The Best Game Music Of 2011: Readers’ Choice

The Best Game Music Of 2011: Readers’ Choice

We’ve already recognised a whole bunch of the best game soundtracks of 2011. But of course, there are only so many hours in the day — only so much time to play games, and one can only write about so many game soundtracks.

Fortunately, readers on the US site were up to the task of nominating outstanding soundtracks that didn’t make our official round-up. Late last week, you put forth loads of worthy original soundtracks from the year. I gathered them all together and listed them here.

As an unscientific aside, if I had to gauge the general tenor, enthusiasm and number of nominations Kotaku‘s “Readers’ Choice” Award for Best 2011 Video Game Soundtrack would go to Deus Ex: Human Revolution, with Bastion and Xenoblade Chronicles as runners-up. You all have good taste.

Each of these entries has been written by a Kotaku US commenter, sometimes more than one.

Let’s get down to it, shall we?

Xenoblade Chronicles

There are two games that make my short list: Xenoblade Chronicles and Radiant Historia. If we are only counting international releases, then I will default to Radiant Historia. I place the Xenoblade OST above Radiant Historia‘s though. It is not because of the established talent behind it, but rather because of the surprising great work of ACE+.

Each piece really brings you into your new environments, and the new battle theme that kicks in some time into the game is just fantastic. This is one song and environment I particularly enjoyed (and it is different from the other tracks usually posted by others and myself). — Dodgewd

At least for being released this year in the UK, Xenoblade deserves a call out for contributions from heavyweights like Yasunori Mitsuda and Yoko Shimomura. — Tye The Czar

True dat. Some great tracks throughout. This track plays in the first open area you get to explore. It conveys a great sense of freedom, one of the best aspects of Xenoblade from both a gameplay and a JRPG context. The first time I accidentally jumped off a bridge and plummeted hundreds of metres down into the water below, only to find that I could swim around and explore was something special.

Even after spending hour seven in Colony working on sidequest #4563, this track is fresh. — bobtheblob916

Xenoblade Chronicles. I have played many video games, among them many JRPGs and as a music hobbyist, if there something that I really appreciate is a soundtrack that helps you immerse in it’s game world. Xenoblade Chronicles boasts a four-audio CD soundtrack that manages to mimic the exact feelings of the what’s happening on the screen.

Beautiful, stunning compositions and I hope this wins next year when the game is released internationally and you will all see why I am nominating it right here. — Shiryu

To The Moon

There’s a place deep inside me that rarely gets touched, moved. Too much of life is filled with the ordinary and mundane, we are surrounded by it, we choke on it. The moment I heard those first few simple notes I was swept to that place. The music has the ability to make the world stop for that brief moment when you listen to it.

The soundtrack is all inclusive, all immersive and utterly captivating. It demands all of your attention, it gently compels you to feel, to share at that moment in the game the feelings that the characters go through… it is truly magical. — Han Cillers

Shadows of the Damned

There was a lot of great game music this year, I agree with most if not all of the previous posts. Though there’s one game in particular that I feel bears mentioning: Shadows of the Damned. It has a really fantastic sound design, and I think this track is a descent, if not perfect, representation of the kind of atmospheric music you can find in it.

That’s not to say this is a great representation of the style of music you’ll find in the game, though. That would be quite a feat, for the soundtrack shifts wildly from heavy metal, to old fashioned ragtime, to mariachi rock expertly from scene to scene. It would be impossible for me to disregard it as a heavy contender for my game music of the year. — VonAbsynt

Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective

I gotta say, Ghost Trick‘s music really gave the game’s more intense moments the dramatic edge they needed. It’s a bit like the music that plays when you make a successful objection in Phoenix Wright, it just gives you that “Oh man, shit just got real” feeling. My personal game of the year, for sure! — Diamond Sea

