If the Video Game Music of 2014 was a Full-Length Album: The Best Game Music of 2014
Each year it proves harder and harder to choose the best music found in video games. Developers are getting better at utilizing music in creative ways as well as having generally stronger efforts from composers. This list is less about how well music is used in a game and more of which tracks sound the best on their own.
Presented in an album format, we have an “A” side and a “B” side totaling in 20 tracks. The only rules of the list are 1. Only one song per game. 2. No remixes of previously existing songs. Here we go!
#1. Tomorrow is Mine – Bayonetta 2
The music from Bayonetta 2 is similar to that found in the first game. While playing through the game the music fell somewhere in the background and I never really caught any of it. However, after listening to the soundtrack outside of the game it blew me away. The game is so crazy with what is happening on screen and so demanding in its action that the amazing music is missable, and that is unfortunate because it is some of the best music to be found in a video game in 2014.
The Bayonetta 2 soundtrack is available on iTunes.
#2. That Person’s Name Is – Bravely Default
The boss battle theme from Bravely Default is performed by Revo of the Japanese band Linked Horizon. The music takes the classic style of the older numbered Final Fantasy games and infuses them with hard rock. The result is a soundtrack that helps propel the player through a long game with catchy melodies and memorable music overall.
CDJapan is going to likely be the best place to acquire Bravely Default’s OST. Amazon also has it, but at a higher price.
#3. My Name is Legion – Atelier Escha & Logy: Alchemists of the Dusk Sky
Logy’s battle theme from Atelier Escha & Logy: Alchemists of the Dusk Sky is among the best I’ve ever heard. The entire Escha & Logy soundtrack is refreshing with its smooth jazz, use of flute and acoustic guitar. It has a unique feel not heard elsewhere in video games.
Play-Asia is the place to lock down this soundtrack.
#4. New World Order – Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc
The music of Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc is special. The music always fits what is happening and always enhances the raw emotions that the game pulls out of the player on a consistent basis. New World Order swells as the game begins to reach its conclusion and sends the player on ride to the insanity that is the end of the game. Few tracks hit me harder than this one in 2014.
The soundtracks for both Danganronpa games are available on iTunes.
#5. Misrid Hunter – Demon Gaze
Demon Gaze’s OST is short, but extremely well done. If I have said it once, I have said it at every available opportunity: “A JRPG has to have a great battle theme.” Misrid Hunter is Demon Gaze’s main battle theme, and it is fantastic. The game utilizes voice more than most game soundtracks, and I think it is utilized to great effect.
Demon Gaze’s soundtrack is hard to come by, and unfortunately your best bet might be YouTube.
#6. Our Heels Bleed From the Bites of Wolves – The Banner Saga
Now, I am not the biggest fan of Journey. I’m not even that big of a fan of the game’s Grammy-nominated soundtrack either. The game’s simplicity and look are its biggest selling points to me. The composer of Journey’s OST also did the music for one of my favorite games of the year: The Banner Saga. The music is never intrusive, but is always there and fits the dour tone and mood of the game perfectly.
The Banner Saga’s soundtrack is available on iTunes.
#7. Too Late to Love You – Kentucky Route Zero Act III
Though Kentucky Route Zero is not even a complete game yet, I would be remiss to not mention this track as it is the best use case of music in a game that I experienced in 2014. KRZ’s music is more ethereal and atmospheric than anything else, but in Act III, the music takes center stage… quite literally. Too Late to Love You is a choose-your-own-lyrics song, and it is incredible. Kentucky Route Zero’s gameplay is largely picking from various dialogue options, so getting to choose the lyrics to a song was memorable. It doesn’t hurt that the song is excellent to boot.
Kentucky Route Zero Act III’s music is available on iTunes.
#8. We All Become – Transistor
The Transistor soundtrack is tied to the game’s identity. Few OST’s this year encapsulate their games better than Transistor. Many of the tracks have a vocal accompaniment, and We All Become is a standout in a collection of music that stands on its own.
The Transistor soundtrack is available on iTunes.
#9. Elusive – Toukiden: The Age of Demons
Now, Toukiden: The Age of Demons may not be the best game of 2014, but I constantly found myself going back to the game’s music. With flares of Eastern musical stylings, the music matches the action in this Monster Hunter-style game from the makers of Dynasty Warriors. Though the gameplay can quickly become dull and repetitive, the music helps in alleviating the game’s poor design.
Toukiden: The Age of Demon’s OST is best sought after from CDJapan.
