NeoGAF's Official Game Soundtracks of the Year 2013: Voting Ends January 12th

Jul 30, 2013
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Uncle Nert’s Wacky Pick ™ of the day is...

Pac-Man Championship Edition DX+

Composers: Taku Inoue, Toshio Kai, Akitaka Tohyama, Hiroshi Okubo, Hiroyuki Kawada and Junko Ozawa
Album Information
Before I properly talk about this, I believe you meant for Pac steps to link to a different song right? It goes to the reentrance one again. Just thought you'd like to know.

Edit: Well now I've listened to them I have to say that I love how well constructed these pieces are. They say music is all about layers, and if that's the case then this is a fine example of the medium. Particularly the reentrance theme, at one point I was thinking you'd linked to an extended version as it was the same melody, but I noticed gradual build-up of overlapping synth, that culminated in something that just goes straight to the soul and makes you want to move around. And that's the kind of thing I look for in music. Thanks for the write-up Nert, looking forward to more.
 
Feb 25, 2013
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Would Lightning Returns count for this year or next? Cuz while the soundtrack came out, the release of the game outside of Japan won't be until Feb of next year and I surely can't give an honest opinion since I don't have the soundtrack in it's original context (I love the way it sounds, but it may be completely unfitting for all I know which would certainly affect the way I would rate it)
 
May 7, 2006
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1. Ni no Kuni - Wrath of the White Witch
Ni no Kuni's music is the one consistently fantastic part of an otherwise very mixed bag. Listening to it really sweeps you up with a sense of adventure and doesn't let go. Many of the pieces are great at making you feel a sense of scale. The main theme and overworld especially. They mix up instrumentation and tempo in such a way that one moment everything feels very distant and calm, and the other moment up close and personal. It makes for perfect adventuring music. The people involved really knew their stuff. Easily the prettiest part of an already very pretty package.

2. The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds
I'm a little hesitant to put this one on here, since it has a loooot of remixes, but I feel like I have to be honest. This game has great music from top to bottom. It successfully blends simply having good music, with giving you a nostalgia trip. Especially the latter was very enjoyable. There were several times when you'd be listening to a song and only after a few minutes you realise what it was based on.

3. Rayman Legends
Rayman Legends has a great range of styles, and of all my picks, its songs probably feel the least gamey. I was a bit afraid of this one, since I was warned in advance that the game, but especially the music was a huge downgrade from Origins. Luckily I found out that the music was still able to sit at the big-boy table with ease. A little bit more atmospheric this time around, but highly enjoyable and complementary to the game.

Honourable mentions:
The Wonderful 101
Super Mario 3D World
Tearaway
Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney - Dual Destinies
Metal Gear Rising
 
Feb 7, 2007
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That Pacman joint is pretty fun!

1. Ni no Kuni - Wrath of the White Witch
Ni no Kuni's music is the one consistently fantastic part of an otherwise very mixed bag. Listening to it really sweeps you up with a sense of adventure and doesn't let go. Many of the pieces are great at making you feel a sense of scale. The main theme and overworld especially. They mix up instrumentation and tempo in such a way that one moment everything feels very distant and calm, and the other moment up close and personal. It makes for perfect adventuring music. The people involved really knew their stuff. Easily the prettiest part of an already very pretty package.
It's interesting how even when Hisaishi's at his safest, he's so accomplished that everything about a track will work perfectly. A real pro. I said it before but Golden Grove is like the platonic ideal of RPG forest music, so many of those personal "moments" you're describing.
 
Jul 5, 2010
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1. Grand Theft Auto V

The way Rockstar brings in certain stems of of tracks based on what's happening in-game is amazingly effective, worked great in Red Dead and works great in GTA V. But what puts GTA V's score over the top for me is how enjoyable it is to listen to separate from the game. Just an awesome album on its own. High quality work from Alchemist, Oh No and Woody Jackson, but I think the standouts here are the Tangerine Dream tracks. They were really a perfect fit for GTA V's intense heist missions.

standout tracks: North Yankton Memories, The Grip, A Haze of Patriotic Fervor

2. Gunpoint

Really cool jazzy/noir soundtrack with a bit of an electronic twist to some of the tracks.

standout tracks: Main Theme (Melancholia), Cold Halls and Footfalls, Subterfuge Shuffle

3. Payday 2

I've barely even played Payday 2 to be honest (would love to see it on PS4) but I remember the soundtrack really standing out the few times I did play it on a friend's PC. Decided to buy it on a whim from bandcamp and it was totally worth it. It's fantastic. Super intense, fits the game perfectly, and is a great listen on its own.

standout tracks: Clean Getaway, Let's Go Shopping!, The Mark,
 
Aug 1, 2009
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Uncle Nert’s Wacky Pick ™ of the day is...

Element4l

Composer: Mind Tree
Album Information

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After discussing drum and bass jubilees and electronic chicken warbles in previous posts, today seemed like a great day to slow things down with Element4l. While many of its songs feature moments that swell up with energy, the game's soundtrack as a whole offers a more atmospheric, meditative and ambient listening experience.

I tend to learn a lot of new things while working on these write-ups, and perusing this soundtrack's Bandcamp tags introduced me to the concept of "braindance" music. I'm far from an expert, but braindance music and "intelligent dance music" (IDM) purport to be more thought provoking and experimental than other subsets of electronic music. It's easy to see how terms like those could be dismissed as arrogant or condescending, but they serve as decent frameworks for analyzing Mind Tree's work here.

Let's use that perspective to look at Island, Bonfire, Lake. The way that the song unfolds syncs up well with the process of making repeated attempts to solve a seemingly intractable puzzle. While the xylophone is driving the melody, with what sounds like the sound of gears being cranked in the background, one can picture someone standing back and assessing the situation. The rapid-fire progressions of piano notes, on the other hand, feel like someone pressing forward and attempting to carry out whatever plans they were able to come up with. When the music slows down once again, the player is licking his or her wounds and trying to come up with a new approach. The piano sections become faster and more urgent until the very end, where the player is finally able to overcome that obstacle. Everything suddenly fades out into white noise as the mind relaxes and revels in its little victory.

I don't doubt that I'm probably reaching a bit with the interpretation that I just laid out, but you know what? It certainly made me think!

Mind Tree's penchant for sonic experimentation can be found throughout the album. Paxton features some slightly unnerving samples of laughing children before closing out with some heavily distorted bass. Adrift Flows Bronsonic Delight takes this further by splicing in distinct pieces of conversation, coughing, and singing. I'm not going to attempt to map out a story for that, but it's interesting nonetheless.

Juniper is my personal highlight from the album. It is positively lush with a variety of touches that invoke a striking sense of place. This song conjures up images of waterfalls, leaves snapping and crackling, heavy dollops of rainwater plunking down into a lake, and just a lot of life in general. This is some beautiful stuff.

Ultimately, I think that this soundtrack succeeds on two different levels. Most of the time, I'm content to just leave it running in the background as delightful background music while I'm focusing on something else. At other times, though, it's fun to hone in on the details and let my mind wander.
 
