We've seen plenty of high-quality games this year, and while visuals, gameplay and narrative design can make for great core experiences on their own, what's a game without its tunes, bells and whistles, so to speak? We've taken a trip down short-term memory lane and assembled a top-five list of games with sound design and music that puts the rest to shame.
5. Cadence of Hyrule - Crypt of the NecroDancer Feat. The Legend of Zelda by Brace Yourself Games - Rhythm games have come a long way over the years, and the last year or so has seen some stellar efforts (including Beat Saber and Sayanora Wild Hearts). Among their number in 2019 is Cadence of Hyrule: Crypt of the NecroDancer, which as the name implies is a game that borrows the core elements of the excellent Crypt of the NecroDancer and blends that unique brand of toe-tapping dungeon crawling with the wonderful world of Zelda. The result is an infectiously enjoyable roguelite experience that borrows the best of both worlds, all wrapped up with a more welcoming difficulty curve that should ensure that anyone can pick it up and have some fun.
4. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare by Infinity Ward - Call of Duty has always been packed with action, but the sound design on this year's Modern Warfare elevates things to the next level, in no small part due to the detailed research Infinity Ward undertook to make the guns sound authentic when compared to their real-life counterparts. These sounds are reflected and react with the environments in the game, and the guns are only a small part of the entire experience, as you're constantly immersed in the battlefield via helicopter noises, huge explosions, and more. In the past, we have sometimes found hard to feel like we're in combat, but the weighty and impactful sound design of Modern Warfare helps elevate the series.
3. Ape Out by Gabe Cuzzillo - Ape Out is one of the most stylish games of the year, although that can get lost in the brutality of the violence it so casually depicts. As the name implies oh so subtly, you play as an ape and you're trying to get out of the facility where you're being held. Cue a rampage through the building and surrounding area, where anyone who stands in your way is there to be ripped apart and splattered across the walls.
The unique visual identity of the game is only a part of the appeal of Ape Out - the soundtrack is just as important in creating the game's uniquely absurd atmosphere. The jazz-inspired music that accompanies your dance with death is completely adaptive to the experience on screen, and it reacts to every lunge and smash, building into a chaotic freestyle symphony of violent destruction.
2. Untitled Goose Game by House House - Dan Golding's soundtrack for Untitled Goose Game almost never came to pass. At one point, there was no firm plan to implement music, and it wasn't until the studio got feedback on a trailer wherein Golding took parts of Debussy's Preludes and reworked it into something fresh. Fans loved the style and insisted that it be included in the final game, and House House duly complied.
These wonderfully delicate musical arrangements were then transformed into an adaptive soundtrack that follows you around the sleepy British village where the game is set. It makes an already playful experience into something more involving, more personal. This understated auditory experience complements the game's distinctive visual style, and the delightful goose honks will forever echo in our minds.
1. Control by Remedy Entertainment - Finnish studio Remedy Entertainment has been at the forefront of sound design for a long time, working with phenomenally talented composer Petri Alanko for its soundtracks since Alan Wake in 2010, as well as boasting a talented audio team and a fantastic team of voice actors (and even the Finnish rock band Poets of the Fall).
The latest Remedy game to grace us with its presence is Control, which, accompanied by some sublime visuals, offers stellar sound design well worthy of top spot on our list. The ambient sound effects, the otherworldly, mysterious and captivating soundtrack, and the original song by Poets of the Fall came together to elevate an already fantastic experience, creating the kind of intense atmosphere that we've come to expect from the developer.
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