#10. Scream – Lethal League
Lethal League came out of nowhere for me last year. It was quite the pleasant surprise, as was the game’s soundtrack. Scream easily outclassed the rest of the soundtrack, but the music in the game always elevated the intense action and fierce competition found at the core of Lethal League.
These bangin’ beats can be located on the Lethal League website and SoundCloud.
#11. Strike the Earth! – Shovel Knight
It was a great year for chiptune music. Super Time Force and Mercenary Kings both provided strong offerings, but it is Shovel Knight who buries the competition. Strike the Earth! is among the first tracks heard in the game, and it is among the most memorable with its catchy hooks and depth of variation.
Shovel Knight’s nostalgic soundtrack is available on BandCamp.
#12. The Opening Theme – Professor Layton vs. Phoenix Wright Ace Attorney
Though I was disappointed with how the game ended, the music of Professor Layton vs. Phoenix Wight Ace Attorney was far from disappointing. It perfectly fuses the style of music from both handheld powerhouses in creative and impressive ways. It can also be emotionally manipulative when it carefully chooses to play certain character theme music.
There are Amazon and eBay listings for the import version of the soundtrack.
#13. The Showdown – Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII
Final Fantasy XIII possesses one of my favorite soundtracks from last generation, and Lightning Returns is full of amazing remixes from FFXIII and FFXIII-2 plus plenty of excellent tracks of its own.
The soundtrack for Lightning Returns is available on iTunes.
#14. “Folding Socks” by Meat Market – Sunset Overdrive
Sunsets Overdrive’s music is incredibly distinctive and unlike much that can be found in another video game. Sunset fully commits to its over-the-top and ridiculous tone, its brashness is also felt from its strong collection of tracks.
Sunset Overdrive’s soundtrack is available on iTunes.
#15. To the Songless Hill – Ar Nosurge: Ode to an Unborn Star
This list could have easily been a list of all the anime opening tracks from the myriad of Japanese games from 2014, but for the sake of diversity, Ar Nosurge’s opening scene and accompanying song was the best one of the year. Song is a weapon in Ar Nosurge, so the strong soundtrack was not surprising in its high quality.
The OST for Ar Nosurge: Ode to an Unborn Star is available at CDJapan.
#16. Untold Legends – Destiny
Despite Destiny’s many flaws, its soundtrack stands as one of its best elements. Though Bungie fired composer Marty O’Donnell shortly after completing his work on Destiny, his effort stands right there with his now-classic work on the Halo franchise.
Destiny’s OST is available on iTunes.
#17. War – Valiant Hearts
The soundtrack for Valiant Hearts is phenomenal, but I never noticed while playing the game. The track “War” is clearly taking a little inspiration from John Williams, and that is more than okay. The entirety of the OST is exceptional, though the available versions of the soundtrack do not include all the tracks.
The Valiant Hearts soundtrack is available on iTunes and Amazon.
#18. Light the Fire Up in the Night-Dark Hour- – Persona Q: Shadow of the Labyrinth
The Persona games all have some excellent music, especially P3 and P4. Persona Q has two possible routes. The player can choose to play as the P3 protagonist or the P4 protagonist, and the music, especially the battle theme above, is dependent upon who is selected. Despite the grind that is Persona Q, the top-notch battle theme helps the hours go by a little easier.
The soundtrack for Persona Q: Shadow of the Labyrinth is available for purchase on CDJapan and PlayAsia.
#19. Theme of D4 – D4: Dark Dreams Don’t Die
Like a trippy walk into a time-travel-y sitcom, the docile opening track to D4: Dark Dreams Don’t Die feels out of place, yet it feels so right. I would say that the opening track sets the tone for the madness that is the rest of the game, but it doesn’t, and maybe that is how it was originally intended; soft rock to soothe the player in order to subvert the expectations. Regardless, it is a track that I greatly enjoyed from 2014.
D4’s soundtrack is available on Access Games’ BandCamp page as well as iTunes.
#20. Big Top Bop – Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze
The original Donkey Kong Country games have some of the most iconic video games tracks out there. Tropical Freeze is full of brilliant remixes and some rockin’ boss themes like those above. The music is probably the best part of Tropical Freeze.
Sadly, the OST does not appear to be available for purchase anywhere, and YouTube is among the few places to hear it.
It was a wonderful year for video game music. Honorable mentions go to TxK, Strider, inFamous: Second Son, South Park: The Stick of Truth, Conception II, Half-Minute Hero: The Second Coming, Divinity: Original Sin, Guilty Gear Xrd – SIGN, and Persona 4 Arena Ultimax. There is so much amazing music from games to choose from. I hope you enjoyed my picks, as we look forward to another year of awesome games and outstanding game music.