Dec 7, 2007
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2013 was a great year, soundtrack wise.

1. Guacamelee!
2. Beyond: Two souls
3. Remember Me

Honorable mentions (all fantastic soundtracks):
- Puppeteer
- Rain
- The Last of Us
- Brothers: A tale of two sons
- Rayman Legends
- Tearaway
 
Jul 27, 2012
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1. The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds
2. Pokemon X/Y
3. Super Mario 3D World

Honorable mentions:
Etrian Odyssey IV, Fire Emblem, Project X Zone, Animal Crossing: New Leaf.
 
Nov 8, 2013
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1. The Last of Us; Main theme hooked me already.
2. BioShock Infinite; Will the Circle be Unbroken was brilliant.
3. Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag; shanties, main theme, piratey.

Honourable mention: Killzone: Shadow Fall; great style, tension-building.
 
Aug 1, 2009
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Man, I know my top 2, but I can't think of a third.

And I don't wanna vote EO IV two years in a row.
Etrian Odyssey IV will not go unnoticed in this thread :)

Bioshock Infinite. Like Remember Me, the game has issues. But the music is spot on. I wasn't sure if covers of pre-existing pop music, as creatively interpreted as it is, counts. If so, God Only Knows is one of the better musical surprises this year.
Licensed soundtracks can be considered in this thread, so covers of pre-existing pop music definitely count. I agree that the covers in BioShock Infinite are highly creative, particularly in how they subtly tied in to the game's narrative.

And I guess that's what I like about the soundtrack. It blends traditional sounds in so well with its electronic, ambient, and chiptune sounds that while playing off the mirror world nature of the game, the soundtrack itself plays so well into that notion of two "worlds" of sounds coming together in base tracks alone, not just the division of original world tracks vs World of the Dead tracks. It's perhaps one of those soundtracks that could possibly be evocative of radio-friendly or pop/dance tunes in terms of their instrumental stylings alone. That sort of cohesion is required in that sense. I also guess what I also appreciate about the soundtrack is its relative simplicity. It makes use of few instruments and genres, but creates something relatively large, cohesive, and clean without sounding incredibly one-note. And that typically takes skill.

If I do include the OST in my honourable mentions category, I'm not sure if I'd include a writeup for it since you basically did the work. :p
Hey, you're more than welcome to create write-ups of your own for any of the soundtracks that I discuss. It's not like I'm claiming "dibs" on anything here; I'm just hoping to create a lot of fodder for further discussion.

Your point about how the dichotomy between the more traditional sounds and the electronic sounds works to further reflect the game's split between a light and a dark world is excellent. Like you, I am also impressed by how unique each song sounds, even when there is a lot of overlap in the sounds being used. One of my favorite examples of this is the very limited use of trumpet in the beginning of Sierra Morena. Instead of driving the melody, the trumpet here is very ethereal and fleeting, reinforcing the fact that you're leaving warmer climates behind as you begin to ascend the frigid peaks.

Lengthy and terrific post
Killer Instinct is definitely on my radar now! I really enjoyed your thorough explanation of the soundtrack's dynamic elements.
 
Oct 30, 2010
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Thanks for doing this again, Nert! I've been looking forward to this all year. It's a lot of fun reading people's selections and impressions.

Long post incoming! We'll just say this is tentative to be safe, but I'm pretty set on these choices.

3. Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance

I love that this soundtrack isn’t tongue-in-cheek. It is completely sincere, bombastic hard metal rock with a slice of oh-so-delicious cheese. Every punch of synth or guitar shred are tuned and timed to evoke instinctual satisfaction, and Jamie Christopherson brings just enough vocal bite to each song without being overwhelming or distracting. Revengeance scratches a powerful, primal itch – the need for the badass rock anthem.

Listen to: I’m My Own Master Now, A Stranger I Remain, It Has to Be This Way

2. Atelier Ayesha

This one was a surprise for me, as I don’t play Atelier games. But this low-key RPG features a soundtrack that blends jazz and folk elements to create a whimsical and enchanting atmosphere. There is an impressive range of music on display here, from soothing mood pieces to rocking battle themes. Kazuki Yanegawa in particular shines on this soundtrack, offering a unique sound, rich with Asian and European ethnic instrumentation, which has no parallel in gaming. If you haven’t heard to this soundtrack, which I suspect many of you haven’t, give it a chance – hopefully you will latch onto it as I have.

Listen to: Hanashirube, Invitation Flower ~ Spring, Yesterday’s Opponents are Today’s Ingredients, Close to the Edge, Cheeks Stained by the Color of the Setting Sun

1. Fire Emblem Awakening

Forgive me for gushing, but I’m going to go fully in-depth with this one, because I think it deserves it. Fire Emblem Awakening uses its capacity not only as a soundtrack, but as a video game soundtrack, to create what has become one of my favorite gaming OSTs in recent memory.

Like this year’s Metal Gear Rising and Killer Instinct, Fire Emblem Awakening uses dynamic themes that phase in and out of each other between map and battle modes. This is a musical tool unique to games, and I’m glad to see several games this year take advantage of it. In this regard, Awakening admittedly lacks the ingenuity of the aforementioned two games, which use special vocal and instrumental layers or musical bridges to heighten or suspend the tension in their gameplay sequences. But Awakening’s brilliant and immaculate instrumentation more than makes up for this shortcoming.

Listen, for example, to Conquest. This map theme is a serene soundscape with the feel of a long journey, constructed through sustained strings that subtly swell and recede and soft, yet percussive congas that keep the piece moving forward. In the B-section, a small section of ethnic wind instruments drive the tempo as the drums pull back to provide a baseline, and an erhu and piano play a melodic duet, creating a dreamy folk sound before returning to a variation of the main section – a beautiful, understated rendition of the Fire Emblem theme. All of the instruments blend exceptionally well. If you listen closely, there are a lot of instrumental and melodic layers at work, and the piece naturally flows because of it.

Now listen to the B-section in Conquest~Ablaze, the respective battle theme, where the erhu and piano were. The percussive folk sound from the wind instruments is swapped out with a Motoi Sakuraba-esque electric organ that is played softly, lending the section an edge without compromising the piece’s flow. Who would think to use an electric organ to establish tension here, and at such a specific dynamic? Actually, who would think to use an erhu and a piano together? I wouldn’t. But somehow, it works. It’s these small yet keen instrumental choices that continue to impress me, and which allow the game’s map and battle segments to flow so organically between each other.

The strength of dynamic themes, ultimately, comes down to the strength of their composition, and Awakening is no slouch here. Listen to the determined, harpsichord-driven crescendo of Divine Decree, or the ominous, slightly synthesized swirl of Chaos, along with their “Ablaze” versions. These are songs that develop and whose deliberate instrumentation and composition create, more than melody, atmosphere. One of the game’s crowning achievements in this respect is Don’t speak her name!, which plays during one of the game’s more emotionally-charged battles. There are no tricks to this one, besides a small leitmotif that can be traced back to a few other songs; it is simply an immaculate buildup of musical layers, a song that is somehow melancholic and emotionally sweeping all at once. Music is ultimately subjective, and the “science” behind this one eludes me. All I know is that it is damn good.

