Thursday, November 4, 2010

Ten Best Game Soundtracks of 2010 (So Far)

Is it too early to talk about "Best of 20XX" stuff yet? Probably. But we're going to discuss the best soundtracks anyway, under the assumption that there's not going to be much better. The rest of the 2010 release seems to include mostly Western games, who are largely focused on bombastic Hollywood-style film soundtracks than legitimate game music, and I don't think there's too many big Japanese releases left. If something comes out and surprises is - it definitely could! - we'll append it down the road. So, without further ado, here are the Ten Best Game Soundtracks of 2010 (So Far):

VVVVVV (Featured song: Potential for Anything)

There are only maybe half a dozen proper songs in this soundtrack - fitting, since the game is only about two hours - but each of these tracks is pure SID-inspired chiptune bliss. You can grab MP3s of it the composer's website for a few bucks - unquestionably worth it.

Scott Pilgrim vs the World: The Game (Featured song: Another Winter)

Anamanaguchi was band I had only half paid attention to, because while their unique of guitar and NES chiptunes were kinda cool, their songs always felt long and meandering. When concentrated into the context of a 1-2 minute video game song, though, their talent for composition really shows through, resulting in a retro soundtrack that still has a distinctly modern edge.

Castlevania Harmony of Despair (Featured song: Invitation of the Crazed Moon)

My own big complaint about remixed music in Castlevania games is that they always drew from the 8 and 16-bit games, ignoring practically everything from Symphony of the Night and afterward. Harmony of Despair changes that, and features numerous songs from the portable Metroidvanias, all rearranged. They're all fantastic too, many being done by the same folks who redid the songs for Judgment. The DLC pack adds even more, and the handful of new tracks - including one of my favorites, Invitation of the Crazed Moon from Portrait of Ruin - are outstanding too.

NIER (Featured song: The Lost Forest)

This game kind of came out of nowhere to be really damn cool, and part of that appeal lied on its music, which took the took a tired musical trope - foreign-sounding chanting - and gave it new life. The dramatic strings and percussion pieces are even more outstanding, breezy and melodic, constrasting to the comparatively dull orchestrations that permeate stuff like Castlevania Lords of Shadows and God of War.

Ys The Oath in Felghana (Featured song: A Searing Struggle)

Is it fair to include this game? This was released in the US in 2010, but released in 2009 in Japan, which in turn was based on a 2005 release (again) in Japan only, which was a remake of Ys III, a game from fifteen years earlier. So, the music in The Oath of Felghana is hardly "new". But that's okay, because Ys III had one of the best soundtracks in existence, and remixes in The Oath of Felghana only improves them with live instrumentation. Props to the PSP version for including alternate versions from the old computer releases.

Ys Seven (Featured song: Mother Earth Altago)

The music in Ys Seven isn't QUITE as good as Felghana, but it's also the best original soundtrack in the series since Ys IV. Parts of it sounds remarkably like an upgraded PC Engine redbook track, which has always been part of the Ys appeal (at least, to the English speaking audience.)

Dodonpachi Daifukkatsu Black Label (Featured song: Vertex)

The soundtrack to DDP Daifukkatsu was kinda lousy, but the Black Label version doesn't rearrange it, it created a whole new soundtrack from scratch. It's much better, with some damn catchy electronica, and while it's not quite as trance-y as Espgaluda, it further establishes the parallel that Cave-brand danmaku shooters are the video game equivalent of an ecstasy fueled rave.

Dark Void (Featured song: Main Theme)

Usually we rag on Western game soundtracks for totally missing what we love about video game music. But we'll overlook that when it comes to Bear McCreary, the incredibly talented composer behind the reimagined Battlestar Galatica and its (now cancelled) spin-off Caprica. As a result, the soundtrack to this under-appreciated action game sounds much like his other work - which is to say, filled with fantastic orchestrations and lots of percussion. Bonus points for the Dark Void Zero soundtrack, which takes these turns and turns them into Mega Man-style NES music.

Final Fantasy XIII (Featured song: Blinded By Light)

On the Final Fantasy/Dragon Quest divide, I am usually staunchly on the side of Final Fantasy. FFXIII screwed up so much though, from the storytelling to the dialogue to the character development to the level design that it really did come up short. The only two areas where it excelled was its utterly fantastic battle system and its magnificent soundtrack. Styistcally Masashi Hamauzu is quite a bit different from series mainstray composer Nobuo Uematsu, as well as FFXII composer Hitoshi Sakimoto, but the man can use the violin like no other game musician out there.

Etrian Odyssey III (Featured song: Unrest - The End of the Raging Waves)

Even if you don't like grindy masochistic first person dungeon crawlers, everyone should appreciate these games for continuing to employ Yuzo Koshiro, one of the few prominent musicians from the 80s music scene that's still got it. This PC88 FM inspired sountrack is the best of the series, offering a wider variety of dungeon themes that alter between serene and foreboding, and numerous outstanding battle themes. The arranged album also borrows some instrumentation styles from Falcom, also making it essential for Ys fans.


Death Smiles (Featured song: Burning Halloween Town)

Not one of Cave's better soundtracks (better than Daifakkutsu though), at least the first level theme is pretty excellent, as are the boss and level select themes.

Super Mario Galaxy 2 (Featured song: Throwback Galaxy)

Catchy and eminently likable, with a handful of arranged songs from previous Mario and Yoshi games. Not enough of it really stands out to make the Top 10 though.

No More Heroes Desperate Struggle (Featured song: Philistine)

The "A Goddamned Philistine Since 2004" header on the main HG101 page is a reference to Margaret's song, a darkly silly little bit sung by the boss in question about how our hero, Travis Touchdown, is a goddamned pussy. Like the first game, the music selection is eclectic and ultimately not as consistently strong, some of the boss tracks are still outstanding.


