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Erica June Lahaie's Top 10 Soundtracks of 2017

Artist Erica June Lahaie gives a passionate breakdown of her favorite soundtracks of the year.

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Erica June Lahaie is an illustrator and game artist based out of the frozen wastes of Canada. She’s done art for games like The Shrouded Isle and Children of Zodiarcs, the occasional art on videogames.com, but is mostly on Twitter occasionally posting artwork between music tweets, rampant shitposting, and fawning over Camilla. You can support her on Patreon for cool art, purchase prints of that cool art, or follow her on Twitter @aurahack if you want to subject yourself to that.

Hi, friends! I keep a list throughout the year to track what releases I’ve played, poking at it every so often to keep an on-the-fly running of what my Game of the Year is. That lists exists and it’s full of great games but it’s nothing you won’t have read elsewhere in terms of games featured. Instead of having another list tell you that NieR:Automata is the best game this year, I’m gonna do something I’m a bit more invested in: listing my favorite game soundtracks this year.

Music plays an important part in my life, as something to listen to when working and to share with friends. I’ve had a lot of fun talking about some of my yearly favorite albums on my personal blog here and I’m excited for the opportunity to do it this time about all the games I’ve played!

10. Tekken 7

Tekken 7 whips in a way that most soundtracks--in any form of media--just don’t. It’s a cacophony of metal, hard trance, neurofunk, electro, rock, and god knows how many other genres and sub-genres that, at its most engaged and electric, is juST CONSTANTLY YELLING MUSIC AT YOU.

IT’S SO LOUD. IT’S SO MUCH. It’s perfect for Tekken 7.

It is available for purchase on CDJapan.

9. Assassin's Creed Origins

Numerous are the list of things that Assassin’s Creed Origins surprised me with this year, and the soundtrack was absolutely one of them. Sarah Schachner’s (Assassin’s Creed Unity, Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare) score for Origins is surprisingly energetic and punchy in a way that I was just not at all expecting. It’s an eclectic mix of styles that, on paper, shouldn’t fit especially well together but not only has Schachner managed that with aplomb, she’s also made a soundtrack so varied and enjoyable that it’s a great listen outside of the game itself--a rarity for me when it comes to big-budget scores.

It is available for streaming on Spotify.

8. Absolver

There is no game this year I wish I had more time for than Absolver, and I am fortunate its soundtrack scratched that itch, at least a little bit. Austin Wintory (Journey, The Banner Saga) composed a score that befitting the game’s gorgeous, abstract look. An unstructured mix of atmospheric and aggressive, the Absolver OST is as wonderful working music as it is an important complement to a unique and strange game.

It is available for purchase on Bandcamp and streaming on Spotify.

7. Persona 5

Though Persona 5 was ultimately a game that left me disappointed and wanting, I can’t say its soundtrack had anything to do with that. The sounds of Shoji Meguro’s acid jazz are alive and well in Persona 5. The later third of P5 has some super catchy tunes, with vocalist Lyn Inaizumi delivering her best performances in the series yet, and the quieter songs in the soundtrack continue to be good mood music that I go back to often. It’s not a huge leap stylistically from P4 but it’s damn refined and, to me, the best thing about Persona 5.

It is available for purchase on CDJapan and iTunes.

6. The Mummy Demastered

The… Mummy? Surprise! The Mummy Demastered isn’t just a cool little game by WayForward. Thanks to synthwave musician and composer Monomer, it’s also a great soundtrack. In a year absolutely rife with synthwave releases, The Mummy Demastered’s OST manages to stand out as atmosphere-heavy, punchy, and fun. Unlike any other score on this list, The Mummy Demastered is more than a great soundtrack, it’s a great album, something I haven’t felt since Shatter’s OST back in 2009.

It is available for streaming on Spotify and available for purchase on Amazon or iTunes.

5. Gravity Rush 2

There aren’t many soundtracks in games, even those who share a direct license or inspiration, that really sound Anime, but Gravity Rush 2 is that and then some. Its particular style of whimsy, that of carelessly wild strings and joyful piano, is unlike anything else this year. Kohei Tanaka (Sakura Taisen, Gunbuster) has an absolutely staggering discography, having been around since the early '80s, and it’s inspiring to see a composer still capable of creating something breathtakingly unique and enthusiastic so far into their careers. Gravity Rush 2 and its OST will likely go overlooked by many from having released so early in the year but I hope that’s not the case.

It is available for purchase on CDJapan.

