Best Game Soundtracks of 2010

It's been difficult month, but I'm slowly (FINALLY) bouncing back. 
 
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays everyone. Before I pull out a giant 2010 retrospective like a lot of people are doing, I'd thought I would do what I did last year by talking about my favorite game soundtracks of this year. The big giant retrospect will come later: And I have a ton to talk about.
 
It should be noted that I don't have a personal favorite, or list the soundtracks in any-form of competition, or in no particular order. I don't think we give enough credit to the music that's in our games sometimes. I know I've missed a few, and if you feel like you want to donate to this list: By all means go at it. I can't play everything. Even though I tried. 
 
By cloning myself....
 
...it didn't work out...
 
...although my clone did have like, six arms....that was pretty cool.
 
So without further ado, let's get at the giant list. Or, as I affectionately call this blog:
 

  

Final Fantasy XIII

Composer: Masashi Hamauzu  

A few year's back I picked up a very confusing game called Dirge of Cerberus. After reading a torrent of negative reviews I had initially passed on the game, then picked it up for barely nothing out of a bargain-bin. Dirge of Cerberus acts and feels as if it was developed by a team that has never played a shooter in the last decade, and had multiple problems, but it wasn't the terrible mess I was awaiting it to be. The game was a mediocre shooter that had the name "Final Fantasy VII" attached to it and fans rightfully grumbled about it.  
This was also the first time I really took notice of Masashi Hamauzu as a composer. He previously worked on the Saga series and working alongside Uematsu with Final Fantasy X, but with Dirge of Cerberus he was technically filling in the shoes of Uematsu exclusively, who's works at this point almost have mythological repercussions. Like the game, Hamauzu's soundtrack was accepted in a very polarizing manner by fans. He decision to not cover any actual music from the original Final Fantasy VII was confusing enough, but then Square thought it was cool to promote this turd in the soundtrack.

It was upsetting to me because outside of whatever the hell this turd is, and the lack of any Final Fantasy VII music, Dirge of Cerberus had a pretty good soundtrack.  
 

  
 
What's fascinating for me is that Final Fantasy XIII has, yet again, barely no redone Uematsu music. No victory fanfare, just an increased focus on his own work. I think it shows maturity, and perhaps it's probably best to sometimes ignore fans. Hamauzu is not Uematsu, and unlike Sakimoto with Final Fantasy XII he seems far more confident in his work. Final Fantasy XIII has a very solid soundtrack and style, and there's more than enough memorable tracks here to qualify a purchase outside of listening to the music exclusively in the game. The battle-theme that's most heard will be stuck in your head for a while, not because of it's repetitive use: But because it's simply good music.
 

Mass Effect 2

Composer: Jack Wall
 
It's a bit hard to remember, but there was a time before and just after Mass Effect 2's release, when there was a bit of controversy regarding Mass Effect 2's soundtrack. The first Mass Effect seemed to be a homage to 80's sci-fi and it's soundtrack followed suit, featuring heavy synth rarely diving into anything orchestral. Jack Wall kept the sound of the original game, while adding a full-blown orchestra for multiple tracks. The end result is a mix of something more traditional, with something that equally still respects the original concept.
 
I dig it. I think the combination of synth and orchestra, gives Mass Effect more identity. Something that's more than just a homage and is able to stand-alone. To compliment the soundtrack are several character and planet themes that more mirror what was on display in the first game, so there is still something for everyone.  
 
  
 
In lesser hands this had a higher probability of not working. Jack Wall has been scoring game soundtracks for years now, and I was always a fan of his work with the Myst series and have been wondering if he would ever undeniably top that effort. I really do feel like he did just that here. 
 
Not only that, but he never stopped making music for the game. Every DLC for Mass Effect 2 has come with it's own "mini-soundtrack", each one with new themes that work phenomenally with not just what's in the game, but on it's own as well. Great work all-around.  
 

Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World: The Game

Composer: Anamanaguchi 
 
How strange was 2010? My favorite downloadable title was a movie tie-in.  
 
