Best Game Soundtracks September 2017
Friends, I don't know what to tell you. 2017's overflowing cornucopia of game soundtracks has become a veritable avalanche, and I have spent the month of September buried up to my headphones in new albums. If my calculations are correct, there are more new OSTs in this month's roundup than there have been in any previous installment, so allow me to dispense with the pleasantries and launch right into the sweet, sweet tunes.
A couple of games released at the end of August dropped soundtracks this month, including Nidhogg II, the colorful sequel to one of the best party games I've ever played. The second Nidhogg takes the first game's minimalist visual aesthetic, throws a sword into its face, and runs completely in the opposite direction. The soundtrack is a collection of lo-fi electronica (with some hip-hop influences, including a track by Doseone) that you can also pick up on vinyl if you're so inclined!
This month saw album releases by at least half a dozen of the best folks composing music for games, including the wonderful Austin Wintory, who released his score for Absolver. Wintory has proven himself extremely versatile over the last couple years, but his music for Absolver is squarely within his orchestral-plus-electronic wheelhouse. Absolver is a game about martial artists in a low-fantasy setting, and Wintory's score evocatively conjures up a world in which punching people… is good. Give it a listen. (This is another one you can buy on vinyl!)
One of the best bits of 2015's Life is Strange was its soundtrack, which combined an original score with licensed music to really sell its tale of teenage angst and supernatural time-bending powers. The follow-up, Life is Strange: Before the Storm, was entrusted to a new developer and fronted by new musical talent as well: Before the Storm's score is by British indie folk-rock trio Daughter, and they've released the soundtrack as their third album, titled Songs from Before the Storm. If you are a teen, or if you have Teen Feelings, you will want to give this album a go.
If you're anything like most of my Twitter feed, you've been playing Destiny 2 non-stop for several weeks with nary a thought of food or memory of your loved ones. But did you know that Destiny 2 has music? I bet you hadn't noticed that, had you? Yes, Bungie has seen fit to score its sequel shooter/dance-off game with less Paul McCartney and more… Kronos Quartet, for some reason? If you have a hankering for epic sci-fi music, with orchestral swells and stirring strings, then you are in for a treat. Destiny 2's music is very much what you would expect, and that's by no means a bad thing.
This roundup contains not one, but two Austin Wintory soundtracks. Tooth and Tail came out this month, a stripped-down, console-friendly RTS with an aesthetic that calls to mind classic animals-at-war stories like Redwall and Watership Down -- and not the book version of Watership Down, either, I'm talking about the animated film that traumatized you as a child. Tooth and Tail has a setting that echoes the Russian Revolution, and Wintory's score combines folk influences with his usual orchestral strengths (heavy on the strings) in a way that echoes his work on Assassin's Creed Syndicate.
There's a new Nihon Falcom game out in the States this month! This time it's Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana, the latest in the long-running series of action RPGs starring anime heartthrob Adol Christin. Though I've just recently gotten into the Ys series myself, I have long adored the soundtracks that the Falcom Sound Team puts together. "What if you took an anime opening," each album seems to ask, "and stretched it out to cover fifty or sixty tracks of wailing guitars and electric violin?" They also take just about their entire catalog and put it out there on Spotify and YouTube for everyone to enjoy -- click around a little, I'm sure you'll find something to your taste! Kudos, Falcom. You're good people.
Listen, I don't know anything about Homestuck. Maybe I'm too old, or maybe I just never came close enough to that particular rabbit hole to tumble madly down into it. What I know is that Toby Fox's score to Undertale is one of the best game albums in the last five years, and that Mr. Fox has some of his fingerprints on the soundtrack to Hiveswap Act 1, which came out this month. You can hear Fox's eclectic style all over the game's score, and so even if you too know nothing of Homestuck, you might want to give this soundtrack a listen. It's a romp. It romps.
Nintendo seems to have finally heard the plaintive cries of despairing Metroid fans everywhere, because this month they released Metroid: Samus Returns, a remake of a Game Boy game which I once forced myself to play and finish when I was younger and had more time on my hands. Initial word about Samus Returns is that the bounty hunter is in top form, and anyone hankering for a new 2D Metroid is liable to be extremely satisfied. We're not likely to get an official soundtrack release for Samus Returns on its own, but the special edition of the game comes with a compilation album of classic Metroid tunes from throughout the series. Why not listen to this YouTube playlist and contemplate whether that's something you'd like in your collection?
I know that many of you are thinking about this month's big releases, reading this roundup, and wondering "Nate: When's Marvel?" Well, wonder no longer. Marvel vs Capcom: Infinite released earlier this month, and it is definitely a fighting game which contains Mega Man and also Spider-Man. Initial reviews of this one have been somewhat mixed, but as with most fighting games, opinions are likely to be revised upward as the developers continue to add and tinker. The soundtrack is full of bombastic character themes in the usual Capcom style, and there are more than a few good tracks to sample. No official release for the moment, but who knows: maybe they'll patch one in later!
