1. Journey - 304 points, 10 honorable mentions
Composer: Austin Wintory
I was Born for This
So many games are accompanied by an orchestral, sweeping score these days, but I find most remain generic and devoid of anything resembling a memorable melody. Journey is practically defined by Wintory's stirring arrangements, alternating between the grandiose and the intimate, yet never feeling intrusive or self-important, and really manages to wring out every last drop of heartfelt emotion by the journey's end.
Journey's soundtrack just went places I haven't seen games go yet. Every piece is absolutely stunning and completely married to the events of the game. It's not only a really good soundtrack, it's also innovative in terms of where we can go with game music connecting with gameplay and how far we can push it. I'm glad it was nominated for a Grammy, because it really deserves it. It's been linked a thousand times, but seriously, Apotheosis is one of the best tracks in a game, ever.
2. Hotline Miami - 231 points, 12 honorable mentions
Ambient, moody soundtracks aren't always my thing, but this one is an exception. The Journey experience would be greatly diminished without this score. It perfectly traces the ups and downs of your trip to the mountain, and it meshes perfectly with the chirps and chimes of your fleeting companions. The music drifts along in the background most of the time, but makes itself heard at the right moments.
Composers: Jasper Byrne, Scattle, Perturbator, M.O.O.N., Sun Araw, El Huervo, CoConuts, Eirik Suhrke, Elliott Berlin
Every song on this album makes my heart rate increase, my eyes narrow and the palms of my hands get clammy. It's a testament to the quality of the soundtrack that the blinding rage that the game had me in during our time together never diminished the effect that the music had on me.
Pounding, unnerving, driven tracks drive the action sequences while sludgy, ethereal Guitar Trance whittles away conscious thought between missions. A masterful work.
3. Kid Icarus: Uprising - 177 points, 10 honorable mentions
The constant trance-like sound is both hypnotic and gut-wrenching. Very unusual OST... Loved it.
Composers: Motoi Sakuraba, Yasunori Mitsuda, Yuzo Koshiro, Masafumi Takada, Noriyuki Iwadare, Takahiro Nishi, Hirokazu Tanaka
Boss Battle 1
The Return of Palutena
Nintendo pulled out all the stops to make Pit's comeback something to remember. Of note is the fact that all the songs are synced expertly to the action, so even if you're playing sans the game's excellent dubbing, you'll find yourself in an incredibly crafted audio/visual gaming experience. Utterly bombastic, Kid Icarus Uprising - like the game itself - reminds me of an actor gleefully playing to an audience.
The composer lineup for Uprising immediately gives its soundtrack presence. With both old themes from the NES game given the orchestrated treatment and many more new tracks making their mark with a variety of styles, Pit’s journey feels both bold and new while also slightly nostalgic. While it leans towards more standard orchestration for the majority of the soundtrack there’s quite a bit of variety in here from spanish guitar heavy themes invoking an old Western feel to something I can only describe as the splicing of sci-fi and big band music.
4. Max Payne 3 - 115 points, 10 honorable mentions
Awesome new soundtrack filled with heavy-hitting composers. The music feels so energetic and inspired, with a vast collection of strong melodic compositions that I could recall months after playing. What it may lack in subtlety, it makes up for in sheer enjoyment.
Just greatness. Electronic, synthy, somber, energetic, melodic, moody, raw, and works even out of context. Great job by HEALTH and another superb soundtrack from Rockstar. It's exactly the kind of style I'd want from a shooter soundtrack and drips with that "heightened reality grimy urban crime story" tone.
Beautiful album, one that I've listened to a bunch outside of playing the game. Very dark, abrasive guitars mixed with distorted synths. Just fits the mood of the game perfectly.
5. Final Fantasy XIII-2 - 100 points, 6 honorable mentions
I knew from the Tears reveal that Health would absolutely knock this out of the park, and lo and behold, they did.
Composers: Masashi Hamauzu, Naoshi Mizuta, Mitsuto Suzuki, Nobuo Uematsu, Yoshitaka Suzuki
A huge departure in style from XIII (and every other FF game for that matter), XIII-2's soundtrack managed to floor me with the sheer amount of variety it holds. From metal to electronica to progressive rock to music that sounds as if it came right out of the 80s and beyond. I'm incredibly impressed with the range that Suzuki/Mizuta/Hamauzu managed to put on display here. Mizuta in particular really surprised me. After XI and 4 Heroes of Light, I was not looking forward to his contributions here, but he sure as hell made me a believer after all was said and done with.
First off, the direction in this music is just amazing. Not only do we hear the aesthetic of XIII being preserved by two newcomers in addition to Hamauzu, each new composer brings flair that is distinctly theirs to the OST. The sheer volume of music in this game is nothing short of outstanding really, and you can tell this one was a labor of love, as well as a labor of fun.
From the wide variety of many different vocal timbres and music aesthetic and style, this diverse soundtrack filled with very diverse genres for everyone, even you crazy chocobo riders.
