These are 10 of our favourite indie game soundtracks of 2019
Triple A games have a lot going for them when it comes to getting attention from gamers. They’ve got the budget for visual spectacle and marketing budgets that outpace almost every Indie dev’s operation costs.
Indies devs have had to carve out their market with stylized graphics and nostalgic references. They also have to be on point with their sound design, and fortunately for us, that means awesome music.
Here’s a list of some of the best indie game soundtracks from 2018 to 2019, and is in no particular order. If you like the music, hopefully, that inspires you to check out the game and send the devs some love.
Katana Zero has fast-paced combat and a slow boil of a plot. It successfully combined psychedelic film noir style and 80’s action, and it has a soundtrack to match.
The track “Chinatown” is an excellent example of the humming synth and driving beat that marry a dreamlike quality to relentless percussion. “Overdose” is another great thematically appropriate track. It gives a menacing air of mystery and danger with its subtle ambient synth noises and baseline.
This is a great soundtrack for driving or walking around. I recommend doing so at night while it’s raining, preferably while lurking under massive neon signs.
Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night
Bloodstained is a great Metroidvania game made by the originator of that style of gameplay, Koji Igarashi. If you didn’t know, Iga-san created one of the most iconic games in the Castlevania franchise, Symphony of the Night, an all-time favorite for many people who grew up with the PS1 classic.
The soundtrack for Bloodstained isn’t just reminiscent of that game, it’s written by the same amazing composer who wrote Symphony’s soundtrack. Michiru Yamane blends amazing orchestral sounds with striking electric guitar stings that really draw you into the Bloodstained universe.
“Voyage of Promise” will be the main track you hear as you explore the castle, and it’s a song I find myself humming hours after I put the controller down. One of my favorite tracks is “Bibliotheca Ex Machina”. It’s a blend of haunting violin and harpsichord on top of a rock and roll drumkit. The syncopated strings over the driving percussion add an otherworldly feel to something that could have ultimately sounded like generic orchestra music from a less talented composer.
Blasphemous is another Metroidvania style game that’s been highly praised for its gorgeous pixel art and truly monstrous imagery and dark themes, and rightly so. The thing that I haven’t seen a lot of people comment on is how its soundtrack really sells the imagery and art style.
“La Muerte de los Relininchos” starts off with a low bass-heavy synth buzz that sounds like a hive of angry wasps trapped in a sub-woofer, while gentle mandolins ratchet up the tension. The song itself feels like holding your breath, waiting for something to jump out and skin you.
“Vuestra Faz Denegrida” is a great example of the soundtrack’s ability to sell the visuals and story. The main percussion literally sounds like a steel hammer, while the ambient noises over top ratchet up the tension in the piece, all the while a haunting melody struggles to rise above the sullen menace of the rest of the instrumentation.
It makes you feel like a tiny thing struggling against a massive and uncaring world, all the while grasping on to the hope that you can overcome the direness of your situation. This is definitely deserving as one of the top indie game soundtracks of the year.
Sea of Solitude
Sea of Solitude is an adventure style exploration game that delves into a metaphorical journey dealing with mental health and feelings of isolation and depression. Set in a sunken analog of Berlin, the main character searches for the meaning behind the state of the landscape and the state of herself.
The soundtrack does a great deal of work establishing the central themes of the game. “Sunny’s Theme” brings this across amazingly well. Guy Jackson’s arrangement of soft haunting vocals echoing across a slow methodical piano melody give you an almost melancholic peace.
“Through the Dark Matrix” starts with a strained, almost mechanical sound until it gives way to sad strings and piano, driving home the danger and isolation of the world you’re combing through.
Cross Code is an SNES inspired RPG that calls back to character-driven classics from the 90s. The music style is reminiscent of the good old days of JRPGs as well.
Deniz Akbulut is displaying an amazing understanding of the things that made the music of games like Chrono Trigger, Star Ocean and Final Fantasy great.
“Fierce Battle” is the best battle music I’ve heard outside a Nobuo Uematsu composition. “Awakened” is another great part of the soundtrack. It reminds me of a cross between Chrono Trigger and Phantasy Star IV with its strange burbling synths and light, dancing melody.
