Let’s face it, despite some inherent mishaps – I’m looking at you microtransactions – the 2010s gave birth to some exceptional games. Nay, incredible games. In fact, some of my favourite games of all time have only existed in the last decade, and on their shoulders have stood some mind-blowing soundtracks.
If you’re bunkering in, self-isolating, or just gaming for the hell of it, we got you. Here are the 10 best video game soundtracks of the 2010s.
Join us for a decade in review. Here are the 10 best video game soundtracks of the 2010s.
Doom (2016) – Mick Gordon
It may seem obvious in hindsight but the unhumanly perfect pairing of Mick Gordon’s soundtrack with id Software’s DOOM is an experience unlike any other. The pounding drums and shredding solos on 8-string guitars, coupled seamlessly with the testosterone-charged gore-fest of ‘Doomguy’, is a glorious sight to behold.
A breakout hit of the decade in review, DOOM provided a perfect throwback to ’90s industrial rock while feeling fresh and new. The dynamic soundtrack is all the more impressive as it was composed in conjunction with the ways each player experiences the game. As sections turn ominous, eerie, or downright violent, the music reflects and adapts into formations that are downright epic.
Florence – Kevin Penkin
Australia’s own Kevin Penkin goes toe-to-toe with any AAA composer. After his wildly successful score for the anime series Made In Abyss, Penkin has been hot property, to say the least.
Yet, his work on the mobile game Florence is second to none. The man knows how to build a melody, utilising chamber music to swirl around the game’s central romance. If you like the simple yet elegantly haunting combination of piano and cello, then this is well worth your time.
No Man’s Sky: Music For An Infinite Universe (2016) – 65daysofstatic
While No Man’s Sky was a catastrophic, lie-riddled flop upon launch (but admittedly, somewhat redeemed since), the soundtrack is nothing short of incredible. What do you do when you have a game that flaunts the infinite depth and wonder of space? Hire a post-rock band to score it.
65daysofstatic elegantly captures the majesty and awe-inspiring wonder of space travel. Dotted with references to the sci-fi canon while falling into your regular post-rock tropes, it does a darn good job of living up to the task of making music for unlimited space.
The Last Of Us (2013) – Gustavo Santaolalla
Widely recognised as a masterpiece, Gustavo Santaolalla’s haunting soundtrack takes no small cut of the cloth. The devastating cello solos, earthy percussion, and nylon plucked guitar lines imbue an emotional potency that should be a requisite for all apocalyptic games.
Yet unlike 65daysofstatic, Santaolalla employs a masterful sense of restraint. It’s the silence that brings the true sense of terror here. One of the greatest video game soundtracks ever made, let’s see if he can top it on the sequel.
Minecraft (2011) – C418
Sometimes a game calls for a soundtrack that melts your face off, and sometimes all a soundtrack needs to do is patter along in the background. The latter was Daniel Rosenfeld’s brief for Minecraft, the 2011 sandbox sleeper which has since become the best selling video game of all time.
As C418 Rosenfeld would lay down compositions that drew on minimal composers like Eno or Satie, simple melodies and swells that never took the game’s fore. As the player scrounged for diamonds, eluded zombies, or just sat for a moment and took in the pixellated landscapes, the OST was always there to make the experience that little bit more special.
Cuphead (2017) – Kristofer Maddigan
Comfortably one of the biggest dark horse success stories of the last decade, Cuphead was, dare I say it, masterful. A hand-drawn, 1920s-style bonanza, every frame, character and stylistic choice was lovingly created. It was ruthlessly challenging and the result paid off in spades, no pun intended.
Kristofer Maddigan clearly shares a love for American jazz and big band music from the 1910s to 1930s. Take away the game and you lose absolutely nothing. Couple the two together and you’re in for one of the best experiences in gaming.
NieR: Automata (2017) – Keiichi Okabe, Keigo Hoashi, Kuniyuki Takahashi
Another brave mash-up of gaming styles that was an undisputed success is PlatinumGames’ NieR: Automata. Centring around Vladimir and Estragon – a virtual Adam and Eve – the player is confronted with endless moral complexity across a vast, adventurous landscape.
Yet it’s the sorrowful, yearning melodies and linguistically impressionistic lyrics that glue this game together and drive home its main themes. Although Yoko Taro has sworn to never make the same game twice, we wouldn’t complain about another NieR: Automata.
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt (2015) – Marcin Przybyłowicz
Often cited amongst the best games of all time, Wild Hunt put CD Projekt Red on the map as a world-leading developer in a time when other major companies were resorting to microtransactions and pre-pay strategies.
Each in-game region is inspired by real-world influences and so is the soundtrack. Carefully considered in conjunction with the ‘spheres’… sorry I mean books, this is a masterclass in a novel-to-screen adaptation.
Combining Celtic folklore with Polish band Percival – the author’s country of origin – composer Marcin Przybyłowicz crafts a modern action score that is authentic to its fantastical roots and ultimately, wholly unique. Simply one of the best video game soundtracks around.
Dark Souls (2011) – Motoi Sakuraba
Likely the only thing that threaded together the last shreds of a player’s sanity when they first encountered Dark Souls was Motoi Sakuraba’s magnificent soundtrack. Equal parts breathtaking and harrowing, Sakuraba crafted 31 pieces of simply wondrous music.
While Dark Souls 3 is a close contender, this is where the tone was first truly set for the macabre, dark fantasy of Dark Souls. If a player ever says they’re hardcore but has never played Dark Souls, strap them in for the brain snap of their lives and make sure they appreciate the soundtrack.
The Legend Of Zelda: Breath Of The Wild (2017) – Manaka Kataoka, Hajime Wakai, Yasuaki Iwata
While remaining true to its roots, both the game and the soundtrack to The Legend Of Zelda: Breath Of The Wild dared to explore new boundaries, rather than reinvigorating an already well-worn franchise. The mere piano tone here is enough to stir emotions on tracks like Wind Waker and Ocarina Of Time.
By embracing themes of ambience and minimalism, the soundtrack perfectly reflects the brand new open worlds in the game as you gallop across windswept fields and parachute through the sky. This is a brand new Zelda, and brave new Link, and the masterful re-imaginings of timeless classics.