It's been four years since indie developer Tom Francis released his tongue-in-cheek cyber-noir Gunpoint, and only this month did we finally get to play his follow-up, the sci-fi heist-'em-up Heat Signature. From everything I've heard: the wait was worth it. The soundtrack to Heat Signature is done by John Halpart and Christopher James Harvey, and it bears some similarities to the ambient electronic style of Ben Prunty's work on FTL. This is good music to play while you teleport into someone, hit them with a wrench, and fling them out of a window into space.
September is back-to-school time for much of America, so what better time to bring to the States the latest installment of a high school murder-fest? Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony was released in the West this month, and with it comes a slew of new, funky tunes from series composer Masafumi Takada. Takada's work is distinctive and recognizable, giving the Danganronpa games a sonic identity to match their outrageous character designs and wicked sense of humor. Unfortunately, you'll have to dig around on import websites if you're hoping for an official release of the soundtrack, but the scores for the first two games are up on Spotify, so if you're patient, this one will probably appear there also.
The news came last week that Dear Esther developer The Chinese Room will be shuttering operations for the foreseeable future. As a parting gift, they released a VR game for Google Daydream called So Let Us Melt, which has a score by the wonderful Jessica Curry. Curry's score for Everybody's Gone to the Rapture is beautiful and haunting, with emotive piano and chorus, and this new album has some of the same magic in it. Even if you're like me and news about VR titles whizzes past your eyes completely unheeded, you should make time for this superb score.
At the end of the month, the newest offering from Torchlight dev Runic Games released: Hob is a lovely-looking puzzle-adventure game with a soundtrack by Matt Uelman, who also did the music for Torchlight II. The score is composed of several long, ambient electronic pieces that would make great background music if you were, say, running a D&D adventure.
Without question, the most ambitious and intriguing soundtrack release this month is the score for Cuphead, the visually stunning shooter that we've all been salivating over ever since we first saw footage a few years ago. As if the 1930s-styled visuals weren't enough, the soundtrack -- composed by Kristofer Maddigan -- is more than two hours of original jazz. It's not up on Spotify, Amazon, or iTunes as of this writing, but you can pre-order the 4-LP (!) vinyl release on iam8bit if you like, or the digital version as Steam DLC or on GOG. The soundtrack is meant to release concurrently with the game on Sept. 29, so if you're reading this after that date, get to Googling! It may already be out on your platform of choice.
As a post-script, there are a couple of newly-released soundtracks from previous years' game releases that I caught wind of this month: The first, the score to Fallout 4's Far Harbor and Nuka World DLCs, is more of the ominous, understated work of Inon Zur. I loved Zur's work on the base game, and I'm pleased to see DLC content with original music getting official soundtrack releases. If you like subtle, mood-setting music, this is worth looking into.
Also new this month is an official release for the soundtrack to Warhammer: End Times - Vermintide, which came out last year around the same time I had a rat problem in my basement. Coincidence, or extremely subtle viral marketing? In either case, this one has a score by Jesper Kyd, whose work you may know from early installments of Assassin's Creed or Borderlands. The soundtrack here is appropriately grim -- perhaps good if you're looking for an album to accompany the haunted house you're building in your garage for the end of October. Let Kyd help you scare those local youths!
And finally, a game was released this month that should have hit store shelves ages ago, a victim of poor timing and the escalation of a console war. Star Fox 2 is now available in the States, officially, and those of you who've never dabbled in emulation can now experience it for the first time (presuming you're able to secure an SNES Classic). There's not going to be an official soundtrack release, of course, but you should absolutely have a click through this YouTube playlist and appreciate some long-buried SNES tunes.
But wait! It turns out I’m not done! I emailed my editors in a tizzy when news hit my email inbox that Supergiant Games released two new albums of songs from Pyre: The White Lute and The Black Mandolin, featuring acoustic versions of the game’s tracks and several different vocal iterations on one of its best themes, respectively. Snap up that Darren Korb goodness!
And that does it for this month! Hopefully you found something in that deluge of albums that was to your liking. I’ll be back next month, which will give us a new Mario, a new Assassin’s Creed, and more! Until then, happy listening.
- Fallout 4
- Fallout (series)
- Star Fox (series)
- Warhammer (series)
- Soundtrack Roundup
- Danganronpa (series)
- Destiny 2
- Destiny (series)
- Marvel vs Capcom: Infinite
- Life is Strange: Before the Storm
- Tooth and Tail
- Metroid: Samus Returns
- Nidhogg II
- Ys VIII
- Heat Signature
- Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony
- So Let Us Melt
- Warhammer: End Times
- Star Fox 2