4. Final Fantasy XIV: Stormblood

I wouldn’t blame anyone for overlooking Final Fantasy XIV or its expansions, as it tends to escape the general conscious of most, but XIV has always had an exceptional soundtrack, with Stormblood being no different this year. Masayoshi Soken’s penchant for the dramatic and energetic shines in the latest expansion like it did in both A Realm Reborn and Heavensward. Though Final Fantasy XIV surfaces as light-hearted, its true tone is that of tragedy and Stormblood’s soundtrack superbly executes on delivering both.

The soundtrack has not currently seen a physical digital release but will likely do so early next year, available through Square Enix’s online shop.

3. Destiny 2

This year has been no slouch for “this AAA game’s soundtrack is better than it has any right to be” and Destiny 2 is easily the front-runner. Even if a small army worked on its score, Michael Salvatori, Skye Lewin, C. Paul Johnson, Rotem Moav, and Pieter Schlosser have composed one of the most structurally, stylistically, and emotionally varied soundtracks of this year--generation, even. The strength of Destiny 2’s OST almost comes in a form of whiplash; an ability to fluidly go from emotionally weighted ambiance to the sounds of blaring horns, aggressive percussion, and distressing glitching and noise. To accomplish all this while establishing some truly memorable tracks like “Journey”, “The Hunted”, and “Ikora” is no simple feat and absolutely worth championing.

The soundtrack is available to stream off Bungie’s YouTube playlist or for purchase on their digital store.

2. Ruiner

I need to keep these brief, so I will, but know that I could write an entire article about RUINER. Its score isn’t just integral to the game as mood setting, it’s the reason the game exists in a far broader sense.

RUINER is the video game manifestation of Synthwave, a subgenre of music that took the sounds of Vangelis and John Carpenter and paired them with the visual themes of cyberpunk. Crafted and honed by the likes of Danger, Perturbator, and Kavinsky, synthwave evolved into a dark and industrial electronic future that is reliant on abstract and aggressive imagery. It’s the playground of visual artists and one of the most important influences of my artistic life.

The score to RUINER is a licensed soundtrack largely formed with the work of Zamilska, a Polish musician who’s sounds are as haunting as they are captivating. Her work (As well as that of Memotone, Sidewalks and Skeletons, and Antigone & François X) give life and power to RUINER’s action. It’s a soundtrack curated for a game built around it and its culture, an absolutely perfect melding of inspiration and execution. I not only encourage you to seek out its music but to play RUINER and experience an actual music genre incarnate for yourself.

You can purchase the Official Soundtrack on Steam. Zamilska’s work featured in RUINER is available for streaming and purchase on her Bandcamp.

1. NieR:Automata

The soundtrack to the original Nier is, perhaps like the game itself, something that by all accounts shouldn’t exist. It’s so bizarrely arranged and composed, so eccentrically structured, and so reliant on atypical instrumentation that it’s wild it was ever given a budget.

NieR:Automata’s score, while perhaps slightly more traditional with its choice of orchestration, is every idea Keiichi Okabe introduced in Nier refined and matured. The soundtrack is a character unto its own, an element of the world that is as dynamic, frightened, angry, terrified, and vulnerable as the characters that inhabit it. Its percussion is violent and the language indecipherable but emotionally charged. Every part of the world is characterized by its respective melody, the quiet parts of the game and score providing catharsis to an adventure that incessantly ratchets up the strain on your, and the characters’, emotions.

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The score still features, alongside some new talent, the masterful Emi Evans’ vocals, with some of Nier’s original songs making their return as set-pieces that go far beyond a simple rearrangement. Though those songs carry emotional weight like precious little else is capable of in video games, it absolutely doesn’t take away from what Automata creates on its own.

Through distressing emotions, an unflinching examination on the vulnerabilities that make us human, that make us weak and terrified, the things that make us cling to the slightest semblance of hope and love, of attention and affection, to fear every moment of loss and pain, that drives our desire to simply understand why emotions can affect us so deeply, NieR:Automata is a window into my own personal issues that I was terrified of gazing at. An abstraction of my strongest worries and fear, presented through characters that personified depression and anger, the game hit hard. Like, really hard.

A character unto itself, NieR:Automata’s soundtrack takes those emotions and embellishes them into the most unique, captivating, masterfully written, composed, and arranged soundtrack this year. With only but a small percentage of its language comprehensible, it adeptly communicates so much about what its accompanying game tries to say. An abstraction of human emotion. Even if its words seem meaningless, it's like it’s carrying the weight of the world.

It is available for purchase on Amazon, iTunes, Square Enix Shop, and available in lossless on OTOTOY.

44 Comments

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hassun

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cooljammer00

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cooljammer00 • 

So this is a Top 10 OSTs list. But can we also assume @aurahack would put Nier at Number 1 on a regular Games GOTY list?

