Picking the Best Original Soundtrack is, to my mind, one of the more difficult awards to decide upon in our Game of the Year awards. Picking the narrative that affected me the most, the game that looks the best or even plays the best feels relatively simple by comparison, when soundtracks can feed into all the other aspects of a game, amplifying an aesthetic, underscoring dramatic moments, ratcheting up the tension of a particularly tense boss fight.
As you’d expect, our 2020 winner and two runners up come from rather different genres, accompany very different games and try to convey very different emotions and events.
The Game Bakers’ sophomore title was a dramatic shift in game genre, jumping from the intense bullet hell boss rush of Furi to a laid back world exploring RPG all about the blossoming relationship of a young couple. Composer Danger goes from being one of an ensemble to the sole artists for Haven.
Citing Franco-Japanese animations like Ulysses 31 and The Mysterious Cities of Gold as inspiration, Danger filled it with an energetic sense of adventure, still featuring plenty of bass and exploration of electronic synthwave sounds, but now using it to compliment the exploration of the Haven’s broken islets, the drama of battling Rust-addled animals, and chilled moments as Yu and Kay simply relax and bond in the home they’re building together. It’s fantastic all the way through and a worthy winner of Best Original Soundtrack.
Runner Up – The Last of Us Part II
After the plaudits that the original game received for its score, it should be little surprise to see The Last of Us Part II right up there. Gustavo Santaolalla and Mac Quayle’s haunting soundtrack to one of the most emotional games of 2020 deserves all the attention it has received over the past seven months.
A direct evolution of the first game, The Last of Us Part II’s soundtrack continues the theme of everyone having their own personal yet intertwined motifs. Without Santaolalla’s excellent instrumentation and performance, you have a game which wouldn’t be the same without his work. Case in point, just watch Ellie pick up a guitar and see what feelings bubble up to the surface.
– Nic B
Runner Up – Paradise Killer
A good game soundtrack can really add to the feel and atmosphere but it is only a great one that can transcend its context and work both ingame and as a standalone album. Paradise Killer is one such example. Barry ‘Epoch’ Topping’s composition centres on a disco synth style that is so catchy it’s practically contagious.
The individual songs just ooze retro beauty but manage to feel more contemporary than nostalgic. Whether you’re catching a killer in the surreal world of Paradise or simply doing the washing up, Paradise Killer’s soundtrack is the perfect audio accompaniment. As the kids apparently say, this set of tracks ‘slaps’ from start to finish. One warning though, be careful if listening in a public place as it is almost impossible not to feel like strutting your funky stuff.
– Steve C
Honourable Mentions (in alphabetical order)
- Ori and the Will of the Wisps
- Streets of Rage 4
To catch up on the Game of the Year awards we’ve handed out so far, here’s a handy list!
Soundtracks and musical preference are such a personal thing, so what have been some of your favourites of the year? Let us know in the comments below.