The Best Video Game Music Of 2012

The Best Video Game Music Of 2012

You press a button, and the beat drops. Forward you fly, straight into the perilous unknown, beats pushing against your eardrums as you push back against the controller. Tempo and harmony swim together in your brain, and you lose yourself in the rhythm of play.

2012 has been a fine year for video game music. The finest in recent memory, I’d argue. We’ve seen soundtracks of every shape, size and tonal colour, compositional collections complementing games that have incorporated harmony and discord in ingenious, exciting ways.

Granted, my affinity for this year’s music is at least in part because it was the year I started running Kotaku Melodic, and so my awareness of all things musical and video gamey has been at an all-time high.

But as the list below demonstrates, this year was something special any way you look at it. It was a year in which game design and music composition moved ever closer, where composers and instrumentalists played vital roles in development teams, and where game-makers demonstrated a greater than ever understanding of themay things video games and music have in common.

Here, in no particular order, are our picks for the best video game music of 2012.

Gravity Rush

Gravity RushPleasure QuarterGravity Rush

Hotline Miami

Hotline MiamiLone SurvivorHotline Miamifilthy

XCOM: Enemy Unknown

XCOM: Enemy UnknownXCOMDeus Ex: Human Revolution


Botaniculaweapons-grade joyfulnesshugeDVAhuman voicesBotanicula



Max Payne 3

Max Payne 3flattens the competition

Xenoblade Chronicles

Jason Schreier:Xenoblade ChroniclesXenoblade

Mass Effect 3

Mass Effect 3

It’s fitting that a large number of musicians was required to tie Mass Effect room together: The series has seen a number of composers over its five-year run, voices that always managed to combine into a cohesive whole. Best of all, the Mass Effect 3 sound designers even managed to contribute, weaving the music from past games into the ambient sound of several scenes, knitting together a aural tapestry that transcended backing tracks. This piece, “An End Once and For All,” was the only one I could choose as emblematic of the Mass Effect 3 soundtrack. It’s the rare piece of video game music that sounds exactly as grandiose as its title claims, and it achieves that not with the synths for which the series became known, but with a solo piano, eventually augmented by an orchestra. We’ll miss you, Commander.

Sound Shapes

Sound Shapes




Fezspecificare laced with hidden symbols and secrets of their own

Persona 4 Golden

Persona 4Persona 4 GoldenPersona 4presentareGoldenP4


JourneyJourneyprofound experience for me

Journey‘s score has been widely celebrated, and is the first game soundtrack nominated for a Grammy award. Every accolade it gets is deserved, not simply because the music is good (it is), but because it’s uniquely informed by ThatGameCompany’s design, and as a result stands as Journey‘s beating heart. Noble cello themes and resonant alto flute melodies evoke the seemingly endless loneliness of the desert; our slack-jawed wonder at the sheer scope of this endless basin of life. Soundtracks like this come along once in a great while; we may not hear its equal any time soon. But that’s OK. These compositions aren’t going anywhere, and thanks to them, Journey will remain a classic for many years to come.

So there you have them: Kotaku‘s picks for the best video game music of 2012. Of course, we may have left off your favourite, so I hope you’ll all share your favourite tunes from the year in the comments. (I thought we had a great collection in our reader’s choice post last week.)

For now, let’s just take a moment to plug in some headphones and reflect on a fantastic year in music.


    • Halo 4’s soundtrack was awesome, I sat and listened to that opening track when you first boot up the game for a while. I’ve always been a fan of Halo’s music, but this was a new high in the series. Loved it.

      But Journey’s soundtrack lifted me up to paradise, made love to my ears and then made my cry like a little baby, so it is without a doubt the soundtrack of the year for me, and then some.

  • That’s a great list. My personal favourite for this year has to be the Max Payne 3 soundtrack. It was fantastic in the game and really added a whole new dimension to the dark atmosphere of the game.
    Tears by HEALTH is a great song on its own. I love having a listen to it as I’m having a drink before heading out for the evening…

  • As far as music goes, i loved the soundtracks for ME3, Journey, & Far Cry 3.

    also, Spec Ops used music in a pretty clever way, so that too.

    • The problem with FarCry 3 is that theres like… one combat song. And my god i got sick of that after the fifth hour or so.
      And it would play that damned song even when i wasnt in combat, too. Argh.

  • Theatrythem doesn’t get a mention? I’m guessing it’s because having a games sound track made up of other games soundtracks is cheating.

  • FTL – the part in Civil that kicks in at 1.54 is iconic for me.

    I haven’t played ME3, however that songs sounds excellent.

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