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Best Video Game Soundtracks of 2018


Best Video Game Soundtracks of 2018

Best Video Game Soundtracks of 2018

It’s award season here at Twinfinite! Let’s look back at the best video game soundtracks of 2018. Voted on by our editors, these were the best and most memorable musical scores that our team felt really helped to bring their respective video games to life this year.

Let’s start with some honorable mentions, and then our top vote-getting runner-ups, and finally, of course, our overall winner!

Honorable Mention: Wizard of Legend

wizard of legend, video game, soundtrack

Reviews Editor Zhiqing Wan: Wizard of Legend was definitely one of the surprise hits of this year. While it’s not quite as fleshed out as Dead Cells in terms of launch content, it featured a unique spell system with equally fast-paced combat. We loved it. And we also absolutely adored its soundtrack.

Composed by Dale North, who’s worked on a number of indie and video game remix projects over the years, Wizard of Legend’s music really left an impression on us with its unusual blend of synths and orchestral backing.

The most incredible part about this entire soundtrack is just how it fits the theme of the game. The game itself is about the wondrous world of magic, and its music helps to create this fantasy and feeling of romantic whimsy.

Arcane Refuge is the most popular track in this collection, and it’s easy to see why. It encapsulates that sense of childlike wonder and curiosity, and also serves as the game’s unofficial main theme, as you can hear bits of it in other tracks as well.

Wizard of Legend’s soundtrack is beautifully varied, from the sweet woodwinds of Arcane Refuge to the angry drums of Zeal’s Forge and synth-pop vibes of  Shuu’s Spire. The collection is short but undeniably sweet, and the game certainly wouldn’t be half as enjoyable without the music.

Best Video Game Soundtracks of 2018

Honorable Mention: Celeste

Reviews Editor Zhiqing Wan: Celeste‘s soundtrack is magical. It is instantly compelling and hypnotizing. And it should be, since this is a game about a mystical mountain that can apparently play tricks on your psyche.

Let’s start with Madeline’s theme, first introduced in the chirpy, upbeat, and optimistic First Steps. It’s a fitting theme for the beginning of a journey, but as we know, the journey isn’t quite as easy or straightforward as we might have thought.

Composer Lena Raine does some interesting things with the soundtrack here, most notably her preference for a sort of progression-based structure where the tracks get increasingly more complex as more and more layers stack on one another. Madeline’s chirpy piano-based theme is used to convey feelings of anxiety and panic when the electronic sounds come into play in Anxiety, and the piano line itself begins to distort.

Whereas most of the characters have a particular instrument associated with their specific themes, Raine makes great use of the electronic elements to weave in the mysticism of Mount Celeste itself. Resurrections, in particular, is an incredible suite of music that just gets more and more intense as it goes on. First starting us with hints of Madeline’s theme, before subverting it to introduce her darker self with a sinister rendition of that original theme, it’s an overwhelming track that does such a fantastic job of instilling the player with fear and dread.

There’s so much to unpack in Celeste’s soundtrack, particularly with how Raine is constantly referencing character themes in each and every track, making them work in tandem with each other when the story necessitates it. Not only is Celeste’s soundtrack catchy as all hell, it’s also one of the most complex and thoughtful collections of music we’ve heard all year.

Best Video Game Soundtracks of 2018

Second Runner-Up: God of War

God of War

Features Editor Alex Gibson: From its heavier focus on storytelling to the new Norse Mythology setting, God of War‘s debut on PS4 marks a complete change of pace from previous titles. Little wonder, then, that the soundtrack also takes it in an exciting new musical direction. The pounding drum rolls, booming choir ensemble, and trademark grandeur of its orchestral composition remain intact, but it’s reinvented with a distinctly Scandinavian feel.

Indeed, it’s pleasing to hear traditional instruments and appropriate vocals from European folk music incorporated into the score, which helps build an ambiance appropriate to the setting. These feature equally in both the gentle atmospheric background tones and the drama of its most climactic and intense sequences.

