In terms of videogame music, 2013 was a strange year. While there were some undoubtedly great soundtracks that will be remembered for years to come, there were also some surprising letdowns. Small indie games and downloadable titles continue to blindside me with their awesomeness, and triple-A titles were either a gigantic hit or miss for the most part.
So, rather than compile all of 2013’s game music into one, fat pile of YouTube links, here’s a small compilation of all the game music from this year that mattered most to me. This is the stuff that moved me the most, stayed in my head, and most importantly, kept me from hitting the skip button on my iPod. Hope you enjoy.
Artist: Power Glove
Availability: iTunes, Amazon MP3
Rather than save the best for last, I’m doing it first. Why? Because this, honestly, is the best soundtrack I’ve heard in years, and one of my personal favorites of all time. It’s not common to see a game or its soundtrack succeed in depicting a specific era of media with such accuracy (even if it was cheesy 80s action movies), but Blood Dragon is something else. 80s movie references aside, the soundtrack is a retro-electronic masterpiece. It’s the type of music that knows exactly what it is and how it’s being used, and ends up making the entire game a better experience because of it.
The Last of Us
Artist: Gustavo Santaolalla
Availability: iTunes, Amazon MP3
Gustavo Santaolalla’s original score for The Last of Us is a poignant, melancholy, and heart-wrenching affair in the best possible way. Mirroring many of the game’s themes, the music can be downright sad and disturbing at times, with rare glimmers of hope thrown in to torture you further. Most of the time, the soundtrack takes a backseat to the gameplay, interjecting perfectly during certain moments for heightened emotional effect. Long after the journey has been completed, the soundtrack continues to haunt me and get stuck in my head.
New addition to the Seven Deadly Sins – not having an official release of the new Killer Instinct soundtrack. How this soundtrack hasn’t been given an official release is beyond me, but this is the world we must live in. Given how much the SNES versions were loved, it seems like a no-brainer to have this game’s incredible music available day and date to the game. Perhaps with the next batch of characters coming out in March we’ll hear some news on an official release.
Rants aside, Killer Instinct‘s new music is awesome and great fan service, but only officially exists as two music suites on composer Mick Gordon’s Soundcloud page. Give’m a listen and enjoy the Main Theme above. It’s obvious that a great deal of care and respect to the fans was given with this music, and that the composer really “gets it”. The classic Killer Instinct theme can be heard during the guitar solo, which should be enough to make the hairs on any KI fan’s arms stand up.
I even had the chance to play VS. mode with a buddy sitting next to me on the couch, and we were practically high-fiving each other with each awesome menu and character theme. High-fives quickly turned to raucous trash-talking, though, and it was a blast to relive the old days when multiplayer games meant everyone sitting around a TV.
Artist: Ari Pulkkinen
The PlayStation 4’s downloadable launch game, Resogun, might’ve been its best title at launch. The soundtrack is a pounding smorgasbord of electronic beats and melodies crafted by musician Ari Pulkkinen, who also did the music for Super Stardust HD, Dead Nation and Trine 1 & 2. According to Pulkkinen’s official site, the soundtrack is directly influenced by Daft Punk’s score to Tron: Legacy, M83’s score for the film Oblivion, and Steve Jablonsky’s Transformers themes. I would have loved the soundtrack based purely on it’s influences, but thankfully, it does live up to them as demonstrated in the Main Title Music above.
However, as if by some cruel joke, there is no official soundtrack yet, even though it says “it’s on its way” on Pulkkinen’s page. The last update was on November 18. Listen – Housemarque, or Ari Pulkkinen, or whoever is responsible for publishing this game’s music – let me give you my money. I want to, seriously. Accept my hard-earned cash for this game’s officially released soundtrack. Obviously people want it, judging from all the illegal rips and YouTube playlists floating out there, so please, let this happen!
Mass Effect 3: Citadel
Artist: Sam Hulick, Sascha Dikiciyan, Cris Velasco
Availability: BioWare Social Network, iTunes
The soundtrack to BioWare’s Citadel DLC is more important to me than most people will ever know. The reasons for that are between my wife, Sam Hulick and myself, but that aside, it’s some of the Mass Effect universe’s finest music to date. The emotional sendoff to the trilogy came as wonderful and bittersweet for me, even amidst the controversy surrounding Mass Effect 3‘s original ending.
I found myself biting my lip with watery eyes listening to “Farewell and into the Inevitable” and “Lost In You”, while “I Dream of Sushi” sounds like it’s from an episode of Archer. There’s still plenty of classic, Mass Effect-style of electronic ambience to be had, though, with tracks “The Anti-Shepard” , “Battle Within, Battle Without” and “Archival Knowledge” among some of the best.
I’ll miss you, Mass Effect trilogy. And Shepard, and Garrus, and the entire cast we’ve all come to know and love. Thanks for the wonderful ride.
