With the current console generation coming up on its second full year, some pretty great games have come and gone. The new hardware has allowed for bigger worlds to explore, brand new features to enhance the gameplay, and of course, more advanced graphical capabilities. While graphics are always a hot-topic discussion, the music that accompanies these newer games has been exceptional as well. Over the past few years, there have been some superb game soundtracks and here are ten of them that stand out on the Xbox One.
It should be noted that the release dates reflect the year released on Xbox One and that this list doesn’t contain games that are only Xbox exclusives.
10. Geometry Wars 3: Dimensions
The music of Geometry Wars has always been a strong point for the series and that tradition is upheld here. Infectious dance beats are coupled with scratchy synths in a familiar formula that doesn’t disappoint. While perhaps not as iconic as its predecessor, GW3D still serves up a mighty fine selection of groovy techno tunes for players to lose their minds to as tiny neon shapes wreak havoc on their eyes and blood pressure.
Track Highlight: “Evolved”
The Evolved Theme for Geometry Wars 3: Dimensions is a great take on the song of the same name from Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved 2. A cover that’s all its own that’s sure to deliver a punch of nostalgia to fans of the series.
9. Killer Instinct
Developer: Double Helix/Iron Galaxy Studios
Publisher: Microsoft Studios
Composer: Mick Gordon
What you’ll find here is a blend of dubstep, rock, and world music that works well and somehow doesn’t feel corny. It’s aggressive and in-your-face but once you experience it with the game, there’s almost nothing else that can match Killer Instinct’s hard hitting style. It’s a nice musical update that compliments this revamped fighter.
Track Highlight: “The Tiger Warrior”
This track contains everything you’d want in a song from Killer Instinct: hard drums, heavy guitars, chanting monks (it is Jago’s theme, after all), and some super-fast picking on a variety of stringed instruments that give it this ancient sounding, Asian flare. It strikes a great balance between the old sound of KI and the new one it’s carving out for itself.
8. Rayman Legends
The music for Rayman Legends is just as fun and playful as the gameplay. It’s an eclectic mix of latin, world, orchestral, and rock that’s sure to make you smile. It’s heavy use of percussion, vocal samples, and covers of classic songs like “Black Betty” is what makes it stand out against the music of other platformers today. Many songs have multiple versions that are remixed to feature different instruments so the same melodies don’t get stale. It’s a wonderfully delightful soundtrack that isn’t to be missed.
Track Highlight: “Mariachi Madness”
This mariachi cover is just as good as the original, if not better. By now, the original almost seems cheesy and cliche but this lyricless, latin take on it feels fresh, still gets the blood pumping, and even features a kazoo solo. Yes. A kazoo solo.
7. D4: Dark Dreams Don’t Die
This had to be included for just how strange this soundtrack is. It’s only fitting that an oddball game would have a left-of-center OST. Genres here range from smooth jazz, to Dropkick Murphys style punk rock, piano and string ballads, reggae, all the way to heavy metal. The jazz tracks are the most prominent and are the game’s best jams. All-in-all, it’s a pretty fun mashup of styles that’s sure to leave you scratching your head and tapping your feet at the same time.
Track Highlight: “Detective of the Past”
This tune is a solid jazz performance that’s got some classy jazz flute that Ron Burgundy himself would appreciate, as well as some killer guitar and bass work.
This might be the best mixed soundtrack on this list. The production value is simply staggering. Somehow, none of the instruments in this massive orchestra feel over-shadowed and they all seem to have enough room to do their jobs and compliment one another at the same time. Martin O’Donnell’s last work from his tenure at Bungie stands out as one of his most ambitious and cinematic. Although a divisive game, Destiny’s score is epic in scope and might be the game’s best feature.
Track Highlight: “Untold Legends”
With an opening phrase that’s reminiscent of Pirates of the Caribbean, it’s hard not to love this one. It starts out powerful and loud, but soon calms down and eventually builds back up into a triumphant and victorious conclusion.
5. Shovel Knight
Developer: Yacht Club Games
Publisher: Yacht Club Games
Composer: Jake Kaufman
Although it started out on Wii U, 3DS, and PC, Shovel Knight made its way to Xbox One in the spring of 2015 and it’s been charming players ever since. Composed by Jake Kaufman, the score is a nostalgic bomb of 8-bit glory. This is one of the best chiptune albums released and it belongs to a brilliant game. These bleeps and bloops have been turned up to 11!