That's freaking strange.
 
Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World: The Game has a soundtrack, to top all retro soundtracks. Anamanaguchi is a chiptune punk band, and before you ask or say anything: Just say "chiptune punk" a few times out-loud. Doesn't that sound awesome? I'll let you be for a few minutes.  
 
  
  

It's probably the best description of their genre of music too, the band consists of the usual suspects: Guitar, Bass, and Drums. Then they throw over a hacked NES and Gameboy into the mix and the end result is nothing short of freaking awesome. One of my favorite experiences this year was running through the first level of this game, then having around the mid-point the live instruments slowly work their way into the music track. It's probably something that can't be replicated by just sitting and listening to the music. Regardless, the entire soundtrack feels like a giant love-letter to the NES generation. It makes sense in the context of Scott Pilgrim, and it's just plain awesome to boot.
 
Anamanaguchi has performed live a few times at Pax. For those who have more interest in the actual band, you might want to check their official site
 

Resonance of Fate

Composers: Motoi Sakuraba and Kōhei Tanaka
 
Resonance of Fate is that really good JRPG that was released on an HD console this year, that you probably didn't play because you heard it has a really crazy battle-system. That's true, the battle system at times defiantly over-the-top. Mechanics and design not organically meshing with each-other, and instead seems like someone just threw-up a bunch of idea's into a battle-system. 
It is functional though, and while the game defiantly does have a bunch of problems, it's kinda upsetting to see this thing go under the radar. Apparently, just having Nolan North in your game does not constitute sales. You actually you to advertise your game.  
 
Wait, who published it? Sega? Ohhhhhh... 
 
Resonance of Fate also has a phenomenal soundtrack. Every-time you turn on the game, you are reminded about how awesome the soundtrack.   
 
  

That's what plays when on the freaking main-menu. I know right?!  
 
The soundtrack itself is divided between two extremes. Motoi Sakuraba and Kōhei Tanaka are the composers and their styles couldn't be more different. Kōhei Tanaka does the heavy orchestral work, while also doing environmental music. My personal favorite is this piece that plays in an impoverished town. Sakuraba on the other hand deals primarily with the battle theme's which seem hit-or-miss. 
 
In terms of just sheer variety, the soundtrack for Resonance of Fate deserves your attention and was defiantly the biggest surprise for me this year. 
 

Halo Reach

Composer: Martin "Marty" O'Donnell 
 
Halo has good music. 
No matter how much your opinion on the actual series might be, that iconic gregorian chant has been etched into the brains of generations, similar to the victory fanfare or Mario going into sewers. 
 
Admit it, just the sheer mention of "Mario" and "Sewers", made you do the "Duna-Duna-Duna" out-loud. We are weird. 
 
What's really interesting on how the Halo series from a musical standpoint has developed. Halo 2's soundtrack stumbled, Halo 3 felt like a definitive Halo soundtrack. Then you had Halo ODST, which for me was absolutely fascinating. Having a game as intensive as Halo, then risking the experience by deciding to incorporate Jazz...In a Halo game...and then have it work, is something that really impressed me last year.     
 
  
 
Halo: Reach on the other-hand does two things: 
1) It acts as a standalone soundtrack, filled with dark and depressing themes in context to the game's story.
2) An audio prequel to the first game. Hearing quick snippets of other Halo themes in new tracks, as if they are in some-form of metamorphosis is something that has to be heard. Marty isn't just a great composer, but his more thematic nebulous music for the down-time of Reach is still equally fantastic. This is worthy to be in your collection.
 

Red Dead Redemption

Composers: Bill Elm and Woody Jackson
 
Let's put it this way: Everyone this year remembers when they crossed into Mexico.
 
Bill Elm is a member of the band Friends of Dean Martinez and ex-member Woody Jackson, team-up to probably create one of the best soundtracks this year. For the longest time now Rockstar has been using licensed music in it's open-world games, all accessible from the vehicles. Horses don't have radios, (Unless they're alien hybrids, which if they are: Send pics) so how Rockstar was going to implement music into Red Dead Redemption was something that interested me. The instrumental music is just fantastic.
 
