This year didn’t seem to have the standout soundtrack that the past few years have seemingly had. However, we certainly have had some both standout single songs and wonderfully unique soundtracks. We’ve seen spins on the old with games like Undertale and the sweeping epics we’ve come to expect from games like The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. Whether one soundtrack stood out, you just enjoyed the experience, or you thought the music matched the game incredibly well, take a look at what we thought were some of the best soundtracks of 2015.
This was one of the more fractured awards in terms of votes at TechRaptor, with the winner coming out only two votes ahead of second place, and second place only two votes ahead of third. Here’s a reminder of what our nominees were (find out how we chose our nominees here):
- Hotline Miami 2
- The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
- Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain
- Fallout 4
- Crypt of the Necrodancer
(Tie) 3rd Place – Crypt of the Necrodancer
By Shaun Joy
With a soundtrack being that closely tied to the mechanics of gameplay, you need to bring it in terms of great music, and Crypt of the Necrodancer delivers some great beats to dance to. The soundtrack is designed with the game in mind: it’s clear where the beat is at all times, making it easy for the player to play along. Great rhythm that has the addictive quality to it, you’ll hear it over and over again as you try to get through the levels, but you’ll be ready to hear it again on the next run. The boss music in its different genres, such as Conga and Jazz, adds a good change of pace, and with alternate versions of the music if you get really sick of them, it’s a balanced soundtrack that with have you dancing … to the grave.
(Tie) 3rd Place – Hotline Miami 2
By Alex Baldwin
I don’t really listen to videogame soundtracks all too often. While some of you might consider the listenability of a soundtrack outside of the game itself as your criteria for what was your best soundtrack of the year, it’s something that I don’t particularly consider. However, that’s not to say I don’t notice or respect videogame music; on the contrary, a good soundtrack can elevate a game to far beyond what it already was. This is exactly the case with Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number.
It feels a little redundant to sing the praises of Hotline Miami’s soundtracks as I’m sure most of you know by now they are some of the most highly regarded soundtracks in videogames for a lot of different reasons. The Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number soundtrack takes what was so great about the first games and betters it in every single way. While still keeping its unique eerie 80s synth sound, reminiscent of films like Drive and even in its darker moments Irreversible, Hotline Miami 2’s soundtrack is more varied, memorable, and ambitious.
Hotline Miami 2 puts its music front and center, with the soundtrack to every stage blaring at full volume before you even assume control, boasting at every possible moment how good its music is, and it speaks to the sheer quality of the soundtrack that this never grows old. The soundtrack is the pulse of Hotline Miami 2, so integral to the experience, emphasising every bloodied smack and door slam that its hard to think of a game with a soundtrack as crucial to the overall experience as Hotline Miami 2’s.
It’s such an insane feat that around 30 musicians contributed 1 or 2 songs each and somehow created a soundtrack without a single piece of music that seems ill-fitting. Having around 30 musicians write your 49 song soundtrack should be a disaster, but every musician took the basics of what made the Hotline Miami Soundtrack what it was and adds their own flavor in a way that leaves you genuinely excited to hear the next song. While I have some issues with the game itself, the soundtrack met and surpassed my already insanely high expectations to a point where almost a year on I still cant believe how much of a success it was.
Runner Up – Undertale
By Alex Santa Maria
A game’s soundtrack normally is a complement to the action on screen, it either stays out of the way or does its best to supplement the mood and feeling of the player. At its best, a soundtrack can become irrevocably linked to a moment in time, bringing back a fight or a plot twist just with a string of notes. Undertale has at least five of these songs, evoking emotions with 8-bit styling better than an entire symphony orchestra. Listening to ASGORE or Megalovania even months after playing, I am immediately taken back to fond memories of the game. If that’s not an accomplishment in soundtrack, I don’t know what it is.
A vote for Undertale’s soundtrack is not just a vote for innovation in chiptune music in 2015. It is a vote for variety. Undertale’s soundtrack clocks in at over one hundred songs, featuring intense battle music and boss themes for every unique encounter, as well as airy mood setting music for walking around town. Undertale’s characters wouldn’t be the same if the world they lived in didn’t feel like a real place, and the soundtrack sets each scene perfectly. From the grim tones of the end times to the calm nostalgia of a town in the winter, this soundtrack has it all.
Winner – The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
By Luigi Savinelli
The Witcher 3 has been one of the best games of the last year. It did many things well, including its soundtrack. The music and general sound crafting are both well-made and awesomely delivered, with choirs and East European instruments with just that bit of modernity in it to make it great.
Despite that, many think that one of the words that come to mind when thinking of The Witcher 3‘s OST is “generic.” There’s truth in that. While well-crafted and having many wonderful tunes in it, the music that permeates Geralt’s travels isn’t unheard of taken by itself. We at TechRaptor still think that the music is worthy of the title of Best Soundtrack of 2015, and the core reason is that it can’t be taken by itself.
As a video game, music is not just something that plays in the background—it’s an active part of the experience. When you talk of the aestethic of a title, you don’t talk just of the art style, but you put it in the context of the game it’s presented in. It would be unfair to do otherwise. The same reasoning applies to the soundtrack.
The tunes in The Witcher 3 shine in the way they are delivered to the player. CDPR did a wonderful job of not only creating a breathtaking soundtrack, but making one that feels tailored to every single moment of the game. Every note sets the pace, every tone gives you a sensation, every pitch drags you into the game. It’s hard to make a good song, but it’s easy to just slap one in the background of a game. It takes more than a good song to add value to a video game.
If you played the game, you just can’t listen to “The Ladies of the Woods” without the image of a lonely house full of children in the middle of a swamp popping in your mind. You hear “Sword of Destiny,” and your blood starts pumping for the heat of the battle. Priscilla’s song starts playing and suddenly the inn’s customers are not the only ones getting emotional.
The Witcher 3 does not only have good music. Many games in 2015 have that. The Witcher 3 has the right music at the right time. It manages to use the soundtrack to its advantage to improve the experience of the player in a way no other title in 2015 managed to.
Readers’ Choice – (Tie) The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, Hotline Miami 2, Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, and Undertale
With nearly 100 readers responding to our Readers’ Choice poll, this is a bit of a surprise. Each of these four titles tied for first place with 17 votes each. While the vote here at TechRaptor was pretty close, it seems our readers were undecided on what they liked the best. This is a good sign that it was a pretty good year for fans of music in games.
What do you think of our choices? What was left out? How was 2015 for music in gaming?