It is, however, perhaps in the game’s more poignant moments that God of War’s soundtrack shines. It differentiates itself from previous games in the series most vividly here, helping to depict scenes that simply haven’t existed before. Particularly with respect to Kratos, who we see a completely different side of as he struggles to cope with raising his son, Atreus, and coping with the loss of his wife. These aren’t themes and issues we’ve ever associated with the character before, and more than just the cinematics and talent of the writing team, it’s the musical composition that helps to convey these unfamiliar scenes convincingly.

But when God of War’s soundtrack wants to really turn up the heat, it delivers heart-racing renditions of iconic God of War themes spectacularly. The scene in which Kratos is reunited with the Chains of Olympus, for example, which had the hairs on the back of my neck standing as the music drives home the intensity of the scene.

The overall production and quality of the musical score in God of War is absolutely top notch, and it’s absolutely one of our big takeaways from one 2018’s best games.

Best Video Game Soundtracks of 2018

First Runner-Up: Red Dead Redemption 2

Red Dead Redemption 2, Realistic Gameplay Features

Contributor Michael Allio: If Celeste uplifted us with its joyful electronica, Red Dead Redemption 2’s soundtrack took us on an emotional ride. Through a thematic depiction of its dying western setting, many tracks kept a somber tone in line with the main story.

On closer inspection, key beats in Arthur’s story required composer Woody Jackson’s moody melodies. The opening track’s discordant violin – plus a penchant for sliding electric guitar – showcased Jackson’s preference for solo string instrumentals to grasp Red Dead’s western landscape. The resulting score felt understandably lonely, hopeless, and full of longing.

With the score’s focus, Red Dead Redemption 2’s music reflected many themes present throughout its world. Moments like the Cornwall train heist would not have garnered the same gravity without such masterful composition – with a full orchestral suite providing excitement to the act’s climax.

Furthermore, Jackson’s melodies stood out as Rockstar used musical tracks sparingly across world exploration and traversal. With the game’s soft emphasis on ambient tracks, the more personal narrative beats impacted us all the more. Tracks like May I? punctuated the gang’s increasingly desperate fight for survival, forming iconic moments that won’t fade anytime soon.

With such unforgettable bonds, Red Dead Redemption 2’s score struck the perfect balance for gaming composition. It blended the incredible narrative moments without overpowering the other elements. The grungy style and quiet fade made Red Dead Redemption 2’s lonely western trek immersive, believable, and utterly breathtaking.

Best Video Game Soundtracks of 2018

Winner: Octopath Traveler

octopath traveler, best video game soundtracks, 2018

Reviews Editor Zhiqing Wan: I’ve spoken about Octopath Traveler‘s music at great length and in almost excruciating detail, and despite the game’s occasional missteps, there’s no doubt in my mind that this is the best video game soundtrack we’ve had the pleasure of listening to in 2018.

Composer Yasunori Nishiki has gifted us with an extensive collection of music here, and we’re constantly amazed by how consistent the quality is across the board. Even the game’s ‘worst’ or most ambient tracks have that special quality to them that just sticks in your head for a long time to come.

Just like the game itself, Octopath Traveler’s soundtrack is highly focused on building the world of Orsterra, and giving it life and character. This is a fact that’s made especially obvious by the game’s heartbreakingly beautiful Ending Theme, which is a sublime orchestral medley of all eight regional themes before ending things off with one last chorus from the equally romantic and awe-inspiring Main Theme.

Of course, the brilliance of Octopath’s soundtrack couldn’t have been realized without its excellent production quality as well. Unlike a certain other Square Enix JRPG, Octopath Traveler’s music is performed by a live orchestra, which honestly makes all the difference in soundtrack quality.

It’s a common saying among film critics and fans that the best musical score is the one you don’t notice. I couldn’t disagree with this notion more when it comes to video games, and it’s clear that Nishiki doesn’t subscribe to that belief either. Octopath Traveler’s music is always at the forefront of the experience, allowing players to easily associate themes with story beats, areas, and characters. While the narrative might not be entirely successful at conveying the game’s core themes of adventure and redemption, the music carries the game in that respect, instilling a feeling of emotional investment within the player.

Octopath Traveler’s soundtrack is a gorgeous love letter to the JRPGs of yesteryear —an age where strong and powerful melodies could elevate a video game to that next level of otherworldly awesomeness.

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