NOTE: This post best viewed at GameLuv.com as it’s full of embedded music
I know it sounds weird but… I had a hard time with music last year. Hell, even I don’t know what I mean by that and I’m the one writing it. One thing’s for sure, I am officially over listening to orchestral scores outside of the medium they accompany. Where I once enjoyed listening to scores from the likes of Star Wars and Medal of Honor I have no need for them anymore aside from periodic nostalgia.
I really came to love the challenging and dense remix/mashups from Truxton but none of those were released in 2013. They also aren’t technically from a game even though they incorporate dozens of game tunes that I know and love. Also not from 2013 is Dungeons of Dredmor’s soundtrack by Zath which was basically the soundtrack of my summer.
One legit 2013 soundtrack that brought me back to the game repeatedly was Plants vs Zombies Adventures’. In fact, the music was the only reason to spend more than a cursory fifteen minutes with that atrocious Facebook game. It plays close to the original game’s style but goes in a wonderful jazz-lounge-creep direction of its own. Being a Facebook game it’s impossible to give proper credit but at least there’s this great 9 minute YouTube compilation so you can listen without having to play the game.
This one is a tad disingenuous as it was out in 2012 but hit a few platforms in 2013. Regardless, classic PC composer Chris Huelsbeck returns alongside another classic, the Giana Sisters. The game lets you swap between a cute and dark version of the same level as you use the sisters’ different mechanics to proceed. Likewise, the music seamlessly fades between two versions of the same theme, both of which — all of which — are filled with vintage Huelsbeck guitars and melodies.
I was excited for Star Command from the moment I saw its pixelated Star Trek bridge crew years ago. Making the move from iOS to Android I finally had a chance to play it and found its soundtrack was just as much fun. Marius Masalar’s playful orchestrations that punctuate the frantic battles turned out to be even more fun to listen to.
While the radio stations in Grand Theft Auto V wore out their welcome within a week (at which point I turned them off entirely), the collaborative original works by Tangerine Dream, Woody Jackson, The Alchemist, Oh No, and DJ Shadow have become favorites. Subdued but punchy, playful but dark, it fit the highs and lows of the main game’s trio and their mad world perfectly.
What got the most playtime of all, as you can see in the ridiculous Last.fm chart above, is Eirik Suhrke’s soundtrack to Spelunky. Not only did I play a ton of the game throughout the year, I’d turn on the music seemingly at a moment’s notice. It’s fun, playful and flirts with the sound of the 16-bit era without explicitly sounding chiptuned. It’s atmospheric and catchy and, most importantly of all, holds up after endless repeat plays.
A couple of honorable mentions go to Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed’s vast soundtrack of remixed and rearranged hits from Sega’s entire catalog. Hearing that Shinobi medley was a treat and seeing Burning Rangers brought back to life was a thrill even if the game itself is a boring kart racer. Also of note are the tracks ‘Hope Prevails’ from State of Decay and ‘Capital Territory – Gran Soren’ from Dragon’s Dogma that would defuse the tension after surviving another night, be it against a town of zombies or a battle with a dragon.