   
Red Dead Redemption at least refreshed my memory, that music in western movies can be freaking awesome. Not just the instrumental work, but also sequences like crossing into Mexico, giving you the feeling that you are in an interactive western. It's good stuff and deserves to be on this list.   
 

I missed a bunch.

Shorter list than last year. I know, I feel awful: This blog is only a little over three pages. I felt like there was a few missed opportunities this year. I was debating Fable 3, perhaps it deserves a shout-out. Someone recommended God of War 3, a game I've sadly skipped this year. I didn't know if Tron: Evolution was deserving either, haven't played the game but I've heard that Daft Punk tracks from Tron: Legacy do appear on the soundtrack.
 
If you have any recommendations, feel free to add. 
 
Oh, and before I forget.  
 
  
 

 
Merry Christmas everyone.
lml-_-lml
26 Comments
26 Comments
Posted by vidiot

It's been difficult month, but I'm slowly (FINALLY) bouncing back. 
 
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays everyone. Before I pull out a giant 2010 retrospective like a lot of people are doing, I'd thought I would do what I did last year by talking about my favorite game soundtracks of this year. The big giant retrospect will come later: And I have a ton to talk about.
 
It should be noted that I don't have a personal favorite, or list the soundtracks in any-form of competition, or in no particular order. I don't think we give enough credit to the music that's in our games sometimes. I know I've missed a few, and if you feel like you want to donate to this list: By all means go at it. I can't play everything. Even though I tried. 
 
By cloning myself....
 
...it didn't work out...
 
...although my clone did have like, six arms....that was pretty cool.
 
So without further ado, let's get at the giant list. Or, as I affectionately call this blog:
 

  

Final Fantasy XIII

Composer: Masashi Hamauzu  

A few year's back I picked up a very confusing game called Dirge of Cerberus. After reading a torrent of negative reviews I had initially passed on the game, then picked it up for barely nothing out of a bargain-bin. Dirge of Cerberus acts and feels as if it was developed by a team that has never played a shooter in the last decade, and had multiple problems, but it wasn't the terrible mess I was awaiting it to be. The game was a mediocre shooter that had the name "Final Fantasy VII" attached to it and fans rightfully grumbled about it.  
This was also the first time I really took notice of Masashi Hamauzu as a composer. He previously worked on the Saga series and working alongside Uematsu with Final Fantasy X, but with Dirge of Cerberus he was technically filling in the shoes of Uematsu exclusively, who's works at this point almost have mythological repercussions. Like the game, Hamauzu's soundtrack was accepted in a very polarizing manner by fans. He decision to not cover any actual music from the original Final Fantasy VII was confusing enough, but then Square thought it was cool to promote this turd in the soundtrack.

It was upsetting to me because outside of whatever the hell this turd is, and the lack of any Final Fantasy VII music, Dirge of Cerberus had a pretty good soundtrack.  
 

  
 
What's fascinating for me is that Final Fantasy XIII has, yet again, barely no redone Uematsu music. No victory fanfare, just an increased focus on his own work. I think it shows maturity, and perhaps it's probably best to sometimes ignore fans. Hamauzu is not Uematsu, and unlike Sakimoto with Final Fantasy XII he seems far more confident in his work. Final Fantasy XIII has a very solid soundtrack and style, and there's more than enough memorable tracks here to qualify a purchase outside of listening to the music exclusively in the game. The battle-theme that's most heard will be stuck in your head for a while, not because of it's repetitive use: But because it's simply good music.
 

Mass Effect 2

Composer: Jack Wall
 
It's a bit hard to remember, but there was a time before and just after Mass Effect 2's release, when there was a bit of controversy regarding Mass Effect 2's soundtrack. The first Mass Effect seemed to be a homage to 80's sci-fi and it's soundtrack followed suit, featuring heavy synth rarely diving into anything orchestral. Jack Wall kept the sound of the original game, while adding a full-blown orchestra for multiple tracks. The end result is a mix of something more traditional, with something that equally still respects the original concept.
 
I dig it. I think the combination of synth and orchestra, gives Mass Effect more identity. Something that's more than just a homage and is able to stand-alone. To compliment the soundtrack are several character and planet themes that more mirror what was on display in the first game, so there is still something for everyone.  
 
  
 
In lesser hands this had a higher probability of not working. Jack Wall has been scoring game soundtracks for years now, and I was always a fan of his work with the Myst series and have been wondering if he would ever undeniably top that effort. I really do feel like he did just that here. 
 
Not only that, but he never stopped making music for the game. Every DLC for Mass Effect 2 has come with it's own "mini-soundtrack", each one with new themes that work phenomenally with not just what's in the game, but on it's own as well. Great work all-around.  
 

Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World: The Game

Composer: Anamanaguchi 
 
How strange was 2010? My favorite downloadable title was a movie tie-in.  
 
That's freaking strange.
 
Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World: The Game has a soundtrack, to top all retro soundtracks. Anamanaguchi is a chiptune punk band, and before you ask or say anything: Just say "chiptune punk" a few times out-loud. Doesn't that sound awesome? I'll let you be for a few minutes.  
 
  
  

It's probably the best description of their genre of music too, the band consists of the usual suspects: Guitar, Bass, and Drums. Then they throw over a hacked NES and Gameboy into the mix and the end result is nothing short of freaking awesome. One of my favorite experiences this year was running through the first level of this game, then having around the mid-point the live instruments slowly work their way into the music track. It's probably something that can't be replicated by just sitting and listening to the music. Regardless, the entire soundtrack feels like a giant love-letter to the NES generation. It makes sense in the context of Scott Pilgrim, and it's just plain awesome to boot.
 
Anamanaguchi has performed live a few times at Pax. For those who have more interest in the actual band, you might want to check their official site
 

Resonance of Fate

Composers: Motoi Sakuraba and Kōhei Tanaka
 
Resonance of Fate is that really good JRPG that was released on an HD console this year, that you probably didn't play because you heard it has a really crazy battle-system. That's true, the battle system at times defiantly over-the-top. Mechanics and design not organically meshing with each-other, and instead seems like someone just threw-up a bunch of idea's into a battle-system. 
It is functional though, and while the game defiantly does have a bunch of problems, it's kinda upsetting to see this thing go under the radar. Apparently, just having Nolan North in your game does not constitute sales. You actually you to advertise your game.  
 
Wait, who published it? Sega? Ohhhhhh... 
 
Resonance of Fate also has a phenomenal soundtrack. Every-time you turn on the game, you are reminded about how awesome the soundtrack.   
 
  

That's what plays when on the freaking main-menu. I know right?!  
 
The soundtrack itself is divided between two extremes. Motoi Sakuraba and Kōhei Tanaka are the composers and their styles couldn't be more different. Kōhei Tanaka does the heavy orchestral work, while also doing environmental music. My personal favorite is this piece that plays in an impoverished town. Sakuraba on the other hand deals primarily with the battle theme's which seem hit-or-miss. 
 
In terms of just sheer variety, the soundtrack for Resonance of Fate deserves your attention and was defiantly the biggest surprise for me this year. 
 

Halo Reach

Composer: Martin "Marty" O'Donnell 
 
Halo has good music. 
No matter how much your opinion on the actual series might be, that iconic gregorian chant has been etched into the brains of generations, similar to the victory fanfare or Mario going into sewers. 
 
Admit it, just the sheer mention of "Mario" and "Sewers", made you do the "Duna-Duna-Duna" out-loud. We are weird. 
 
What's really interesting on how the Halo series from a musical standpoint has developed. Halo 2's soundtrack stumbled, Halo 3 felt like a definitive Halo soundtrack. Then you had Halo ODST, which for me was absolutely fascinating. Having a game as intensive as Halo, then risking the experience by deciding to incorporate Jazz...In a Halo game...and then have it work, is something that really impressed me last year.     
 
