10. Shadow of the Colossus
Many will agree Shadow of The Colossus was one heck of a beautiful game. Just about everything in it was minimalist. Character dialogue was kept to a minimum while gameplay mechanics were solely focused on climbing walking death mountains! The glue that tied it all together was the game’s incredible soundtrack. The level of orchestral effort is still considered by many second to none in gaming. While that may be up for debate, there’s no denying Shadow of the Colussus’ haunting and memorable intro.
Journey’s composer, Austin Wintory made quite a name for himself after the game came out. The soundtrack he made for Journey complimented a sense of wonderment and loneliness. Whether our character was trudging through the desert under the heat of the sun or fighting against snowstorms, Austin had our back with moody violin pieces. Not all was sombre and melancholy though. Maintaining the same instruments in other pieces, Wintory would take us through playful moments as well. The music was considered so sophisticated, Wintory would go on to win various awards in the wake of Journey.
8. Halo: ODST
Halo: ODST would, for the first time, place players in the shoes of an ordinary marine. Gone was the supersuit of Masterchief. The one and only game in the franchise that would not have players suiting up as a Spartan offered a different kind of music to reflect this. Many are aware of composer Martin O’Donnell’s unique sound for Halo. The roots of this sound remained in ODST but Bungie were going for more of a detective style story this time around. As a result, O’Donnell went injected some jazz into his original “Gregorian Chant” inspired Halo sound. The result was every bit as epic in scale as one would expect from Halo. Only this this time, electric guitars, saxophones and new forms of percussion were along for the ride.
7. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
Some games carve a path through the industry with their music alone. Of course, The Witcher 3 has a heck of a lot more going for it than just its music. But when Geralt began showing up in dramatic trailers long before the game released, everyone soon knew of the distinctive Witcher 3 sound. Velen’s war torn No Man’s Land offered a whining and wistful string piece. While other more climactic moments were propped up with the animalistic voice choir, none soon forget. That’s not to say the people behind the Witcher 3’s musical feel were a one-trick pony. When Geralt laments about being subjected “to a night of poetry”, players were soon treated to an excellently performed song from Dandelion’s beloved Priscilla.
Many wouldn’t quite use the word ‘beautiful’ to describe the sound of DOOM. But beauty is in the eye of the beholder. If that beholder appreciates good metal, Mick Gordon’s DOOM soundtrack was a work of art. It brought reactive musical transition to a new level, as DOOM offered varying levels of metal intensity dependant on what what going on. This was merely an added bonus on top of the fact that Gordon’s organised metal chaos and crunchy synths were just fantastic. Even avid original DOOM fans could pick out recurring jingles coming back in the new Mick Gordon format. All this, on top of playing the badass that is Doom Slayer to rip and tear! It fitted perfectly and while Gordon’s talent was already clear to see for some, DOOM put him on the map for many.
Fans of the Elder Scrolls series will likely agree, Skyrim has not been its best offering. Despite this, Skyrim’s musical offering certainly helped the game to stand out. Many readers can likely recall the epic and triumphant theme tune, used in many a trailer for the game. That theme tune, moody male voice choirs and all, would help to give Skyrim its identity. The fact that many of us can recall it just fine without the below video stands testament to how powerful the theme of the Dovahkiin really was, given the game released around eight years ago! That’s right -- your obsession with Skyrim and modding it to hell and back really has endured the test of time. In some small part, that could well have begun with the rousing chants of Skyrim’s Dovahkiin theme.
4. The Last of Us
The Last of Us is a masterpiece of storytelling. We all know that. What added to Joel and Ellie’s emotional journey together was of course -- the music. The Last of Us’ theme tune would arrive in full swing after playing the prologue. Energetic, yet sombre, it mirrored the grim reality our beloved characters had to face. The main menu and load screens would cement this mood with minimalist acoustic guitar notes that many would argue influenced a few seasons of The Walking Dead.
Many of our readers will likely not have come across Braid. Although, if mind bending puzzle games with an emotional story is your thing, Braid comes highly recommended. Those who did play it were welcomed with an incredible soundtrack. A distinctive sound that would carry the “tug on your heartstrings” tone of the game.
Bastion was the beginning of Supergiant Games’ rise to fame. It was a standout indie title that would the foundation for the brilliant Transistor and Hades. Despite its cartoon-ish style, the game was moody and occasionally gritty. The brilliant narrator had a part to play in that but Bastion’s soundtrack would be the thing to root the game into many people’s memory. It was well timed after certain story beats for maximum emotional impact. And boy, was it some music with heart.
1. Nier: Automata
Saving the best for last, we have Nier: Automata. Its predecessor, simply named Nier, contained very similar music and vocals. Sadly, the game itself didn’t get quite as much acclaim as Automata. Many agree Nier: Automata’s gameplay was second to none, blending genres like bullet hell, side scrolling and classic hack’n’slash together. As if that wasn’t enough to get tongues wagging about the game, its spectacular five and a half hour long soundtrack floored all who experienced it.
The decimated world of the humans was offset by calming piano and string pieces. Most interestingly, Game Director Yoko Taro had invented a fictional language comprised of a mix of German and Japanese. This language can be heard in many parts of Nier: Automata’s soundtrack. While it may be completely nonsensical, there’s no denying just how beautiful it sounds.