End of the Year 2021: Favorite Game Music

When our hands are busy, our ears are open. Music in games has this way of sticking with us. As we play around in their world, music sets a backdrop for the lives we lead inside it.

In this thread, you’ll be able to share some of your favorite game soundtracks you heard this year. How did it enhance your experience? How did it set the mood? How did it move you? In 2021, like any other year, we got to hear a huge range of styles, from upbeat jams to melancholy ambiance. But no matter what style of music you heard, this scored your experience elegantly.

I’ll be back later with a longer Nier take but let’s kick things off with some checks notes slap disco Nier

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2021 is the year Daisuke Ishiwatari decided to just casually flex on the entire fucking game music industry

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I am lukewarm on Neo: TWEWY, but this song is great and will be stuck in my head forever:

However, I think the actual game I want to shout-out is Boyfriend Dungeon. I know a lot of people didn’t like that game for valid reasons, but I really enjoyed my time with it and part of that is that the music in the dungeons really adds to the chill atmosphere of the game:

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I am sure a number of people are going to mention Loop Hero’s music (and actually, sound design in general - the sound of the first boss’s tiles generating is great, for example).

So, instead, I’m going to mention one of my “game of 2021 that actually wasn’t released in 2021” candidates: Sayonara Wild Hearts. I mean, it’s a game which is essentially an hour long music video for the pop tunes in it, it would be surprising if the music wasn’t one of the stars of the whole thing!
Obviously, I’m going to go with the epic medley that forms the backing for the “final exam” final level, which throws everything you’ve ever experienced at you, twice, with a gentle return to echo the very opening stage at the end:

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I will probably come back tonight and write an essay about all of my picks this year, but I want my first shout out to be a DOOM mod, Thatcher’s Techbase, which had some extremely sick tracks.

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This is true, I was actually surprised by how good the music was for it!

Guilty Gear Strive is absolutely STACKED with hard rock and heavy metal bangers of all shapes and sizes. You want epic prog? You got it. Thrash? Yep. Badass dad rock? Hell yeah. Sugary sweet pop? TOTSUGEKI!!!

Here’s five of my favorites

Drift

The latest song added to the pack, Drift is all over the damn place. It’s got a little swing, a little psych, a little math rock, it’s a trip. And also, I think, a sign of learned lessons from the ost’s previous prog attempt "Necessary Discrepancy, which is also great, but just a little long winded. Drift feels much more direct, without sacrificing experimentation

Disaster of Passion

Some like to clown on this song for how superficially “kawaii” it is, and because May players are the DEVIL, but the simple fact is that it goes incredibly hard. Listen to that rhythm section and tell me it doesn’t immediately make you want to run a marathon.

Find Your One Way

The music of GG’s poster child, Sol Badguy, and the theme of the double perfect round. This is pure, distilled, giga-chad shit. And it’s funky as fuck too, which doesn’t hurt.

Play The Hero

Look, if this doesn’t make you immediately start moshing, then I just don’t know what to tell ya

The Kiss of Death

When I was recently listening to the entire soundtrack in sequence, I was wondering if Goldlewis’ music would hold up against the rest given its relative simplicity and the thoroughly “bar-rock” vibes. My fears were immediately sated when I started it. The giant bass, those stomping drums, the SICK guitar work, it’s all great. This is also the song that epitomizes the soundtrack’s ability to explain what its characters are all about. Obviously, I’m quite biased because GLD is my main, but y’know what this song sounds like to me? Inevitability. It doesn’t matter who you are, or where you come from, the same fate awaits you; getting absolutely bodied by a giant metal coffin

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I have really struggled with sleep this year but this has been a blessing for letting me pleasantly nod off

It has already been mentioned, but Guilty Gear Strive’s soundtrack is magnificent. It’s filled with absolutely great songs and I’ve listened to it a ton as a stand alone album as well as in game.

Also Neo:TWEWY continues on from its predecessor in having an absolutely fantastic soundtrack that I loved.

It’s this one for me.

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The music in Resident Evil: Village is mostly just great atmospheric stuff, long spooky songs to get through a tense fight, but not necessarily the best songs to listen to on their own - but I really, really like the boss theme for Heisenberg despite it being 8 minutes, and do just vibe to it sometimes.

Loop Hero has this really crunchy compression effect applied to all of these slappers that I really like, it adds a lot to the feel of that game. I love all of them, but this one was the first one that plays in-game that made me go ‘okay damn, I’m turning up the volume for this’.

Not really a pick, but Final Fantasy VII Intergrade or whatever it’s called continues the trend of that game having some great tunes. Fort Condor, anyone?

I also haven’t actually played Space Warlord Organ Trading Simulator yet, though I plan to before the end of the year, but I have listened to the soundtrack on bandcamp and it kicks ass.

Unfortunately for all of those games, however, Deltarune Chapter 2 was released this year, so that’s my main pick. Toby Fox doesn’t really miss when it comes to game soundtracks, and having Lena Raine (late game song, so linked) on to do a couple of songs pushes this chapter over the first for me, music-wise.