I’ll be honest and say that I don’t know a thing about this game, but what I do know is that it has some seriously darn good music. Catering to my obvious and insatiable love of electronic game music, Ultratron is about as good as it gets. It’s infectious and upbeat, perfect for good workout-listening music. Crafted with just the slightest hint of chiptunes, plus modern electronic music sensibilities, and you’ve got yourself a perfect head-bobbin’ soundtrack.
Artist: Tom Salta
Availability: iTunes, Amazon MP3
The soundtrack to Halo: Spartan Assault is about as Halo-sounding as it could be without Martin O’Donnell writing the score. And that’s a very good thing, at least in my eyes. Tom Salta does his best to make sure players feel like they’re playing a Halo game, but with enough of his own trademark sound that it doesn’t come across as “Me too!”.
Everything from the deep percussion, rock guitars, choir chants, and ethereal ambience is here and sounds exactly how you’d want it to. On the downside, it makes waiting for the next real installment of the Halo franchise even tougher to wait for.
Super Mario 3D World
Artist: Mahito Yokota, Koji Kondo, Toru Minegishi and Yasuaki Iwata
Availability: Japanese Club Nintendo
Super Mario 3D World‘s music is a magical delight amidst all of the other dark, moody, and dramatic scores this year. Even this track, “Boo House”, which may sound like it’s supposed to be scary, is actually fun, lighthearted, and whimsical. It’s the perfect pallet cleanser amidst all the soundtracks to shooters and post-apocalyptic wastelands we hear throughout the year.
Sadly, nothing but YouTube rips of this game’s music exist, except for the lucky Club Nintendo members in Japan. For them, they can get the physical soundtrack, which covers 77 tracks over two discs. I’m not even jealous…
Minecraft Volume Beta
Availability: Bandcamp, iTunes
Compared to Volume Alpha, Volume Beta of the Minecraft soundtrack is incredibly varied in the types of music and melodies it features. Ranging from happy and quirky, to creepy and downright scary, Volume Beta is a fantastic addition to an already wonderful collection of music.
This has been one of my favorite albums to listen when I’m working around the house, and it compliments a creative outlet such as writing very well.
BioShock Infinite‘s mind blowing experience wasn’t just because of it’s narrative, characters, and environment – the music was revelatory as well, both in terms of it’s original score and the cleverly hidden covers.
The covers, though, are really something special. Often tough to find and camouflaged behind unfamiliar arrangements, they were easily missed by those not paying full attention. Catching a particular lyric and recognizing it for the first time, though, had you raising an eyebrow, thinking “Did I just hear what I think I did!?”
In a game full of “Holy crap!” moments, the musical covers became an extra treat to those willing to seek them out, and remain one of my favorite experiences with a game’s soundtrack last year. Sadly, they were never released as part of the original soundtrack, but thanks to YouTube, you can at least listen the whole playlist for free.
Artist: Chris Remo
Availability: Bandcamp, Loudr FM
Gone Home has taken much of the gaming world by surprise, at least the part the cares about indie games and the advancement of storytelling within games. Like many soundtracks, the music in Gone Home often takes a backseat to what the player is doing, focusing on conveying an emotion rather than being too in-your-face and directive.
Grand Theft Auto V (Original Score)
Artists: Woody Jackson, Tangerine Dream, The Alchemist, Oh No, DJ Shadow
Rockstar has been creating some of the most believable, engrossing worlds within games for many years now, thanks largely to their incredible use of licensed and original music. Grand Theft Auto V was no different, but for the first time ever in a GTA game, it had me paying more attention to the original score than its hundreds of licensed radio tracks. Like the game, the production values behind the original score seem staggeringly good, and are a treat to the ear.
Ranging from Ocean’s 11-style heist themes, to classic rock, to synth-pop, to laid back, West Coast hip-hop, the styles of music that were effortlessly put together here are incredible. Even if you don’t care for GTA, which I can completely understand, I highly recommend its original score.
Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag (Sea Shanty Edition)
Availability: iTunes, Amazon MP3
I feel like the Assassin’s Creed soundtracks peaked with Jesper Kyd’s score to AC II. Other than the main themes to each game, the soundtracks have been more or less forgettable for me, Black Flag included.
However, music to the game’s sea shanties have completely taken me by surprise with their delightful, swashbuckling catchiness. I’ve found myself singing these tunes to myself on more occasions than I’d like to admit. I simply can’t get enough of them, and I’m not entirely sure why. Judging from their popularity rank on iTunes, I’d say I’m not the only one who thinks the same way.
Artist: Peter Chapman, Rom Di Prisco
Rather than completely falling victim to cliched, generic mariachi music, Guacamelee! offers it up in a completely tasteful way. This was another a game in which I didn’t play, yet loved the music. It’s always been a testament to good videogame music to me when you can listen to it out of context and outside of the game, and be totally engrossed and happy with it.