What happens when you take two very different series and literally smash their music together? Hyrule Warriors, that’s what, and it works so much better than it should. The Dynasty Warriors games are known for their heavy rock OSTs, and it turns out that style works surprisingly well for Zelda. Just listen to Skyloft and you’ll see what a brilliant mash-up this truly is.
The Banner Saga Trilogy
The Banner Saga is an epic fantasy trilogy about a world on the brink of the apocalypse, where every choice you make could have dire effects. The game’s Norse inspirations are on full display with a phenomenal soundtrack that gives the trilogy a properly moody feeling. Battle music makes everything seem dire, while inspirational moments are made even stronger by swelling music. Austin Wintory is one of the most talented composers out there, and if you haven’t listened to the Banner Saga OST, you owe it a listen.
Xenoblade Chronicles 2
Xenoblade Chronicles 2 a decent amount of attention at launch, especially for a niche JRPG, but I’m not being facetious at all when I say the game has one of the greatest JRPG soundtracks of all time. Like the first Xenoblade, Xenoblade Chronicles 2 has an eclectic mix of orchestral, gorgeous choir pieces, and rocking battle music. But the game constantly sets its mood and tone with its music, whether it’s the slow piercing voices of Our Eternal Land or the hard rock of boss battle music. Xenoblade 2 is a brilliant fusion of multiple musical styles.
Assassin’s Creed Syndicate
In many ways Assassin’s Creed Syndicate is one of the most overlooked AC titles, not the least of which is its fun and playful soundtrack. Composed by Austin Wintory, composer of The Banner Saga and Journey, Syndicate’s soundtrack is a whimsical romp that perfectly encapsulates the Victorian London setting of the game. With music heavy on piano, string, and percussion, Wintory creates a soundtrack that feels right at home in a period piece, while still managing to perfectly fit an action game.
The first NieR was a tremendously overlooked gem, especially in regards to the soundtrack. While NieR Automata definitely got the due it deserved, sadly, the first NieR still doesn’t get the attention it should. In fact, I’d argue that the first NieR’s OST is even better than the second, with a wealth of stunning vocal tracks that felt both ephemeral and melancholic. The music set a dark and disturbing tone to the entire story, and there’s still nothing else like the music of NieR. If you loved Automata, make sure you go back to the original NieR and give it the due it deserves.
Final Fantasy XV
This isn’t something I say lightly in any way, but Final Fantasy XV has the best soundtrack of the entire franchise, a franchise revered for its music. Coming from the mind of Yoko Shimomura, the composer of the Kingdom Hearts series, Final Fantasy XV’s soundtrack is an eclectic collection of rock, pop, and gorgeous orchestral pieces. The game’s big moments are highlighted by equally memorable tracks like Apocalypsis Noctis or Hellfire. The already phenomenal soundtrack was made even better by the DLC episodes.
Persona 4: Dancing All Night
Persona games always have great music, but you know what’s even better? An awesome soundtrack of remixes by other Japanese musicians, composers, and even Atlus themselves. That’s exactly what the Persona dancing games are, and while Persona 3 and 5 Dancing are the newer games, Persona 4: Dancing All Night still takes the cake.
Persona 4’s groovy style is amped up even more in this entry, with some seriously stylish tracks that practically make you want to get up and dance yourself. Since the game is sporting remixes from so many different artists there’s also a ton of variation to the OST. Don’t miss out on this one.
Yakuza 0 is one huge 80s reference wrapped into a fantastic action game, and that 80s vibe carries right over into the soundtrack. Yakuza games always do a great job with their music, but Yakuza 0 is even a cut above. Part of this is because of the disco and karaoke minigames, which create original songs, like Koi No Disco Queen, that you could easily mistake for being off of a Hot 100 list.
Of course, outside of all of that there’s an enormous soundtrack that does a great job of pumping up battles, and setting the tone for this epic crime thriller.
Thronebreaker: The Witcher Tales
The Witcher 3 is widely regarded as one of the greatest open world RPGs of all-time, but CD Projekt Red’s latest release didn’t get the same level of attention, simply because of the type of game it was. A card game based RPG simply isn’t as approachable as an open world game, but if you haven’t tried out Thronebreaker yet, at least don’t sleep on its soundtrack.
Once again composed by Marcin Przybyłowicz, Thronebreaker is a combination of the best songs from The Witcher 3 along with a wealth of entirely new ones. It helps give off that same fantasy feel that The Witcher always has, and the battle music, in particular, helps make every encounter feel like an epic battle, despite being played on a card board.
The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky SC
Falcom is a hugely underappreciated developer in many ways, and going along with that many of their soundtracks don’t get the attention they deserve. Of particular note is The Legend of Heroes series, with each game sporting a phenomenal OST that backs up the emotional story and complex characters.
There are multiple musical motifs and styles that run concurrently through the series, like Feelings Soar With the Wind, which you’ll hear pop up in other subseries like Zero No Kiseki. If you’re looking for a lengthy JRPG series with great characters, a gripping main story, and a memorable soundtrack, look no farther than The Legend of Heroes.
Despite selling well, 2018 was such a year packed with stellar video games, and soundtracks, that Octopath Traveler kind of got passed over. After all this is the year that featured God of War, Red Dead Redemption 2, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, Monster Hunter World, and more. Still, Octopath absolutely has one of the greatest soundtracks in recent memory, totally deserving of being on any playlist.
Octopath using instrumentation, especially strings, in brilliant ways to hype up battles or set mood. It also does some fascinating stuff with its boss music, using clever tricks to hype things up, something that the YouTube channel Game Score Fanfare did a great video about.
Sonic Mania is pretty much everything that fans love about old-school Sonic, and that includes a bopping soundtrack. From the second you boot the game up and you’re greeted with that flashy opening animation, you know the game’s OST is going to be a real treat.
There’s a mix of fantastic remixes like Green Hill Zone, along with new songs for brand new areas like Studiopolis. The soundtrack was composed by Tee Lopes, a member of Pagoda West Games, who became well-known on YouTube for some stellar remakes of game music.
Another early 2018 that was, unfortunately, overshadowed by the gargantuan releases later in the year, Celeste is an emotional journey that demands to be played by anyone and everyone. Celeste’s music is every bit as emotional as its main story, and the instrumental soundtrack does the perfect job of representing the conflicted mind of its main character, Madeline.
Somehow, Celeste’s music manages to feel like something entirely fresh while still emulating the classic platformers of bygone eras.
To the Moon
To The Moon won multiple awards when it released in 2011, partially because of its wonderfully thematic and emotional story, which was backed up by an equally thematic soundtrack. Telling the story of two doctors trying to fulfill a dying man’s wish, and despite being styles as a 16-bit game, it uses a gorgeous piano-based soundtrack.
Although the entire soundtrack is memorable, there are a few songs that stick out among the others, like For River, a play on the word Forever.
If you don’t know the name Darren Korb, boy you need to. The resident composer for Supergiant Games, Korb has crafted four phenomenal soundtracks filled with diverse music, each of which helps define the unique aesthetic of its game.
From Bastion to Pyre, each of Korb’s soundtrack feel unique and distinct, but Bastion still stands out as the most memorable to this day. Songs like Spike in A Rail help kick up the action and intensity, while The Pantheon is a moody song that feels like it could fit right into a Cowboy game. The soundtrack intermixes with the game’s brilliant narration to make Bastion a one of a kind experience.