  
 
Halo: Reach on the other-hand does two things: 
1) It acts as a standalone soundtrack, filled with dark and depressing themes in context to the game's story.
2) An audio prequel to the first game. Hearing quick snippets of other Halo themes in new tracks, as if they are in some-form of metamorphosis is something that has to be heard. Marty isn't just a great composer, but his more thematic nebulous music for the down-time of Reach is still equally fantastic. This is worthy to be in your collection.
 

Red Dead Redemption

Composers: Bill Elm and Woody Jackson
 
Let's put it this way: Everyone this year remembers when they crossed into Mexico.
 
Bill Elm is a member of the band Friends of Dean Martinez and ex-member Woody Jackson, team-up to probably create one of the best soundtracks this year. For the longest time now Rockstar has been using licensed music in it's open-world games, all accessible from the vehicles. Horses don't have radios, (Unless they're alien hybrids, which if they are: Send pics) so how Rockstar was going to implement music into Red Dead Redemption was something that interested me. The instrumental music is just fantastic.
 
   
Red Dead Redemption at least refreshed my memory, that music in western movies can be freaking awesome. Not just the instrumental work, but also sequences like crossing into Mexico, giving you the feeling that you are in an interactive western. It's good stuff and deserves to be on this list.   
 

I missed a bunch.

Shorter list than last year. I know, I feel awful: This blog is only a little over three pages. I felt like there was a few missed opportunities this year. I was debating Fable 3, perhaps it deserves a shout-out. Someone recommended God of War 3, a game I've sadly skipped this year. I didn't know if Tron: Evolution was deserving either, haven't played the game but I've heard that Daft Punk tracks from Tron: Legacy do appear on the soundtrack.
 
If you have any recommendations, feel free to add. 
 
Oh, and before I forget.  
 
  
 

 
Merry Christmas everyone.
lml-_-lml
Posted by FancySoapsMan

  

Posted by Video_Game_King

Shit, I still need to play Resonance of Fate, AND a shitload of Christmas games! *goes off to game*

Posted by Animasta

if you haven't played it yet, Nier has the best of the year. I do like FF13's though, Dust to Dust is a really good track
 
  

    
Posted by Bobby_The_Great

1, Super Meat Boy - The music was fantastic and upbeat, especially for such a great, hard and goofy game.

 

   
2. Halo: Reach - Halo has always had great music, but Reach's is much darker. And the Middle Eastern flare given to the them is amazing and truly epic sounding.
  
   
3. Read Dead Redemption: Going into Mexico, nuff said.
  
   
4. Assassins Creed: Brotherhood - The soundtrack was truly awesome. And made the epicness of being in Renaissance Roma even better. Like the opening of The Tudors, the music made this game even better for me.   
   
5. Darksiders - I don't really think this game got enough credit. It was one of my favorites, along with the soundtracks.   
   
6. Bayonetta - A goofy/awesome game with a goofy/awesome soundtrack, especially the fight music.   
   
7. Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit - I don't really like the licensed music in the game, but the online Hot Pursuit music is awesome.
  
Posted by ESREVER

I haven't played Nier yet, but I have listened to it's soundtrack at least 15 times on repeat on Youtube. 
There were some absolutely breath-taking songs on there with stellar vocals that really makes you feel sentimental about things. I was in awe about how such songs could toy with my emotions without actually having experienced it in the game. 
 
I tell you one thing, I look forward to when I finally get to to play it, and experience those songs once more in the fashion they were meant to be heard. Alongside the game.

Posted by Hailinel

The quality of the Scott Pilgrim soundtrack is just astounding.

Posted by Bloodgraiv3

Super Meat Boy 
VVVVVV  
RDR
and Deadly Premonition made it for me this year.
Posted by Aus_azn

1. Gran Turismo 5 (I'm a smooth jazz aficionado. Screw you, haters)
2. Final Fantasy XIII
 
Ehhhh, what else came out this year?

