Soundtrack Central The best classic game music and more

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Adam Corn Nov 30, 2019 (edited Jan 7, 2020)

With 2019 drawing to a close let's have a look at the top game soundtracks of the year. Any game music digital or physical album release from the year is eligible, including OSTs, official arranged albums, and fan-arranged albums.

I encourage everyone to post their picks, even if preliminary, as early as possible so the rest of us can check out any good ones we may have missed.  You can go back and edit your picks or comments at any time.

Adam Corn Nov 30, 2019 (edited Apr 5, 2020)

1. Astro Bot Rescue Mission Original Soundtrack - Kenneth Young's original soundtrack for the PSVR platformer Astro Bot Rescue Mission is melodic, old-school game music goodness with a sparkly new finish. On very first listen I found myself not only bobbing my head like a happy fool to the upbeat melodies but also humming them incessantly when it was all over. Matching those upbeat melodies are crisp synths that give classic game music just the right modern touch, along with extra instrumental accompaniment ranging from uplifting electric guitar in tracks like "Follow Me (Into the Storm)" to playfully spooky sampled orchestra in "What Was That? (Scary Cave)" to an irresistible bass groove in "Discotree". What a great soundtrack to kick off a new action-platformer series with.

2. Symphonic Tale: The Rune of Beginning (Music from Suikoden II) - This Kickstarted arranged album by the newly founded VGM Classics gives the full orchestral treatment to the PS1 JRPG classic Suikoden II. As a purely orchestral album it's mostly missing the world music and vocal themes that largely defined the OST (though a few do make the cut in purely orchestral form). Frankly I'd thought such an album to be pointless, but thanks to the consistent high quality of the arrangements it's turned out to be my favorite arranged album of the year. Thanks to more fleshed-out orchestration and small arranged touches, the better synth-orchestral OST tracks like "Reminiscence" and "Even Farther" gain greater emotional nuance, battle themes like "The Desire to Triumph" and "Drive into a Corner" become far more dramatic, and even themes that were once overly simplistic or repetitive like "Beautiful Morning" and "A Moonlight Night" do very nicely here.

3. Etrian Odyssey Nexus Original Soundtrack - This final release in the DS & 3DS line of Etrian Odyssey titles is my first in the series to listen to. If it's any indication of the series' quality I very much look forward to hearing the rest. The highlight "Battlefield" and "Tumult" tracks meld crisp, melodic game synth with varying amounts and intensities of rock guitar, and at their best (namely "Battlefield - Elation" and "Battlefield - Death's Crossroad") show that classic game music quality of masterfully melded, uber-catchy melodies with just the tiniest progressive flair at its very best, along with a just-right modern synth upgrade. Some relaxed, acoustic "Labyrinth" themes and a happy town theme or two round out the soundtrack nicely.

4. Final Fantasy XIV Piano Collections - This double-disc compilation is a great way to enjoy the piano arrangements from the FFXIV albums "From Astral to Umbral", "Duality", and "Journeys" for people not interested in the completely disparate "Primals" rock tracks that make up the other halves of those albums. Besides being very pretty in general, tracks like "Serenity", "I Am the Sea", and "Wailers and Waterwheels" have certain especially exquisite moments in their arrangements that give them an extra, unforgettable emotional resonance. As the standout tracks (six of my eight favorites) largely come from From Astral to Umbral, people who have that already might need to give this album a second thought, but that exception aside it ranks right up there with the best of the Final Fantasy piano collections.

5. A New World: Intimate Music from Final Fantasy - Volume II - This Final Fantasy arranged album produced by Arnie Roth of Distant Worlds fame uses a smaller-scale instrumental ensemble for generally more low-key, "intimate" arrangements. Volume I was a widely hit or miss affair, but this follow-up is a much more consistent effort, both in production values and in overall tone, with even the more upbeat cues still holding true to the album's moniker. No single track matches Volume I's gorgeous FFI "Town" and FFXII "Eruyt Village", but short but sweet classics like FFV "Home, Sweet Home" and FFIX "A Place to Call Home" and the eight-minute FFXII medley "Ivalice Landscapes" should be plenty to make FF fans happy.

6. Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair Official Sound Track - This second soundtrack in the Yooka-Laylee series is also the second to feature ex-Rare composers David Wise and Grant Kirkhope, along with a couple of new faces. Even with an abundance of acoustic instrumentation it's at its heart a traditional light-hearted, gamey platformer OST, with just a bit of a funky edge thanks to a healthy helping of bass guitar. It doesn't have any single tracks that stand out at the level of this year's Astro Bot or Etrian Odyssey Nexus (though "Windmill Way – Windy" and "Conveyor Chaos – Crosswire" are strong contenders) but there's about an hour of very solid game music to enjoy.

7. Hollow Knight Piano Collection - This piano arranged album for the indie Metroidvania title is split almost evenly between fairly intense, Gothic pieces and more quiet ones. I find the fairly aggressive pounding in some of louder pieces to be a bit abrasive, though a couple do fit well in the flow of the album. The quiet pieces, on the other hand, are on the whole very nice, with tracks like "Greenpath" and especially "Queen's Garden" beautifully treading a line between melancholy and serenity that I've heard in few VGM albums until now.

Honorable Mention
- Borderlands 3 Original Soundtrack
- Octopath Traveler Arrangements - Break & Boost
- Days Gone Original Soundtrack
- Eastshade Original Soundtrack
- River City Girls Original Video Game Soundtrack

Michael McCann's techno meets tribal first disc of Borderlands OST 3 is top ten material on its own, but the other two and a half discs dilute the album's overall quality (though the second does have its moments). The standout acoustic tracks in Octopath Traveler Break & Boost, Days Gone and Eastshade, and the synth ones in River City Girls, are well worth hearing, but as complete albums they don't get the strong recommendations that my top picks do.

Non-game soundtracks
Two fantastic film scores impressed me as much or even more than my favorite game soundtracks this year. Michael Giacchino's Spider-Man: Far From Home nails all the bases, including some great action cues, the single most exhilarating theme I've heard from Giacchino since Star Trek 2009's "Enterprising Young Men", and a tender but not too serious love theme that fits the characters' dynamic perfectly. And How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World is the closest I've come to considering a film soundtrack "perfect" in years. Affection, action, majesty, sadness - you'll hear all of it here in a score full of memorable themes and rendered with incredible orchestral and choral beauty and grandeur.

Also listened
Along with many of my top picks, most of the game soundtracks I listened to from the year can be found on my Spotify Game Music 2019 playlist. Plenty of the albums there are worth a listen. (My own favorites are listed at the top of the playlist.)

Pedrith Nov 30, 2019 (edited Dec 15, 2019)

1) Cross Symphonic - A Symphonic tribute to Chrono Cross
2) Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night
3) Symphonic Tale: Rune of Beginning
4) √Letter Last Answer
5) Ys IX Red & Black
6) World End Syndrome

jb Dec 1, 2019 (edited Dec 19, 2019)

1. Ace Combat 7 Original Soundtrack - Hands down the best soundtrack of 2019 for me.

2. Oni no Naku Kuni Original Soundtrack - Actually surprised how much I liked this soundtrack. I typically don't like your standard Eastern music but it's not overbearing in this score.

3. Princess Connect! Re-Dive Original Soundtrack - Another mobile game with a phenomenal score.

4. SOULCALIBUR VI Original Soundtrack - Always down for some Soul Calibur music and this continues the series high quality music.

5. Distant Worlds V: More Music from Final Fantasy - I like some of the newer series' songs (FFXII, FFXIII, FFXIV). ;clap: STOP :clap: PUTTING :clap: THE :clap: OPERA :clap: ON :clap: THESE :clap: RELEASES :clap:.

*edited (Keeping the scratchpad up for a list if people want to check them out)*

Here's a loose list of things that I will use as a scratchpad. I'll go through and prioritize / rank and then convert to poll format before the deadline.

