Music in gaming is likely the most overlooked aspect of why we enjoy games. For most, when it works, you don't even notice. The music just makes sense in a given situation. The soundtrack for a game does a lot of heavy lifting in how developers want you to feel in a given moment and setting up the atmosphere for any given game. I'm sure we can all remember how hyped we can get during a boss fight, which is likely due in no small part to the music being played. 2020 has a lot of that and more.
Here's all the nominees for our Best Soundtrack Award (and check this link for all of our awards):
- Cyberpunk 2077 (Our Review)
- Doom Eternal (Our Review)
- Final Fantasy VII Remake (Our Review)
- Ghost of Tsushima
- Hades (Our Review)
So here's the winner of TechRaptor's Best Soundtrack Award 2020 for outstanding overall score.
Readers' Choice - Final Fantasy VII Remake
Developer: Square Enix | Release Date: April 10th, 2020
The Final Fantasy series has always had top shelf music in its games. When the idea that such a beloved classic was going to be remade, it seemed impossible for Sqaure to improve on or change the music in a satisfying way. They definitely pulled it off, however, so it's no wonder our readers picked the Final Fantasy VII Remake as this year's winner.
Third Place - Doom Eternal
Developer: id Software | Release Date: March 20th, 2020
By Anson Chan
If there's one maxim of game design that has held true throughout the years, it's that a game's soundtrack is just as important as all of the other core gameplay mechanics that make up the game itself. A good soundtrack sets the mood and can sometimes even persist in memory long after people stop playing the game. DOOM Eternal takes full advantage of this fact by blasting hours upon hours of intense heavy metal at players during combat encounters, making even the most mundane firefights seem like an epic struggle for the ages. Of course, it helps that DOOM Eternal's combat is incredibly visceral and fast paced, a perfect fit for a genre of music that is known for its aggressive style.
There's some calmer ambient music too, for moments when your enemies lay broken at your feet and you have to solve some puzzles, but it's understandably going to be overshadowed by the combat tracks. Nonetheless, DOOM Eternal's soundtrack does an excellent job of setting the mood throughout the game, and it's hard to image that the game would be the same without its music.
For a deep dive into Doom Eternal's music, check here.
Second Place - Hades
Developer: Supergiant Games | Release Date: September 17th, 2020
By Robert Scarpinito
It shouldn’t surprise anyone that Supergiant Games made the list of best soundtracks in 2020 with their critically acclaimed darling: Hades. Composer Darren Korb always delivers top-tier tunes, and every song adapts wonderfully to every moment. Each region’s suite of sounds transforms from light, laid-back, and clean to heavy, aggressive, and distorted without skipping a beat.
Metalheads will especially find a lot to love here. Songs like “Out of Tartarus” channel a lot of progressive metal staples, while “The King and the Bull” calls back to some of the best that thrash metal has to offer. On the lighter side of things, Orpheus’ haunting, beautiful voice shines brightly in his many ballads. Furthermore, “In the Blood,” a powerful duet with Eurydice, accompanies the rolling credits, celebrating all your struggles to escape hell.
The music of Hades sticks with you long after you’ve put down the controller. It amplifies every epic moment, making them feel that much more memorable.
For a deep dive into Hades' music, check here.
Winner - Final Fantasy VII Remake
Developer: Square Enix | Release Date: April 10th, 2020
By Samuel Guglielmo
Like most Final Fantasy games, Final Fantasy VII's soundtrack is legendary. Nobuo's works are often like that, after all. From the game's opening with "Bombing Mission" to the final boss set to the legendary "One-Winged Angel," every track in the original game is noteworthy and fits the game so well. Final Fantasy VII Remake had a lot of work that needed to be done to recapture that feeling. Somehow, it wasn't just recaptured but completely blown out of the water.
Many of the tracks from Final Fantasy VII had to be remade, just like the game. Instead of just taking the same songs and giving them better instruments, Square Enix went all out. Several tracks have been rewritten, there are multiple versions of nearly every track, every boss gets its own unique song, and there are even a few original songs. It's honestly shocking just how much work has gone into the soundtrack. So much that, if you listen to each song back to back, you're looking at nearly 10 hours of quality musical tunes. It quickly became my study music of choice.
Perhaps most impressive is that the music manages to tell stories of its own. My personal favorite comes from the track J-E-N-O-V-A. In the original game, it was a weird and alienesque theme, fitting the character who was also weird and alien. However, in Remake the track is expanded. It's still weird and alien but listen to it a little closer. You'll notice that at several times you hear both "Cloud's Theme" and "One-Winged Angel" in the track, signifying Jenova's relationship with both characters. It's fantastically done.
Perhaps if there's one thing I can't wait for in the following years, it's how the next batch of Final Fantasy VII Remake episodes will handle the soundtracks. I am so ready to hear more remixes of fantastic songs and more original songs to go with it. Now I just need this soundtrack on Spotify or Apple Music. C'mon Square, give me that soundtrack.
For a deep dive into Final Fantasy VII Remake's music, check here.