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Gotta throw some love to Japanese Breakfast and her work on Sable, which I still hope to play this year beyond the demo:

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Unsighted has some range in the OST. Lots of jrpg influences in the form of chiptune,piano, and prog rock sounding tracks.

But really the main highlight is the dog bossa nova tune.

Scarlet Nexus also had some really fun tracks (although some of the other songs on the soundtrack got a little too brostep for me).

Love this funky liquid dnb track that plays in one of the early levels.

This is a bit more downtempo, but there’s still a lot going on in the drums that keep me engaged.

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I didn’t hear anyone really talk about how great the music was in Psychonauts 2

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I’ve had Loop Hero penciled in here as well since I played it — it’s varied and moody and mysterious and perfectly sets the tone for a story about wandering through nothingness and grasping at the faint strings of memory as you try to reconstruct a doomed and imperfect world. Its range in particular is spectacular, moving from softer pieces that accompany moments of respite in your camp and in menus to the driving music of adventuring to the excellently cataclysmic pieces that play when bosses appear on the map. It perfectly matches the context of the game. Cosmic Temperance (my favorite track) has already been posted up the thread, so here’s another, even more climactic piece that, iirc, plays when the final boss appears on the last act.

That said, since this game is clearly a popular choice, I want to throw a couple more out there that might not get as much love. The first is Subnautica: Below Zero — and while plenty has been written here (by me and others) about the Subnautica games’ masterful sound design, Below Zero also has an utterly enthralling score. It’s by Ben Prunty, who’s probably best known for his work with Subset Games and is responsible for one of my all-time favorite scores with Into the Breach, and Below Zero is another masterpiece. I’m going to post the main theme, because I think it’s a great microcosm of the whole soundtrack, but the real power of this one comes with it as an accompaniment to all the game’s strange and wondrous sights.

And on the complete opposite end of the spectrum, there’s Turnip Boy Commits Tax Evasion, with an incredibly peppy and zany soundtrack that perfectly fits its roughly 90 minute playtime and just keeps driving your forward and forward and forward. Just listen to Veggieville and tell me it doesn’t make you want to get up and commit some financial crimes. And then there’s this genuinely earwormy ending son I must have listened to a couple hundred times since March.

And ok ok ok I promise I’m almost done but the more I think about this year the more I realize there were a ton of banner soundtracks. Metroid Dread was ambient and brilliant, World Flipper is genuinely invigorating even after months of daily playing. But my actual favorite track from the year is just a bundle of genuine joy.

Like c’mon, you can’t listen to this and not feel instant happiness fill your bones. It’s impossible.

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I’ll edit later with some more but I’m commuting right now, but I absolutely want to put in a mention for Death’s Door which has some of my favorite music this year period.

The main theme sets the stage well, both for tone and quality:

But my absolute favorite has to be “Avarice”:

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Echoing @diglett on Subnautica: Below Zero because it is an all-timer. It absolutely elevates that game to a different level and listening to that soundtrack so quickly transports me back the arctic depths of Planet 4546B.

I also adore the Déjà Vu theme from Deathloop which I’ll let speak for itself:

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There’s lots of great game music this year! I’d like to shout out a couple.

First, the Outer Wilds DLC came out this year, and the music was excellent, as expected:

The soundtrack for Fallow is understated and beautiful:

I’ll also shout out the Cruelty Squad OST, which is often almost unlistenable but really sells the feelings of discomfort the game is going for. I won’t post any here because I honestly don’t want to spoil any of the best (read worst) tracks for people who haven’t played the game yet!

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As usual, these end of year things make me realize how few games I played this year that were released this year, so I’m stretching the limits of the prompt a little but I think this should still count!

I’ll have a lot more to say about it in the tabletop thread, but 2021 was the year of Netrunner for me. This fan-made album of NR inspired music from Tripp Mirror was released at the same time as NISEI’s new beginner set, and it was a great backdrop to online and eventually in-person games of NR. If I was pressed to pick a track, I think I’d go with the rain-soaked Weyland track Wall To Wall. NR can be a pretty tense experience but this music usually chilled me out a bit while playing, which was appreciated.

Honorable mention to the Inscryption sound track, which has some creepy and foreboding tunes but also some bangers

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Axiom Verge 2 has good music tracks for “I’m exploring ancient ruins in another dimension and fucked up shit is happening” :

Get in the Car, Loser has the great summer trip tunes, very fittingly, but also the boss themes that Go Hard:

It’s not a big surprise for an Ace Attorney game to have a quality soundtrack, but every new character theme in The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles was better than the last. Just a full collection of bangers:

Golf Club Wasteland has a varied selection of sad pop songs and EDM tracks, but the most interesting part is that they’re played on a radio program with commentary from the radio host, and recorded messages from the people now living (miserably) on Mars. The writing is surprisingly nuanced, eschewing easy satire for more sincere stories. It makes a really good playlist to listen to if you’re up for some melancholy thoughts about the future of Earth:

(And I do have to mention Gnosia here. The music didn’t leave a strong impression on me… except for that track they put in the menu of all places. Picture me just leveling up my stats, trying to think about my next move and then 0:48 hits)

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