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In early September, 2K Sports released its latest installment in the 2K series with NBA 2K21. Since its release, the video game has sparked a lot of interest between video game pundits and diehard fans of the simulation series.

Despite quite a lot of kickback regarding issues with gameplay and the MyLeague, MyPlayer, and MyTeam settings, 2K21 managed to stun audiences with their graphics and Next-Gen gameplay experience.

For instance, the latest iteration includes a Rail Cam simulation that fans will be familiar with from the NBA Playoff Bubble at Disney World. The (real-world) NBA Finals are set to end shortly, which means fans still have time to wager on NBA games this season before diving into NBA 2K21 and playing with one of the Championship Final teams, the LA Lakers and Miami Heat.

Graphics, advancements to gameplay, and (real) playoff series aside, 2K21 has managed to put together a solid soundtrack. However, making a top-notch playlist to accompany the game has never been an issue for 2K Sports.

Let’s take a look at the best soundtracks in their 2K series to date.

First Place: NBA 2K11

Widely hailed amongst fans as the greatest 2K soundtrack to accompany the game, many are under the opinion that even future soundtracks won’t be able to compete. While the latest iterations of the video game franchise have integrated top hits from major artists, 2K11 stuck to underground hits, particularly in the realm of hip-hop.

Because developers chose to include sleeper songs that not many would know, they effectively created a soundtrack that couples exclusively with the game. This means that anyone who spent more than a few hours playing 2K11 will immediately associate any song from the game with that game specifically.

Both genius branding and semi-Pavlovian experimenting have cemented 2K11 as the game’s premier soundtrack. Not to mention, it introduced gamers of a new generation to some of the classic music that helped develop basketball culture in the 80s and 90s, which made the soundtrack stand out as a lesson in basketball.

Second Place: NBA 2K13

Developers 2K Sports pulled out all the stops with this soundtrack. Paired to coincide with the opening of the Brooklyn Nets newly-built Barclays Center, Jay-Z truly outdid himself by celebrating the Atlantic Ave development when he also produced the 2K13 soundtrack.

Not only does the playlist include a healthy serving of Jay-Z, but it also works hard to delve into the gritty underground of hip-hop that made previous iterations major hits, 2K11 included.

However, the 2K13 soundtrack also included a select number of songs from other genres, which saw groups like U2 and Coldplay somehow end up on a decidedly American basketball simulation game.

Prior to 2K16, previous installments included 20 or so songs, which made each place more critical and poignant. However, the 2016 release saw the track count double. Since then, 2K Sports has brought on DJs to create longer playlists.

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Third Place: 2K16

As mentioned above, 2K16 broke the mold by doubling the soundtrack and opening up future installments to direct participation from artists like DJ Khaled and DJ Premier. It also featured Anthony Davis on the cover, a major hit with fans, who recently made another appearance on the 2K20 cover alongside Dwayne Wade.

Given the expansion of the soundtrack, 2K Sports took a chance and, like Jay-Z’s foray into alternative rock with Coldplay and U2, the genres expanded to include techno, pop, new wave, international hits, and plenty of rock.

This meant that, for the first time, players could hear a song like Ana Tijoux’s Vengo straight to Zion I’s Ride. From there, players could hear Gnarls Barkley or OneRepublic before listening to Fergie, or The Flaming Lips, or J Cole.

Additionally, the 2K16 included songs written specifically for the video game. This includes DJ Premier’s Hold the City Down and DJ Khaled’s 365. DJ Mustard also produced You Don’t Want It, which pairs with a Mustard-created playlist that moves from MIA to Santigold to Imagine Dragons.