Music. Glorious music! Music is important in any medium, but it seems to have a particular influence in video games. Just think of how different gaming would be without all those infectious tunes of yesteryear. I shudder to thought.
Though modern gaming doesn’t have quite the consistency of excellent soundtracks that the medium once had (namely, AAA western releases have a tendency to sound like Hollywood Minus), but it still provides some truly unforgettable soundtracks from time to time (mainly from Japanese titles or Indie games).
2019 was something of an exception in this regard, as my favorite game soundtrack came from westward, although I don’t presume it could be called a “AAA” title…
Winner: Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair
Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair’s excellent soundtrack can be attributed to two words: David. Wise.
Okay, so that’s actually one name, as opposed to two words, but just work with me for a second.
Yes, the great Grant Kirkhope once again contributed to Yooka-Laylee’s score, as did newcomers to the series Matt Griffin and Dan Murdoch, but it’s the unmistakeable sounds of David Wise that seal the deal.
Although Impossible Lair avoided referring to itself as a spiritual successor to Donkey Kong Country (seeing how the original Yooka-Laylee’s status as a spiritual successor to Banjo-Kazooie fell a bit flat on most), there is no doubt that it draws heavy inspiration from Playtonic’s past work with Rare on the DKC series. And by promoting David Wise – the man behind DKC’s immortal soundtracks – to primary composer for Yooka and Laylee’s second go-around, Impossible Lair echoes a similar sense of atmosphere and emotion as DKC. In fact, it almost sounds like David Wise conducted Impossible Lair’s score as a kind of follow-up to his work on Retro Studio’s Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze.
Impossible Lair may not quite reach the nirvana of video game music that Tropical Freeze did. But much like Impossible Lair is the first 2D platformer that could be compared to Tropical Freeze since its initial 2014 release, the same goes for its soundtrack.
Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair’s soundtrack is fun, catchy, atmospheric, and full of variety and feeling. In short, it’s David Wise.
Runner-up: Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice
2014: Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze
2016: Dark Souls III
2017: Super Mario Odyssey
2018: Super Smash Bros. Ultimate