Also, let it be known that I am a sucker for leitmotifs. Awakening uses its leitmotifs smartly, neither drip-feeding musical ideas nor drowning the listener in them. One of Awakening's most important musical ideas is established towards the game’s opening, through Id~Serenity, which is the theme of the player avatar. Each recurrent use of the “Id” leitmotif specifically uses an accordion for the melody, and the accordion only makes an appearance in “Id” songs; in a sense, the accordion is used to musically symbolize the player. It’s a pretty brilliant decision to give the player his or her own leitmotif, as it makes its reappearance in several emotional moments directly impactful. The game culminates in one final map theme, Id~Purpose, and my favorite theme in the entire game. Here, in an utterly blissful eight-minute composition, you and your army fight for the fate of the world – and your theme ultimately collapses into the Fire Emblem theme, canonizing your place in the entire Fire Emblem series. It’s completely genius, and only possible through the video game medium.

Awakening does not represent an earth-shattering new development in video game music. But what it may lack in eclecticism it more than makes up for with some of the strongest compositions I’ve heard in recent years, replete with musical layers without ever becoming bloated or mechanical. That’s really what this soundtrack is – a collection of skillfully placed musical ideas that form an enduring emotional tie between the player, the game, and the music, ultimately becoming more than the sum of those parts. How can all this happen without sounding like rote science? I don’t know. But this soundtrack walks that thin line with confidence, and magnificently etches itself into memory.

Honorable mentions:

Ace Attorney: Dual Destinies – For an exciting collection of new themes and reinventions of old ones.

Etrian Odyssey IV – For some of the most gorgeous orchestrations I’ve heard in a long time. Romance and jazz are two of my favorite things in music, and this one marries both.
 
Jan 12, 2011
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Introduction/Disclaimer:

Not only has 2013 been a great year for games, but the soundtracks and compositions that have accompanied a lot of these titles have made this year for me far more enjoyable than I could have ever imagined. As I get older, I find myself appreciating certain aspects of gaming that aren't necessarily the reasons as to why most people probably play games to begin with. For example, I've been fascinated with cinematography and camera/movie-direction in games ever since I played Devil May Cry 3 back on the PS2. Yuji Shimomura's work on DMC3/4 and Bayonetta mesmerizes me every time I sit down and play those games. Now, music has always been an important factor as to why I play and enjoy certain games, but I feel like it's becoming the deciding factor (for the most part) as to why I prefer one game over the other. I have definitely played a bunch of games over the years that most people would consider awful and not worth their time, but I find myself attracted to a lot of these games simply because the music does something for me. As Papercuts said, I too also enjoy seeing how music is used/implemented/timed during certain scenes/moments, the dynamics and integration of gameplay & music, all that sound design jazz, etc. I love it.

With that said, I honestly feel like I haven't been able to catch by breath this year. Not only have I not had time to play everything that I wanted to play, but I certainly have not given particular games enough attention to fully appreciate everything they have to offer, especially their soundtracks. There are so many games this year where I essentially "soaked my feet" in that most likely contain/pack tiny golden nuggets of composition that could potentially alter this entire list, but it just didn't happen that way. I see people mentioning a lot of these games in their lists and I genuinely feel like shit that I didn't/couldn't make time for them. To be quite honest, 2013 has been a real tough year for me personally/professionally. Now that I've been out of college and working at my first real job for over a year now, I have not had the time to play games like I used to. I don't feel like my interest or passion in gaming has changed, but my perspectives and attitudes have certainly evolved and adapted to my new work/life schedule. I'm a way different person today than I was a year ago, to say the least.

So, I will only be nominating games I've actually completed this year as I don't feel comfortable talking about a soundtrack/piece of music from a game I haven't beaten (although, I may make some of those games/tracks my honorable mentions). I will also be updating this list one at a time because I'm going to get quite detailed with my selections and I'm already exhausted after that lengthy introduction.

1.) Shin Megami Tensei IV



The moment I stepped onto the Tokyo Overworld I could not believe what I was hearing. With all of the great music tracks/compositions this year, there were very few moments where I would stop playing the game and idle on screen just to listen to a particular piece. This track was one of them. This doesn't happen very often with me either. It takes a special game with the right moment/timing of a particular track to make me put down my portable/controller/whatever, increase the volume (or hook up my 3DS to an external speaker in this case) and pace around my room/area until I'm mentally exhausted and fulfilled. My brother, who's relatively fallen out of the gaming scene over the past few years (but was/is still a HUGE Nocturne/RPG fan), was in the room with me when I first heard this track. After one cycle of the track, almost at the same time (as we're very much in sync with each other, especially when it comes to game music), we were like, "Wait a minute...what is this music?" as if he too, for that moment, remembered the days when a game/soundtrack could evoke a particular kind of emotion or feeling out of him. It was a pretty cool thing to experience between the both of us. As many have said when they reach this point in the game, I still don't think there is a better way to phrase it other than "Welcome to Shin Megami Tensei IV". That moment when you transition out of the game's 5-7 hour "introduction" to the real start of the journey is something I'll never forget.

Aside from quite possibly my favorite overworld theme in any game/RPG, there was also a very haunting/distorted version of SMT's classic Law theme, among other returning tracks like Fiend. I went to a private Catholic school as a kid (from grade 1 to 8) and sometimes we would have to go and sit in church. I can't even recall what songs/prayers we would be forced to sing during those masses. I wish this was the song we would have listened to/sang instead because maybe I would have gotten something out of those 8 years. If I had to pick a boss theme that spoke the most to me it would have to be between this Boss Battle theme or that Middboss Battle track. Both battle tracks provide such good energy levels, it's almost impossible not to feel pumped during a fight. There's also so much good stuff tucked away like that VR Battle theme. I mean, this is just from a challenge mission that is completely separate from the main game. I love it when I come across pieces you only hear once or even so often throughout a game. Let us not forget tracks like Ikebukuro. Total 80's-like rock/synth. I mean, holy shit at those drum fills at 1:10 to 1:22! So good.

The soundtrack for this game is massive. There's just too much stuff that resonated with me. It was really hard writing about the few tracks that I selected. There are SO many other great pieces that I left out, but I thought I'd try and find a nice variety instead to show the different sides of the game. I went into SMT IV with high expectations and they were met and exceeded in almost every regard, especially the soundtrack.

2.) Crimson Dragon



My biggest impulse purchase of the year has to go to the Xbox One. I had no plans on picking up this system for a long time. Actually, a year ago, I had no intentions on EVER buying this system. Well, as the release date approached I started to see more videos and read more information on Crimson Dragon, the spiritual successor to Panzer Dragoon, a series I was fortunate enough to play/own as a kid. Impressions weren't too hot from the old school fans nor did the general media seem to give two shits about this experimental shooter. After doing some research on the game itself I decided to hop on over to YouTube to give the OST a whirl figuring that would make the deciding factor for my investment. Well, I'm glad I did because now it's one of my favorite soundtracks for the year.

