2021 has given way to a wealth of outstanding titles, all boasting lavish scores, and soundtracks. From the temporal chaos of Deathloop to the ambient horrors of space in Returnal, music has enhanced our experiences extraordinarily over the course of the year.
There were so many picks to go through this year, but here are our favorites when it comes to musical brilliance. If you’re keen to load up your Spotify with an array of tunes, we’ve got you covered as we look back on this year’s best music games.
Arkane Studios hit it out of the park with their time-looping assassination hit, Deathloop. Throwing players into the confused shoes of Colt Vahn (Jason Kelley), the narrative saw players reverse engineer a thrilling murder mystery. Efforts to “break the loop” could be halted by the dastardly Julianna Blake (Ozioma Akagha) if they weren’t careful. To bring it all together, the score by Tom Salta pulsated through the world with a brilliant Bond-style espionage sensibility. Salta, of Halo and Tom Clancy fame, took influence from classic rock virtuoso Jimi Hendrix, as he began to color the world with earworms of music.
As the game allows you to visit the same areas, but at different times of day, players could be treated to newly infused variations of the score, keeping the environment vibrant and fresh. In a game where repetition is a key mechanic, it’s truly masterful just how Salta managed to make his music impressionable without irritation.
Recommended Tracks: Blackreef, The Complex
The lines between cinema and gaming experience have become blurred, in the best way possible in the last decade. Chivalry 2 is the long-awaited follow-up to 2012’s Chivalry: Medieval Warfare. Bringing the calamity to consoles with a redesigned combat system, the franchise’s signature penchant for gore has remained as entertaining as ever.
JD Spears’ score for Chivalry 2 is a bombastic collection of epic battle ballads that soar over the battlefield. With clashes of brass and flourishes of strings that wouldn’t sound out of place in Lord of The Rings, Chivalry 2’s goretastic experience is immensely enriched by Spear’s powerful music.
Recommended Tracks: Duty and Honor II, For The Order!
Marvel’s Guardians of The Galaxy
After the underwhelming launch of Marvel’s Avengers, players were cautious about the arrival of Guardians of The Galaxy. Despite promising trailers, there was still an air of doubt, but this was quickly squashed when glowing reviews emerged. Allowing players to control the clumsy yet likable Star-Lord, Marvel’s Guardians of The Galaxy is a spectacular space romp not to be missed.
Just like their cinematic counterparts, the Guardians’ AAA foray into gaming is blessed with some truly great musical picks. Whether songs are used to rally the gang together or for the purpose of relaxing on the Milano, Marvel’s Guardians of The Galaxy has a song for everyone. Not to mention the full-length glam metal album by Star-Lord (Steve Szczepkowski and Yohann Boudreault), made solely for the game.
Recommended Tracks: Space Riders With No Name, All For One
Now, we might be cheating a little, as the original version of Ghostrunner was released back in 2020. However, with the next-gen iteration now available, it would be criminal not to mention Daniel Deluxe’s sensational synth-wave/dark-wave soundtrack that reverberates through the metallic surroundings of Ghostrunner. Slicing and dicing your way through the Dharma Tower, as Jack The Ghostrunner, this action-packed platformer from One More Level is a challenging rush of adrenaline.
Daniel Deluxe’s soundtrack is badass, compelling, and full of astounding engineering that lets every track ring out as an audiophile’s dream. It is never dull and always brilliant, like the game itself.
Recommended Tracks: Vendetta, Infiltrator
Housemarque’s Returnal is no doubt one of the hardest games on the scene, but it’s brutal gameplay is worth the fight as Bobby Krlic’s haunting ambient score cascades over space. Krlic, aka The Haxan Cloak, transitioned into scoring over the last years, with his work on Ari Aster’s Midsommar drawing huge acclaim. When it comes to the looping horror of Returnal, Krlic’s restraint and masterful guidance is a perfect companion to the darkness of Housemarque’s sci-fi epic.
Returnal’s score is genuinely chilling, as it dresses the Prometheus-style surroundings. If you haven’t played Returnal yet, this score alone is worth picking it up.
Recommended Tracks: Helios, Dream Already Seen
Gravity Hammers, Razorbacks, Warthogs, and Needlers…Oh My!
Infinite is just around the corner and we cannot wait to get our hands on all the goodies the battlefield has to offer.
Sam Comrie is a journalist and filmmaker based in Sheffield, UK. When he isn’t causing chaos in Just Cause 2, you can find him listening to Foo Fighters on repeat 24/7. Seen at NME, Red Bull Gaming, From Gamers Magazine, and JumpCut PLAY.