Give a good plus or minus five spaces for most of these depending on what qualities I'm looking for or simply my mood at the time (the top 5 in particular are interchangeable as they're all just about perfect for what they are).
1. Dracula Battle Perfect Selection
Still the most perfect rock arrangements of VGM I can imagine. The gothic overtones of the Castlevania series give it that extra something unique and the track mix of relentless near-metal, rolling hard rock, and soulful ballads is just right, with hardly an average track on the album.
2. Final Fantasy VII Reunion Tracks
The four-disc OST has some issues and even this single-disc virtual best selection suffers from a few mediocre tracks, but for a great part it shows Uematsu's music at its most inspired - melodically captivating, dramatic, and completely unique to almost anything else out there. The sci-fi theme helps the sometimes spotty sound system (more noticeable in the full OST) stand the test of time a bit better than the similarly amazing FFVI OST, while the three orchestral arrangements and particularly the one for "Main Theme of FFVII" make the release even better.
3. Final Fantasy VI Original Sound Version
As the years since my impressionable youth when the game first blew me away have increased so my time spent listening to the SNES OST has dropped, but still every time I give a good listen to this three-disc set I'm impressed by what Uematsu accomplished. Still perhaps the most memorable arrays of character themes (and their ingenious reprises) of any soundtrack period, along with openings and endings unrivaled for their time and some unforgettable musical moments along the way. It's a shame it still hasn't received a suite of arrangements to do the soundtrack justice but even for someone like myself who prefers live orchestration, the SNES sound system in place has a charm of its own.
4. Symphonic Fantasies - Music from Square Enix
The Kingdom Hearts and Chrono suites in this are amazing and the Mana suite is honestly a musical work that any human being with any appreciation for orchestral music should experience. If the album version of the Final Fantasy suite was the quality of the improved arrangement I recently heard at Symphonic Fantasies Tokyo I may have ranked it even higher. A spectacular classically-inspired soundtrack.
5. Symphony Ys '95
Just as Dracula Battle is a perfect rock arranged album I consider this a perfect orchestral arranged one. Tamiya Terashima takes Ys 1 themes that would never be considered orchestral pieces in their early incarnations and makes them *imminently* orchestral while still faithful to the original melodies. The progression from theme to theme is as smooth as you will hear in an orchestral medley and even themes that I tend to skip in other renditions are a pleasant listen here. Of course the only thing lacking is the actual orchestra but the sequenced orchestra Terashima assembled is extremely impressive for its time and as with FFVI has a certain quality of its own.
6. Panzer Dragoon Original Sound Track
As an early adopter of the underdog Saturn I'll always have a soft spot for the Panzer Dragoon series and this is the title that started it. Though the sequel Zwei originated the Panzer Dragoon sound as we know it today and Azel in many ways perfected it, the more electronic rock sound of this original is exceptional in its own right and combined with that unforgettable, sweeping orchestral opening and its poignant closing reprise offer the most musical and enjoyable album experience of the series.
7. Dragon Quest Symphonic Suite Live Best
My infatuation with this best compilation / concert album has faded a bit as I've become familiar with the individual DQ symphonic suites, but if choosing a single release from this must-experience series I still think this is its premier album. Were it not for the overemphasis on DQV it could have been even better as some excellent selections from earlier installments (DQIV in particular) didn't make the cut. But what's here is excellent and orchestral adventure music simply doesn't get any better than the trio of "Fighting Spirits", "Into the Legend" and "Comrades".
8. Game Music Concert 5 ~Live Best Collection~
Though the earlier "Orchestral Game Concert" albums boast a more impressive selection of classic titles I'd give the edge to this last installment as my favorite. The Seiken Densetsu 3, Donkey Kong Country and Renasu II arrangements all offer classic orchestral soundtrack experiences in differing styles while the Kirby medley is fantastic in all the ways you'd never expect.
9. Azel ~Panzer Dragoon RPG~ Memorial Album
Takes the utterly unique Panzer Dragoon sound established in Zwei and puts it in a more consistent and organic listening experience. An atmospheric, memorable musical journey topped by a dramatic Panzerese vocals-meet-orchestra ending theme unlike anything before it.
10. Genso Suikoden Original Game Soundtrack
With its high production values and heavy world music influence this was unlike anything in its time and holds up well to this day. Easily one of the most charmingly eccentric soundtracks I've heard and a far more consistent listen than its four-disc sequel.
