2017 was an absolute banner year for games: AAA games were firing on all cylinders, indies knocked it out of the park again and again, and there were more Game of the Year contenders than we care to count. Alongside many of these stellar games were absolutely phenomenal soundtracks, too. This year more than any other was the hardest time we’ve ever had whittling the list to just ten selections. There were at least five bonafide Soundtrack of the Year releases in 2017 – if not more. This was no easy task. So without further ado, let’s jump in.
10: Thimbleweed Park
The point-and-click adventure genre has been resurgent in the past couple of years, and there’s been no finer example than the brilliant Thimbleweed Park. The game’s soundtrack, courtesy of Steve Kirk, is an absolute gem, offering strong Twin Peaks vibes with stellar mood-setting pieces.
This Is the Police’s bizarre tycoon-style gameplay offered a very unique experience. The title’s focus on managing a police force was absolutely dripping in style, and the brilliant jazzy, noir soundtrack was one of the standout elements. A number of artists contributed music to the title, but the largest number of tracks came courtesy of Ben Matthews, including the best piece in the game, 'No Good'.
The Assassin’s Creed series has generally always enjoyed very high quality soundtracks. Even when the quality of the games themselves began to nosedive – before Origins instigated a return to quality – the music was of a very high calibre. But the more recent releases – starting with Austin Wintory’s score on Syndicate – have been phenomenal, and Sarah Schachner’s brilliant work on Origins includes one of the best main themes of the year.
The first Life Is Strange had a stellar soundtrack that leaned heavily on licensed music, with a smattering of original work. While this worked well for DONTNOD, new developer Deck Nine decided to invert this, and recruited the amazing band Daughter to create the original soundtrack. The end result was not just a great soundtrack for the game, but an amazing Daughter album to boot.
You’d be forgiven for having missed VA-11 Hall-A’s release. After what felt like an eternity of “it’s coming soon” the game unceremoniously released on the PS Vita – and only the PS Vita – towards the end of the year without much fanfare. It didn’t escape our notice, though, as we’ve been itching to talk about this game’s music since it released on Steam in mid-2016. Michael Kelly aka Garoad’s soundtrack provides a dynamite cyberpunk soundtrack, with plenty of room for levity in the best story about a bar since Cheers.
Darren Korb is no stranger to his music appearing on lists like this. His score for Transistor was our soundtrack of the year in 2014, and his work on Pyre continues his trend of making marvelous music. In fact, his music carried the game even more than usual, as Pyre’s visual novel approach meant the music was even more significant than usual, and is the first on the list, that would easily be a number one soundtrack in any other year.
One of several elements of Toby Fox’s Earthbound successor that we constantly hear praised and discussed is its music, and 2017 is the year this gem of a game graced Sony’s platforms. With it came some of the most earworm-esque music of the year. The chiptune soundtrack perfectly suits the game, and there are quite literally dozens of melodies in this game that are enrapturing.
Tequila Works' oft-delayed Zelda-inspired title finally released in 2017, bringing with it just simply one of the most delightful soundtracks of the generation. The melodies put to use here are absolute perfection, and manage to convey hopefulness and heartbreak in equal parts. David García Díaz’s score for this title at its absolute minimum is beautiful.
2: Persona 5
Unsurprisingly, Atlus’ long standing JRPG series delivered another knockout score this year, earning a high spot on our list. To match possibly the most stylish UI ever created for a game, the score was absolutely loaded to the brim with flash and panache. It takes a lot of work to craft songs you don’t mind hearing over and over across an 80-hour game, but this is one that nailed it.
And here we are, the number one soundtrack of the year. It probably won't come as a surprise to many of you, but that doesn’t change how deserving this masterpiece of a work is of the number one spot. Offering a little bit of everything, the soundtrack's tone is able to capably and deftly manoeuvre from relaxing to epic to relaxing again, all without batting an eye. The composing team of Keiichi Okabe, Keigo Hoashi, and Kuniyuki Takahashi crafted one of the most unique, delightful, and surprising soundtracks of the year, for one of the most unique, delightful, and surprising games of the year.
So that’s the list of our choices for the ten best game soundtracks of 2017. And we had to leave so many on the cutting room floor: Horizon, Edith Finch, 2064: ROM, Deformers, GNOG, and more still. What do you think? Did we get it right? Did we omit your favorite soundtrack? Sing out and let us know what you'd have liked to see in the comments.