The past year was a great year for video games, with a ton of great titles and a number of interesting trends, especially in the indie scene, coming through. And it was also a year that saw a large number of games with really impressive music, both original compositions created for the game as well as licensed tracks.
Clear winner of the best use of music in a game this year clearly goes to Hotline Miami’s impressive arrangement of independent chiptunes house music. Or whatever exactly that genre is called.
It’s music that works great inside the game, but is also something to listen to anywhere anytime, making it more than just great game music. Some of the music apparently was created for the game, some was licensed. And all the music is amazing.
Runner up to this is another indie darling. Fez, the 2.5 dimensional platformer released on Xbox Live! Arcade, sports one of the most interesting soundscapes of the year.
Part chiptune, part classic vangelis inspired super epic synthesizer score, the music by artist Disasterpiece is a great listen - again both within the context of the game as well as a great way of making your commute more fun. Also it is a kind of music that is unmistakably videogamey.
It seems this was a year of great indie titles, and especially of great indie titles with great music accompanying them. Obviously the game missing here is Thatgamecompany’s Journey, which sported an impressive, sombre, classical orchestral score that ranks among the best orchestral scores for video games released this past year.
Personally I didn’t like Justin Wintory’s work too much outside of the game, but that might just be me. It worked extraordinarily well within the game’s context, which is all the more impressive, given that Journey is technically an independent title.
Mass Effect 3
A lot of noise was made about Clint Mansell’s involvement in scoring the last part of the Mass Effect trilogy. But as it is the case quite often with big Hollywood composers attached to big releases these days, he didn’t contribute all too much, essentially just two central pieces for the soundtrack, those somewhat memorable piano parts for extra drama and tragedy.
Mass Effect 3 was a big game with a big score, one that had a lot of contributors. Among them series veteran Sam Hulick, Sascha Dikiciyan & Cris Velasco of God of War fame and Christopher Lennertz, another veteran composer. Jack Wall’s absence was felt, the score didn’t quite click as much as the ones for previous games, but nonetheless it was one of the year’s more impressive pieces.
Max Payne 3
At this point, each game the Rockstar releases sports an impressive musical arrangement to boot. Actually, strike that, ever since GTA Vice City each Rockstar game had great music, be it licensed tracks - Vice City one of the very few 80s compilations to include both Queen and Michael Jackson - or original music.
The 2012 Rockstar release of Max Payne 3 was the latter, and another case where special attention was paid to the game’s music. Los Angeles based noise rock band Health was hired to compose and perform the music for the game, and oh boy did they deliver. Max Payne 3’s music is a perfect companion to the game’s visuals and overall aesthetics and themes, perfectly underscoring the broken lead character and the gruelling violence surrounding him, making it a standout piece in video game music this year.