From electrically charged thrash metal to spine-tingling orchestral scores, these are the 10 best video game soundtracks of 2020.
2020 was an incredible year for gaming for a few reasons. A lot of free time went around the place, imminent next-gen releases pushed everyone into a gaming frenzy, and Keanu Reeves called another man, and all of us, breathtaking. And just like the titles they represent, the video game soundtracks released in 2020 were top notch.
We trawled back through the year that was to single out who we thought brought true heat to the musical table. For the most part, these OSTs are albums you can listen to in their own right, some of them however just complemented the game so perfectly that now it’s hard to think of one without the other.
Animal Crossing: New Horizons
Cute af. Iconic. Trending on TikTok. What didn’t the music from Animal Crossing: New Horizons achieve in 2020?
No matter what your thoughts were on the game, the island-spa-meets-dancefloor vibes of the soundtrack are impossible to resist. Calmly gurning is how I’d like to describe it. No matter what occasion your hapless character found themselves in, there was music to match. I also have 10,000% respect for the commitment to the hourly background music changes.
Waiting for turnips to grow has never been so soothing. With video game soundtracks like these, I would happily watch paint dry.
The Last Of Us Part 2
Gustavo Santaolalla has stood as the invisible third piece of the Joel and Ellie puzzle for as long as we’ve known them. The guitar in the original TLOU was a sparse, exquisite affair. Barely noticeable builds, and almost entirely acoustic. It was haunting and instantly recognisable.
For The Last Of Us Part 2, Gus went ham.
With all of the weapons of the contemporary music producer at his arsenal, he brought a much bigger world for our ears to play in. While absolutely different to the original, there wasn’t anything lost through the shift in the music from part one to two. The Last Of Us Part 2’s soundtrack is a gorgeous, expansive experience that complemented the jump from adolescence to adulthood that Ellie makes between the games.
Ori and the Will of the Wisps
If the Titanic theme got jiggy with a troupe of Irish drummers this would the beautiful progeny of that match. Soaring operatic vocals are played off against an undercurrent of cellos and hang drums that play stunningly with each other. Each track is an emotive experience and my ears never tired of just how gosh-darn pretty the sounds were.
The intertwining of the story and the music throughout Ori and the Will of the Wisps hooked me deep in my emotions. What made this stand out in the a world full of deeply emotional gaming music was the unceasing positivity found in the smallest flourishes that Gareth Coker throws in.
It may be dark at times, but there’s a pool of light underneath it all.
Medieval sounds meet hair metal drums and pugilist-level guitar distortion. It’s a winning combination. Something about the 14th century acoustic progressions into breaks that are just yearning to open the pit up hits right.
There’s enough variety within the familiarity to keep it interesting; an appreciable amount of talent went into using the same sounds throughout the soundtrack without feeling the need to overcomplicate the arrangement.
As a final note, Scourge of the Furies would be the perfect backing for an early Shakira song.
Cutesy, with a hint of adventure. The music for this game went hand-in-hand with the playing experience. A fast-paced title with soothing oases of calm, the music of Spelunky 2 provided exactly what the ears needed to stimulate you to ever quicker feats of gameplay.
A completely modern approach to platforming packaged within retro confines, Splelunky 2 has the feel of some much older classics. The completely on-the-grid music helps throw back to that, as well as completely immersing the player in the world of this game. It’s a tight rope to walk, and Eirik Suhrke is doing backflips.
Tony Hawk Pro Skater 1 + 2
I’m sure I’m not the only person who can’t hear TNT without thinking of Alcatraz in Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 4. The music and game are indelibly intertwined in my mind. The remake has provided the same goods while kicking it up a notch for 2020. A solid collection of indie rock, hip hop, and punk classics keep the blood pumping on the eternal quest for a 1080.
These tracks are undeniably the perfect music to take into the real world and break your elbow to. It’s a real joy to see some Aussie artists carving space out on the soundtrack too. Alex Lahey, Baker Boy, and A. Swayze & The Ghosts, looking right at you.
The Doom Eternal soundtrack copped flack from the gaming community, but we’re happy to argue that they were wrong. It’s a dark blend of industrial drums and beats with more Djent then you can pronounce the d of. The use of in-game dialogue is a gorgeous additive as demonic whispers and monologues march in and out of existence.
My words fail me. This soundtrack is too damn good, it stands alone as one of the most hectic four hours you can spend with your ears. I wouldn’t be surprised to find out they made the music first and then a game around it.
Is it dubstep, is it metal, is it violent? Yes.
Bird Alone is a simple game about making friends with the word’s loneliest bird. It’s a surprisingly joyous iOS title with an electronic soundtrack that swells for what feels like days before finally reaching pure satisfaction.
The music for Bird Alone feels out of this world with the quality it brings to the table – a multi-faceted video game soundtrack that wouldn’t sound out of place as a Tycho album. It stuck with me for days after finishing the game, and I couldn’t be happysadder about it.
Cyberpunk 2077 was an ambitious endeavour. CD Projekt Red promised us the sun, and in some cases gave us sunflowers. With the music though, they gave us the moon. The music definitely helped pick me up where I may otherwise have been let down, it’s a delightfully curated list of bangers featuring Grimes, Run the Jewels, Nina Kraviz, and plenty of others.
Despite the sledging this game has received, there’s a lot of rightful credit being given by everyone that noticed the guitar playing in the game. The characters play what they’re meant to, and do it in a natural way – it looks like they’re playing, because they are. A beautiful touch.
Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout
In a game as simple as Fall Guys, each ingredient has to be perfectly seasoned for the final product to taste right. With the art style doing a lot of heavy lifting, the music in Fall Guys had to be just as colourful for the ears. Without the upbeat intensity of these sounds from start to finish, this game could have sat in a weird world of silence.
As it stands they nailed it, each part does exactly the job it sets out to do. The zany, colourful excitement of beans competing for glory, and their life, is perfectly encapsulated within the electric wonderland of a soundtrack.