The video games of 2014 sounded really, really good. Better, perhaps, than in any past year...though I guess it always feels that way.

This year's nominees ran a wide gamut, from acoustic woodwind ensembles to screaming electric guitarmonies, techno jazz remixes to lounge electronica. 2014's standout soundtracks highlighted how diverse video games can be, and choosing the best from among them was a pleasure.

I selected the winners with assistance from the rest of the Kotaku staff, and I've listed them in no particular order. I've included the best or most iconic track here (or just my personal favorite) as the "showstopper," with a worthy second track linked as an encore. Whenever possible, I've linked to where you can buy the full soundtrack.

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Ready? Plug in your headphones and turn that shit up.

Shovel Knight

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Like listening to my own rose-tinted memories of how awesome NES games were.

Composers: Jake "Virt" Kaufman w/ Manami Matsumae
Showstopper: "Plains of Passage"
Encore: "Main Theme"
Featured Instrument: An Actual NES
Hear More:
Bandcamp

Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc

The first few times the damn bear turns up, you'll hate the trombone; the last few times, you'll love it.

Composer: Masafumi Takada
Showstopper: "Monokuma-Sensei's Lesson"
Encore: "Dangan Ronpa Theme"
Featured Instrument: Trombone
Hear More:
YouTube

Destiny

A humongous soundtrack, good enough to make a faceless robo-man seem grand and fatherly.

Composers: Martin O'Donnell, Mike Salvatori, C Paul Johnson and Paul McCartney
Showstopper: "Excerpt From The Ecstasy"
Encore: "Excerpt from the Union"
Crucial Instrument: Big, gauzy string section
Hear More:
iTunes

Transistor

This game has a dedicated "hum" button.

Composer: Darren Korb feat. Ashley Barrett
Showstopper: "We All Become"
Encore: "Vanishing Point"
Featured Instrument: Hum
Hear More:
Supergiant Site

Hohokum

A collection of lovely surprises and revelations, much like the game it accompanies.

Composers: Ghostly International/Various Artists
Showstopper: "L" by Tycho
Encore: "Increasing Ambition" by Michna
Featured Instrument: Electric Piano
Hear More:
Official Site

Divinity: Original Sin

Sometimes I would just sit there, stare at the little houses and doorways, and listen.

Composer: Kirill Pokrovsky
Showstopper: "Divine Transcendence"
Encore: "Bittersweet Regrets"
Featured Instrument: Weird Choir
Hear More:
YouTube

Bravely Default

Goes directly from a soaring JRPG world-map theme to a Dragonforce shredfest, all without breaking eye contact.

Composer: Revo
Showstopper: Edea's Theme, "Baby Bird"
Encore: "Instant of Eternity"
Featured Instrument: The Soprano MF-ing Saxophone
Hear More:
YouTube

Bayonetta 2

This soundtrack could've been subtitled "Going All In."

Composers: Masami Ueda, leading many others
Showstopper: "Tomorrow Is Mine"
Encore: "The Lumen Sage"
Featured Instrument: Piano
Hear More:
iTunes

Crypt of the Necrodancer

I laughed so hard the first time I battled King Conga that I died. And in the game, too.

Composer: Danny Baranowsky
Showstopper: "Zone 1-2"
Encore: "King Conga"
Featured Instrument: Let's call it "The Thriller Synth"
Hear More:
Steam

World of Warcraft: Warlords of Draenor

A traditional "big fantasy orchestral soundtrack" that stands apart thanks to its odd, grand arrangements.

Composers: Russell Brower, Neal Acree, Clint Bajakian, Sam Cardon, Craig Stuart Garfinkle, Edo Guidotti and Eímear Noone
Showstopper: "Ways of the Ancient Ones"
Encore: "Family"
Featured Instrument: The entire orchestra, basically
Hear More:
iTunes

South Park: The Stick of Truth

What could've easily been a mere tongue-in-cheek Skyrim knockoff was instead a really good tongue-in-cheek Skyrim knockoff that captured South Park's bright musicality.

Composer: Jamie Dunlap
Showstopper: "A Hero is Born"
Encore: "Truth… Saint Truth"
Featured Instrument: Eric Cartman
Hear More:
YouTube

Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft

The coolest woodwind ensemble in video games.

Composers: Peter McConnell and Jason Hayes
Showstopper: "Bad Reputation"
Encore: "Don't Let Your Guard Down"
Featured Instrument: Bassoon
Hear More: Battle.net

Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze

Wise is so all over the place that he's basically everywhere, and never seems to run out of wonderful ideas. Some of the best fake horns around.

Composer: David Wise
Showstopper: "Seashore War"
Encore: "Alpine Incline (Ground)"
Featured Instrument: Synth Horn Section
Hear More:
YouTube

Honorable Mentions: OlliOlli, Far Cry 4, Dungeon of the Endless, Threes!, Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris, Disney Fantasia: Music Evolved, Dragon Age: Inquisition, The Banner Saga, Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor

To contact the author of this post, write to kirk@kotaku.com or find him on Twitter @kirkhamilton.