Video Game Awards 2020: Best Music

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

 

Previous Winners

2014: Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze

2015: Undertale

2016: Dark Souls III

2017: Super Mario Odyssey

2018: Super Smash Bros. Ultimate

L’Ochestre de Jeux Video Appreciation Post

I’ve made it no mystery that my love of video game music rivals my love of video games themselves. Though I’m no musician, I can appreciate (and am often mystified by) what music can do both on its own and for other mediums. Though there are a number of film scores that have left an impact on me (namely Joe Hisaishi’s work on Hayao Miyazaki’s filmography), for the most part, I think the musical side of my heart belongs to video game scores. Whether it’s the infectious soundtracks of the Mega Man series, the atmospheric sounds of Donkey Kong Country, or the epic scores of Dark Souls, video game music continues to shape and mold my creativity as much as video games themselves.

As such, I not only have a rather impressive collection of video game soundtracks (if I do say so myself), but frequently seek out remixes, covers and live performances of video game music. And a number of months ago, I discovered one of the best.

L’Orchestre de Jeux Video is an ongoing orchestra that specializes in video game music. As someone who has frequently sought out video game orchestras, I do believe L’Orchestra de Jeux Video (or ‘OJV’ for short) is the most consistently excellent I have discovered so far.

Some of their performances reflect the original feeling of the music they’re covering, brought up to the epic score of an orchestra. Other times, they recreate classic pieces in new ways, bringing new appreciation to both the pieces in question as well as OJV’s abilities.

Seriously, I can’t speak highly enough about what OJV does. Oftentimes when I’m writing a review late at night, I listen to their performances, and I swear it helps my creative juices flow, and even some of my trickier reviews start coming together. I guess you could argue that a number of my writings owe a little something to OJV.

But enough jib jab from me, here are some of my favorite performances from OJV, direct from their own YouTube channel.

Let’s start with one of my all-time favorites, Super Mario Galaxy.

A little Banjo-Kazooie always does the heart good.

Here’s an entire performance dedicated to my main man, Bowser.

Some Undertale music, because that’s always wonderful.

Of course, you can never go wrong with the iconic Dr. Wily theme.

And naturally, I of all people have to include their performances of Donkey Kong Country and Super Mario RPG. I just hope they do some more covers from them in the near future, because you can never have too much of a good thing.

 

Simply beautiful!

If you would like to find out more about L’Orchestra de Jeux Video, you can check out their website here. Or you can find more of their performances on their official YouTube channel. It’ll be well worth the time of any lover of video game music.