- Ace Combat 7 Original Soundtrack (This comes out late December so I don't have the physical release yet but I've listened to the YouTube rip a billion times so it's already my top contender)
- Oni no Naku Kuni Original Soundtrack
- Princess Connect! Re-Dive Original Soundtrack
- Distant Worlds V- more music from FINAL FANTASY
- Etrian Odyssey Nexus Original Soundtrack
- Kingdom Hearts -World of Tres- Album
- FFXIV Piano Collections
- FFXIV Orchestral Arrangement Album Vol. 2
- Octopath Traveler Arrangements -Break & Boost-
- Kirby Star Allies: The Original Soundtrack
- Chrono Orchestra Arrangement Box
- FF Brave Exvius OST Vol. 2

BD releases, usually of albums that came out before (or performances from) 2018

- NJBP Concert Archives 1 ~Ancient Festival~
- NieR-Orchestra Concert 12018
- The Legend of Zelda Concert 2018
- Xenogears 20th Anniversary Concert -The Beginning and the End-

Non-game, just to spread musical awareness

- Children of the Sea Original Soundtrack (Joe Hisaishi)
- Dalemain's Magical Garden Original Soundtrack (Minako Seki)
- Ibuki 192 Original Soundtrack (Taro Iwashiro)
- Whistleblower Original Soundtrack (Takayuki Hattori)

The_Paladin Jan 7, 2020 (edited Jan 9, 2020)

Late, and I feel I either haven't bought or haven't had the chance to sit down with much from 2019, but here's some good ones:

- River City Girls Original Game Soundtrack
- Indivisible: The Official Soundtrack - Pieces of a Goddess
- Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon Official Soundtrack
- Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night Original Soundtrack
- DEEMO Piano Collection
- SEGA Rhythm Game Piano Collection ver. CHUNITHM vol.1
- Game Music Piano Album by Laurence Manning
- Blasphemous Original Soundtrack (even though physical won't release until later this year)
- beatmania IIDX 26 Rootage Original Soundtrack

I'll keep Darkest Dungeon off the list even though it got a physical release this (past) year, since digital has been out for several years.

Adam Corn Jan 7, 2020

Thanks to everyone who's chimed in with their favorites. I haven't had a chance myself to listen to any of everyone else's suggestions so I've pushed the poll deadline to a very 2020 but possibly doable Jan 20th. Anyone who would like to add their favorites or edit their existing ones please feel free smile

Qui-Gon Joe Jan 19, 2020 (edited Jan 19, 2020)

1. Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair Official Sound Track - I knew this would be good with David Wise and Grant Kirkhope, but the new composers are just as strong.  I can't wait to see what Playtonic does next, since this Rare-era throwback is easily my favorite OST of the year.

2. SHADOWBRINGERS: FINAL FANTASY XIV Original Soundtrack - More FFXIV, which is always great.  Perhaps a little disappointed in this one not because of the music, but because of how the album plays out?  It feels sort of disjointed to have a bunch of stuff from the end of Stormblood before the Shadowbringers stuff starts.  I feel like their timing of album releases and what goes on which one could use some improvement.

3. Sayonara Wild Hearts - Watched someone play this over New Years and was totally entranced by the game and the music.  Such dreamlike goodness!

4. KINGDOM HEARTS Orchestra -World of Tres- Album - Solid orchestral stuff from KH, including the only released music from KH3 so far (other than the Utada Hikaru single).  WHERE IS THE FULL OST, SQUARE??

5. OCTOPATH TRAVELER Arrangements -Break & Boost- - More Octopath is always good - it was one of my favorite OSTs of 2018, and this arranged album is a good listen.  It IS A bit too short, and the jump from the OST to this arranged album isn't a super big one, though.

6. Distant Worlds V: More Music from Final Fantasy - If you've heard any Distant Worlds albums before, this is more of what you'd expect.  Orchestral Searching for Friends alone gets this onto my list.

7. A New World: Intimate Music from Final Fantasy - Volume II - Another entry for arrangements of things I've always wanted - FFIX's A Place to Call Home is short but lovely, Home Sweet Home has always been a favorite, and SELBINA from FFXI!!!  Also very happy that this one seems to be a studio recording without applause after every track like the previous album had.

