A game’s atmosphere and tone can be affected by any number of things, but the soundtrack can be more emotional, more influential, and, at times, more interesting than anything the scriptwriter or narrative designer adds to the design sheet. 2022 has been a great year for gaming soundtracks, with the arrival of epic singleplayer adventures like Horizon Forbidden West intermingling with indie hits like the minimalist synth tones of Citizen Sleeper. Meanwhile, the visual novel/debut EP We Are OFK pushed back the boundaries of what a game soundtrack can, or will, be.
Still, someone has to win, and without much further ado, here is the winner of Game of the Year 2022 Best Original Soundtrack.
Kratos is no stranger to drama, with his Grecian adventures having given way to Nordic folklore in spectacular fashion. While 2018’s God of War reimagined the series in a way few could have imagined, God of War Ragnarök performed the classic sequel trick of being both bigger and better. The soundtrack was no different, with composer Bear McCreary returning to craft an audio journey that paid homage to the previous game’s tone while imagining a fantastical adventure all its own.
The title track, and a number of the other compositions, benefit from the vocal talents of Faroese singer Eivør, mixing plaintive vocal melodies with both traditional orchestration and more playful folk instrumentation. In one of the year’s most surprising collaborations, the soundtrack is closed out by Blood Upon The Snow, an incredibly emotional entry that features Sony-signed Irish singer-songwriter Hozier. It’s absolutely one of the best scores you’ll hear this year, both within gaming and beyond it, and that’s why it’s this year’s Best Original Soundtrack.
Citizen Sleeper – Runner Up
I will not give up until everyone has played Citizen Sleeper, and I wasn’t even the first member of the TSA team to play it! While its storytelling is an absolute masterclass, the accompanying synth-led soundtrack pulls you ever further into the crushing existence of your Sleeper, an escaped robotic copy of a human being that sold their memories away to a corporation for slave labour.
Coming from Amos Roddy, whose previous works include the Kingdom series of games and In Other Waters, this is a powerful, touching and often beautiful electronic score that mixes repeated patterns and piano-led melodies with industrial crunches and mechanical toil. There’s elements that have undoubtedly been pulled from Vangelis iconic Bladerunner work, but it’s there out of respect to the shared dystopian concept, not as a slavish facsimile. This is a soundtrack with energy and drive that serves to underwrite both the emotional moments of the narrative and the futuristic grind that the game does such an impressive job of representing. Go listen to it, and then go and play the game.
Elden Ring – Runner Up
FromSoftware sure knows how to make their games feel epic, and it’s not just from the size of the boss that is repeatedly smashing your face into the floor! The soundtrack for Elden Ring is just as varied and expansive as the game itself, and whether you’re looking for an uplifting battle song or something to chill out to, the soundtrack has you covered. It’s not easy to orchestrate emotionally validating music in a game where you can go in any direction and tackle things in any order you want, but that’s exactly what composers Tsukasa Saitoh, Shoi Miyazawa, Tai Tomisawa, Yuka Kitamura, and Yoshimi Kudo have done here.
Each region and boss battle sounds just as varied as they feel, and the sheer sense of creeping dread you experience in a place like Caelid is perfectly balanced out by the sense of wonder and serenity you’ll be overcome with in the Eternal Cities. While we’re not sure any title quite matches the iconic plin-plin-plon of Gwyn’s theme from Dark Souls, it’s still early days for the soundtrack itself to leave its mark on us all.
– Jason C
Honourable Mentions (in alphabetical order)
- Neon White
- We Are OFK
What video game soundtracks stood out for you this year? And no, Trombone Champ sadly does not count.