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.
Ready? Plug in your headphones and turn that shit up.
Like listening to my own rose-tinted memories of how awesome NES games were.
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.
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
This game has a dedicated "hum" button.
A collection of lovely surprises and revelations, much like the game it accompanies.
Divinity: Original Sin
Sometimes I would just sit there, stare at the little houses and doorways, and listen.
Goes directly from a soaring JRPG world-map theme to a Dragonforce shredfest, all without breaking eye contact.
This soundtrack could've been subtitled "Going All In."
Crypt of the Necrodancer
I laughed so hard the first time I battled King Conga that I died. And in the game, too.
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"
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.
Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft
The coolest woodwind ensemble in video games.
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.
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