Though I’ve stated in the past that – for the most part – gaming is better now than it’s ever been, that doesn’t ring true for all of its elements. Video game music has notably lost much of its magic over the past several years. While video game scores have not-so-secretly been outdoing movie scores for the past few decades, modern gaming has seen the medium try harder and harder to replicate film scores, leading video game music to lose much of its identity and becoming more and more interchangeable.
That’s in the general sense, of course. Exceptionalist that I am, there are always going to be standouts that break this trend, and remind us all why video game music can provide melodies like no other (just as there have been exceptional movie scores over the past few decades that stand above the aforementioned ‘vanilla’ sounds of many of their contemporaries).
While 2018 may not have been the banner year for video game music that 2017 was, it still provided its share of great soundtracks, with one in particular reminding me how great video game music can be.
Winner: Super Smash Bros. Ultimate
I admit, I feel like I’m kind of cheating with this one. Not so much because Super Smash Bros. features remixes of countless video game tunes of yesteryear, but because Ultimate probably features less original remixes than the past few entries. But I do feel that Ultimate has enough original takes on classic themes to justify this selection.
Yes, the majority of Ultimate’s soundtrack was carried over from Super Smash Bros. for Wii U/3DS. But it has enough newness to it to make it stand on its own. Plus, with the soundtrack of Smash 4 intact, Ultimate pretty much boasts the biggest collection of classic video game melodies compiled into a single game.
Between the sweet Castlevania remixes, and the DK soundtracks finally getting some additional attention from the series (though some extra DKC2 and Tropical Freeze tracks are always welcome), and everything from Mario to Mega Man to Metal Gear included, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate delivers the classic video game music that we could sorely use more of these days.
Runner-up: Ni No Kuni 2: Revenant Kingdom
2014: Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze
2016: Dark Souls 3
2017: Super Mario Odyssey