Saori Kobayashi's sound is a unique as it gets. No one else can imitate her music, as far as I'm concerned. There's just something so otherworldly and unique about her work. While I do admit that Crimson Dragon's soundtrack doesn't hold a candle to her previous work/contributions on Panzer Dragoon Saga/Orta, I still can't believe I'm hearing music like this in 2013. When I first heard Sunrise I realized I had to play this game. So many waves of nostalgia washed over me when I first heard this track. What I love about her work with these Panzer Dragoon titles is just how earthly the games sound. It is the ultimate pioneer music too. I can just picture people settling/setting foot on earth for the first time. I don't know if it's all the different percussion/tribal-like drums she uses or what, but I just visualize so much wild imagery while listening to this music. She must also have some alien setting on her keyboard/synthesizer too that's labeled "Panzer Dragoon" because I have no idea how she's producing that sound.

What's interesting to note, Crimson Dragon's soundtrack is basically split between two games. The Windows Phone version, Side Story, contains the same tracks found in the home console version, as far as I know. The two games, however, provide different arrangements of the same tracks. The best/easiest way to describe it would be that the Side Story game sounds more game-y/arcade-like while the Xbox One game sounds more orchestral. To provide an example, here's one of my favorite tracks in the game; Lost Colony from the Xbox One game and Hestrine from the Windows version. I find from 1:56 to 3:20 to be particularly incredible. You can also hear those alien-like sounds I was describing during this range, hah! Two other notable tracks are Warped Wilds and Fire World Both tracks fit their environments perfectly and they're thematic in nature. The Warped Wilds has you flying through a sea of trees while Fire World takes you to the core of the earth. Just all around classic stuff. While I haven't played Side Story, I've listened to the two soundtracks extensively and I surprisingly prefer the Side Story arrangements. That's not to say that the Xbox One renditions are bad or anything, I just prefer the other arrangements more.

Say what you will about the game itself, but Crimson Dragon has a soundtrack like no other. No other game/soundtrack I've played/listened to this year could have provided the emotions or feelings I experienced from this game and for that reason alone it is in my top 3.



3). Zeno Clash II

For the past few days I've been weighing my choices as to what my third and final nomination was going to be. I went back and forth between so many different games and then I realized something...I played a really fucking cool game over the summer. What's weird is that I almost completely forgot about it. Looking back, I feel like I played that game a lifetime ago. It was almost like an out of body experience. Zeno Clash (I & II) are one of the most surreal gaming experiences I've ever had. It's incredibly difficult to explain what's so great/appealing about Zeno Clash. The first game was a linear, stage by stage, first person brawler. Zeno Clash II, however, presented the player with an interconnected world and an emphasis on action/adventure and exploration. While nearly all aspects of the game are unique and interesting, the soundtrack stands out as something truly memorable.

Patricio Meneses is a name I'm not all too familiar with. Having composed the music for the original Zeno Clash (and Rock of Ages), I didn't really know of this composer until recently. I mean, I know when I hear my Sakimoto (which is probably more often one than not one of those "other" guys at Basiscape), I know when I hear my Sakuraba (which unfortunately is someone I'd prefer not to hear as of late...Tales, ugh), and I definitely know when I hear my Mitsuda (I really wish Soul Sacrifice as a game did more for me, because I'm probably missing out on a cool soundtrack). If Ace Team continues to hire Meneses (and they should) I could see this name finding its way into my musical memory bank.

Zeno Clash II is one of those games where it's best to listen to the music as you play. With that said, I'll try my hardest to describe why I enjoyed the soundtrack as much as I did. Night in Halstedom was the first track I took note of. The first 53 seconds, specifically, puts me in a trance every time I hear it. I know I'll be using this word a lot, but really, the best way to describe this game and its music is that it's just so surreal. I believe you hear this track while exploring the first/main town in the game. It perfectly suits the strange buildings & architecture that map the city and the weird inhabitants that walk the streets. If you're lucky (or unlucky) enough, you may spot shadowy figures peaking around corners, watching you from afar. Witnessing these bizarre sights and sounds will leave you in a state of either total disarray or wonderment. I don't know what the fuck I was feeling at the time, I'll tell you that much!

Moments after the introduction, you are treated to one of the coolest moments in Zeno Clash history. Without spoiling too much (as it happens very, very early in the game) you break an important/key character out of jail. This person/thing is respected and feared by the citizens of this unearthly settlement and Ace Team/Meneses chose to accompany this moment with a spectacular piece. Father Mother's City is all about authority. This music plays as the creature you've just freed marches through the streets of the city it once ruled. It's an extremely powerful moment within the context of the game. What's even greater about this event is that the developers allowed the player to take control/witness this strut of power instead of opting for a traditional cinematic. Good stuff.

When I first arrived at the Fields of Zenozoik, I was instantly reminded of the feelings I had when I first stepped onto Hyrule Field in Ocarina of Time. This track just perfectly captures the essence/spirit of exploring a field/overworld in an action adventure game. Whether it's the weird bird-like creatures by the river bed, the abstract trees spewing bubbles from their branches, or the giant egg-like structure on the horizon, there's just so many things grabbing for your attention and the music certainly lends itself to that sensation. The Moth Collector is another track that reminded me of The Legend of Zelda. This track plays in a house with a strange inhabitant that eats/collects moths found scattered throughout the game. This place serves as an optional area/objective to the main story and I feel like it captures that Skulltula House-like vibe or rather, those areas/places in games that somehow tie collectables/items to the story/narrative. It's kind of a hard feeling to describe, but I love it when games do this. The Desert is another mesmerizing piece. So dreamy, but sad and distant at the same time. Visually/aesthetically, this is one of my favorite areas in the game. There's also a really cool nod/reference to the original game that makes this setting and track even more memorable than it already was. Finally, you've got tracks like The Moment of Truth which is quite possibly the best 54 seconds of music you'll ever hear in any game, ever.

Zeno Clash is like nothing I've ever played and the music alone makes this surreal adventure worth taking.
 
Aug 1, 2009
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Uncle Nert’s Wacky Pick ™ of the day is...

Etrian Odyssey IV

Composer: Yuzo Koshiro
Album Information

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Etrian Odyssey IV is the first and only game that I have played in the series, so I will generally avoid drawing comparisons to the series' prior soundtracks. I was interested to learn, however, that Koshiro's shift towards orchestral music (and away from FM synths) was a controversial move for chunks of the series' fanbase. From a newcomer's perspective, this experiment appears to be a total success. The variety of instruments and styles that this soundtrack utilizes, as well as the many different moods it's able to invoke, are rather impressive.

Misty Ravine easily ranks among my most replayed songs of the year. It's simultaneously mysterious, regal and serene, effortlessly gliding through different sounds and emotions. In this song alone, I can think of several elements that I rarely see utilized in other game soundtracks. The shamisen used in the beginning helps to create the aforementioned regal vibe. Then there's the... hand drum... man, I love that drum here. Koshiro also incorporates some calming stretches of quiet towards the end; to make an oddly specific reference, it reminded me a little of the main theme of Animal Crossing: Wild World. Neat stuff!