Track Highlight: “High Above the Land (The Flying Machine)”
This is one of the catchiest melodies in the entire game. It’s bubbly, got a shuffling drum pattern, and almost every noise an 8-bit plugin can possibly make finds its way into the song. It’s an infectious tune wrapped in a familiar package.
4. Child of Light
Developer: Ubisoft Montreal
Composer: Coeur de pirate
Child of Light’s score is as elegant and pretty as its story and art style. Somber, lullaby-like songs tradeoff with more lively battle themes that really bring the world of Lemuria to life. Each and every track has a delicate quality to it that’s refreshing and joyful. It’s a humble but strong compilation that’s definitely worth experiencing.
Track Highlight: “Aurora’s Theme”
Aurora’s Theme encapsulates all of the emotions you’re bound to feel while playing through Child of Light. There are sweet melodies played on the bells and piano reminiscent of her growing courage and friendship, a sombre viola that reflects the sadness looming over Lemuria, and the marching rhythm of the drums that call you to battle. It’s a beautiful arrangement for a beautiful game.
3. Halo 2 Anniversary
Developer: 343 Industries
Publisher: Microsoft Studios
Composers: Martin O’Donnell, Michael Salvatori
Arranged by: Paul Lipson, Lennie Moore, Tom Salta, Brian Trifon, Brian Lee White
When Halo: The Master Chief Collection shipped last fall, Halo 2 was the crown jewel of that package. With a completely remastered soundtrack, old arrangements felt new again and the added pieces sounded right at home. The new take on the Mjolnir Theme featuring Steve Vai is somehow even more insane than the original and the entire collection rocks harder than ever. Halo has never sounded so good.
Track Highlight: “Genesong (feat. Steve Vai)”
This one is a real treat for Halo music fans. It’s basically one long guitar solo played over a more abstract version of the original Halo theme. There’s a more energetic bass groove handled by the rhythm section, the strings violently rock along to thunderous drums, and the whole track just builds and builds until it has the equivalent of four different outro phrases, because one simply isn’t enough.
2. Sunset Overdrive
Developer: Insomniac Games
Publisher: Microsoft Studios
Composer: Boris Salchow
Brash, loud, over-the-top, and LOUD – that’s how to describe the music in Sunset Overdrive. For a game that’s all about being as unruly as possible and proudly different than its post-apocalyptic counterparts, it’s almost too obvious for the soundtrack to be largely comprised of punk and garage rock. Yet it manages to work without feeling forced and it’s rad as hell. In fact, it might just be the best game-to-music matchup since Jet Set Radio Future and for that alone, it’s worth the number two slot.
Track Highlight: “We’re Gonna Have a Party” – Dan Sartain feat. Ben Anderson, Paulo Bohrer Filho, Greg Gordon
This song embodies the spirit of this game, in that Sunset Overdrive is committed to being the loudest, silliest, and most punk rock post-apocalyptic game it can be, and doesn’t care what you think about that. It’s a big middle finger to the drab, dramatic games of the same genre it’s rebelling against.
1. Ori and the Blind Forest
Developer: Moon Studios
Publisher: Microsoft Studios
Composer: Gareth Coker
Ori contains one of the most beautiful scores in the past decade, let alone this generation. There’s a mystical, almost ancient and otherworldly quality to the arrangements that’s simply captivating. It’s a true achievement in video game music composition, not just for its unique melodies and instrumentation, but also because it manages to tell the game’s story just as much as, if not better than, the dialogue. Playful, powerful, and moving, Gareth Coker has expertly crafted one of gaming’s greatest soundtracks.
Track Highlight: “The Sacrifice”
The Sacrifice is not only a gorgeous piece of music but is also the companion to one of the saddest, most poetic moments in Ori and the Blind Forest. Just read the title. From its cinematic opening, to its triumphant climax, and finally, to its bittersweet second half, The Sacrifice is one of the best arrangements of this generation.
Video game music is one of the most interesting genres of music out there and can be appreciated in many different ways. These are just some of the great soundtracks that have graced the Xbox One in the last few years. New games are coming out every day which means it won’t be long until this list looks very different. If there’s an Xbox One game with a soundtrack you love that didn’t make the list, leave a comment below!