Pretty much anything from Peter McConnell, Mick Gordon, Jesper Kyd, or Simon Viklund is a keeper. Aside from… all of those, there’s a few games I can think of with a standout soundtrack.
Sleeping Dogs (various)
Alan Wake, Quantum Break (Petri Alanko, very atmospheric audio)
Metal Gear Rising (RULES OF NATURE!!!1)
Resident Evil 4-6 (can somehow balance horror atmospheres with suplexing zombies, an impressive feat)
Killing Floor 2 (various Christian Metal bands Very All-American Rejects-y, and I kinda love it)
RimWorld, Cities Skylines, SimCity 2000/3000/4 (“chill” music that works well with hours of pleasant uneventfulness)
Afterlife (see above, but with iMUSE dynamic music based on whether you’re focused on Heaven or Hell and what’s going on)
MDK (Tommy Tallarico, of SEGA Genesis fame)
Awesomenauts (a dynamic soundtrack with great character/stage mixed themes, a lighthearted equivalent to Killer Instinct 2013)
Gears of War, all four games (Kevin Riepl for 1, Steve Jablonsky for 2 and 3, Ramin Djawaldi for 4, grand orchestral music that fits well with the theme of desperate action)
Now I’m going to cheat by naming some games with soundtracks by the people I already mentioned.
MDK 2 (Jesper Kyd, dubstep and weirdness galore)
Darksiders II (Jesper Kyd, the polar opposite of MDK2 with foreboding themes and no digital music)
Vermintide II and Vermintide: Stormdorf (Jesper Kyd, similar to Darksiders)
Payday 2 (Simon Viklund, pretty much every genre possible with dynamic music based on the current phase of police reaction, with some legendary Assault themes)
Killer Instinct 2013 (Mick Gordon, per-character themes going across all genres)
Grim Fandango, Psychonauts (Peter McConnell, everything from atmospheric to “weird” music that makes up the games’ identity)
That said, Mark of the Ninja has a pretty good OST as well. That was the first thing I noticed with this poll.
I’d also like to give a shout-out to @HouGuard for dropping the TJ Combo theme from Killer Instinct. I’m split between whether that or Jago’s theme is the best in the entire game, though Rash and General Raam are pretty close to the top.
where do podcasts fit here?
I mean, I already voted and now it’s stuck but… :’(
it also depends on the game a lot, if I’m playing an RTS game the in built music isn’t too amazing, or one of those Civ sort of games, fallen enchantress ect. I’d say most of the time playing a game for the first time I’ll listen to everything, did anyone get the humble monthly? I love that shit at the beginning of God Eater 1. If you’re playing rebel galaxy the inbuilt music is copyrighted stuff by Blue Saraceno that you can buy or preview on youtube, and also add to. If you’re playing Dark Souls for example, the music in that is sublime. (bloodborne onwards at least)
Fallen enchantress (to prove I’m not joking, you tell me you could listen to this the whole time cycling between 5 or so? or listen to AWESOME podcasts I guess, I listened to heavy metal while playing this though >.>) :
remember you can play games like this for weeks at a time without break and you’re only halfway through a campaign.
Mostly the in-game music for me. But if it’s a game I played before or for a long time, I switch to something else that tickles my fancy at that time. Maybe it’s a livestream from one of my few follows, maybe it’s an episode of the Co-Optional Podcast, maybe it’s music from another game, maybe ost’s from an anime, or maybe it’s actual music. But when I’m playing a Pokemon game for the N’th time, or playing WoW for the 500th hour, it’s kind of needed to use something different as background noise.
I just got all of the OSTs by Olivier Deriviere. When it comes to worldbuilding, he’s up there with Michael McCann and Peter McConnell.
I know @Elocin30 may recognize his work as he composed the soundtrack for Vampyr, but otherwise he’s mostly been going under the radar. With Vampyr’s somewhat high-profile success, I’m hoping he can get more recognition for his work.
He’s also behind the amazing score for Dontnod’s other game, Remember Me. In many ways, the score actually surpassed the game itself. I know his work only because I loved the OST to The Technomancer so much that I did a search to find out who was behind it. I wouldn’t have guessed that he was also behind several other high-profile AA releases, but it makes sense listening to his music.
Speaking of which, the soundtrack he created for The Technomancer is incredible. It’s an entire album of highly atmospheric, mostly of a techno variety, with a special twist: they all make use of homemade instruments, made of random junk lying around. It gives The Slums and several combat tracks a distinctly harsh tone that builds on the whole idea of a stranded Martian colony where life is generally hard.
I’d highly recommend these to anyone who’s even remotely interested in OSTs.
Just to make it clear, these are my personal favorites… and especially when it came to The Technomancer, it was incredibly hard to pick a favorite. I love this OST. There isn’t a single bad song in it, especially in the game context. I’m going to go against my own opinion (The Slums as number 1) and go with the background music for the Ophir Barracks and Market. It was a REALLY close call between that, the Ophir Slums, Occupied Ophir, and the Noctis theme. If you’re not a fan of the sort of techno theme, you’ll probably be happy to know that it’s a very area specific thing; as you progress through the game, the music has a surprising amount of variety, changing mood entirely based on which city you are in.
Usually, I listen to the OST of games… but that falls off after 3-5 hours (unless the OST is great, not just mediocre), and I listen to some Youtube videos.
However, that falls with the game: When I play any of the Metro series, I just can’t play anything over it for some reason.
For me, I have this fascination with the music from the Pokemon Mystery Dungeon series (Mainly the first 2 games). I cannot recommend it highly enough. Plus, there’s a surprising amount of remixes and re-imaginings of many of the songs from the soundtrack(s) on Youtube.
One of my favorites is this metal remix of the final boss music:
I do believe that he did the music for Alone in the Dark and AC4: Freedom Cry DLC Not completely sure on the second one, my memory may be faulty.. I really like the music in Vampyr. Some of my favorite scores in the game have an industrial sound to them, though, which not many people around me seem to enjoy.
From Assassin’s Creed IV to Disney’s Tangled for Nintendo DS. I don’t think you can get more variety than that.
He also has his trailers listed there:
Unfortunately, I do have one thing to say: I’m a little mixed about Bound by Flame’s score. It had some really good pieces, but at the same time, certain aspects of the soundtrack fell kinda flat for me. I really wasn’t a fan of some pretty important pieces, like the main one. The Elvish haven, whatever it was called, had a pretty good one… but overall it’s a little bit of a letdown after The Technomancer. When it mattered most, though, the score was incredible. Unfortunately, I can’t really talk about those parts for spoiler reasons. It made repeating the same ending bossfight 25 times worth it, a dynamic final piece worthy of a Platinum game.
I will say that his trailer scores are phenomenal:
On the topic of favourite composers for VGM I just managed to find a new game to want almost entirely based on the composer of the OST.
Zircon is not anywhere as well known as he deserves to be, he’s been an active remixer and important contributor to OCRemix.org for ages and also done a fair couple of soundtracks and original albums himself.
Listening to this soundtrack really takes me back to the good old 16bit snes era RPGs. I have not yet really looked into the game very much but this music is making me want to play it.