Posted on December 29, 2014, Phil Hornshaw 7 Great Game Soundtracks from 2014
Perhaps nothing is more important or more easily forgotten than the impact of music on the experience of playing a video game. It’s often music and sound design that make an interactive experience truly memorable.
Game soundtracks are something special to behold — they’re longer, more involved and more diverse than, say, film soundtracks, because in an interactive experience, they usually have a whole lot more responsibility. They’re the anchor that keeps you emotionally tied to a scene, or the catalyst to get your heart pumping as the stakes rocket through the roof.
Below, we’ve put together a list of some of our favorite soundtracks of the year (in no particular order) that offer some of gaming’s best, most interesting and most diverse music. But it’s in no way complete, so feel free to add your own suggestions in the comments below.
Dragon Age: Inquisition
Let’s start with something we might consider standard: With an epic BioWare fantasy RPG comes an epic BioWare fantasy RPG soundtrack. Dragon Age: Inquisition’s music is appropriately epic, with sweeping marches and battle themes balanced against more introspective, violin-heavy pieces. This is a soundtrack to be paired with high adventure in a massive world, and composer Trevor Morris nails that feeling with every track. It’s also enormous, clocking in at more than 90 minutes of music.
The good news is, if you have the Digital Deluxe version of DA:I, you’ve got the soundtrack, too. Hit up the official website here for more info or to purchase a copy.
Far Cry 4
Like the Far Cry 3 soundtrack before it, Far Cry 4‘s music has a lot of jobs to fulfill. It has to convey the atmosphere of the Himalayan country of Kyrat, and it has to provide a backdrop for high-octane moments to which you can shoot dudes. Composer Cliff Martinez gets the former with haunting vocal tracks and mixes of instruments meant to give a reverent, almost mystical feel, capturing spaces like Kyrat’s temples and ancient landscapes. And then the album moves into helpings of high-beats-per-minute ass-kicking, chucking in things like a bit of dubstep and heavy percussion, and moves through all the moods Far Cry 4’s vast and diverse setting can create.
Gods Will Be Watching
The high-tech future is at the center of Gods Will Be Watching, telling a story that encompasses space travel, hostage situations, horrific torture and alien planets. The soundtrack, then, has to be suitably science-fictiony, and Spanish composer Fingersplit meets that requirement by leaning on a dark collection of synth sounds and percussion. The computer-generated sound always swings away toward worried, mournful tracks even as they infuse energy in the proceedings with fast-paced rhythms and melodies.
Gods Will Be Watching is a combination of slower, more ambient songs and rising intensity, and as a soundtrack it works just as well away from the rest of the game as coupled with it. Snag it from Fingersplit’s Bandcamp page.
The Banner Saga
Stoic’s tragic Viking saga of traveling across deadly country requires a very particular sound, and the studio looked to Grammy nominated composer Austin Wintory to create it. Vocal work on The Banner Saga comes from the likes of artists such as Peter Hollens and Youtube sensation Malukah, while the soundtrack’s lyrical stylings draw from Norse proverbs and poetry.
The result is one of the more unique and specific game soundtracks possibly ever created, perfectly channeling the Viking mythos at the game’s heart. Snag The Banner Saga from album’s Bandcamp page.
Civilization: Beyond Earth
Another album falling into the “sweeping epic” category is that of Civilization: Beyond Earth, which has the burden of channeling the feeling of starting and growing a colony on another world — literally the next step in the saga of humanity. Beyond Earth alternates between high orchestral tracks that convey the enormity of space, and ambient tracks that perfectly capture a feeling of exploring the unknown.
The spiffy thing about Civilization: Beyond Earth’s soundtrack is that it’s free with the game on Steam — just check the “Local Files” for the MP3s to start listening. It’s also available for purchase on iTunes and Amazon.
No More Room in Hell Original Soundtrack Vol. 1
No More Room in Hell might sound on paper a bit lighthearted and goofy — various characters somewhat recognizable from popular culture fight their way through zombie hordes in a multiplayer shooter in which cooperation is king. But the soundtrack created by Garrett “ThoughT” Lindquist is much more thoughtful, and sorrowful, than that premise might first suggest.
The album manages to give that sense of some emotional resonance at the end of the world — something not all zombie games or their soundtracks can really attain — while also hitting on those key elements of quickening beats to go with quickening hearts as the action rises. Check out No More Room in Hell Original Soundtrack Vol. 1 on the album’s Bandcamp page.
The Sailor’s Dream
Music is a big part of the experience of iOS title The Sailor’s Dream, with many of the secrets of the game hidden within the lyrics of songs that are only unlocked by playing on certain days. Though The Sailor’s Dream subject matter is mysterious and occasionally dark, Simogo’s title is filled with lighthearted songs that build on the childhood dreams that make up game’s premise. It balances instrumental offerings with tracks sung by vocalist Stephanie Hladowski, and offers one of the more lighthearted soundtracks of the year.
You can find all sorts of methods to buy The Sailor’s Dream on the soundtrack’s official website.
It’s worth noting that there are probably a few soundtracks out there that deserve to be on this list. One worthy honorable mention that I haven’t had a chance to properly enjoy is Killer Instinct: Season One, which throws together a hearty mix of diverse tracks, but also doesn’t skimp on the dubstep and other action game staples. Find it over at Amazon.com.
And of course, we’re always in the market for more great game music. Leave your favorites in the comments below!