The Best Video Game Music Of 2014

The Best Video Game Music Of 2014

The video games of 2014 sounded really, really good. Better, perhaps, than in any past year... although I guess it always feels that way.

This year's nominees ran a wide gamut, from acoustic woodwind ensembles to screaming electric guitarmonies, techno jazz remixes to lounge electronica. 2014's standout soundtracks highlighted how diverse video games can be, and choosing the best from among them was a pleasure.

I selected the winners with assistance from the rest of the Kotaku staff, and I've listed them in no particular order. I've included the best or most iconic track here (or just my personal favourite) as the "showstopper," with a worthy second track linked as an encore. Whenever possible, I've linked to where you can buy the full soundtrack.

Ready? Plug in your headphones and turn that shit up.

The Best Video Game Music Of 2014

Shovel Knight

Like listening to my own rose-tinted memories of how awesome NES games were.

Composers: Jake "Virt" Kaufman w/ Manami Matsumae Showstopper: "Plains of Passage" Encore: "Main Theme" Featured Instrument: An Actual NES Hear More: Bandcamp

The Best Video Game Music Of 2014

Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc

The first few times the damn bear turns up, you'll hate the trombone; the last few times, you'll love it.

Composer: Masafumi Takada Showstopper: "Monokuma-Sensei's Lesson" Encore: "Dangan Ronpa Theme" Featured Instrument: Trombone Hear More: YouTube

The Best Video Game Music Of 2014

Destiny

A humongous soundtrack, good enough to make a faceless robo-man seem grand and fatherly.

Composers: Martin O'Donnell, Mike Salvatori, C Paul Johnson and Paul McCartney Showstopper: "Excerpt From The Ecstasy" Encore: "Excerpt from the Union" Crucial Instrument: Big, gauzy string section Hear More: iTunes

The Best Video Game Music Of 2014

Transistor

This game has a dedicated "hum" button.

Composer: Darren Korb feat. Ashley Barrett Showstopper: "We All Become" Encore: "Vanishing Point" Featured Instrument: Hum Hear More: Supergiant Site

The Best Video Game Music Of 2014

Hohokum

A collection of lovely surprises and revelations, much like the game it accompanies.

Composers: Ghostly International/Various Artists Showstopper: "L" by Tycho Encore: "Increasing Ambition" by Michna Featured Instrument: Electric Piano Hear More: Official Site

The Best Video Game Music Of 2014

Divinity: Original Sin

Sometimes I would just sit there, stare at the little houses and doorways, and listen.

Composer: Kirill Pokrovsky Showstopper: "Divine Transcendence" Encore: "Bittersweet Regrets" Featured Instrument: Weird Choir Hear More: YouTube

The Best Video Game Music Of 2014

Bravely Default

Goes directly from a soaring JRPG world-map theme to a Dragonforce shredfest, all without breaking eye contact.

Composer: Revo Showstopper: Edea's Theme, "Baby Bird" Encore: "Instant of Eternity" Featured Instrument: The Soprano MF-ing Saxophone Hear More: YouTube

The Best Video Game Music Of 2014

Bayonetta 2

This soundtrack could've been subtitled "Going All In."

Composers: Masami Ueda, leading many others Showstopper: "Tomorrow Is Mine" Encore: "The Lumen Sage" Featured Instrument: Piano Hear More: iTunes

The Best Video Game Music Of 2014

Crypt of the Necrodancer

I laughed so hard the first time I battled King Conga that I died. And in the game, too.

Composer: Danny Baranowsky Showstopper: "Zone 1-2" Encore: "King Conga" Featured Instrument: Let's call it "The Thriller Synth" Hear More: Steam

The Best Video Game Music Of 2014

World of Warcraft: Warlords of Draenor

A traditional "big fantasy orchestral soundtrack" that stands apart thanks to its odd, grand arrangements.

