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Posted by MajorMitch

I've always been a huge supporter of video game music, and have always felt that a strong video game soundtrack can elevate an otherwise good game to new heights. 2012 saw tons of games with great, memorable soundtracks; I feel like it's been a particularly good year for video game music. I've certainly enjoyed my fair share, and I'd like to give the soundtracks that have had the biggest impact on me their due. I've picked out 12 soundtracks from 2012 that stand out to me, and have posted my favorite song from each one here. It should be noted that I'm only counting original soundtracks, so licensed or reused stuff doesn't cut it (here's looking at you Theatrhythm). Also, there's no ordering of note (I've alphabetized it to avoid confusion), and while I thought about writing a few words for each song, I think it's best to leave it at just the audio; this music speaks for itself. Anyway, I hope you enjoy listening, and let me know what some of your favorite soundtracks of 2012 are!

EDIT: Neither Closure or Dust: An Elysian Tail seem to have their soundtracks on Youtube, and I've been having problems trying to embed their Bandcamp players on this page (this page locks up whenever I try). For now I've simply linked to those two songs, but if any technical wizard out there has advice, I'm all ears.

Botanicula - Juchu

Closure - Shadows of the Forest

Dust: An Elysian Tail - The Sorrowing Meadows

Dustforce - Cider Time

Fez - Adventure

Hotline Miami - Hydrogen

Journey - Apotheosis

Little Inferno - Reporting From the Weather Balloon

Mass Effect 3 - A Future for the Krogan

Nintendo Land - Main Plaza

Sound Shapes - Cities

The Walking Dead - Alive Inside

Edited by Mento

The Best Soundtrack award's a prickly one for me this year, since Xenoblade Chronicles would run away with it if it hadn't been released in 2011 in Europe. The thing's just phenomenal. Some good rivals here, though, even if - due to their truncated nature - most Indie games have half the soundtrack the bigger retail ones do.

There's also Double Dragon Neon. I liked how Kaufman threw every single 80s music trope he could think of into its soundtrack. Good epilogue song too.

Also, as divisive as dubstep tends to be around here, I thought it was a little odd but sort of neat we got (at least) two Skrillex-scored sequences in video games this year. "Best Use of Skrillex" might even be its own category in Giant Bomb's 2012 GOTY awards.

Posted by GunstarRed

We have similar tastes! You posted some of the exact same songs as me. Like Mento I'm also a huge fan of the Double Dragon Neon soundtrack.

Posted by MajorMitch

@Mento: Even though smaller downloadable games (like indie games) tend to have "smaller" soundtracks, I've found a lot of them more memorable to me this year than the big retail games I played. They seem to have more identifiable, interesting and personable themes than a lot of this year's big budget games, which often seem to have more background, ambient tracks. That hasn't always been the case for the big games, but I'm finding it increasingly rare for their music to stand out to me. For example, I've played 100+ hours of Borderlands 2 this year, and I still couldn't tell you what its music is like (it's probably perfectly good). It doesn't stand out to me as I play the game; it's just kind of there.

I haven't played Double Dragon Neon, but I just listened to a few tracks and that soundtrack seems incredible (is it all original?) I played about 20 hours of Xenoblade and liked what I heard of the soundtrack (much better than the rest of the game...) I also think if you're in North America you should definitely be able to count Xenoblade as a game released this year for such purposes; it's not like you could count it any other year :)

@GunstarRed: I just went through the tracks you posted, and you're right, we did post a lot of the same tracks! I suppose we're among the few that appreciate the music of games like Botanicula and Dustforce :P

I also absolutely love the Superbrothers: Swords & Sworcery soundtrack (I listen to it all the time), but as much as I wanted to, I couldn't claim it as a 2012 game in good conscience.

Posted by Mento

@MajorMitch: I'll concede to your first point, as it definitely seems to be a thing that every game - Indie or otherwise - has one or two really memorable tracks and the rest are there for flavor. XC's was consistently excellent, but many of the others lead with their best and that was about it. What was Borderlands 2's big licensed track? I know they had one. From an actual band and everything, I mean.

Double Dragon Neon is just a big goofy swansong to 80s culture. Like Jeff, I never got the impression that the original Double Dragon was incredibly "80s", especially when it had games like effin' Bad Dudes vs DragonNinja around at the same time, but it gave the developers a neat parody hook on which to base a game that would've otherwise been another pointless overhaul of an arcade classic. Jake Kaufman, the music guy, appeared to be having the most fun with the idea (though the guy doing his best Alan Oppenheimer Skeletor voice for the villain is a close second).

I'm not in North America and put XC in my list last year, hence the quandary. Hope it does well. I realize it was kind of a slog for a lot of folk, but I admired everything it (and The Last Story, for that matter) tried to do to revitalize JRPGs. Releasing more of the same old stuff - as much as I'd be totally okay with that too - won't keep the genre alive for much longer with all this apathy for them over here. Or maybe Steam will rescue the old-fashioned SNES/PS1 JRPG like they did with adventure games, and support the smaller studios that want to make them. That'd be weird, but cool. Hell, they're partway there with the Zeboyd stuff already.

Edited by frontman12

The Borderlands track was "Short Change Hero" by The Heavy.

I also feel that although perhaps individual tracks aren't as identifiable as those featured in indie titles, the music in Spec Ops: The Line did an incredible job of setting the mood for your psychological descent.

Posted by Cathryn

I haven't played the majority of these games, but I love the songs you've chosen. I just picked up an indie bundle from GOG.com and Botanicula was in it, so now I'm pretty excited to play it. Also, love that you included one of Beck's tracks from Sound Shapes. The music in that game is fantastic, but his tracks were definitely a highlight and, imo, some of the best solo material he's put out in awhile. Very nice list. Thanks for sharing.

Posted by MajorMitch

@frontman12: Borderlands track identified! :)

@Cathryn: Thanks! Botanicula is totally goofy, but I had a smile on my face the whole time I played it :)

I can't say I'm familiar with Beck in general, but I really like that song and its use in Sound Shapes, and thought the way the words appear as platforms in that level was neat. I got into a pretty good groove there; much head bobbing ensued.

Posted by mracoon

Great picks, I'd include most of these in my personal favourites from the year, too. Apotheosis still gives me goosebumps every time.