The Best Video Game Music of 2014

By Kirk Hamilton on at

The video games of 2014 sounded really, really good. Better, perhaps, than in any past year...though I guess it always feels that way.

This year's nominees ran a wide gamut, from acoustic woodwind ensembles to screaming electric guitarmonies, techno jazz remixes to lounge electronica. 2014's standout soundtracks highlighted how diverse video games can be, and choosing the best from among them was a pleasure.

I selected the winners with assistance from the rest of the Kotaku staff, and I've listed them in no particular order. I've included the best or most iconic track here (or just my personal favourite) as the "showstopper," with a worthy second track linked as an encore. Whenever possible, I've linked to where you can buy the full soundtrack.

Ready? Plug in your headphones and turn that shit up.

The Best Video Game Music Of 2014

Shovel Knight

Like listening to my own rose-tinted memories of how awesome NES games were.

Composers: Jake "Virt" Kaufman w/ Manami Matsumae

Showstopper: "Plains of Passage"

Encore: "Main Theme"

Featured Instrument: An Actual NES

Hear More: Bandcamp

The Best Video Game Music Of 2014

Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc

The first few times the damn bear turns up, you'll hate the trombone; the last few times, you'll love it.

Composer: Masafumi Takada

Showstopper: "Monokuma-Sensei's Lesson"

Encore: "Dangan Ronpa Theme"

Featured Instrument: Trombone

Hear More: YouTube

The Best Video Game Music Of 2014

Destiny

A humongous soundtrack, good enough to make a faceless robo-man seem grand and fatherly.

Composers: Martin O'Donnell, Mike Salvatori, C Paul Johnson and Paul McCartney

Showstopper: "Excerpt From The Ecstasy"

Encore: "Excerpt from the Union"

Crucial Instrument: Big, gauzy string section

Hear More: iTunes

The Best Video Game Music Of 2014

Transistor

This game has a dedicated "hum" button.

Composer: Darren Korb feat. Ashley Barrett

Showstopper: "We All Become"

Encore: "Vanishing Point"

Featured Instrument: Hum

Hear More: Supergiant Site

The Best Video Game Music Of 2014

Hohokum


A collection of lovely surprises and revelations, much like the game it accompanies.

Composers: Ghostly International/Various Artists

Showstopper: "L" by Tycho

Encore: "Increasing Ambition" by Michna

Featured Instrument: Electric Piano

Hear More: Official Site

The Best Video Game Music Of 2014

Divinity: Original Sin

Sometimes I would just sit there, stare at the little houses and doorways, and listen.

Composer: Kirill Pokrovsky

Showstopper: "Divine Transcendence"

Encore: "Bittersweet Regrets"

Featured Instrument: Weird Choir

Hear More: YouTube

The Best Video Game Music Of 2014

Bravely Default

Goes directly from a soaring JRPG world-map theme to a Dragonforce shredfest, all without breaking eye contact.

Composer: Revo

Showstopper: Edea's Theme, "Baby Bird"

Encore: "Instant of Eternity"

Featured Instrument: The Soprano MF-ing Saxophone

Hear More: YouTube

The Best Video Game Music Of 2014

Bayonetta 2

This soundtrack could've been subtitled "Going All In."

Composers: Masami Ueda, leading many others

Showstopper: "Tomorrow Is Mine"

Encore: "The Lumen Sage"

Featured Instrument: Piano

Hear More: iTunes

The Best Video Game Music Of 2014

Crypt of the Necrodancer

I laughed so hard the first time I battled King Conga that I died. And in the game, too.

Composer: Danny Baranowsky

Showstopper: "Zone 1-2"

Encore: "King Conga"

Featured Instrument: Let's call it "The Thriller Synth"

Hear More: Steam

The Best Video Game Music Of 2014

World of Warcraft: Warlords of Draenor

A traditional "big fantasy orchestral soundtrack" that stands apart thanks to its odd, grand arrangements.

Composers: Russell Brower, Neal Acree, Clint Bajakian, Sam Cardon, Craig Stuart Garfinkle, Edo Guidotti and Eímear Noone

Showstopper: "Ways of the Ancient Ones"

Encore: "Family"

Featured Instrument: The entire orchestra, basically

Hear More: iTunes

The Best Video Game Music Of 2014

South Park: The Stick of Truth

What could've easily been a mere tongue-in-cheek Skyrim knockoff was instead a really good tongue-in-cheek Skyrim knockoff that captured South Park's bright musicality.

Composer: Jamie Dunlap

Showstopper: "A Hero is Born"

Encore: "Truth… Saint Truth"

Featured Instrument: Eric Cartman

Hear More: YouTube


The Best Video Game Music Of 2014

Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft

The coolest woodwind ensemble in video games.

Composers: Peter McConnell and Jason Hayes

Showstopper: "Bad Reputation"

Encore: "Don't Let Your Guard Down"

Featured Instrument: Bassoon

Hear More: Battle.net


The Best Video Game Music Of 2014

Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze

Wise is so all over the place that he's basically everywhere, and never seems to run out of wonderful ideas. Some of the best fake horns around.
Composer: David Wise

Showstopper: "Seashore War"

Encore: "Alpine Incline (Ground)"

Featured Instrument: Synth Horn Section

Hear More: YouTube


The Best Video Game Music Of 2014

Honourable Mentions:
OlliOlli, Far Cry 4, Dungeon of the Endless, Threes!, Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris, Disney Fantasia: Music Evolved, Dragon Age: Inquisition, The Banner Saga, Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor