forgotten. Here are the SF-UR rankings:
#1 – Fallout – The Morning After
#2- Frankie Knuckles – Your Love
#3 – A Guy Called Gerald – Voodoo Ray
#4 – Ce Ce Rogers – Someday
#5 – 808 State – Pacific
#6 – Mr. Fingers – Can You Feel It?
#7 – 28th Street Crew – I Need A Rhythm
#8- Marshall Jefferson – Move Your Body
#9 – The Todd Terry Project – Weekend
#10 – Robert Owens – I’ll Be Your Friend
#11 – Raze – Break 4 Love
#12 – Nightwriters – Let The Music (Use You)
#13 – Joe Smooth – Promised Land
#14 – Jomanda – Make My Body Rock
#15 – Maurice – This Is Acid
#16 – Cultural Vibe – Ma Foom Bey
RADIO X: The Alternative
Looking for rock but with a little more edge? Well, then Radio X is just the place. This is where Los Santos commuters can find alternative, indie, and modern rock in abundance. It’s for those that loved baggy jeans, long haircuts, and not listening to their parents in the 1990s.
I can’t claim to be part of this era as, by the time I was of an age to appreciate music, the emo scene was in full force. However, with the power of hindsight, I will rank them accordingly!
#1 – Rage Against The Machine – Killing In The Name
#2 – Depeche Mode – Personal Jesus
#3 – Guns N’ Roses – Welcome to the Jungle
#4 – Living Colour – Cult of Personality
#5 – The Stone Roses – Fools Gold
#6 – Primal Scream – Movin On Up
#7 – Faith No More – Midlife Crisis
#8- Alice In Chains – Them Bones
#9 – Ozzy Osbourne – Hellraiser
#10 – Soundgarden – Rusty Cage
#11 – Stone Temple Pilots – Plush
#12 – L7 – Pretend We’re Dead
#13 – Helmet – Unsung
#14 – Danzig – Mother
#15 – Jane’s Addiction – Been Caught Stealing
Next, we have K-Rose, the country music station hosted by DJ Marybeth herself. As a man that hales from the Emerald Isle, I know a thing or two about country music, mostly through passive conversation and osmosis, but I’ve picked it up all the same.
Now, the American brand of honky-tonk is a little different by comparison, but I can read between the lines. Plus, it’s not like I live under a rock either; I get the rules, Florida Georgia Line is trash, and Dolly Parton’s a living god. With that as our benchmark, let’s dive in:
#1 – Eddie Rabbit – I Love A Rainy Night
#2 – Whitey Shafer – All My Exes Live In Texas
#3 – The Desert Rose Band – One Step Forward
#4 – Ed Bruce – Mama Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys
#5 – Statler Brothers – Bed of Roses
#6 – Juice Newton – Queen of Hearts
#7 – Statler Brothers – New York City
#8 – Hank Williams – Hey Good Lookin’
#9 – Conway Twitty & Loretta Lynn – Louisiana Woman, Mississippi Man
#10 – Merle Haggard – Always Wanting You
#11 – Mickey Gilley “Make The World Go Away”
#12 – Willie Nelson – Crazy
#13 – Pasty Cline “Three Cigarettes in the Ashtray”
#14 – Jerry Reed – Amos Moses
#15 – Asleep At The Wheel – The Letter That Johnny Walker Read
Now, the music up until now has been great, but did it have soul? That’s right; it’s time to look deep and listen to the soulful tunes of CSR 103.2, the home of soul. It’s about to get a whole lot more sensual up in here; I just hope you all are ready with your boombox on your shoulder, because there are harmonies inbound; here we go:
#1 – Boyz II Men – Motownphilly
#2 – En Vogue My Lovin’ (Never Gonna Get It)
#3 – Guy – Groove Me
#4 – Today – I Got The Feeling
#5 – SWV – I’m So Into You
#6 – Soul II Soul – Keep On Movin
#7 – Bobby Brown – Don’t Be Cruel
#8 – Aaron Hall – Don’t Be Afraid
#9 – Wreck-N-Effect – New Jack Swing
#10 – Ralph Tresvant – Sensitivity
#11 – Samuelle – So You Like What You See
#12 – Johnny Gill – Rub You The Right Way
#13 – Bell Biv Devoe (BBD) – Poison
Our penultimate radio station is Mastersounds 98.3, a station dedicated to all things groove. If you like getting down to disco, boogieing the night away, and busting a move in the most cringeworthy fashion, that was perfectly acceptable in the 70s; then this is the radio station for you. So get your shiny shoes on, puff up that afro and get on down. Here are the rankings below:
