This isn’t just “Best Original Soundtrack.” As with other categories, this is about executing on a vision, and how well the music fits the world and gameplay. Bonus points if I wanted to listen to the music outside of the game. There were a crap ton of great soundtracks in 2018, and I want to call all of them out. So, there are a lot of honorable mentions this year.
Assassin’s Creed Odyssey
The soundtrack in Assassin’s Creed Odyssey has plenty of variation as you explore cities, mountains, seas, and ruins. It does an excellent job of leaning into the historical influences of its world.
Fe’s music is absolutely the best thing about the game. There’s an ambient vibe that works well as you explore, but it builds the more emotional moments with dissonance and tension.
It’s mostly just a really good superhero movie soundtrack, but that’s still a feat in and of itself. There are plenty of epic fights and smaller character moments that are enhanced by the score.
Minit has some really catchy chiptune music to it. I wish there was less repetition, but it makes sense given the gameplay hook of dying over and over in short bursts.
Octopath Traveler has plenty of fine — if forgettable — JRPG music. But each character and area has a distinct feel that helps differentiate the world, and the main theme is fantastic.
Pokemon Let’s Go
This is pretty much the same music as in the original, but it’s been redone and it sounds amazing. Whether playing docked or in handheld mode, running around Kanto has never sounded better.
Red Dead Redemption 2
There’s surprising variation to Red Dead Redemption 2’s western score. I’m sure a lot of it would have worked better in the content of the story. But alas, I can’t justify it being higher without experiencing that.
5. Guacamelee 2
For a meteroidvania with platforming as challenging as in Guacamelee 2, it’s important for the music to remain interesting when you’re hearing it through multiple times. Guacamelee 2 nails this. It’s also cool to hear the same songs change slightly from the normal world to the World of the Dead’s slightly more ethereal vibe.
4. God of War
The music in God of War is like the darker stuff from Lord of the Rings, but with more Celtic and Norse influences. And more dudes chanting. Those are all things I can get behind. There’s also far more bombast in the extended fighting sequences that feels appropriately epic.
3. Super Smash Bros. Ultimate
The sheer amount of tracks in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is absolutely insane. I’ve been listening to the playlist at work for a few weeks that has 958 songs in it. 958 SONGS. This has to be the best compilation of Nintendo music ever put together. That’s impressive.
It’s interesting to listen to Celeste’s soundtrack outside of the game, because there are more “slow” tracks than I remember. They serve as a nice contrast to the more poppin’ stuff you hear during platforming. The hidden b-sides are also all rad as hell remixes.
1. Donut County
Just like how I created Best Music last year because I wanted to celebrate Pyre, Donut County was the clear winner for me in 2018. All of the songs have a ton of personality, and each one is different enough that it feels specific to the level you’re playing. There’s a kookiness to Donut County’s soundtrack that’s unlike anything I’ve heard in quite a while.
Click the next page below to read about the best characters of 2018!