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I’ve always been a big fan of music in games. To me, music is critically important as a great soundtrack and really elevate an experience. In addition, a game with bad or forgettable music can be just as detrimental as a broken feature or mechanic can. I mean, if you’re going to spend a significant amount of your time with a game, isn’t it only right that your ears have a great time as well?
This year saw no shortage of games with great and memorable soundtracks. The funny thing is, even though I’ve felt that way, I never got around to highlighting any through my Soundtrack Central feature. Maybe that’ll be a site resolution to do more in 2017. In the meantime, maybe think of this award as a Soundtrack Central Round Up of sorts.
These games got top marks from my ears this past year.
And the nominees are…
Killer Instinct Season 3
For a franchise that has had consistently excellent soundtracks over the years, I think fans were a little nervous with Season 3, considering that Mick Gordon was moving on to other projects like DOOM. Thankfully, with Atlas Plug and Celldweller on board, that consistency lived on and fans got even more excellent themes to hum along to like Rash, Kim Wu, and Eyedol.
The duo did a masterful job mixing both the themes of returning characters and adding in new elements to put their stamp on things as well. The result is a wonderfully crafted soundtrack that stands up to the previous work done on the franchise.
Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End
Even though longtime composer Greg Edmonson is no longer with this series, the sweeping orchestral sounds by composer Henry Jackman stepped right in and fit like a well worn glove.
The music comes off as epic sounding as it did in previous games, perhaps with a big more dramatic flair to match the high stakes presented in the story. The familiar orchestral sounds of the classic Uncharted theme make a return here and as a whole, the music is a bit more atmospheric than it was previously, similar to The Last of Us. It’s a great fit to a franchise which has clearly matured from its PS3 days.
Deus Ex: Mankind Divided
For me, Deus Ex: Human Revolution had a mighty fine soundtrack when it released a number of years ago. Thankfully, Mankind Divided continues that tradition with the combination of Michael McCann and Sascha Dikiciyan who manage to really set the tone for this futuristic universe.
For those who remember the thematic and haunting futuristic boops and beeps in the soundtrack to the previous game, that familiar sound carries over here into this sci-fi dystopian future. It’s a soundtrack that pairs incredibly well with the gameplay on screen, but one that does not simply fade into the background. The tunes are sure to stay with you even after turning off your console.
Destiny: Rise of Iron
I’m probably as surprised as you are to see this entry here, but Rise of Iron has really impressed me with its range of music. Considering that Rise of Iron sees Guardians delving deeper into the mythic lore of the Iron Lords, the sounds created by Michael Salvatori, C Paul Johnson, Skye Lewin, and Rotem Moav are equally epic and mighty sounding. The theme song alone gets you pumped up to do battle alongside Lord Saladin.
The tipping point for me though came after playing through the newly remastered Devil’s Den strike, where players had to defeat the newly resurrected Servitor, Sepiks Perfected. As soon as the boss appears, a heavy guitar riff takes over, completely slapping you in the face. It’s heavy, threatening, and completely epic. A perfect theme for a boss battle, and one you don’t expect to hear in a game like Destiny.
Gears of War 4
When you manage to bring on the composer of such high profile shows like Game of Thrones and movies like Warcraft and Iron Man, you know you’re doing something right. Looking to make a splash with the return of the fan favorite franchise, The Coalition enlisted the help of Ramin Djawadi to handle the soundtrack in Gears of War 4.
What’s great here is that even though Djawadi makes this project his own, he manages to insert familiar sounds from past games every now and again letting you know that this is indeed a Gears game. Still, the tracks are moody, atmospheric, and jump into action when things heat up on screen.
While it may not stand out as well as some of the others on this list, I’ve always viewed Stephen Barton’s work on the Titanfall franchise as sneaky good. I feel like it’s only gotten better in Titanfall 2, which fans got a first taste of in the debut multiplayer trailer earlier this year.
The music is completely dynamic, ebbing and flowing with what’s happening on screen almost like a big budget movie soundtrack would. It’s exhilarating and thrilling to hear as you’re running across rooftops, or using your titan to decimate your enemies. Just listening to it once again, the music is thematic and exciting all rolled into one.
Street Fighter V
While the game didn’t grab me like previous entries in the long running franchise did, I have to give it up for the soundtrack. Street Fighter V features a lot of great new tunes, especially for some of the characters like Rashid, but what helps the soundtrack stand out is the fact that Capcom decided to bring back the classic character themes as well. The excellent remastered versions of themes that players have been hearing since Street Fighter II have been remade from the ground up and sound better than ever.
Disappointingly, players were only able to hear them while fighting against other human players online. Thanks to continued fan requests, Capcom has finally added the option to switch from new stage music, the character themes in any mode as well.
and the winner is…
Winner: Killer Instinct Season 3
As a long time fan of the fighting franchise, I had been mightily impressed by the work Mick Gordon had done in the first two seasons. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little worried when he was not coming back for Season 3. Thankfully, my fears were unfounded as Atlas Plug and Celldweller continued that soundtrack excellence by taking the familiar themes from the past games and weaving them into new and interesting sounds. Not only did they satiate my nostalgia for the classic 90s games, but they got my head bopping to wonderful new sounds as well.