Batman: Arkham City

Bastion, Deus Ex: HR and The Witcher 2 are all highlights but I was most surprised by Batman: Arkham City. Perhaps because I could barely recall anything from Asylum, or because I was playing Arkham City so damn much. The theme is wonderful, and I love the build-up from about 1:17, that increase in tension that releases into a bold heroic yet tragic theme at around 1:56. This Court Is Now In Session is also great music by which to punch people. In the game. — hot_heart

Sonic Generations

I am surprised not a single person has mentioned Sonic Generations and its incredible soundtrack! While I certainly wouldn’t nominate it for any game of the year awards, its soundtrack is probably the best of any Sonic game. Rather than go straight-up rock, the composers instead went with a very violin-heavy sound that actually fits Sonic perfectly. Granted, almost every single song is a remix of a previous game, but it’s impossible to deny that this is an incredible piece.

The piano backing the violin is beautiful, and the drums really give the entire thing a sense of speed that just makes you want to move. — Goopygoo

Child of Eden

How could everyone forget Child of Eden‘s OST? The entire game is based on music, beats and rhythm. This style of tech-house is easy to listen to. Very catchy and with a soulful singer behind it too. Genki Rockets FTW! — tehjonel


The soundtrack to Catherine is an incredibly strange mix of classical music and, I guess, rock? Either way, it’s tremendously unique and the perfect music for a frenetic puzzle game. — PsychoDantis

Battlefield 3

I can’t BELIEVE that no one has posted anything about Battlefield 3 yet!

The strange, electronic soundtrack goes perfectly with the atmosphere of the game, both in the singleplayer and multiplayer. For instance, when a multiplayer battle is reaching its conclusion, a track starts playing in the background, and the fight seems more and more intense until you see “Your team lost.” or “Your team won!”

For me the music is a tribute to the intensity of battle that the game is trying to convey. That syncopated six-feel rhythm sounds spastic, yet oddly ordered, sort of like a series of autocannon shots or mortar shells going off. That little synth line that comes in on top is just so wonderfully placed, and carries the song, which starts out rhythmically, harmonically. All the little beeps and sounds are very similar to a lot of the noises that you hear in the game, like the target lock sound on your Javelin or a bullet whizzing by, or bits of dirt hitting the ground after an explosion.

Something about this music just really gets me into the game… makes me want to sprint around and vault over things before snapping my sight onto that Russian that’s about to cap a flag. –llama.fragments

Radiant Historia

Yoko Shimomura just nailed it with Radiant Historia‘s OST, in my humble opinion. It’s a game that goes without complex graphics and voiced dialogue, but it doesn’t really need either because every track does such a wonderful job of setting the mood of a scene, conveying a particular emotion. This is the stuff classics are made of, both the game itself and the soundtrack. — Paradox Me

Someone already mentioned it but my vote goes to Radiant Historia too. Even though the soundtrack hasn’t that many tracks it’s still fantastic. Then again I shouldn’t be surprised since the soundtrack was composed by Yoko Shimomura. And the game is amazing as well so if you haven’t played it yet, go play it. — klezdoom

Dark Souls

Dark Souls for certain. Some of those boss themes are outright intense, but I fell in love with the game as soon as I heard the menu music. It’s just so calm yet haunting as well, as if it were trying to comfort you before your hardship comes about each time. It almost reminds me of the Resident Evil save room themes. — GanymedeJupiter

Rarely does a game’s negative use of music affect how powerful the musical parts actually are. — snakelinksonic

Tactics Ogre

Blasphemous Experiment (Nybbeth’s theme) is probably the best example I can think of [of why this soundtrack needs more attention]. That song is just plain chilling, especially considering it’s a battle theme. The original SNES version is OK, but the PSP arrangement is just ridiculously good. Such a good damn song. Whenever you hear it, it’s also a good sign that you’re probably about to get your arse kicked! — Archaotic

And there you have them, our US readers’ picks for the best soundtracks of 2011. Thanks to all who contributed!


Show more comments

Log in to comment on this story!