Also neat: pretty much all of this game's battle music. I never grew tired of hearing Battlefield: Storm, and given this game's length, that's really saying something. The bassline is great throughout (particularly standing out when the song loops), and the organ adds a lot of energy. Unrest - The End of Raging Winds never failed to amp me up and snap me into focus before taking on some of the game's toughest encounters. Things start off strong with some frantic strings, and the pace never really lets up from there. Oh, and here's my sophisticated analysis of the electric guitar solo that kicks in at around 2:40: "that shit is totally rad!"

I appreciated how the soundtrack's main labyrinth themes weren't entirely repurposed for the smaller side dungeons. Instead, each "minor labyrinth" features a rearranged version of its corresponding labyrinth theme that pares things down a little bit. In some cases, I prefer the minor labyrinth themes; Ruins Touched by the Memories of the Ancient holds on to the amazing saxophone line and woodwinds from the fourth labyrinth theme while dropping the keyboard sounds, allowing the piano and percussion to stand out more.

If Koshiro continues to work with orchestras in future projects, I'll probably be okay with it.
 
Jan 1, 2011
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Crumbs Uncle Nert, you're really going for that one soundtrack a day deal you madman you, I'm still unsuccessfully trying to get the words out for my number 3 pick.
It's always interesting listening to soundtracks from games I haven't played, for example I've liked what i've heard from Gunpoint and Etrian Odyssey IV in particular thus far.

Some great writeups regarding the dynamic nature of some soundtracks from Papercuts and Axelstream as well, playing a lot of Rare's games back in the day made me a fan of that angle.
 
Jul 28, 2011
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1. Etrian Odyssey IV (Title Screen | Labyrinth I | Battle II | Labyrinth V)

Another fantastic soundtrack from a series known for fantastic soundtracks. This one is a little controversial among series fans due to its more modern style, but the end result is sublime. A certain retro sensibility is evident even without the classic synth sounds, as strong melodies and intricate rhythms abound. The game relies heavily on its music to contribute a sense of place and tension to its eclectic environments and combats, and this soundtrack is more than up to the challenge. Easily my favorite of the year.

2. Rayman Legends (Infernal Pursuit | Dive Another Day | Castle Invaded | Another World)

This soundtrack is a big part of Rayman's unrelenting exuberance. It's the perfect accompaniment for running and leaping through cheery-yet-lethal worlds at inadvisable speeds. The music does an admirable job matching the rest of the game's unpredictable imagination and energy.

3. Super Mario 3D World (Snow Stage | Ghost House | World Bowser | Staff Credits)

Taking a step back (or sideways?) from the orchestral grandeur of the Super Mario Galaxy games, 3D World's soundtrack goes for a jazzy big band sound. The resulting flavor is something new in a 25-year-old franchise, which is something to celebrate. Also, it's not completely without violins and synthesizers, if that's your preference.

Honorable Mentions
X. The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds (Eastern Temple | Lorule Castle)

A strong soundtrack to be sure, though it leans heavily on nostalgic tunes from the original Link to the Past OST. Top notch arrangements and a handful of new keepers save this from feeling lazy or unexceptional.

X. Shin Megami Tensei IV (Tokyo Field | Ueno)

SMT is an intensely grim game, and this soundtrack strikes the right balance between energy and desperation. There's a lot of weirdness, but that's entirely appropriate.

X. Fire Emblem Awakening (Id~Purpose | Don't Speak Her Name!)

An excellent soundtrack overall, though I do miss the separate battle themes from previous Fire Emblem games. At its best during the game's more melancholy moments.
 
Apr 24, 2011
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1. Metal Gear Rising: I feel like everyone in this thread has already covered it haha. But this is definitely my favorite videogame soundtrack of 2013 by far.

Notable Tracks: A Soul Can't Be Cut, Red Sun

2. Mario and Sonic At the 2014 Winter Olympic Games

I'll admit I've never touched any of the Mario and Sonic Olympic games. However, the soundtracks in each game have been nice, and this game continues to bring out great remixes on classic songs.

Notable Tracks: Diamond Dust Zone, Staff Credits (Super Mario 64)


3. Payday 2: Never played it but my suitemate owned the game. Haven't heard it in its' entirety but I've enjoyed the handful of tracks that I've been able to listen to.

Notable Track: Master Plan
 
Jan 12, 2009
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Etrian Odyssey IV will not go unnoticed in this thread :)
And thank goodness too!
Uncle Nert’s Wacky Pick ™ of the day is...

Etrian Odyssey IV

Composer: Yuzo Koshiro
Album Information

Misty Ravine easily ranks among my most replayed songs of the year. It's simultaneously mysterious, regal and serene, effortlessly gliding through different sounds and emotions. In this song alone, I can think of several elements that I rarely see utilized in other game soundtracks. The shamisen used in the beginning helps to create the aforementioned regal vibe. Then there's the... hand drum... man, I love that drum here. Koshiro also incorporates some calming stretches of quiet towards the end; to make an oddly specific reference, it reminded me a little of the main theme of Animal Crossing: Wild World. Neat stuff!
Also, with regards to Misty Ravine, check out the piano arrangement Hamauzu did for the Super Arrange Album! It's sooooooo good and really does justice to bringing the piece to the piano.
 
Aug 1, 2009
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Uncle Nert’s Wacky Pick ™ of the day is...

Samurai Gunn

Composer: doseone
Album Information

------------------

Whiny rant incoming: ugh, why is hip hop music so exceedingly rare in video game soundtracks? Particularly when it comes to original soundtracks featuring hip hop, the amount of games featuring them each year can likely be counted on a single hand. The last game soundtrack that I can think of that even sort-of sounds like this one is Afro Samurai, and that came out more than four years ago. There is so much untapped potential here!

Despite this album's brevity, I really enjoyed listening through it and hearing this kind of music in a game again. The five songs here all feed seamlessly into each other, with the album opening and closing with the sound of flags fluttering in a storm. Listening to it all at once makes for a significantly smoother listening experience.

While there a couple of clever turns of phrase to be found here, the lyrics are succinct and to the point: dudes will get mutilated in this game. When doseone growls about how he'll shred someone's tongue and "feed him every thread" in Forests&Foes, it is wholly appropriate for a game that can end up looking like this in any given round:



The beats here are excellent, and I appreciate the inclusion of instrumental versions of every track. My favorite song is easily Wind&Red; it runs at an unrelenting pace and frequently changes up its sound. The section spanning 0:48 to 1:30 is sublime, and I also love how the verse starting at 3:57 becomes increasingly muddled in the sounds of battle as it progresses.

Taking a cue from this soundtrack, I'll keep things brief and clear. This chaotic, aggressive and rapid-fire soundtrack is a perfect compliment to its game. If you have 20 or so minutes, give it a shot!
 
Jul 3, 2013
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C'mon people, vote! I'm just as interested in the results of this thread as I am the GOTY thread, AND YOU SHOULD BE TOO!
I mean...I really don't care about either, and I usually don't bother voting as a result, but this one is looking kinda interesting. I just came in with the mentality that tlou would win every award in every catagory becuz based naughtygods hypehypehype....but really, the amount of love rising is getting is interesting. And Nert is dropping some cool posts.
 
