Monday, December 6, 2021

The Best Video Game Music of 2021

2021's video game releases offered a host of incredible scores that have been the soundtracks not just to our experiences in-game, but have stuck with us long after visiting this year's crop of incredible worlds.

We took into account both original soundtracks, as well as the inclusion and implementation of licensed music (which means even if a game had a bunch of indelible pop hits, it still had to integrate those in with the play experience, and its original score, to a satisfactory level). These are our picks for the best video game soundtrack or score of 2021.

The Artful Escape

Less an "adventure game with great music" and more of "a great music game with a fun adventure," The Artful Escape provides a continuous interstellar jam session across its relatively short sci-fi story. The Simon-esque call-and-response interludes that serve as "boss battles" are as satisfying to pull off as the power chords and modulations they trigger are to listen to, and the inclusion of a dedicated "Shred" button that lets you add hair-raising guitar riffs to its pulsing electro-synth score during any platforming segment is a great touch. That said, this star-studded galactic rock opera is at its best when players are able to improvise their own melodies on top of relatively simple background chord progressions, hammering home the game's themes of artistic self-discovery with our own custom rock anthems that lets all of us become a (mostly) worthy successor to the likes of Ziggy Stardust or the Hero of 2112. - Jon Ryan

For more, check out IGN's The Artful Escape review.


A huge part of Deathloop’s appeal comes from its slick musical score, composed by Tom Salta. His wide array of influences, from Jimi Hendrix and Frank Zapa to James Bond and old-school Batman, create a perfectly pitched 60s atmosphere. This score is masterfully applied to Deathloop’s many world states, such as building stealth tension or underpinning a messy shootout. But Deathloop’s music isn’t just in the score; a collection of in-universe songs are beautifully interwoven into the backstories of its characters and world, and diegetic music from composer Ross Tregenza plays across Blackreef, truly anchoring it in Arkane’s funky alternate 1960s. - Matt Purslow

For more, check out IGN's Deathloop review.

Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy

When we talk about video game music, we’re usually referring to an original score, or maybe a selection of licensed tracks. Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy triumphs in both those departments, but it goes a step further. Not content with simply developing a AAA video game based on a beloved IP, the team at Eidos Montreal also invented a band that exists within the Guardians universe and wrote and recorded an entire studio album by said band. The band, called Starlord, acts as the inspiration for Peter Quill’s nom-de-guardian, and fits right in alongside other '80s headbangers on the soundtrack from Iron Maiden, KISS, Def Leppard, and Mötley Crüe. Even better? To further establish Starlord as a band, an actual Rolling Stone writer was hired to review Starlord’s album and “interview” the members for an issue of the magazine players can virtually leaf through in Peter Quill’s bedroom. - Max Scoville

For more, check out IGN's Guardians of the Galaxy review.

Psychonauts 2

Listening to the music of Psychonauts 2 is like listening to the new album of one of your favourite childhood bands; an intriguing new adventure that can’t help but create a nostalgic grin on your face. Famed for his work on LucasArts classics such as Monkey Island 2 and Grim Fandango, composer Peter McConnell brings his jazzy orchestral movements to a new generation by soundtracking Raz’s melancholic but often hilarious story. Also joining the party is a standout track towards the end of a psychedelic Yellow Submarine-infused level to which long-term Double Fine collaborator Jack Black lends his unique vocal talents. A swinging '60s spy score with a proxy Tenacious D song thrown in for good measure? You can’t go too far wrong with that. - Simon Cardy

For more, check out IGN's Psychonauts 2 review.


It would be easy to assume that Sable’s choice of composer was something like musical stunt casting – after all, who better to score an achingly cool, Twitter-famous indie game than the achingly cool, Twitter-famous Japanese Breakfast, aka Michelle Zauner? But far from simply draping her usual swooning indie-pop over the top of Shedworks’ gorgeous debut, Zauner created a spaced-out, ambient soundscape befitting of Sable’s desert world, with built-in day-night cycles for the music as well as the landscape. Far from coming off as stunty, Sable feels as much built around its music as the music is built around the game. And then, just because she can, Zauner included ‘Glider’ – which might be among Japanese Breakfast’s best pop songs anyway. - Joe Skrebels

For more, check out IGN's Sable review.

IGN's Best of 2021 Awards were designed by:

Lead Design + Art Direction: Julia RagoMotion Graphics: Will Batchelor


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