Game of the Year 2020

Shea Hates Everything Game of the Year 2020

Best Music

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.

Spoiler alert, there are a lot of honorable mentions this year because there are a lot of great video game soundtracks this year and it didn’t feel right to arbitrarily leave something off the list if I felt passionate about it.

Honorable Mentions

This soundtrack goes way harder than it needs to. It often reminds me of the uplifting yet creepy quirkiness of Minecraft or Grow Home if they were more heavily produced.

There’s something very 80’s horror movie to Carrion that spoke to me. It’s not my favorite genre of music (or movie) but it creates an amazing sense of atmosphere in the game.

Cyberpunk 2077
The original music used throughout the game is outstanding and often surprising, but I had to dock points because I just didn’t love a lot of the stuff that plays on the radio while you’re driving.

Ghost of Tsushima
Wistful, magical, and ethereal aren’t necessarily adjectives you’d expect to use about music in a game where you kill hundreds of dudes, but here we are.

Some of the tracks dive a little too heavily into dubstep for my tastes with the weird sound effect accents, but it is catchy and fits the smooth gliding of movement throughout the world.

Minecraft Dungeons
There’s more intense variety here to suit the change in gameplay compared to Minecraft, but much of the simple piano feel remains. Longer tracks do start to feel repetitive, though.

The Last of Us Part II
Plenty of Part II’s soundtrack fits into the “tension building ambient sound” style of audio design, but the more emotional moments are haunted by the simple melodies. Sad banjos, indeed.

The Pathless
Shocker, an Austin Wintory soundtrack is good. There’s a darker edge to The Pathless than in Journey or Abzu, but Wintory keeps his feel for strings while adding some eastern influences.

5. Final Fantasy VII Remake

Final Fantasy VII Remake - Best Music 2020

In a year with so many great soundtracks, it would be easy to dock Final Fantasy VII Remake a few points given that so much of this music has just been recreated. But it’s been so lovingly recreated and expanded upon that I still want to shout it out. 

While the music mainly shifts between epic strings and rocking guitars, there are still a fair amount of standouts. The main battle music obviously kicks serious ass but almost every boss fight (and motorcycle sequence) is elevated by the intensity of the score. 

4. DOOM Eternal

DOOM Eternal - Best Music 2020

The first DOOM game’s soundtrack was a strong contender in 2016, only losing out to Furi due to my weakness for synth beats. DOOM Eternal suffers a similar fate in many respects, while adding the “been there, done that” criticism a little bit.

Compared to a game like Spider-Man: Miles Morales, there isn’t enough different between the original and the sequel here to elevate Eternal beyond just having really kickass metal music. It’s a genre I don’t enjoy by itself but one I really enjoy while killing demons. When the solo guitar builds and then the drums drop… oh baby it makes me feel like I can 1v1 the sun.

3. Spider-Man: Miles Morales

Spider-Man: Miles Morales - Best Music 2020

Spider-Man: Miles Morales has the added variety that elevates what would be standard superhero fare into something more memorable. It’s a great combination of epic brass and strings with some electronic and rap influences that had me bobbing my head while swinging far more often than the first game did.

I’m not a big rap person, but I’m a sucker for a good beat in any genre, and Miles Morales brings that in spades. It all definitely runs together a little bit, but this soundtrack is less focused on enhancing emotional moments and more on making you feel effortlessly cool while you’re kicking ass. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

2. Spiritfarer

Spiritfarer - Best Music 2020

I always listen to the soundtracks while writing this category to keep my memories of the music fresh, so here I am with tears running down my cheek and a smile on my face listening to Spiritfarer’s opening title music. It feels weird.

There are games that create emotional memories on their own, and games whose emotional moments only work because of the music. Spiritfarer sits somewhere in the middle of these two extremes, but there’s no denying the impact this score had on me while playing the game. And it isn’t just in the sad moments! The mini game music, the shipyards, and Francis’ kooky merchant theme are all memorable in their own silly right, too. 

1. Cloudpunk

Cloudpunk - Best Music 2020

Yep, I’m a sucker for synthwave. Cloudpunk turns the noir dial up to 11, which adds a dark and mysterious element. You really feel like you’re in Blade Runner, looking badass as you drive your skycar around solving mysteries.

Seriously, this soundtrack is just three and a half hours of my perfect music to listen to while working. The only criticism is that it tends to blend into the background of all the other retro synthwave music I listen to on the regular. But that also speaks to the fact that Cloudpunk’s soundtrack is absolutely my jam. It’s kind of unfair.

And onto the next page for 2020’s best characters!

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