You might find it disconcerting to read that I, as a video game music writer, didn’t find that much music in 2016 that set my heart on fire. While I penned nearly 90 posts for OSV and heard loads of great music there were only a handful of albums I’ve stuck to with a passion. I’d be hard pressed to sort out a Top Ten list but thankfully the OSVOSTOTYs are a much simpler and personal selection.
So click on in, dear readers, and find out what music from 2016 was special enough (and weird enough) to penetrate my curmudgeonly old hide.
Game Soundtrack of the Year: Starbound
By: Curtis Schweitzer
There’s a tiny caveat with Starbound. Although the game was released in 2016 I’ve been sitting on this massive soundtrack collection since the backer rewards went out… three years ago. I can only give you my solemn Boy Scout promise that I really didn’t start listening (or playing) until the months leading up to the 1.0 release.
Like my pick for Metal Gear Solid V last year, Starbound has a soundtrack I still haven’t tired of even after hearing it on loop for dozens of hours. My wife and I clocked over 90 hours in the game, the majority of it spent farming on our starter world all set to the same few songs. Some of the 60+ tracks are faster or more dramatic but it’s the long, expansive symphonies that stretch for 8, 13, even 20+ minutes that continue to stir me. It’s shocking how much emotion this music whips up in me for a game that looks so simple.
Runner Up: The Flame in the Flood
By: Chuck Ragan
Similarly stirring is Chuck Ragan’s original soundtrack to The Flame in the Flood. It’s short but so, so sweet and somber. It’s the perfect accompaniment to the torment of the roguelike gameplay that it accompanies. It’s also a rarity to hear acoustic folk music, heavy with lyrics, on a game’s soundtrack, even if some of these songs aren’t directly in the game. VGMO has a fantastic review of the album and you can listen for free on Chuck Ragan’s YouTube channel.
Another surprising soundtrack with its roots in classic American styles was Mafia III. The gritty fusion of blues and psychedelic soundscapes was a great backdrop to my Fall season and it made me really want to hear how it all fits in the game.
Arrangement Album of the Year: VGM NXC 001
By: Party Members
How did this April Fool’s joke that spiraled into an actual release become my favorite arranged album of the year? It’s choppy and frantic in all the right EDM/dub/trap ways that speak to me on top of featuring familiar video game themes. It’s the one remix album I’ve come back to the most and the one I desperately wish was longer. You can call me the April fool but I still call this one my favorite!
Runner Up: Fire Pro M: Volume One
By: Sonny Bone
I’ve only observed a little bit of the Fire Pro wrestling series from afar so when I saw this community remix album pop up on Bandcamp I tentatively clicked to check it out. I did grow up watching the WWF so the samples from early promos and Beyond the Mat were welcome additions to the variety of remixes from the Fire Pro series. It’s another brash, slightly jarring EDM album that really stuck with me through the year.
Tags: 2016, Arrangements, Awards, Featured, Features, OSVOSTOTY, Soundtrack of the Year, Soundtracks
I saved this one for a special mention because 1) it has yet to be released outside of the game 2) I’m not terribly familiar with the source material and 3) do I actually hate it!? Dragon Quest Builders’ rearrangements of classic Dragon Quest themes have been perpetually stuck in my head since its U.S. release in October. The orchestrations are simply gorgeous but like the original themes the melodies loop very quickly. With no way to turn the music off it can really get grating after 100 hours of playing.