Game Music 2021: Best of the Best

It could be argued that while 2021 produced a few bangers, it wasn’t the best year ever for games. However, when it comes to game music, 2021 was stellar. Dozens of games could be on our list for Best Music. Composers and audio teams really knocked it out of the park this year.

What’s the difference between a soundtrack and a score for a game? Thanks for asking. A soundtrack is all the music, including licensed songs. A score is music composed for the game. A great example is Guardians of the Galaxy. The Guardians soundtrack included dozens of hits from the 1980s, but it also included an action-music score written by Richard Jacques.

Whatever you call it, here’s some great music from the past year.

10 Psychonauts 2

There’s so much musical variety in Peter McConnell’s score for Psychonauts 2, your head’s gonna spin. McConnell used character themes from the first game and added new ones. Just like the game jumps between mental landscapes, the music leaps between genres. The score includes jazz, big band, psychedelic rock and of course, straight up orchestra goodness.

9 Deathloop

Deathloop won a Games Award for best art direction, and one of the reasons it captured the 1960s spy thriller vibe also had to do with the music. Composer Tom Salta and his team did a great job of channeling James Bond-like music, surf rock and top 40-sounding hits. Salta also added an eerie, dramatic score to the mix.

8 Ghost of Tsushima Iki Island/Director’s Cut

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Chad Cannon and Bill Hemstapat’s score for Ghost of Tsushima Director’s Cut Expansion pulls themes from the base game and adds new, beautiful, haunting and lush music, played by an orchestra and traditional Japanese instruments.

7 Eastward

As befits a retro, pixel-art RPG, Joel Corelitz’s music for Eastward is based on the sounds you remember from the early days of games. Eastward’s music features synths, a bit of guitar, some chip tune fun and hours of catchy cues.

6 Resident Evil Village

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Horror and the sounds of the orchestra go back to the early days of film. The game’s music team of Shusaku Uchiyama, Marcin Przybyłowicz, Nao Sato & Brian D’Oliveira do a fantastic job of creating tension and dread through dissonance, and using the colors of the orchestra and voices in interesting ways. There are moments of beauty and sadness, too.

Check out our top five after the break!