Composers: Russell Brower, Neal Acree, Clint Bajakian, Sam Cardon, Craig Stuart Garfinkle, Edo Guidotti and Eímear Noone Showstopper: "Ways of the Ancient Ones" Encore: "Family" Featured Instrument: The entire orchestra, basically Hear More: iTunes

The Best Video Game Music Of 2014

South Park: The Stick of Truth

What could've easily been a mere tongue-in-cheek Skyrim knockoff was instead a really good tongue-in-cheek Skyrim knockoff that captured South Park's bright musicality.

Composer: Jamie Dunlap Showstopper: "A Hero is Born" Encore: "Truth… Saint Truth" Featured Instrument:Eric Cartman Hear More: YouTube

The Best Video Game Music Of 2014

Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft

The coolest woodwind ensemble in video games.

Composers: Peter McConnell and Jason Hayes Showstopper: "Bad Reputation" Encore: "Don't Let Your Guard Down" Featured Instrument:Bassoon Hear More: Battle.net

The Best Video Game Music Of 2014

Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze

Wise is so all over the place that he's basically everywhere, and never seems to run out of wonderful ideas. Some of the best fake horns around.

Composer: David Wise Showstopper: "Seashore War" Encore: "Alpine Incline (Ground)" Featured Instrument: Synth Horn Section Hear More: YouTube

The Best Video Game Music Of 2014

Honourable Mentions: OlliOlli, Far Cry 4, Dungeon of the Endless, Threes!, Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris, Disney Fantasia: Music Evolved, Dragon Age: Inquisition, The Banner Saga, Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor


Comments

    Was getting worried as I kept scrolling and still wasn't seeing any DK.

    MK8 not even a mention?

      I know, right?! The credits music is an epic jam!

        I mean, Kotaku even wrote an article about the music:
        http://www.kotaku.com.au/2014/06/the-music-of-mario-kart-8/

        and I'm pretty sure there was at least one more article (must not have been tagged).

      Yeah seriously how did Mario Kart 8 not make this list?

    My vote would go for bravely default. One of the best sound tracks ever in my opinion. Evil within deserves a mention, it was a sparse soundtrack but that piano track worked really well and still gets stuck in my head.

      Bravely Default's soundtrack is amazing. So complex and varied. I disagree on their pick for the 'show-stopper' piece though - the final boss music, "The Horizon-Devouring Serpent", is absolutely the high point. Especially the part where it works in parts of the main theme and all four characters themes.

      Still super disappointed that they couldn't get Revo back to do the sequel.

        Unfortunate, yes... hopefully Bravely Second's OST will be equally (if not, then) amazing(ly decent), though.
        Also concert. Happy late Halloween-but-almost-Christmas: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=finqM-FfbBk

    Destiny had some nice orchestral pieces but all this good work was undone as soon as you heard that McCartney song.

      I've put many many hours into Destiny, and I still haven't heard it.

        its in the credits sequence. but, honestly, if you havent heard or seen it...do yourself a favour and google the film clip for it. set your eyeballs to STUNned.

          But you have to choose to view the credits (it doesn't autoplay at the end)...

          Why would I select the credits option, when I could select a mission and shoot things?

            Its almost like even Bungie realised people wouldnt want to see it xD

    No Bound by Flame? It had a great (albeit sparsely used) score.
    Olivier Deriviere (see also: Obscure, Alone in the Dark, Remember Me) is an awesome composer, and I think he deserves more recognition.

    Transistor's soundtrack's true value lies within its thematic ties to the story. For me, it's easily the best out of this selection for its depth and added quality to the game's world, emotion, themes and story. It does as a video game soundtrack should do, set the mood for the game and enhance the experience, and the awesome thing is that it never really fades into the background; the music is such a core element to the game's design that it's always a standout and at the same time, doesn't detract from the experience and overwhelm the player.

    Bravely Default for sure, but no Mario Kart??? My god man, are you INSANE????????

    No The Wolf Among Us? That opening credits sequence was stuck in my head for weeks. Such atmosphere. Much dramatics. Wow.

    Transistor song was what made me buy the game.

    Destiny all the way, beautiful soundtrack.

    Smash Bros Wii U, Shovel Knight, Bravely Default, Mario Kart 8, and Zinnia's battle theme from Pokemon OR/AS.

    'Nuff said.

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