  1. 1) Gurumin (PSP) A game made with love, with a good soundtrack that invites the player to continue playing.
    2) Shadow of the Colossus (PS2) Good ambient music.
    3) Sim City 4 Deluxe (PC) Maybe are little songs, but this expansion have a great orchestral music.
    4) Castlevania Judgement (Wii) The best songs of Castlevania rearranged for this poor game.
    5) Persona 3 (PS2) Persona has always have great music scores and songs.
    6) Cave Story (PC) Best chiptune music.
    7) Chocobo Fables Final Fantasy (Wii) The best songs of Final Fantasy rearranged but with other name.
    8) DjMax Black Square (PSP) DjMax have good original music and this version is my favorite.
    9) Street Fighter 4 (PC, 360, PS3) Best OST of Street Fighter. I always love the works of Hideyuki Fukasawa.

  2. Uh, so, of 2010 (I'm a little behind, but as of early October):

    01. Patchwork Heroes
    02. Valkyria Chronicles 2: Gallian Royal Military Academy
    03. Super Mario Galaxy 2
    04. Sin And Punishment: Successor To The Sky
    05. Perfect Prosecutor: Miles Edgeworth
    06. Solatorobo
    07. The Magic Obelisk
    08. Absolute Hero Modding Project
    09. Final Fantasy XIII
    10. Kingdom Hearts: Birth By Sleep

    Patchwork Heroes totally took me by surprise, given I don't care for the Badman series, and the live piano performance of the main theme is surprisingly lovely. I'm a fan of circus-/parade-/march-derived music, though.

  3. Hrm... I haven't played a lot of these. Not that I don't want to, mind you.

    Anyway, Ys Seven sports some absolutely awesome tunes. I like Innocent Primeval Breaker for the wailing guitar solos, but for some reason, my favorite track of the game is Desert of Despair.

    Great stuff.

  4. Dude, Ill really missed the boat leaving out Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey. One of the most atmospheric, moody soundtracks out that fit the dark game perfectly. Yes I know it went a little heavy on the chanting, but overall I thought it was a job well done. For shame leaving it off your list, Disco!

  5. Strange Journey has a few good tunes, but all of that grim chanting just started to blend together. Good change of pace for the series, but I still prefer my Megatens brimming with 100% pseudo-satanic butt rock.

    If this were 2009, Devil Survivor would be up there, even though it had like...maybe five songs they kept playing over and over.

  6. Final Fantasy XIV is a pretty sucky game, but its soundtrack is pretty awesome.

  7. SJ was solid, but it wasn't spectacular. A few good tracks, one or two amazing ones, but overall, I wouldn't put it anywhere close to Nocturne or even Persona 4's OST.

    However, I do respect Meguro for experimenting. I like what he was going for.

    Re: Etrian Odyssey 3- best boss music in years. It's everything I wanted and more.

    Any Koshiro fan should give his Wangan Midnight: Maximum Tune tunes a listen. It's not like anything he does anywhere else.

    Mm, hard trance.

  8. Strange Journey's style isn't for everyone, but even before last year was over I'd still listened to it more than I have of any of this year's releases, and this year I've continued to go crazy for it. It's become one of those soundtracks I put on when I can't decide on what else to listen to. According to, I've scrobbled the album's tracks a total of 26,349 times!

    C'mon, if you were theoretically going to give the repetitive cheese rock of Devil Survivor a nod (though the Bel battle and final battle themes are pretty awesome), surely there's room to merely mention a soundtrack wholly appropriate to its game by being both thematically oppressive and powerful, even if its execution in said game left a little to be desired. The reuse of tracks was a major bummer.

  9. The Super Meat Boy soundtrack is pretty darn good. OCRemixer Danny Baranowsky did the whole thing and you can listen/download most of the music at his site:

  10. A good, diverse selection. Many I've not had the chance to hear, so this is a welcome lot.

    Someone mentioned Patchwork Heroes, and some of the tracks on its eclectic soundtrack are very good. Since we're discussion OSTs, did anyone else think that greece's entry in the 2010 Eurovision Song Contest sounded a lot like one of the Patchwork Heroes tracks?

    I can't find a full OST listing on youtube, so I'm not sure which track it is, but I swear I heard one of the game's tunes sounding a lot like that.

  11. Oh, yeah, it's definitely driven by southern European folk influences and American marching history.

  12. Pretty good list I say.

    I don't dig anything Scott Pilgrim but the game chiptunes music is very catchy.

    Love both Ys soundtracks, so rocky and optimistic.

  13. *sigh* I wish I had Great Fairy Wars. Knowing Touhou has a reputation for a consistently spectacular soundtrack, I wish someone would nominate that.
    I'm currently saving up for a console so I can get my fix of next-gen fun; so buying any more PC, DS, or Wii games must wait.

  14. I had just heard the FFXIII one, so I enjoyed all of these a lot, specially Vertex and Invitation of the Crazed Moon.

  15. I think Deadly Premonition's soundtrack should be considered. It's very eclectic and has some quite amazing songs in a variety of genres. I'd compare it to the EarthBound soundtrack as far as diversity goes.

  16. The Dark Void theme just got me all fired up and wanting to play Jet Force Gemini.

    No More Heroes 2 cannot be mentioned without including the Rank Up tune:

  17. I haven't played that many games, but I remember playing Legend of Mana. You may not be able to get ur hands on the game since it was 10yrs old, but if u can probably still download and listened to the OST. Some of my favorites are the Opening Theme, Spirit's/Siren's Song (or what ever its called), Pain the Universe, Moonlit City Roa, Those Who Are Shining, Complicated Destiny, Fiery Castle, Earth Painting, Places of Soul, and the list just goes on...