Hmm...this thread doesn't seem nearly as popular this year as it was last year.

C'mon people, vote! I'm just as interested in the results of this thread as I am the GOTY thread, AND YOU SHOULD BE TOO!
I've actually been listening to the pics and soundtracks in this thread. I'm done with that now, however, and one of those may be my 3rd pick. :O
 
Aug 8, 2010
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1. Metal Gear Rising: revengeance
2. The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds
3. Tearaway

Metal gear was just too good, and fit the game perfectly.

Edit: Decided to give my vote to Tearaway after finally getting the chance to play it recently. Mario 3D World still gets honorable mention.
 

Dark Schala

Eloquent Princess
Mar 2, 2010
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The Land of Bagged Milk
Hmm...this thread doesn't seem nearly as popular this year as it was last year.

C'mon people, vote! I'm just as interested in the results of this thread as I am the GOTY thread, AND YOU SHOULD BE TOO!
I don't usually vote until the deadline, and my vote history should probably show why:

Sample of my previous year votes:
SotY 2011 Part 1, SotY 2011 Part 2
SotY 2012 LttP post, SotY 2012 vote post 1, SotY vote post 2

I write books, basically. That's why it takes so damn long, and the character limit doesn't help so I'd have to edit to make sure it fits into a few posts, as these awards are hand-counted as opposed to parser-counted like the GotY thread.

I typically hand out 'awards', and write reams of text for everything. As it stands, I'm still listening to a bunch of soundtracks because games are still coming out up until December 31st. I have all of my awards set in stone. I still have to choose my LttP soundtracks, and I have 1 of my top 3 already selected and set in stone. I have changed up some of my voting criteria for the top 3 because I've added 'awards' (and thus soundtracks with no album release are no longer eligible for the Top 3--this is -my- own position, and people are certainly welcome to vote for ALBW, SMT4, etc in their own lists). I've also added two new categories which should be super-fun. Especially since I know some composers are reading the writeups as evidenced by last year when Austin Wintory joined GAF.

Either way, people still have a few weeks to vote and most of the votes historically come at the front end and happen more often as the vote is winding down and the deadline approaches, and this thread is never ever as popular as the GotY thread.

Hey, you're more than welcome to create write-ups of your own for any of the soundtracks that I discuss. It's not like I'm claiming "dibs" on anything here; I'm just hoping to create a lot of fodder for further discussion.
There are only so many ways I can say some of the stuff you've already said, though, lol. It feels like I'm adding superfluous details or repeating stuff, and if I have to do that, I only want to do that when I'm voting or writing out award info.

I might do a writeup later. Depends on how busy I am. I didn't have power for a few days, so lol.
 
Oct 31, 2007
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1. The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds

At first I wasn't sure if I should put this as my number one, but it certainly is the one soundtrack I enjoyed the most this year, even if it heavily relies on tunes from A Link to the Past. But that game already had wonderful music, so I guess it's a good thing. Plus, my number 2 choice isn't without its faults either. But what's so great about A Link Between Worlds? Let's see:

The game starts off with a variation of the old prologue music, which is either a good way to make old fans like the game already or incredibly lazy, you decide!

The overworld theme constantly changes, depending on the state of the world. At the beginning when you have no worries, it's a cheerful and happy tune. After you encounter your antagonist, it changes to a forceful version of the old Hyrule theme. It changes next after you receive
the Master Sword
to a more optimistic tune to make you feel powerful and ready to challenge your enemy. And when you finally get to Lorule, the first field theme that plays is an almost unchanged version of the old Dark World Theme. And like before, after you've finally
freed all Sages and received the Triforce of Courage
it changes to a stronger, more powerful version of this theme. So, all in all, they do a pretty good job of matching your mood just with the background music.

But that's just the overworld themes. What I especially love about this game is how many different and still very creative variations of the dungeon theme there are. The Eastern Temple is a great remix of ALTTP's Sanctuary Dungeon, which both play throughout all dungeons of Hyrule, I think. But then in Lorule every dungeon gets a different theme, like in the Ice Ruins, the Thieves' Hideout or the Desert Palace, but they are all variations of the same theme. And they finish with this (location spoiler) wonderful theme.

But I also want to mention some random other tracks from the game, like the Minigame music, which was already in Nintendo Land, but I like it even more here, Ravio's Theme and the Mother Maiamai theme which has a variation that only plays when you gathered another ten of those creatures.

And finally there's the Milk Bar. A seemingly insignificant place in the game, but you can pay some musicians there to play some music. And what they play isn't the normal music from the game, but even more variations of the game's themes. Like variations of Kakariko Village, Zelda's Lullaby or Hyrule Castle (which is especially great).

They really went all out with the music in this game and that's why it absolutely deserves my number one spot.






2. Etrian Odyssey IV: Legends of the Titan

First off: I'm still disappointed that they dropped the musical style of all the previous games. It was part of the series's identity and I always loved it. But then again, how can I stay mad if they still manage to make a soundtrack this awesome?

Exploring the first dungeon means, you constantly alternate between this dungeon theme and this battle theme. They make it really hard to decide if you'd rather explore or fight. This battle theme plays for the first three worlds (do they still call them strata? I'm not sure, it wouldn't make as much sense in this game at least), so it's what you hear for the most part of the game. I also really like the boss theme, it is kinda strange and unique, but the constant changes in tempo work well as a representation of the alternation between planning phase and battle phase, though I guess they could have actually used it like that in the game, but they didn't. It also reminds me of Dragon Quest for some reason, which is always a good thing. As a side note, there's this creepy track which would also fit well into something like Corpse Party. Lots of variation in this game.

The dungeon theme for the second world does a good job at hinting at what's about the happen soon, but it's still very calm, so you know you're still in the early parts of the game. There's also this nice variation, that plays in the smaller caves of the world. The battle theme is still unchanged, so if you want to imagine playing the game, you have to insert the theme I linked in the paragraph above from time to time (and add some thoughts like "I have to get out of here" and "crap, I forgot to buy new Ariadne Threads").

Let's move on to the next land, with this new dungeon theme. In case you didn't play the game, this is the background music for a dungeon which constantly changes between being hot and cold, depending on what you do. Try to feel the atmosphere of that in just this theme. I think it works really well. Still the same old battle theme, so throw that into the mix in your mind. And since every world has it, here's the variation of that dungeon theme, that plays in the caves of the third land. Feels a bit more chilly, or maybe it's just because I remember that frozen cave so well.

And now, finally, let's step into the fourth and final land. Here we discover an unexpected threat, and it shows in its dungeon theme. It's not as calm as the earlier ones, it's not only about exploration anymore, it's about action. I don't want to spoil anything more about the game, but the theme fits really well with what is happening and with the environment you're in. And to underline the importance of this new discovery, there's a new battle theme. And it's a great one.

Think we're done here? Think again. There's still another labyrinth to explore. And of course, it comes with a new dungeon theme, designed to make you feel somewhat uneasy. But then, here it comes, the final boss theme, appropriate to the occasion, but surprisingly the slowest battle track in the game. Considering what this fight is about, very fitting.

