2020 was quite the year, unfortunately just for all the wrong reasons.
While a global pandemic brought the vast majority of the world and the economy to standstill, video games have been the silver lining to some, being the perfect tool for escapism during the months of staying indoors to socially distance.
The past year also saw a number of high profile (and some lower profile) releases that, among other things, had original music that was, to put it simply, great.
Here I’ve tried to curate some of the best soundtracked games of the twelve months of 2020, all with a range of musical styles and tastes, to hopefully find something that everyone can plug their headphones into and bop their head to.
Best Video Game Soundtracks 2020
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Despite what you may think about the reputation that CD Projekt Red’s latest release has garnered since its been “exposed” to some degree on PC and very much so on the previous console generation, one thing you can’t fault is its immaculate and varied soundtrack and original score.
Consisting of over a whopping 80 tracks, Cyberpunk 2077’s soundtrack is a bit of a gargantuan feature, but all that means is that you’ll be hard pressed to find something that doesn’t take your fancy.
The majority of Cyberpunk’s songs are instrumentals which are paired with the many side quests to serenade the action, and Marcin Przybyłowicz has done a superb job creating the pieces that make up the score.
- No Save Point
- The Rebel Path
- Trouble Finds Trouble
- The Heist
Being in early access for quite some time (almost 2 years), the roguelike RPG Hades from Supergiant Games finally saw a full release in September, and with it came an OST that does an amazing job of setting the tone of your adventure and capturing the action of your battles.
Hades has gained universal praise from its player base and critics for its deep and rewarding gameplay, having been slowly and steadily nursed from its initial inception to its proper release.
Consisting primarily of instrumental tracks, you can tell the music was made with purpose. It was made with the thought of how to best add to the player’s experience, and this aim was certainly achieved.
- Mouth of Styx
- House of Hades
- River of Flame
- Scourge of the Furies
- Rage of the Myrmidons
This entry will be no surprise to anyone who has had the privilege of playing and experiencing the brutally visceral music of DOOM (2016), and its successor does not fail to deliver on providing another auditory masterpiece to rip and tear through alien scum as the Doomslayer to.
DOOM has a history of having great music, showcased by the fact that “At Doom’s Gate” is still an absolute banging metal tune almost thirty years after its release.
Taking over the music direction on the 2016 Bethesda Softworks project, Mick Gordon returned to reprise his involvement on DOOM Eternal and the result is just as hardcore and fist-pounding as his first assortment of work.
Full of crunchy riffs and drumlines packed full of double foot pedals, DOOM Eternal is the quintessential metal video game soundtrack of 2020.
- The Only Thing They Fear Is You
- Hell on Earth
- Metal Hell
- Mars Core
- The Super Gore Nest
Animal Crossing: New Horizons
Nintendo’s answer to the phenomenon that is the blocky world builder Minecraft, Animal Crossing: New Horizons has its own unique songs with K.K. Slider’s style of singing.
Aside from these Totakeke special renditions, New Horizons’ tracks are well-suited to the journey of building your new island home.
Sporting over 150 tracks due to the subtle nuances of the daily themes depending on the time of day and the current state of the weather, not to mention the numerous holiday and special days of the year like New Year’s Day and Toy Day, you and your villager will be never be short of a beat to hum along to.
Anyone who’s an avid viewer of Super Smash Bros Ultimate content will almost certainly know the various themes from the Animal Crossing stages from that game, but there’s so many more tunes beyond just “K.K. Condor”.
- 12PM (Rain)
- 9AM (Snow)
- New Year’s Eve (11:55PM)
- Timed Minigame
- Fireworks Festival
Streets of Rage 4
Travelling back to the golden age of video games where you lost countless hours and pocket money at the local arcade, Streets of Rage 4 has a fantastic curation of retro sounding tunes that have just the right dash of modern influence to make them both fresh and somehow vaguely nostalgic.
With tracks by a number of musical maestros like Olivier Deriviere, XL Middleton, and Yuzo Koshiro, the soundtrack will be literal music to the ears of any 90s kid.
This is magnified tenfold for those who grew attached to the original trilogy of SEGA titles and have been waiting so many years to finally get their hands on a beat ‘em up that shows the developers gave their hearts and attention to every area of the project.
- Character Select
- They’re Back
- Funky HQ
- The Streets
- The Commissioner
Watch Dogs Legion
Falling somewhere in between the dystopian futurescape of Cyberpunk 2077 and the utter neo-madness of Yakuza: Like A Dragon, Watch Dogs as a series suffers (I believe anyway) from the fact that it’s an open world game made by Ubisoft, meaning it can be unfairly pre-judged as being “just another Ubisoft game”.
Watch Dogs Legion has a personality that shines through, helped tremendously by its soundtrack.
Having an original track (and an in-game appearance) from grime rapper Stormzy gives the soundtrack a more mainstream appeal, but the other tunes all play their part in adding atmosphere and adrenaline to the story. The radio stations also feature artists like Skepta, Lady Leshurr, Bloq Party, FOALS, Muse, and The Libertines.
- Helen, the Bringer of War
- A Hard Day’s Night
- Cruel Britannia
- It’s All Gone a Bit Tom Tit
Yakuza: Like A Dragon
The Yakuza games are something of a bizarre affair, but that doesn’t make them any less great.
The same goes for their soundtracks, which often feature many different styles of songs that all blend seamlessly to create the perfect accompaniment to the gameplay.
A standout on this list for being influenced and heavily based in the dubstep genre (although not completely), Yakuza: LaD has its off-the-wall personality mirrored in its music, with the themes of the boss battles in particular being just the thing to get your blood pumping and in the zone to take down even the most daunting of foes.
By comparison, its wacky and alternative side missions like go-karting and time attack missions have a light-hearted vibe without losing the energy and tempo that LaD naturally has in its DNA.
- Kamurocho Battle Theme
- Scenario Battle
- Yokohama Battle Theme
- Seiryu Kai Encounter
- Time Attack Race
Ghost of Tsushima
Ghost of Tsushima was one of the best Playstation exclusives of last year, and rightly so.
Its immaculate attention to detail and poignant story made it stand out as a must-own title for anyone with a PS4, and the score was one of the many strong arrows in its quiver.
A theme that weaves itself between all the picks in this list is the way that the music within the game has been created as a partner to the story and the gameplay, almost like a muse to encourage the player and draw them into the world to get lost within their own imagination.
GoT does this periodically throughout its adventure, and enthrals its participants into the shoes of the world of the Ghost.
- Kanashi Uta
- The Way of the Samurai
- A Reckoning in Blood
- The Tale of Sensei Ishikawa
- The Fate of Tsushima
The Last of Us Part II
Dividing its ravenous fanbase with the narrative direction that Naughty Dog decided to take the game in, The Last of Us Part II (like Cyberpunk 2077) had a stellar soundtrack that reflected the mood and tone of the on-screen story with its slow, melancholic acoustic tracks and atmospheric pieces.
Put together by the guitar virtuoso Gustavo Santaolalla with additional music from Mac Quaye, Naughty Dog have had their pairing conjure up and curate a selection of songs that perfectly narrate their story and the bleak post-apocalyptic world they’ve created.
- A Father for a Daughter
- Chasing a Rumor
- Inextinguishable Flames