The end of the year always results in a downright deluge of list articles. But they can be an absolute blast to both write and read, and they always generate discussion. As such, this is a jumping-off point to discuss the best and brightest PlayStation music we heard in 2023. While it's impossible to touch upon every soundtrack worthy of mention, we've compiled what we think are the best of an already bright bunch. With such an incredible umbrella of sounds and moods to explore, let's get listening! Erm, listing.
While Scorn might have missed the mark with some facets of gameplay, one area that's consistently enthralling is the atmosphere. The art direction is of course immaculate, but the ominous, ambient score courtesy of composers Aethek & Lustmord contributes just as much. Their music further heightens the disturbing grotesqueries you'll encounter as you make your way through the alien world of Scorn.
This one is certainly an unexpected inclusion, but it's welcome nonetheless. This VR mini-golf title packs a surprisingly calming, lovely soundtrack. This is especially true of the first couple of courses, but the sentiment runs all the way through the experience, evoking a similar state of being to that of the famous Solitudes recordings by field-recordist Dan Gibson. Incredible work here by composer Chris Reyman.
8: Lies of P
What at first blush appears to be nothing more than a Bloodborne clone is able to elevate itself with a solid core of gameplay, unique narrative spin, and a really strong soundtrack. While the music is in the same spirit as something from a FromSoftware title, composer Yeakun Yoo really helped to give this adventure about the famed puppet Pinocchio a flavour all its own. And the records you find littered throughout the title add a whole different sonic texture to the experience. They're a real standout.
It's been a number of years since Night School Studios' first Oxenfree title, but we loved the soundtrack for that one back when the game hit PS4. And that very much remains the case with the follow-up. Scntfc, who provided the exquisite score for the first title has returned, and this time, things feel both more hopeful as well as seemingly darker in equal measure. It's a delicate tightrope act to follow, but it is pulled off spectacularly here.
Frankly, it's no surprise to see Armored Core on here. FromSoftware generally has phenomenal scores for its games, and Fires of Rubicon is no exception. What is different, however, is the feel of the score. The Souls games are generally associated with a darkly gothic, deeply orchestral score, but Armored Core — while not wholly devoid of these elements — is a lot more willing to step outside the box. Industrial tones creep their way in, as well as notes of electronic music, and this marriage is magical.
5: Tin Hearts
A lovely puzzler that sees you creating paths for a smattering of magical tin soldiers to set forth upon, the music, courtesy of Matthew Chastney, is a lovely accompaniment. Playing in the sandbox of an "emotional indie title" can often lead to scores that sound pretty samey from one game to the next, but Tin Hearts is able to buck that trend with a heartfelt soundtrack that adds a level of humanity to those charming metal toys.
If you write a game about characters in a band, you'd best be sure that the music you incorporate is also good. And that's exactly what happened here with the latest title from KO_OP. Playing as Fang, the front, erm, dino of the high school band Worm Drama, the title includes a smattering of indie music crafted especially for the game by Dabu. While the ambient score is excellent, the music of the title really shines when it puts the members of its central band front and centre.
A really unique, pseudo-apocalyptic title from all the way back in January, this is a title we've had pegged for this list basically from day one. As you bike through the lushly detailed, exquisitely coloured valley home to an upcoming rapture, the music makes the melancholic nature of the game abundantly clear. With a very light, delicate palette, the title is most at home with piano and guitar, guiding the player from one fascinating locale to the next. Scored by Spencer Doran, this is one title sure to linger in the mind, as it has with us.
Of course, this had to be on here. Of course it did. What Larian Studios has done with Baldur's Gate 3 is nothing short of triumphant on all fronts. And the level of quality and polish the game exudes around every corner unsurprisingly extends to the music. The game is absolutely massive, and as such brings a ton of original composition with it, but it's clear right from the off how good the music is going to be. It takes a truly special soundtrack to have you lingering on the character creation screen not because of crippling indecision, but rather because the music is too good to turn off.
1: Alan Wake 2
Much like with the previous title on the list, how could we not include Alan Wake 2? Music — just as much as television and film — has always played an integral role in the worlds that the masters at Remedy craft. Alan Wake 2 is no exception, drawing upon previous things in the franchise, namely The Old Gods of Asgard — Finnish band Poets of the Fall in actuality delivering a completely bonkers sequence. (Spoilers!) Remedy has taken things a step further this time, working with Finnish label Fried Music to create original music to include in the title on top of what we've normally come to expect. If that wasn't enough, you have the returning talents of Petri Alanko, utilising many of the methods of composition that featured in Remedy's previous title, Control. While Alan Wake was more theme-focused, Control took more of a contemporary Hans Zimmer approach to things, creating textures and soundscapes that exist in the game world as much as they do in the background. Alan Wake 2 is something of a marriage of these elements, and the results are simply sublime.
No soundtrack list is complete without a section for honourable mentions. Ten is simply not enough space to bring up every soundtrack worth mentioning, so we'd like to throw that extra little bit of attention in the direction of a handful of other games that came oh so close to making the full list:
- Final Fantasy XVI
- Marvel's Spider-Man 2
- Hogwarts Legacy
- Aliens: Dark Descent
- Chants of Sennaar
- C-Smash VRS
- Resident Evil 4
What do you think of the list? Which ones are missing that you think we should have included? Sound off in the comments section below.