6. Mass Effect 3 - 77 points, 6 honorable mentions
Final Fantasy XIII-2’s soundtrack is a mishmash of a bunch of things yet it ends up being kind of cohesive in the long run. There’s pop, rock, hard rock, rap, hip-hop… you name it, this soundtrack probably has it. And I think it helps that there are three talented composers working on this soundtrack in the forms of Hamauzu, Suzuki, and Mizuta, with all three getting their time to finally shine and show their stuff. All of them get to experiment with different genres to varying results, and in the end, I love that they took the time to do so. The album thus ends up giving the Final Fantasy series a shot in the arm of variance and genre diversity that the series desperately needed.
Composers: Sam Hulick, Clint Mansell, Christopher Lennertz, Cris Velasco, Sascha Dikiciyan
7. Gravity Rush - 69 points, 9 honorable mentions
Not even Clint Mansell could save the Mass Effect franchise from self-destruction, but at least Bioware gave us a soundtrack that deserves much more.
Composer: Kouhei Tanaka
Resistance and Extermination
Kohei Tanaka’s soundtrack is eclectic, ultra-catchy and just generally full of child-like wonderment. From the sweeping strings and easy-going jazz of city exploration to the pulse-racing rock of the combat segments, his collection of tracks never ceased to leave an impression on me no matter where I was in the game, or what I was doing. Unforgetable stuff.
8. Fez - 67 points, 6 honorable mentions
An absolutely delightful soundtrack covering many different styles. A perfect fit for the game.
Composer: Rich Vreeland ("Disasterpeace")
9. Sound Shapes - 47 points, 6 honorable mentions
Without a doubt the best of 2012 for me. A enchanting soundtrack which matches perfectly Fez's adventurous atmosphere. The tunes exacerbate the feeling of wonder you feel as you explore each new level of the game. Sometimes it's majestic, sometimes it's nostalgic, sometimes it's appeasing, and sometimes you even play with the notes to complete your objective. A near perfect game/music symbiosis.
Composers: Beck, Jim Guthrie, Jonathan Mak, Shaw-Han Liem, Deadmau5
Touch The People
10. FTL: Faster Than Light - 41 points, 9 honorable mentions
Frankly, including this here feels like cheating considering the entire game is centered around the music. But even so, it has quite a few lovely tracks, and the concept itself is novel enough to be worth at least a few bonus points. The format of the game encourages experimentation on the part of the artists, resulting in some truly bizarre and fascinating music. And let's not forget that players themselves have an influence on this when they make their own levels, which itself serves as a way to create new music.
Composer: Ben Prunty
Space Cruise (Title)
I love that the soundtrack not only covers the happier, wondrous aspect of exploring a galaxy but that it also has a set of darker tracks for when you're battling for your life (literally, since the game is hard as shit and seemingly any one battle can wipe out your ship).
11. Nintendo Land - 40 points, 7 honorable mentions
Minimalistic, yet evocative. A good companion on your trek through the vast emptiness of space.
Composer: Ryo Nagamatsu
Balloon Trip Breeze - Evening
Main Plaza 8-bit
Metroid Blast - Ridley Battle
The soundtrack mostly seems to be composed out of arrangements and remixes, but I don't think I've heard a single bad piece of music in it.
12. Halo 4 - 39 points, 4 honorable mentions
Don't sleep on this one. Some of the best remixes Nintendo has ever done. It's a shame that the quality and depth of these compositions didn't translate over to NSMBU.
Composer: Neil Davidge
Epic, beautiful, haunting, memorable, fun, nostalgic of the original but has its own groove.
13. Dustforce - 36 points, 4 honorable mentions
Actually holds up well to the old games
Composer: Terence Lee ("Lifeformed")
Swimming While It Rains
14. Zero Escape: Virtue's Last Reward - 34 points, 4 honorable mentions
Dustforce’s soundtrack is a nice blend of electronic music and relaxation. It creates a lovely contrast between the frantic quick pace of the gameplay and the mellow, smooth sounds and sights of the game. If making the player attempt to feel more relaxed while trying to create synergy with the peaceful backgrounds, then I think Lee was successful in creating that sort of atmosphere with Fastfall. Excellent composition and sample usage all around.
Composer: Shinji Hosoe
15. Persona 4 Golden - 33 points, 5 honorable mentions
An admittedly more ambient soundtrack with nothing quite like 999's more threatening tracks, but with an excellent main theme remake of Morphogenetic Sorrow, incredibly tense pulse-pounding puzzle room musics, and the tear-jerker that is Blue Bird Lamentation, Virtue's Last Reward takes the crown for me this year.
Composer: Shoji Meguro
Never More ~okaeri~
SNOWFLAKES -powder snow mix-
The P4 OST is one of my personal favorites so there is no way it wouldn't make my top 3. The uniqueness defines it. It has those songs that, the moment you hear them, it makes you remember of the game/part of it you played, even if a long time has passed since that happened.
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A couple of new tunes (which are great), and the original OST is still fantastic.
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