5 Amazing Video Game Music Scores You Might Have Missed
It has been a very long time since the days of chiptune game music, those by now endearingly nostalgic tracks that somehow conjured up a full orchestra out of the most sonically primitive materials. For many years now, game music has often represented the most creative synthesis of a staggering number of musical traditions, fusing traditional classical styles with pop. rock, world music, jazz, and the most daring sonic experiments. Anything goes as long as it serves to heighten the emotional moments, further the action, and define the character. Music for media, and games in particular, has never been more attention-worthy. Quite often, game music can easily stand up as a satisfying listening experience apart from the game it was written for.
Sadly, gamers often miss or ignore the music of even their favorite games, so wrapped up they become in moment-to-moment play, or the music is so effectively integrated that the player fails to notice how important it is to their experience. Even in-your-face scores for big budget games like God of War, The Last of Us Part 2 or Resident Evil get taken for granted, so it’s no wonder that every year there are many notable composers and daring or beautiful scores that fail to receive the attention they deserve. Just in case you missed them, here are some scores from the past few years that are absolutely worth checking out as solo listening experiences.
Erica (Austin Wintory)
L.A.-based composer Austin Wintory is responsible for the scores to such games as Flow, Journey, Abzu, Absolver, the Banner Saga trilogy, and recently, The Pathless. Lest you think Wintory is simply the indie-game darling of composers, he’s also penned the score for big budget games like Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate and dozens of films and other media projects, including concert music. Wintory’s music is a sophisticated blend of traditional techniques and exotic colors and he is amazingly skilled at changing his style to fit the game while remaining accessible, emotionally complex and musically interesting. Erica (2019) was a murder-mystery game and its score is one of Wintory’s most musically intricate compositions.
Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture (Jessica Curry)
Released in 2015 by developer The Chinese Room, Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture was a walking simulator and meditation on death, not two ingredients guaranteed to sell copies. Game issues aside, Jessica Curry’s score for the project is an intensely moving suite of solo vocal, choral and orchestral movements that feel timeless and continue to resonate long after the game is over.
Ori and the Will of the Wisps (Gareth Coker)
You might not know English composer Gareth Coker’s name, but you know his music, as he’s written scores for such games as Ori and the Blind Forest, Ark: Survival Evolved, Minecraft, and Darksiders Genesis. Like Austin Wintory, Coker is a stylistic chameleon and can score the big moments with power and illuminate intimate emotions with total clarity and depth of feeling. Ori and the Will of the Wisps was not just a celebrated follow up to Blind Forest, but it has a captivating, chamber music-like score that holds up to repeated listening. Equally impressive, though sounding entirely different, is Coker’s score to Immortals Fenyx Rising.
Ghosts of Tsushima (Ilan Eshkeri and Shigeru Umebayashi)
This may be the most well-known, biggest budget game on our list but it’s a great example of a brilliant score hiding in plain sight. The music for Ghosts of Tsushima (2020) ranged from traditional action game tropes to delicate moments of quiet beauty, and often incorporated traditional Japanese instruments such as the shakuhachi. In that way, it’s not unlike the scores for the Nioh games or even Sekiro, both of which mix folk instruments with traditional orchestral sounds.
Spiritfarer (Maxime Lacoste Lebuis)
Maxime Lacoste Lebuis is a Canadian composer who goes by the professional name of Max LL. An accomplished concert music composer as well as working in the world of media, Max LL’s music seems to effortlessly emote in the tradition of late 19th century Romanticists. His score for Spiritfarer is melodic, wistful, inspiring and captures the incongruously joyful and yet melancholic tone that pervades the game and is worthy of repeated listening.
Stay tuned for more features about game music, and be sure to let us know what your recent favorite scores have been.
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