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I’ll be honest, this is easily my favorite category out of all of them. To me, there’s nothing quite like playing a game with a memorable soundtrack to help guide the experience.
As I’ve said before, a game with bad or forgettable music can be just as detrimental to an experience just 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?
That’s why the following games have stood out through all of the releases over the past 12 months.
And the nominees are…
Even though it seems Destiny 2 finds itself in a new controversy every week, there’s one aspect of the game that is unquestionably good. The soundtrack. Seriously, I was blown away by how good the music to this game was, effectively helping to pull me into the world and keep me there during the campaign. Put together by Michael Salvatori, Skye Lewin, Rotem Moav, Peter Schlosser, and C Paul Johnson put together a ton of memorable and emotional tunes like Lost Light, Inner Light, and my personal favorite: The Farm. While I remember the music being good in the first game, Destiny 2 completely blows that out of the water by a mile. I was pleasantly surprised by just how fantastic the score was.
Cliff Blezinski’s first foray into the market with his own studio, Boss Key Productions, unfortunately, didn’t light the market on fire with sales. While LawBreakers is a well-made PC game that harkens back to the classic arena shooter style, the game also features a dynamite soundtrack made up of some really talented composers. Instead of bringing in just one person to do the job, Boss Key Productions brought in some big names like Tom Salta, Mick Gordon, Dieselboy, Jason Graves, and many more. With a game made up of many unique characters, the composers each handled specific theme songs, giving each character a unique sounding song to match their personality.
For a community-driven game like Sonic Mania, music was a major element. Arranged by Tee Lopes of PagodaWest Games, the soundtrack to Sonic Mania took original pieces fans were familiar with like the Chemical Plant Zone, and rearranged them into something new but familiar. Not stopping there, Lopes also added completely new themes as well, taking inspiration from previous games in the franchise like Sonic CD and other older titles. Combined with this excellent score, the marketing team went all in by bringing in Hyper Potions to create original music for many of the trailers, a fact which helped turn my attention to the game as well.
Being a Supergiant game, I’m pretty sure you could guess it would be nominated for this category. What blows my mind is the fact that Darren Korb continues to craft unbelievable scores for each of Supergiant’s games but that he’s also able to make each one completely unique and different from one another. Packing close to two hours of original music, Pyre presents a range of songs featuring an emphasis on guitars, drums, and classical instruments like violins and even a lute. The Herald is a great example of this, serving as the theme for a minstrel character within the story. A few songs like Night Howlers even change the game by adding a number of electronic elements and Thrash Pack is a blazingly fast tune with a scorching guitar riff.
This one is a no-brainer. As Cuphead is a game created in the style of a 1930’s cartoon, the music has been composed to follow suit as well. Composed by Kristofer Maddigan, the music runs the gamut of jazz, big band, swing, and ragtime. What really impresses me is that the music really captures the essence of the game and is extremely fun to listen to even when not playing. What may be more impressive is that Maddigan had no video game composing experience and didn’t consider jazz to be his strong suit. Even with all these things going against him, he was still more than able to write and produce nearly 3 hours of outrageously good original music.
Battle Chasers: Nightwar
When I first saw a trailer for this game on its Kickstarter page, the music already stood out to me so much so that I immediately put it on my radar. Thankfully, when the game finally launched almost two years later, the music continued to be a major element. Part of me shouldn’t be surprised considering Jesper Kyd, one of my favorite composers was involved with the project. Both Kyd and fellow composer, Clark Powell, put together a soundtrack that mixes a ton of genres together, which goes a long way to perfectly fleshing out the world and atmosphere. There’s a ton of standouts but for me, I can’t stop listening to Mud & Lead, Blood Red, Awe, and Drums Beating Like Hearts.
While this year proved to be a very tough competition, I couldn’t help myself. I love me some Supergiant Games. Thankfully, Pyre continues the studio’s excellent track record when it comes to audio as Darren Korb and Ashley Barrett once again knock the soundtrack out of the park. It’s an absolute treat for the ears.