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, but that isn’t a requirement.
Kingdom Hearts III
Ain’t nothing wrong with combining Disney music with some Final Fantasy inspiration.
Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe
There isn’t as much variety as Super Mario Odyssey, but Mario music is just so fun.
Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair
Similar to the first game, there’s a sense of youthful nostalgia here that’s infectious.
5. Life is Strange 2
Life is Strange 2 carries over the same “indie rock” vibe from the first season. None of the music is particularly standout or unique in its feel, but all of the songs fit well into this world. The more emotional character stuff hits harder when paired with the music, and I instantly got the feels going each time I booted up the game and heard the main theme.
4. Pokemon Sword
I’ve played so many Pokemon games that many aspects of each title begin to meld together as part of a larger whole. The music in Pokemon Sword definitely falls into this trap — and isn’t as strong as in some previous entries — but the battle music is awesome and most of the town music fits well as you explore and talk to the locals.
3. The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening
It was a two horse race this year for best music, and the only thing that held Link’s Awakening back from competing was that we’ve heard this music before. Still, I love how the musical themes are integrated into the story and world of Link’s Awakening. And I could just let the main theme sit and play over and over (and I did on multiple occasions).
2. Ape Out
I’m a pretentious drummer that’s big on jazz and groove, so obviously the insanity of Ape Out’s AI-driven percussion connected with me. Things could have easily devolved into a cacophony of crashes and drum hits, but you really do end up creating your own soundtrack as you toss enemies into walls and cause others to explode. The gameplay just straight up wouldn’t be as interesting if it wasn’t for the music.
1. Cadence of Hyrule
At a base level, the fact that the gameplay in Cadence of Hyrule is so connected to the music makes this one an easy winner, and it certainly doesn’t hurt that the soundtrack kicks ass outside of the game as well. I listened to it while working plenty of times. I personally found the shopkeeper remixes to be super annoying, but in the context of the game they work better.
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