One thing that makes coming up with post-mortem lists each year is that I play a ton of games from my older backlog, so I rarely have an idea of what came out when. However, regardless of whether or not I played everything that came out last year, I had little trouble choosing awesome music. There was just so much of it. I might explode.
Here, in alphabetical order, is stuff you should check out if you value your ears.
Artist: Siddhartha Barnhoorn
This is an odd choice to start off a list of recommended soundtracks mostly due to its large expanse of tranquility and good feelings. Admittedly, I expected myself to hit the ground running with violins crying about something or percussion knocking your teeth out. However, the serenity I gain from listening to the Antichamber soundtrack is just cathartic. If you want to feel peace (and odd longings to play this game again), you’ll want to pick this up.
Artist: Garry Schyman
Availability: none 🙁 maybe someday
Garry Schyman knocked it out of the park with this one. Although the soundtrack’s peculiar anachronisms might’ve taken hold with Tyler, I was drawn in by the simple soundscapes composed for the characters and themes in Bioshock Infinite. However, this soundtrack also holds some power plays in the form of the combat themes, which invoke senses of fear and immediacy like few other songs this year.
Artist: Leonardo Badinella
I think 2013 was about new composers hitting my personal game soundtrack scene. The talent and potential exhibited in the Expeditions: Conquistador soundtrack speaks of better things to come. I love how distinctly he captured a specific period and place in history without losing any sense of emotion or drama that one expects from tense turn-based battles.
Artist: Chris Remo
If you want a good first-person adventure game with a heartening story about love and family, play Gone Home. If you want to relive those feelings again and again, listen to the soundtrack. Arguably as ambient as Antichamber’s in a lot of ways, you’ll get a lot more of a sense of curiosity and elation from this pick. It’s succinct, and it’s lovely.
Ibb & Obb
Although the game fell way short of my expectations (and made me viciously angry at points), the soundtrack should not be ignored. Full of bouncy, moody electronica, it both feels like a walk around town and an adventure somewhere otherworldly. I guess that should make sense for a game where reverse gravity is just beneath your feet. A number of the tracks are featured in similarly-named triptychs, where each track builds on the last, and this creates a cohesive album despite its length.
The Last of Us
Artist: Gustavo Santolalla
I don’t think I was prepared for this game to hit me in the feels like it did, but Naughty Dog managed to have me tensely biting my nails through an entire segment of its narrative. The soundtrack, beautifully worked by Gustavo Santalalla, is just part of impressive tale about a man and a young girl going on an unexpected journey, but it’s a must-have part nonetheless.
Artist: Yugo Kanno
One could be fooled into falling in love with this lackluster game by listening to the soundtrack alone. It is so charming and so lovely, but don’t be fooled. Just buy the soundtrack, and enjoy the melancholy music as it carries you around a pseudo-Parisian city at night. It’s all you’ll need, and you may find yourself absentmindedly bobbing your head back and forth to some of the jauntier tunes and waltzes.
Artist: Olivier Deriviere
I think Olivier Deriviere described his own score best: glitch orchestra. If you want to hear a classical orchestra through a dystopian futuristic society’s ears, then look no further. Some of the tracks on this transcendent soundtrack just make my brain melt as I try to process the awesome. If your brain does actually melt, however, please seek medical help. I was only being figurative.
Artist: Brian D’Oliveira, Kenny Young
OK, this one isn’t out yet. It comes out next week, so I don’t have somewhere to link you to so you can buy it right now. But you will buy it next week, right? An eclectic mix of earthy instrumentation coupled with modern riffs and some electronic sample work, Brian D’Oliveira and Kenny Young knock it out of the park. Tearaway was an instant hit with reviewers, and the soundtrack will give you a hint why. Fun adventure, what’s not to be loved about that?
Artist: Jason Graves
Credibly adorable soundtrack composer, Jason Graves, took a step away from Dead Space for a bit to craft this often haunting score for the 2013 reboot of Tomb Raider. Not only do I wholeheartedly recommend the game, but the soundtrack is the perfect companion to Lara’s journey of character. This woman goes through all kinds of hell just to live, and Graves’ music captures both the feelings of dread and those of triumph as she conquers those challenges.