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BabyChooChoo

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Edited By BabyChooChoo • 

Everyone who mentions Gravity Rush this year are among my new favorite people. Bonus points for FFXIV. Stormblood knocked it out the part with music this year.

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I_speel_my_dreenk

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I_speel_my_dreenk • 

Equivocating the Mummy Demastered soundtrack on some level to the Shatter soundtrack is a sure-fire way to make me pay attention to it! Good on ya for including Gravity Rush 2, as well - criminally overlooked game with the second (to Nier) best OST this year.

So this is a Top 10 OSTs list. But can we also assume @aurahack would put Nier at Number 1 on a regular Games GOTY list?

She did say: "Instead of having another list tell you that NieR:Automata is the best game this year, I’m gonna do something I’m a bit more invested in: listing my favorite game soundtracks this year."

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Demoskinos

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Demoskinos • 

Good list Erica. I'm very much in the same camp with you on Nier. Game hit me hard as well.

I'd throw out Daughter's work on Life is Strange Before the Storm as a must listen OST as well. The work they released isn't just a video game soundtrack for the game its very much a Daughter Album using inspiration from the game which sounds like a weird distinction to make. But I think its an important one to make because they really did not phone it in.

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LarsHJ

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LarsHJ • 

Gotta love a list focused on soundtrack and with clips for all the music. We should have more of this.

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MikeLemmer

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Edited By MikeLemmer • 

Gotta love someone who namedrops Shatter's soundtrack.

Also, I'm surprised you chose Kugane Castle to sample FF14's soundtrack and not The Worm's Tail, the epic second-half of the final boss fight. Although maybe you did that to avoid spoilers. Or even Lakshmi's Theme, an upbeat Indian boss fight theme with some disturbing undertones if you listen to the lyrics. Neither of them quite reach the level of Woe That is Madness, but they come close.

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donpureevil

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donpureevil • 

great list. 2017 was really a good year for game soundtracks.

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rubberluffy

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rubberluffy • 

That writeup of NieR's music has me tearing up. Especially that last line.

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Dragon_Puncher

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madman356647

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aurahack

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Efesell

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Efesell • 

Hell yeah I'd put Stormblood in any race for best music, it has one of the best boss themes of all time.

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paulunga

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Edited By paulunga • 

Oh man. You said what I've been saying for years, but with a bigger platform! Thank you so much. FF XIV is so underrated when it comes to its music. It might have the best music in the whole damn series without overrelying on themes from the past.

Just listen to Shiva (and skip to 3:20 if you think you've heard enough):

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I absolutely love the original Nier's soundtrack, though. Keichi Okabe's part was the only flawlessly executed thing in that game. And the song he made for FF XV is the best part of THAT game.

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And Rivers in the Desert has been part of my jogging music rotation since April. Very few songs manage to stay in there that long. Just like Electric Fountain used to be in my training music rotation for a long time. Maybe it's time to bring it back.

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SyrenneMcN

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SyrenneMcN • 

Love the list! Just wanted to point out that Lyn made her Persona series debut with P5 - the series picks different "relative unknown" vocalists for each game. Lyn'll be around in future P5 games like PQ2 and P5DSN, though!

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rkk667

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rkk667 • 

@aurahack thank you for telling me where i can get the p5 soundtrack, and the rest. What a great list.

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slimepuppy

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slimepuppy • 

Ruiner hell yeah. It’s an uncomfortable soundtrack and I love it.

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Seikenfreak

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Seikenfreak • 

High five for mentioning FF14. Game gets no recognition.

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scottygrayskull

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scottygrayskull • 

I started keeping a list of what I've been playing throughout the year as well! tbh it's the only way I'll remember half of what I played.

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Grondoth

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Grondoth • 

FF14's music has always been good. It's like... legit one of the best parts of it. They made a hero show theme for a boss that is a robot that comes apart and back together, it's fuckin' incredible.

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2-D

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Edited By 2-D • 

I love Final Fantasy XIV and still play it to this day, but in a way it is a shame such an amazing soundtrack is attached to a game so many people will never play. This soundtrack needs to be enjoyed by all. So many great songs, such insane variety. From Bollywood to late 90s/early 2000s rock. From robot voiced techno to deep voiced battle songs. Soken is a genius.

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Turambar

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Turambar • 

@2-d: I don't say this sentence lightly.

Soken has surpassed Uematsu.

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mems1224

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mems1224 • 

Yay, its awesome to see someone give AC's soundtrack some love.

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Wikitoups

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Wikitoups • 

Heat Haze in the final battle in T7 Story mode is what makes that match great.

and song of the ancients is fucking great, I am literally looking at gett original nier for the 360 on Amazon.