#1 – War – Low Rider
#2 – James Brown – The Payback
#3 – Booker T & The MG’s – Green Onions
#4 – Charles Wright – Express Yourself
#5 – Lyn Collins – Think About It
#6 – Gloria Jones – Tainted Love
#7 – Lyn Collins – Rock Me Again & Again
#8 – Maceo & The Macks – Cross The Tracks (We Better Go Back)
#9 – The J.B.’s – Grunt
#10 – Sir Joe Quarterman – (I Got) So Much Trouble In My Mind
#11 – The Chakachas – Jungle Fever
#12 – James Brown – Funky President
#13 – Bob James – Nautilus
#14 – Bobby Byrd – I Know You Got Soul
#15 – The Blackbyrds – Rock Creek Park
#16 – Maceo & The Macks – Soul Power 74
#17 – Harlem Underground Band – Smokin’ Cheeba Cheeba
#18 – Bobby Byrd – Hot Pants
Radio Los Santos
Then we wrap things up with what is probably the centerpiece of the radio station assortment, at least, if you are invested in the themes present in the GTA: San Andreas story.
If you want a backing track to your gang-related escapades, then rap straight from the OG’s fighting in the streets will do just the trick. I’m not glorifying the violence, but damn, it led to some great music. Radio Los Santos is the home of contemporary rap, and there are plenty of bars and beats to go around. Here are the rankings as I see them:
#1 – Ice Cube – It Was a Good Day
#2 – NWA – Express Yourself
#3 – NWA – Alwayz Into Somethin’
#4 – Ice Cube – Check Yo Self (The Message Remix)
#5 – Dr. Dre – Deep Cover
#6 – Dr. Dre – Nuthin’ But A “G” Thang
#7- 2 Pac – I Don’t Give a F***
#8 – Dr. Dre – F*** Wit Dre Day
#9 – Eazy-E – Eazy-Er Said Than Dunn
#10 – Too Short – The Ghetto
#11 – Cypress Hill – How I Could Just Kill a Man
#12 – Above The Law – Murder Rap
#13 -Da Lench Mob – Guerillas in Tha Mist
#14 – The D.O.C. – It’s Funky Enough
#15 – Compton’s Most Wanted – Hood Took Me Under
#16 – Kid Frost – La Raza
Question: When was GTA San Andreas Released?
Answer: Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas was released all the way back in 2004, which seems crazy when you think about it. As this game still has a pretty reasonable player base or PC, and thanks to a variety of ports and the new GTA Definitive Collection, players are still getting acquainted with CJ, Big Smoke, Ryder, and Sweet for the first time.
Question: Why Are There No 2000s Songs on This List?
Answer: That’s a simple one. There are no 2000’s hits listed here because GTA: SA was based in the ’90s, or more specifically 1992. The game was supposed to reflect the time in Los Angeles and America as a whole when the war on drugs was at its peak. So with that in mind, in the fictional world of Los Santos, these songs didn’t exist and that is why they were omitted.
Question: Are All Original Tracks Present In The GTA: San Andreas Definitive Edition?
Answer: Sadly not, due to copyright reasons and now expired licensing agreements, there were a number of songs that Rockstar Games couldn’t get for the newest editions of the game. These are essentially the same songs that were missing from the IOS and Android ports. They are as follows:
• Yum Yum (Gimme Some) – Fatback Band
• Hellraiser – Ozzy Osbourne
• Killing in the Name – Rage Against the Machine
• Express Yourself – Charles Wright & the Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band
• The Grunt – The JB’s
• Loopzilla – George Clinton
• Soul Power’ 74 – Maceo & The Macks
• You Dropped a Bomb on Me – Gap Band
• Running Away – Roy Ayers
• Runnin’ Down a Dream – Tom Petty
• Rock Creek Park – The Blackbyrds
• Funky President (People It’s Bad) – James Brown
• The Payback – James Brown
• Woman to Woman – Joe Cocker
• Don’t Let It Go to Your Head – Black Harmony
• Ring My Bell – Blood Sisters
• I Don’t Give a Fuck – 2Pac feat. Pogo
• Express Yourself – N.W.A.