11. Final Fantasy VII Original Soundtrack
Though I completely prefer Reunion Tracks as an album experience, for those who like their complete OSTs this is certainly not one to miss. There are a few excellent tracks only available here, most notably the unforgettably atmospheric "Anxious Heart" and the exhilarating main theme reprise "Highwind Takes to the Skies".
12. Street Fighter IV Original Soundtrack
As a mix of fairly hard electronica with upbeat game music this is just about perfect, with the world music elements adding an extra bit of spice to the mix. Unlike many of my orchestral and gamier albums this one I can listen to just about anytime.
13. Kameo ~Elements of Power~ Original Soundtrack
The best half of this album is as good as you will hear in an orchestral fantasy adventure soundtrack. The quieter tracks are gorgeously orchestrated and heart-stoppingly beautiful and the action themes present are excellent as well, though a few more of them and a stronger ending would have made for a more complete listening experience.
14. Game Music Concert 4 ~Live Best Collection~
The two most famous arrangements (Super Mario Brothers and the FFVI opera) from this classic album have lost some of their appeal as their novelty as faded, but the Super Metroid medley remains the premier orchestral arrangement from a renowned series and an excellent sci-fi work in general, while the more obscure Albert Odyssey is an Arabian-inspired adventure classic.
15. Ys I & II (PC Engine redbook)
The soundtrack that for myself (and many others) instantly put the Ys series in the VGM elite. A great combination of catchy melodies and energetic, distinctive synth that out-perfects the Perfect Collections and offers still the best collection of Ys II arrangements to date.
16. Afrika Original Soundtrack
Captivating naturalistic themes served by beautiful orchestrations. A bit too clearly inspired by Jurassic Park but if you can consider it a tribute to Williams then it's a fantastic one.
17. Distant Worlds II: More Music from Final Fantasy
The best orchestral arrangements from the FF series are scattered among various albums but even with its modern focus I'd say this one has the best selection of any. The arrangements for "FFVII Main Theme" and "Zanarkand" are essential and the remaining highlights overshadow a few awkward missteps.
18. Dragon Quest IV Symphonic Suite
Dragon Quest symphonic suites feel like their own category in VGM so it's hard deciding where to place them, but as the best of the lot DQIV Symphonic Suite is right up there. The themes themselves might not be quite as endearing on their own as some other classic RPGs but the fantasy-styled, classically inspired arrangements take them to that next level.
19. Final Fantasy XII Original Soundtrack
Take the best disc or so from this and you have a sci-fi fantasy score second-to-none, from the action themes to the otherworldly environment pieces to some beautiful quieter moments. In its full four discs the soundtrack can drag - something some live instrumentation might have remedied - but still it's not to be missed.
20. Dragon Quest VI Symphonic Suite
Lacks the charm and accessibility of DQIV but in their place come perhaps an even greater classical artistry and an intensely dedicated thematic focus. Not exactly light listening but possibly the most dramatic game soundtrack of my collection.
21. SQ Chips
A newie and goodie. Even as someone who normally wouldn't care for an album full of chip tunes, the theme selection, clever sound programming (with a bit of helpful cheating) and delightfully energetic arrangements make for a winner.
22. Viva Pinata Original Soundtrack
Easily one of the most beautiful soundtracks I've heard. Boasts the same gorgeous orchestrations and performance of Kameo, but with a dedicated naturalistic thematic focus and a familiar, accessible classical sound.
23. Ecco - Songs of Time
It may sound exactly like a New Age soundtrack about a dolphin would be expected but I doubt anybody would have expected it to be this good. Relaxing at many times and surprisingly emotional at others; a nice alternative to the orchestral, rock, and high-energy synth soundtracks that tend to dominate VGM.
25. Konami Shooting Battle Perfect Selection
Applies almost the same hard rock mastery to Konami's shooter series lineup as Dracula Battle does to Castlevania. Remove that "almost" for the feisty, rollicking "A-jax" and the epic album closer "Battles of Battleship".
26. Nights ~Journey of Dreams~ Original Soundtrack
Shows the same optimistic energy and creativity as its classic predecessor but without the slight limits of the Saturn sound system or the deficiencies of those album releases (and includes many of those albums' classic themes as a bonus).
26. Chrono Trigger Original Sound Version
Take away "Frog's Theme" and a couple other standouts ("The Trial" and "Delightful Spekkio" being my own picks) and this becomes more a good soundtrack than a great one, but there's something to be said for having one of the greatest VGM themes of all time and nostalgia still works in the album's favor.
There are several albums I could have filled the last four spaces with but these 26 I think stand on a tier above the rest.