I also want to give some spotlight to the wonderful overworld themes. They do a good job at slowly changing from the adventurous spirit of the beginning in the first world, over the somewhat mysterious and eerie situation of discovering new worlds in the second land and the slowly emerging danger in world three to the imminent threat and the
nature of the discovered unknown civilization
in the final land.

And finally the wonderful town theme. Relax after a stressful day of being nearly killed by everything around you.

So, basically what I wanted to show you is, there's a huge variety of tracks in this game, and they all do a wonderful job at supporting what's happening in the game and how you're (probably) feeling about it. I had a hard time deciding between this and Zelda for the number one spot, both do an exceptionally good job, I guess in the end nostalgia won me over.






3. Corpse Party: Book of Shadows

This one's a bit harder to describe. There aren't really any standout tracks (though the main theme is always nice), it's about the atmosphere they manage to create through the music. It's a sick and gross game, the descriptions of everything that happens are often more detailed than you might like, but that uncomfortable feeling you have while playing is mostly a product of the great music playing in the background. It's certainly not music you'd listen to outside of the game, but that's not its purpose.

Maybe take a listen to a few pieces to get an idea of what I'm talking about. Just make sure to play the game with your headphones on (that goes without saying, I guess), since it makes superb use of stereo sound.

The only parts where the soundtrack fails to impress are (unsurprisingly) the few tracks that are supposed to show happiness or safety. But if you know this series, you know these don't last all that long anyway, so while there are quite a few tracks dedicated to that, it's not a big part of the game and doesn't matter much in the bigger scope.






Honorable Mentions:




x. Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn

If there's one aspect the Final Fantasy series still manages to get right every time, it's the music. Looking around, though, it seems the OST for this game hasn't been released yet, which somehow leads to the unusual situation of having almost no tracks of this game on YouTube, I can't even find gamerips or anything like that. Hmm...
Anyway, at least there was a music CD released that came with the Collector's Edition of the game and it contains some of the city themes. Like the one for Gridania which would probably fit just as well in a Lord of the Rings movie or the one for Limsa Lominsa which I basically heard all the time, but it fits the area which is a pirate's city built on as a series of towers. The best of them all, the Ul'Dah (desert) night theme sadly is nowhere to be found, there are at least some arrangements on YouTube. They also did a good job incorporating classic Final Fantasy tunes, I especially love their version of the victory fanfare. But what good is writing much about this, if I can't give examples?

But I have to admit I didn't get close to exploring everything in the game yet (in fact I'm still at level 24), so I can't comment on the whole soundtrack which is also a reason this is only an honorable mention.




x. Shin Megami Tensei IV

Another case of a game I haven't beaten yet. Since I don't have any hopes of finishing this before the deadline (I'm about twenty hours in), it's only made the honorable mentions list. Maybe I can do it in time for the GOTY list.

Anyway, what this soundtrack manages to do perfectly so far is to encompass the atmosphere of exploring a strange, new and evil land. Just listen to the overworld theme, and if you play the game you will hear that a lot, it captures that perfectly. And I guess I'll always associate it with "where the heck am I?", but that's more a result of playing the game than listening to the music. It also has some great battle themes, like this standard one or the boss battle theme, just don't let yourself be tempted to match your selections to the tempo of those tracks or your dead faster than you know it. The music in the main menu does a good job to make you feel intimidated before you even start the game.

But since I don't want to spoil myself on that rest of the soundtrack or get tempted to read YouTube comments, let's leave it at that.




x. Ys: Memories of Celceta

Let's make this one short. It's on this list because of tracks like this, it's only an honorable mention because of tracks like this. It never reaches the highs of Seven, though. I can't not mention an Ys game in a list like that, so I had to at least put it somewhere.




x. Black☆Rock Shooter: The Game

This game is set in a dystopian science-fiction world, so don't expect a lot of happy and cheerful music here. But it's good music, just listen to a few examples. And it's a small thing, but I really liked the Mission Clear music.

I had to look up the composer to find out why stuff like this sounded so familiar to me. It's Manabu Namiki, who also composed for a lot of Cave games, including the wonderful Mushihimesama Futari. Still it's kinda funny, because he's also responsible for DoDonPachi Saidaioujou, one of my least favorite soundtracks of this year.




And even though there's no 2012 vote here, I want to mention my favorite soundtrack from a 2012 game I played in 2013:



2012. Tales of Innocence R

A Tales game with good music? Yes, it happens. And in this case, one of the big reasons is that for once Motoi Sakuraba is not responsible for the soundtrack. It's actually done by Kaz Nakamura, of whom I never heard before, but apparently he also composed for Noby Noby Boy and Tekken 6. Anyway, sadly, I have to keep this rather short, since I couldn't find many tracks of this game on YouTube or anywhere else. There are a few battle themes and the opening theme, but the real highlight of the game are the town themes. Very unique, very not like Tales and absolutely great. I guess you just have to believe me here.
 
Aug 8, 2008
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I genuinely feel like 2013 was an awesome year for soundtracks, especially for games that I actually enjoy (which sadly doesn't usually happen all too often). I apologize in advance if any tracks are mislabeled or if I've linked too many. I always stress out trying to rank things, but I think I'm more or less comfortable with this list. Naturally, there are other games this year that had great music, too, but I'd just like to highlight these for now:

1. Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance

It's ridiculously hard for me to pick a number one as my top two choices are so drastically different from each other. I ended up going with the game that has the most songs I'd listen to in my car... So, as much as I adore EOIV's soundtrack, it loses the tiebreaker. Anyway, MGR's music, while samey (and admittedly a bit cheesy), gets me in the perfect mood to slice everything up. What more could you ask for from a character action game's soundtrack? And like others have mentioned, it's more than just how it sounds--certain tracks are dynamic, changing seamlessly as fights progress. This tiny but important detail pushes it ahead of many other games in my eyes. (Random fact: EOIV sat at number one for 80% of the time I spent writing this post.)

Rules of Nature (Platinum Mix)
The Only Thing I Know For Real (Maniac Agenda Mix)
Dark Skies (Platinum Mix)
I'm My Own Master Now (Platinum Mix)
A Stranger I Remain (Maniac Agenda Mix)
The Stains of Time (Maniac Agenda Mix)
Red Sun (Maniac Agenda Mix)
Collective Consciousness (Maniac Agenda Mix)
It Has to Be This Way (Platinum Mix)
The Hot Wind Blowing (Platinum Mix)

2. Etrian Odyssey IV: Legends of the Titan

In a series known for amazing music, EOIV still somehow manages to stand out with its eclectic, orchestrated blend of melodic and atmospheric compositions. There is no question in my mind that, of what I've played this year, this game bears the most successful soundtrack of the bunch that could easily be, by default, a classic winner for most people regardless of taste. When certain songs play, I just have to drop what I'm doing and listen, but even the ones I'm not too crazy about contribute so much to the game's overall tone that I wouldn't change them for anything. It also doesn't hurt that EOIV has some of the best battle themes ever, though I am still quite fond of EOIII's The End of the Raging Waves and Hoist the Sword with Pride in the Heart as far as EO goes.

