The end of the year tends to involve a lot of work. Many articles to write, many games to stumble across. And one of the funniest things every year is our countdown of this year’s best game music. We’ll take a look at what we felt were the top ten soundtracks to adorn a PlayStation console in 2020.
Okay, so we cheat right out of the gate, here, but the points in question are good for the same reason. We all know what Star Wars sounds like; we’ve heard it a thousand times. So how do you develop that formula? That is the question these composers had the answers to. Gordy Haab gives us a brilliant core theme for squadrons used throughout the score. Meanwhile, Wilbert Roget II and Cris Velasco delivered a host of brilliant new tunes to Vader Immortal. For something with such a defined sound, we got a lot of new great music for Star Wars this year.
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A bizarre, completely unique experience from Thunder Lotus Games, Spiritfarer sees you shoot the dead to the next plan of existence, and the game has perfect soundtrack for such a task. A touching, often tear-jerking experience, the music is able to match the game’s incredible writing beat by beat. Max LL returns after scoring both Thunder Lotus’ previous titles, Sundered and Jotun. Spiritfarer’s score represents a new high bar, with this infinitely touching, meditative score for one of the year’s most curious titles.
The PS5 package game from Sony’s latest mascot, Astros Playroom, is probably the most infectious soundtrack on this list. Both able to come to mind and play to the strength of the game, Kenny Young’s score for this review of PlayStation’s history is fantastic. While the music does an excellent job of giving each world in the game its own unique sound, GPU Jungle controls the roost, with a brilliant disco-inspired track that will never again leave your head when you first hear it.
With a unique dedication to authenticity, Cuphead has one of the most memorable and unique aesthetics a game has ever had. So it should come as no surprise that the music is as magnetic as the game itself. Studio MDHR’s breakthrough success took a little longer to reach the hands of PlayStation players, but both the game and the insane jazz / ragtime music of Kristoffer Madigan were worth the wait.
Perhaps the biggest surprise when you put this list together, the complete remake of the first Mafia title has an astonishingly incredible score. While the original title already has a great soundtrack, composer Jesse Harlin somehow manages to elevate things to an absurd level, offering one of the most cinematic scores we’ve experienced in a game in a very long time.
Music is a powerful tool for establishing tone in games. And perhaps there is nothing better than Cardboard Computer’s surreal masterpiece. The impossible places, the mysteries loaded with turmoil, the alarming worldly places. All of this is largely defined by the music of Ben Babbitt. Between Babbitt, in addition to collaborators The Bedquilt Ramblers and the band Junebug, there is a huge mix of sounds. This allows the game to excel on several fronts, offering great coverage of traditional crowds, fantastic surrounding tracks that are more texture than song, and even some surprisingly excellent synthpop.
The first of Naughty Dog’s post-apocalyptic titles has one of the greatest game results of all time, a pretty tough action to follow. Fortunately, the returning composer Gustavo Santaolalla and newcomer Mac Quayle were more than up to the task. While the addition of a new voice to the sound direction makes it increasingly uneven than the first game, The Last of Us: Part II still has an incredible score. Both composers seem to focus on different areas of the game, allowing for a much broader soundscape than the first title had.
Sucker Punch’s samurai open-world game is quite the experience. With such an incredible dedication to the vision, the game excels in just about everything it tried. Incredibly beautiful, the game is one of the finest games on PS4, full stop. One of the keys to capturing that vision comes from the music. Ghost of Tsushima is a beautiful, impressive and largely unique score, and delivers a soundscape we do not often hear in play, and the composers Ilan Eshkeri and Shigeru Umebayashi do it flawlessly.
The number of times this composer has appeared on our charts is staggering, but it’s just so good the music of Austin Wintory is. With a versatile set of tools and an impressive array of divergent sounds to his name, Wintory once again gives the book what to expect from him. When we reunite with Giant Squid again – after scoring an incredible score for ABZÛ – we hear more emphasis on percussion, and both most surprising and unique, neck singing. The soundtrack to The Pathless is quite different from anything we’ve heard before, and the final boss’s battle music is incredible.
And of course, it should be a matter of course, this is just a piece of all the incredible soundtracks released this year, so to squeak in a few recent scores worth mentioning, here are just a few of the final cuts to the list: Final Fantasy VII Remake, Demon’s Souls, Persona 5 Royal, Doom Eternal, Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, Bugsnax, Hunt: Showdown, and the list goes on and on …
What did you think of game music this year? Do you agree with our choices? Which would you have preferred to see cut? Let us know in the comments, unless it’s about NieR: Automata again. We’ve heard it.