8. CHRONO ORCHESTRA Arrangement BOX - I had to include the boxed set to get both albums in here, although I must admit I think the orchestral treatment lends itself better to Trigger than to Cross.

9. MUSIC ENGINE UNDERTALE CD Vol.3: Alphys & Mettaton - Doujin CD release of orchestral performances by a group called Music Engine.  I heard samples of this and then it was VERY difficult trying to track down the actual discs as they're only sold at their concerts and Comiket.  Also this works best when listened to with the prior two albums, as they are all really short.  Also while researching what came out in 2019 I discovered there is now a FOURTH one of these that I need to track down.  FML again.

10. The Music of Red Dead Redemption II Original Score - Perfect music to accompany the game.  I also really enjoy the vocal accompanying album for this.

Some other albums I really liked from this year include:
Celeste Piano - good arrangements of a great soundtrack to a game I'm not skilled enough to play myself

Piano Collections FINAL FANTASY XIV - Nice to have FFXIV piano tracks without half the album being Primals stuff that's a bit too... hard... for my tastes.

Dust: An Elysian Tail Original Soundtrack - The game is really old, but I got this album with a Limited Run Games release of it for Switch.  I really really enjoyed both the game and the OST.  Glad I gave it a chance, since it didn't feel super appealing to me from the art alone.

Symphonic Tale: The Rune of Beginning (Music from Suikoden II) - This was the kickstarter-funded Suikoden 2 orchestra album that I was super angry I missed the deadline for after they moved around the original dates of it.  Was glad to finally get it, and rather enjoyed it even if I didn't think it was the best thing ever.

OCTOPATH TRAVELER 16bit Arrangements - Interesting that we're now at the point where live-performed stuff is IN games and old-school synth is reserved for arrangements.  This was neat, but there needed to be more of it.  VERY short and also rather difficult to track down the physical album.

OCTOPATH TRAVELER Arrangements Break & Boost -Extend- - More of Break &  Boost, and I had a really hard time finding anyone who even knew this existed on the internet.  Ended up buying it blind without samples, and it's about what you'd expect from an extension of the first arranged album.  Also WAY too short.

Oni no Naku Kuni Original Soundtrack - not at all what I was expecting after the soundtracks to I am Setsuna and Lost Sphear, but once I got over that I rather liked this.

FINAL FANTASY XIV Orchestral Arrangement Album Vol. 2 - Like almost every single other orchestral arrangement album this year, I just wanted more.

ASTRAL CHAIN - One of the cases where I am completely content with the "best of" disc that came with the collector's edition of the game.  I think the whole OST would wear out its welcome in my rotation, but I think they did a good job of cutting it down to a really listenable album and I like it a lot.

EDIT: I forgot to include that there are several albums I think I'll love but have not gotten around to listening to them yet, which include Ys IX, Square Enix Acoustic Arrangements, Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night, Shenmue III, and Wattam!

Jodo Kast Jan 20, 2020


I received this last week and it just went right to the top. Although it's a mix of techno and metal, and various others, it's incredibly calming. Have not yet played the game, though I do own it.

2. OCTOPATH TRAVELER Arrangements -Break & Boost-

I decided to clump all the Octopath albums at a high level. Originally I had Octopath at the very top, but Daemon X Machina is slightly better.

3. OCTOPATH TRAVELER Arrangements Break & Boost -Extend-

Octopath meets PrePrimer!

4. OCTOPATH TRAVELER Break, Boost and Beyond Live!

Blu-ray, blown away. (Had to buy from CDJ, couldn't find a listing at Amazon Japan)

5. Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night Original Soundtrack

Paid for in 2015, backed at $100 tier. I put 40 hours into this on the Switch, so far.


Much better than the first Darius Omnibus! (of course I do not own the actual CD - did you see what the scalpers did on ebay?!)

7. Sekaiju no MeiQ CROSS Original Soundtrack

No need for an arrange album.

8. Xenogears 20th Anniversary Concert -The Beginning and the End-

Blu-ray, blown away.