Labyrinth I - Cerulean Woodlands
Battlefield - Storm
Area II - The Red Stone Forest
Labyrinth II - Misty Ravine
Minor Labyrinth IV - Ruins Littered With Memories
Battlefield - Faith is My Pillar
Labyrinth V - City of Radiant Ruin
The Ceaseless Melody
Unrest - The End of Raging Winds

3. Sonic Lost World

A new Sonic came out this year, so it was obviously going to end up somewhere on my list, right? It's quite a jazzy departure from the norm, too. I didn't originally plan to put this in my top three as I'm not in love with the entire OST (like I am with Colors or Generations), but listening to these tracks again has changed my mind.

Windy Hill Zone Act 2
Desert Ruins Zone Act 1
Desert Ruins Zone Act 2 (Honeycomb Highway)
Desert Ruins Zone Act 3 (Sugar Lane)
Tropical Coast Zone Act 2 (Juice Archipelago)
Tropical Coast Zone Act 3 (Sea Bottom Segue)
Silent Forest Act 2 (Midnight Owl)
Sky Road Act 2 (Dragon Dance)
Deadly Six Theme (Violin Ver.)
Final Boss (Showdown)


And now for some Honorable Mentions:

x. Killer Instinct

Similar to MGR:R, 2013's reboot of Killer Instinct dynamically alters its tracks depending on what's going on in a fight (thankfully, Papercuts already explained this nicely in his post, so check it out!). The way everything functions together is truly a next-gen thing for me--KI's handling of sound is already among the best of any fighting game I've heard, and I've played a lot over the years! I eagerly anticipate Season 2, as it'll likely bring more diverse themes of similar caliber, but I simply cannot place the game any higher in its current, incomplete state. Friendly reminder: choosing samples from YouTube is difficult as songs are presented differently within the game, and you're seriously missing out on a lot by not hearing all of the accompanying sound effects. I'm not claiming that KI is the next Lumines or Rez by any means, but I would say that its audio in general has been handled with extra care.

Main Theme
my favorite YouTube version of Orchid's Theme
a more complete version of Orchid's Theme for comparison
Thunder's Theme
Jago's Theme
Glacius' Theme
Sadira's Theme
Sabrewulf's Theme
SoundCloud link to a theme medley

x. Super Mario 3D World

SM3DW's soundtrack is a total surprise for me this year. There is no headache-inducing, overblown orchestrated music here, and nothing is as boring as what you'd find in the NSMB series. I guess it's closest to SM3DL but in a whole other league. I would even go as far as saying it's the best soundtrack of any mainline Mario game to date. I'd also like to point out that I very much appreciate how the Beach Theme dynamically becomes the Underwater Theme (and vice versa) as players make their way through both terrains on certain levels. If only the game had more music!

Athletic Theme 1
Athletic Theme 2
Puffprod Peaks
Snow Theme
Hands-On Hall
Ghost House
Castle
World Bowser

x. Chaos Code

Though the game itself has been around for a while, I'm happy to finally expose its music to GAF now that it's been "officially" released. Songs are all pretty varied but sound cohesive when taken together. Unfortunately, the game's actual sound effects, voices, and announcer are not quite the same quality.

Eleganza (Cthylla Stage)
Paramet (Cerberus Stage)
Toward the Sun (Rui Stage)
Dark Journey (Kagari Stage)
Bit Stock (Hermes Stage)
Starting Point (Catherine Stage)
No Forgiveness (Vein Stage)
Sonata For Celia (Celia Stage)
Cut N Run (Celia II Stage)
Mystagia (Kudlak Stage)

x. Shin Megami Tensei IV

SMTIV may have let me down in various ways, but its deliciously eerie soundtrack is most certainly a highlight of my experience. It even bears what is quite possibly my single favorite piece of game music from 2013: its intriguing and hauntingly atmospheric main theme. For that alone, I think it deserves a spot.

Main Theme
Tokyo Map
Tokyo Battle Theme
Boss Battle
Domain Boss Battle
Hunter Association
Infernal Shinjuku
Isabeau
Archangel Battle


Quickie Extra Honorable Mentions:

x. The Wonderful 101
x. Anarchy Reigns/Max Anarchy
x. Fire Emblem Awakening
x. Pokémon X/Y
x. The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds
x. Mario & Sonic at the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games
 
Aug 1, 2009
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Uncle Nert’s Wacky Pick ™ of the day is...

Pokémon X and Pokémon Y

Composers: Shota Kageyama, Minako Adachi, Hitomi Sato, Junichi Masuda, Morikazu Aoki, Go Ichinose, Satoshi Nohara
Album Information

------------------

What kind of generalizations or broader points can I make about a soundtrack that is this massive? With 15 second-long inclusions like "PR Video BGM Cute 3," I can't trick myself into thinking that every piece of music is trying to tell a story or really make me think in the way that, say, Element4l does. It's also too large for me to hone in on specific instruments or moods that dominate a majority of the songs. Should I just pull a GamesRadar and just make unbearably lazy puns?

Ah, screw it. I'll just talk about some songs that I liked and some songs that I didn't like.

Battle! Friend: This song is pleasant enough, and the generally cheery nature of the theme makes sense in the context of the story (your primary "rival" is part of your group of friends that meets up together at a lunch table, Persona 4 style, at the beginning of the game). Having said that... eh. This never really got me in much of a fighting mood. It's just too light and bouncy, I suppose.

The Kalos Power Plant: I had a feeling that I would like this song the second that I heard that little bit of record scratching. This song is funky, sporting some great bass and drumming.

Anistar City: The atmosphere that this song creates is remarkable. I'm a sucker for the inclusion of clock sounds in music (see: Sigma Harmonics), and pairing them with this song's sparse-yet-powerful piano results in these indelible few seconds before the song loops. Before you even set eyes upon its mammoth crystalline edifice, this music lets you know that Anistar City has that whole "powerful, ancient mechanical wonder" thing going on.

Gate: Incredibly soothing. If I were to give out an "Eminently Loop-able Song of the Year" award (an "Elsy"), this would be on my shortlist alongside Etrian Odyssey IV's Misty Ravine. I was actually actively annoyed that this would stop playing when I stepped back out into one of the game's routes.

Route 2: While Battle! Friend may be a little dull, I was actively put off by this song. Instead of encouraging the player to embark on their grand new adventure, it comes across as ploddingly saccharine. I can appreciate them trying to break away from the marching drum motif used in past games, but this just doesn't work for me.

Battle! Xerneas/Yveltal: Now this is a battle theme. The lightning that opens up the song is appropriately dramatic and the guitars are crackling with energy. The spacier sounds in the background help underscore that the fact that, based off of their Pokédex entries, these two are basically gods.
Yvetal "absorbs the life energy of every living thing" - yikes!

Pithy closing remark: A lot of these tracks are well worth your time, even if the separate pieces of the soundtrack don't quite coalesce into a consistently great whole.