Sean offers his choice picks from the what he considers the cream of the video game soundtracks from the gaming year that was 2012.
By the end of 2012, there will be lots of things that can be said about the year in gaming, but, I’m beginning to think that, for me, this will have been the year of the soundtrack. Each year has seen plenty of great game music, but 2012 has been particularly strong in this corner.
With that in mind, I thought it might be fun to celebrate these soundtracks, and share a few tracks with you. Some, you’ll surely have heard already, others perhaps not so much. However these artists each put a ton of effort into their work and deserve some extra recognition. Listening may even entice you to play these games, if you haven’t already.
Music is an integral element of an audiovisual art form. It can create and destroy moods; help a viewer establish a time and locale as well as creating tension and relief:
Max Payne 3 – “Tears” by Health
The Walking Dead – “Alive Inside” by Jared Emerson-Johnson
Fez – “Adventure” by Disasterpeace
“Adventure” is one of the early tracks in Fez, and, the name couldn’t be more appropriate. Fez, as a whole, was one of my favorite adventures I went on this year. It’s just such a cute little game. The 8-bit-inspired soundtrack by Disasterpeace accompanies the retro-visuals of the game perfectly. “Adventure” inspires the player with a sense of wonder at the start of a new day, much like how Gomez finds himself at the beginning of Fez.
Mass Effect 3 – “Leaving Earth” by Clint Mansell
Epic. It’s the only word to describe this song. Mass Effect 3 was meant to bring the massive space opera trilogy to a close, and, aside from some ambient music, this is the first full song that plays after the opening sequence. Earth has been devastated by the Reapers, and, Shepherd is forced to evacuate, watching Earth become overwhelmed by the enemy. It’s a haunting piece of music, and, as it swells, it becomes a song of hope and sacrifice, two concepts which the Mass Effect series have focused on throughout the trilogy. It’s quite fitting for the moment, and, sets the mood for the rest of the game. Those familiar with Mansell’s work (he was the composer for such films as The Fountain and Requiem for a Dream) will find it easily recognizable. It still gives me shivers every time I listen to it.
Hotline Miami – “Miami Disco” by Perturbator
Hotline Miami is nasty. Everything about the game, from the plot and dialogue, to the gory and psychedelic visuals, to the neon-lit, blood-splattered setting of a 1980’s Miami is gross and, oddly exhilarating. The entire soundtrack to this game is pretty flawless, but “Miami Disco” stands out as the track that encapsulates everything about this game. Just listening to it out of context, conjures up images of a cocaine-induced murder-spree set against the backdrop of a 80’s dance party. It’s perfect.
Journey – “Apotheosis” by Austin Wintory
As I mentioned on our thatgamecompany podcast, Journey affected me in ways that no other video game has until now. For myself, everything about Journey was masterful, and the (newly Grammy-nominated) soundtrack is, in my opinion, one of the game’s most important assets. Throughout the game the music goes from large and crushing, to exhilarating, to soft and quiet while always carefully matching the moments and story beats to perfection. This song in particular comes in at the end of the game, during Journey’s most transcendent moments, and, you’d be hard-pressed to not have a lump in your throat while listening.
Dyad – by David Kanaga
It’s been a fun year for games, but, for me, I think 2012 will most be remembered for it’s soundtracks. There were a whole lot of songs out there that I’m not singling out here that were just as worthy. Feel free to post your own stand-outs from 2012 in the comments section and let’s celebrate this year’s best gaming soundtracks.