Bought digitally from Ototoy. 24 bit/48kHz. (I would buy more from Ototoy but they practice some serious region locking.)

10. Mega Drive Mini -Celebration Album-

Sounds pretty clean. Will take some time to get used to some of these new arrangements, due to how many thousands of time I've listened to Gunstar Heroes and Phantasy Star IV. I just wish...Alien Soldier was on here.

Adam Corn Jan 23, 2020

Nice, thanks for adding those Joe and Jodo.
JB, if you get a change to add any other extra selections of your own, and Pedrith and Paladin, if you feel like adding yours via the "answer poll" button below, I'll see about tallying these up around the end of the month smile

Adam Corn Jan 30, 2020 (edited Jan 30, 2020)

After seeing jb’s mention and finding it on Spotify I gave Etrian Odyssey Nexus OST a listen. Very impressed - like Astro Bot it’s a great example of classic melodic game synth with modern stylings, along with a healthy helping of guitar and a progressive flair in just the right places. Can easily see this one joining my top ten for the year.

the_miker Jan 31, 2020


2. Bloodstained Ritual of the Night Soundtrack

3. Sayonara Wild Hearts

4. Resident Evil 2 Original Soundtrack

5. Bloodstained Curse of the Moon Official Soundtrack

6. Death Stranding

7. Days Gone Original Soundtrack

8. Blair Witch Original Soundtrack

The_Paladin Feb 10, 2020

1. Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night Original Soundtrack

2. Indivisible: The Official Soundtrack - Pieces of a Goddess

3. Sekaiju no MeiQ CROSS Original Soundtrack

4. River City Girls Original Game Soundtrack

5. Game Music Piano Album by Laurence Manning

6. DEEMO Piano Collection

7. Blasphemous Original Soundtrack

8. beatmania IIDX 26 Rootage Original Soundtrack

9. Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon Official Soundtrack

10. SEGA Rhythm Game Piano Collection ver. CHUNITHM vol.1

Zane Feb 23, 2020

1. Bloodstained Ritual of the Night Soundtrack

2. Blasphemous Original Soundtrack

3. Bloodstained Curse of the Moon Official Soundtrack

These are the only albums I got into this year were from games I played, so I should tally my votes for them. Curse of the Moon's music is a pretty good throwback and Blasphemous sounds like what it must have felt like to be stoned to death during the Inquistion. Telling how that's my #2 pick.

I feel that Ritual of the Night's soundtrack accomplishes what the game did. It's the spiritual sequel to SotN, but with a bunch of new stuff that has been in various games' and genres' meta since 1997. I recently found a new copy of this OST on eBay for $20 (the blue Kickstarter one, not the flimsy JP release) and have been listening to it constantly over the past few days. Those long, drawn out Yamane tracks just hit all the right spots, not to mention songs like Johannes' theme and Silent Howling. I feel like I get farther and farther away from new VGM with every year, but every once in a while something like RoTN comes out and reminds me that VGM is and will always be my favorite genre of music.

STC Poll System Apr 4, 2020

Top poll results out of 37 unique answers submitted, as calculated by Soundtrack Central's poll system.  In parentheses are the percentage of respondents who selected that answer and the average ranking it was given.

1. Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night Soundtrack (57%, 2)
2. Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon Official Soundtrack (43%, 6)
3. Sayonara Wild Hearts (29%, 3)
3. SoulCalibur VI Original Soundtrack (29%, 3)
5. Octopath Traveler Arrangements -Break & Boost- (29%, 4)
6. Blasphemous Original Soundtrack (29%, 5)
7. Etrian Odyssey Nexus Original Soundtrack (29%, 5)
8. Distant Worlds V: More Music from Final Fantasy (29%, 6)

Adam Corn Apr 4, 2020

I finally posted the poll results for the top VGM album of 2019 above. I also updated my own picks, which can be found at the top of the thread or here.

Thanks to everyone who posted their favorites, and especially those who took the time to write album comments. I have a feeling this will be the last time I host a poll of this sort, and as always I appreciate everyone's participation.

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