My picks for best game music of the year (so far).

Now that we’re officially halfway into the game releases calendar for the year, I thought I’d share a few of my picks for favorite 2010 game soundtracks thus far.  The music of video games plays an important role in the player’s relationship to the characters, locations and actions taking place within the game.  It functions as part of the game narrative in ways that are unique compared to other media formats and consequently, an amazing soundtrack can take a game from good to unforgettable.  Without further ado, here’s a few of my picks for this year’s game soundtracks that I consider to be interesting musically and an important part of the game’s experience:

1) Heavy Rain

There are four main characters in this game and each of them has their own theme, with variations on that theme playing in different situations throughout the game.  The choice of instruments and style of theme used for each character conveys their personality/emotional state and plays a vital role in connecting the player emotionally to the characters.  This track, “Ethan Mars Theme”, really gives a sense of that particular character’s gentleness, sadness and loss:

2) Deadly Premonition

This was something of an odd game, with the soundtrack and how it was used doing quite a bit to contribute to the sense of oddness permeating the game’s mood.  By doing things like playing upbeat jazz music during otherwise serious scenes, or playing the light, catchy music linked here (called “Life is Beautiful”) while the main character is doing something out-of-place like going fishing for bullets, the soundtrack definitely played up the overall weirdness of the story (in a good way):

3) NieR

This game’s soundtrack is right up at the top of the list for my all-time favorite game soundtracks, period.  It has a lot more vocal work than what I would normally want to hear on a game soundtrack, but it works well within the context of the game.  The characters speak a made-up mish mash of many different real world languages and the lyrics to the music are similarly done, making the vocals more of an instrument of sorts within the songs.  This track is called “Snow in Summer” and while trying to actually translate the words would yield gibberish, the emotions that the vocals are conveying are readily apparent:

4) Red Dead Redemption

Red Dead Redemption’s soundtrack has a retro feel to it that pays tribute to the type of music heard in a Sergio Leone spaghetti western film.  At the same time, it incorporates some interesting modern elements, such as dub and a more gritty, urban bass line to give it a unique sound.  Aside from key cutscenes, the player’s actions tend to dictate what is happening with the music in the game.  A low drumbeat heard while creeping around outside of a hideout will escalate into a full-on theme when the shooting starts.  Some of the soft-to-loud transitioning can be heard in this track from the game, “The Shootist”:

These are just a few favorites of mine and far from an exhaustive list of all the great game music I’ve heard so far this year.  Feel free to pipe in with this year’s game soundtracks that have made an impression on you in the comments.

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