If you are a lover of old school JRPG soundtracks, this is definitely worth a listen.
Heaven’s Vault is an interesting adventure game that has a focus on translating a completely alien language as its central puzzle mechanic as opposed to inventory puzzles. Using the main character’s linguistic and archaeological skills to track down a colleague that’s gone missing is set to a great score written by Laurence Chapman.
“Under the Eye of Kabenya” is a wistful and soaring string arrangement that underscores the contemplative style of gameplay with a hint of excitement. It gives you the feeling that you’re the first to see or experience something.
The subtle staccato of the cellos remind me of your heart rate speeding up. “The Children of Elboreth” is an excellent example of a string arrangement that can set you on edge without distracting you. The almost imperceptible marimba underneath the straining string section creates a fantastic undertone of malice.
If you want to check out the full soundtrack you can find it on Laurence Chapmans’ bandcamp page.
Cadence of Hyrule
Cadence of Hyrule is a spinoff game made by the creators of The Crypt of the Necrodancer, and as such, the music is a direct part of the game mechanics. It’s a hybrid of Zelda game and rhythm game.
The tunes are all essentially remixes of the classic Legend of Zelda music we all know and love. It reminds me of hunting down techno remixes of the Zelda overworld theme to burn to mix CDs for my friends. “Cave” is a great funky remix of the cave theme from Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past with plenty of downbeat to bop your head to. “Gerudo Valley” is another awesome callback to classic Zelda.
This mix puts a great emphasis on the guitar, and really puts in mind a spaghetti western style.
The Red Strings Club
The Red Strings Club is a fascinating adventure game, styled somewhat in the vein of old Lucas Arts point and click series. It’s like a weird covalent bond of Monkey Island, Blade Runner, and Of Human Bondage.
With its futuristic setting and strong character writing, you’ll be plumbing the depths of what it means to be human, the worth of human emotions, and what price you are willing to pay for the truth. With theme and settings this heavy, the game has a soundtrack to match.
“Consultant Engineer” has three separate guitar tracks, all seeming to compete for attention, but somehow come together in their dissonance and create this strange, almost surreal soundscape, all grounded by a constant melody that ties it all together perfectly.
“Corporate Lawyer” is an amazing number, that drives home a feeling of alienation and sounds like Tom Waits and Syd Barret got together in the studio for a night of psychedelics and heavy whiskey drinking.
Desert Child is a game where you play as down and out hoverbike racer trying to reach the top. The soundtrack does the heavy lifting when it comes to the feeling of struggling to make ends meet.
The lo-fi hip hop style is on point, and it provides some much-needed texture. “Love is Here” reminds me of early days hip hop, like The Neptunes or the Roots, while a meandering solo and vocal loop play over the tight beat.
“Once a Dead Man” will make you nod your head from the first bar. It’s a great mix of audio clips and horn sections, with a funky beat to match. If you listen to this while you’re driving, watch your speed, because you don’t want to get pulled over.
Lucah: Born of a Dream
Lucah: Born of a Dream is a very stylized action RPG. Think of playing Dark Souls but instead of being the chosen undead, you are a chalkboard doodle. It’s incredibly unique, and not as derivative as it sounds. It’s one of those games that are hard to explain and should be experienced, much like its soundtrack.
Nicolo Telesca has put together an amazing blend of synth and industrial sounds. It really lends an eerie otherworldliness to Lucah: Born of a Dream. “Harbinger I” has an almost Nine Inch Nails quality to it with its electronic percussion and ambient synth sounds. “Christian III” is a fast-paced and aggressive track. The relentless bass and percussion are offset by the same dreamy synth sounds that accompany the rest of the soundtrack.
Nicolo Telesca has a bandcamp page with the entire album on it to listen to, and you can buy individual tracks or the entire thing.
These are just some of our favorite indie game OSTs of 2019. We look forward to what 2020 can bring us!
What are your favorite indie game soundtracks? Let us know in the comments below!