Posted by Video_Game_King

Wait, this is slowly becoming a "post your soundtracks here" thing? Eh, when in Rome, post a bunch of obscure video game music. That's how the saying goes, right?
 
  

  

Posted by Daveyo520

Very fancy Vidiot.

Edited by Ghostiet

Jack Wall finally gets some respect. He's my favorite composer out there.

And personally, I'd pay money to hear Triggernometry live.

  

  

Medal of Honor's soundtrack maybe isn't my favorite one from this year, but it gets fun sometimes.

Posted by UnsolvedParadox

My vote is for Mass Effect 2, as both the Soundtrack and the Game of the Year. Just...wow, what an experience.

Posted by aurahack

Super Meat Boy and VVVVVV, for sure, but since Shatter was released on PC in 2010...
 
... then Shatter. >>

Posted by sterbacblu

Wow, no votes for the Heavy Rain soundtrack?  I know a lot of people had complaints about the game, but I thought the score was pretty powerful.

Posted by BibleDoctor

I quite enjoyed your list. Mass Effect 2's soundtrack is by far the best of the year by my standards, but the Final Fantasy XIII was also extremely well done.

Posted by vidiot

My computer is in the shop. Apologies for the late response. 
 
@Laketown: I have this strange feeling that in my near future, I will be playing Nier in some-form-or the other. Probably the same with Deadly Premonition, but if there's one continual positive I've heard with Nier it's been it's soundtrack. 
 
@Bobby_The_Great: The problem of assembling lists like this is trying really hard to not include soundtracks of games you haven't played. Once again, like last year, poor Jesper Kyd is not on my list because I got both Assassins Creed titles for Christmas. Probably going to edit this list later. 
 
@Video_Game_King:
That's that Tri-Crescendo game that came out this year that I'm never going to get around to playing this year, right? Is it any good?  
 
 @Ghostiet said:

Jack Wall finally gets some respect. He's my favorite composer out there.
I wish we took the time to recognise game composers in gaming awards. 
Medal of Honor doesn't do that bad. 
 
@sterbacblu:
Agreed. I think I'm going to edit this up making sure to include it tomorrow.  
Posted by Video_Game_King
@vidiot: 
 
Probably, even though I never paid attention to who made the game. As for the quality, yea, it's pretty good. The story is awesome and depressing at the same time.
Posted by GiantBomber

-- Alan Wake --  
   
I really enjoyed this soundtrack!

Posted by Ghostiet
@vidiot:
Nier has one of the best stories this year in my opinion, you'll cry at least a few times, that I can tell you. They also pull off some clever stuff with the world. The real problem lays with the gameplay - Nier is as much fun to play as rinding 400 tons of potatoes. But the game should be checked out, it should be cheap by now.
Posted by Scrawnto

Final Fantasy's music kind of lost me around VII, but HELL YEAH, Mass Effect 2, Super Meat Boy, VVVVVV, and Scott Pilgrim! Them's my jams! I've listened to each of those several times over.

Posted by eroticfishcake

I don't see Kirby's Epic Yarn soundtrack anywhere. 
 
WHO ARE YOU PEOPLE?!

Posted by Scrawnto
@vidiot: Oh shit, I just actually listened to all the tracks you listed, and besides the Final Fantasy one, which I wasn't particularly impressed with, those were killer, especially "Triggernometry". I really do need to play Red Dead Redemption one of these days.
Posted by Turtlefuzz
@sterbacblu said:
" Wow, no votes for the Heavy Rain soundtrack?  I know a lot of people had complaints about the game, but I thought the score was pretty powerful. "
Absolutely. 
Heavy Rain's soundtrack was god damned phenomenal.
I actually bought it.
 
Posted by Chango

Definitely some fantastic soundtracks this year. Red Dead Redemption and FF-13's soundtracks are probably my favorite.

Posted by RTSlord

FLOTILLA!!!!