Feature: 2013's Most Powerful PlayStation Soundtracks
Posted by Graham Banas
Don't look back in anger
More often than not, too much effort is spent pondering the visuals of a game. Or its gameplay. Or its set pieces. However, there’s one pivotal area that tends to get overlooked time and time again: the soundtrack. If you’re on the fence about a particular piece of software, an emotional piece of music can set you on the right path. And boy, do some of these soundtracks deserve a little bit of love and attention.
This list highlights ten of the best soundtracks that graced Sony’s suite of systems this past year. Some are action packed, while others are sad and emotional – and a handful will take you back to the 80s. Still, there’s one recurring theme glimpsed throughout this catchy countdown: every title has some seriously sublime music.
#10 - DuckTales: Remastered
When an HD remake of NES classic DuckTales was announced by Capcom, the gaming world got very, very excited. And why shouldn’t it? Not only is it a great game, but its music is also iconic. But how could it be improved? Well, with the most minor of tweaks – which is exactly what composer Jake Kaufman did. Most of the compositions in this game were left largely intact, but were given a coat of polish and some orchestral additions. The result? Pure magic. If you’re lucky enough to have grown up with the original game, then this offered a chance to fall in love all over again. Woo-hoo.
The most critically polarizing title of all time, Deadly Premonition is without a doubt a bizarre game. It shares many similarities with cult show Twin Peaks – and not least because of its soundtrack. Composed by Riyou Kinugasa, Takuya Kobayashi, and Hiromi Mizutani, it takes a while for the music to get its claws into you – but the unusual use of exotic instruments (one track employs a kazoo) will grab you eventually. With styles ranging from a Hispanic electro song to a haunting rendition of Amazing Grace, this title truly has a touch of everything.
#8 - Thomas Was Alone
Thomas Was Alone is incredible in many ways. However, one such element that elevates it above its indie peers is the soundtrack by David Housden. The composer’s cunning work brings personality to each of the anthropomorphic rectangles in the game, while also creating a relaxing atmosphere. Putting your playtime on hold while you listen to the music is a perfect pastime, with each of the tracks blending together beautifully, resulting in a seamless experience that you won’t forget in a hurry.
#7 - BioShock Infinite
Licensed music has always played a pivotal role in setting the scene throughout the BioShock series, but the scores from Garry Schyman are one of the franchise’s unappreciated assets. Through his use of violins and piano (one of the last pieces in the game focuses solely on the hauntingly sparse tinkle of the old ivories), the score to BioShock Infinite truly makes you feel like you’re up among the clouds in the floating city of Columbia.
#6 - Beyond: Two Souls
Initially intended to be composed by the late Normand Corbeil, Beyond: Two Souls’ score wasn’t finished when the composer was tragically snatched away from the world due to cancer. To complete the project, Quantic Dream selected Lorne Balfe and Hans Zimmer. It’s not clear how much of the music Corbeil had finished before his passing, but the abovementioned double act ultimately delivered a final product fitting of the musician’s legacy. It’s true that the title itself proved divisive among both gamers and critics – but this is still one of the more emotionally stirring soundtracks in gaming.
Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon proved a bloody good time, and its soundtrack played a major part in that. Recruiting electronic duo Powerglove proved to be a brilliant move, as the resulting music offered a fist-pumping snapshot of the excitement of the 80s. With plenty of synth and electronic drums, the score is great fun, ranging from drum-driven combat music to ambient synth to the, er, cheesiest love song that your ears will ever hear. And if that wasn’t enough, the end credits song is taken from one of the greatest little known B-movies ever: Miami Connection.
A game produced in collaboration with Studio Ghibli, with the company’s go-to composer Joe Hisaishi at the helm? Yeah, there was little to no chance of this title not making the list. And there’s really no reason for it not to. The music combines an epic brass sound with a more fragile windswept feeling to create a score that could give any of the luminary’s previous works a run for their money. It strikes the perfect balance between high energy and minimalism, and is probably one of the most well rounded soundtracks on this list.
#3 - Metro: Last Light
The Metro games are part of a sorely underappreciated series, which means that many miss out on its beautiful soundtracks. Series composer Alexey Omelchuk arguably uses the acoustic guitar to greater effect than any other musician in the industry, bathing each strum in the despair and depression of post-apocalyptic Moscow. Metro: Last Light’s music has a bit more variety than its predecessor, augmenting some darker themes, as well as heavy use of drums – but it continues the tone of Metro 2033 by making a lot out of very little. This game’s music is at its very best when it employs no more than one or two instruments at a time.
#2 – Rain
Probably the most sombre of all of the soundtracks on this list, Rain features an accordion and piano heavy score by Yugo Kanno. In addition to nearly an hour of original music, the composer also created a new arrangement of composer Claude Debussy’s masterpiece Clair de Lune, which was a standout for this game. With each plunk of the piano, you can sink further into this beautifully depressing world – and get lost along the way.
#1 - The Last of Us
Naughty Dog’s newest adventure walks away with the best soundtrack of the year. Academy Award winning composer Gustavo Santaolalla created a highly emotional soundtrack for this cross-country excursion. Between acoustic guitar and ukulele, the deceptively simple score concentrates far more on emotions than it does ‘filling the space’. By doing less, the luminary at the helm adds more to the surroundings – sometimes practically speaking for the characters with audio. As such, many of the songs feel linked to your personal experience rather than the game at large, culminating in an intimate connection that expands beyond what’s happening on the screen.
There’s no doubt that this was an incredible year for gaming audio, and cutting this list down to ten proved extremely difficult. With so many other options to choose from, though, did we make the right picks? Hum your thoughts in the comments section and poll below.
What was your favourite PlayStation soundtrack of 2013? (28 votes)
Deadly Premonition: Director's Cut
Thomas Was Alone
Beyond: Two Souls
Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon
Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch
Metro: Last Light
The Last of Us
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