The song that I cant get out of my head right now is the Egypt stage in the wonderboy remake:

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The Beach stage is great too:

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GREAT LIST @aurahack!!!!

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Nasus97 • 

The fact Tekken 7 was written off completely in Giantbombs own GOTY best music makes seeing it here oh so satisfying. Great list love here what people think of OST's and love all the choices bar the omission of Cuphead.

Hot Take: Nier is best music overall but best individual track in a videgame this year is clearly:

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Every second labbing combos was accompanied by this song and I will never not love it. Tekken 7 was absolutely robbed I tell you.

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LiquidPrince • 

I'm glad someone gave props to Journey from Destiny. That song made the moment in the game super emotional in a way I wasn't expecting. For all the ways that D2 has let me down, the music wasn't one of those things.

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IVDAMKE

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IVDAMKE • 

Fuck yea T7 OST getting some props, for a franchise that I've typically not been a fan of their music T7s OST really knocks it out of the park (minus a couple stinkers).

Heat Haze Shadow 2nd is probably the best boss fight music ever.

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WillyOD

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WillyOD • 

AC Origins music is nicely done. Instead of boring Walk Like an Egyptian style crap that you might expect, it is actually quite atmospheric. Few pieces remind me of Max Payne which is strange.

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The_Nubster

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The_Nubster • 

I really ended up disliking Ruiner but it's a game I still think about a lot and recommend to people solely based on the music. Erica's point about it feeling and looking like the sound itself manifest is 100% correct.

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Daveyo520

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Daveyo520 • 

Ya Rivers in the Desert is such a great song. The P5 soundtrack is indeed super great.

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Mikemcn

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Edited By Mikemcn • 

I'm gonna have to pay 16$ for that Nier Soundtrack... totally worth it but i don't usually do that.

Also the shrouded isle is awesome and looks so cool! (In a creepy horrifying kinda of cthulu-esque way.)

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Maluvin • 

Fucking rad to see another champion of Synthwave. Love this entire list!

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Wemibelle • 
@turambar said:

Soken has surpassed Uematsu.

You're not wrong. FFXIV alone has one of the most incredible collections of music in any game, let alone a Final Fantasy game. There's so much variety and it's all fantastic.

@aurahack: While I would have loved to see a Top 10 albums list instead, this is a great collection of excellent soundtracks! Not surprised to see Nier on top here, although I would argue that (aside from the callback tracks and the breathtaking credits songs) it doesn't quite have the same impact (for me) as the original Nier's soundtrack did, which still remains one of the most tone-perfect soundtracks to a game's atmosphere that I've ever heard. I can also admit that time may play a role in changing my mind, as I find Automata's soundtrack growing on me more and more every time I hear it.

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OHNOgc • 

@turambar said:

@2-d: I don't say this sentence lightly.

Soken has surpassed Uematsu.

I'm inclined to agree. I've played all the main FFs throughout my life and have always cherished Uematsu's music, but after finally getting into XIV this year, I slowly came to this realization. I have almost every FF soundtrack in my collection, my playlist is organized as a 'best of', and XIV has the highest track count.

Some of my favorite Stormblood tracks are The Fringes, the boss theme, Kugane, the amazing upgraded Cyan theme, The Lochs, and the final boss theme.

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kerse

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kerse • 

I can't stop listening to that Nier soundtrack, which is something I haven't done for a game soundtrack in a very long time. Actually, I've already played that game through twice this year and thinking about playing it a third time, which is not something I've done in a very long time.

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Efesell • 

@ohnogc said:

@turambar said:

@2-d: I don't say this sentence lightly.

Soken has surpassed Uematsu.

I'm inclined to agree. I've played all the main FFs throughout my life and have always cherished Uematsu's music, but after finally getting into XIV this year, I slowly came to this realization. I have almost every FF soundtrack in my collection, my playlist is organized as a 'best of', and XIV has the highest track count.

Some of my favorite Stormblood tracks are The Fringes, the boss theme, Kugane, the amazing upgraded Cyan theme, The Lochs, and the final boss theme.

The leitmotifs in Stormblood and Heavensward are so good.

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Mortified_Cow

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Mexican_Brownie

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Mexican_Brownie • 

So much great stuff in this list! Thank you, Erica!

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UnsolvedParadox

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UnsolvedParadox • 

I dig your choices, Erica! Been meaning to build out a Spotify playlist of OSTs for studying, this is a strong starting point.

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Bunnyman

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Bunnyman • 

What a cool list. Thanks!

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chango

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chango • 

Great list. What an amazing year for game scores.

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revantdream • 

@babychoochoo: Basically came here to say the same thing. Gravity Rush had such a wonderful soundtrack. I wish it got at least an honorable mention during the deliberations.

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