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Max Payne 3 – “TEARS” (by HEALTH)

In a world where video game music is often times just Hans Zimmer rip offs (or just straight up Hans Zimmer) there is “TEARS.” Heavy, industrial and entirely unique, “TEARS” adds weight to protagonists Max’s “hell in a hand-basket” situation. Performed by the art-rock band HEALTH, “TEARS” is a wonderful example of what more game soundtracks should do: Take a chance.

 

The Walking Dead – “Take Us Back” (by Alela Diane)

Whether you’re a fan of the comic, the TV show, or have yet to experience the gritty, sadistic world of The Walking Dead, do yourself a favor and check out Telltale Game’s fantastic adventure game. It’s a game about choices, loss, and doing whatever you can to protect the ones you love. “Take Us Back”  by Alela Diane represents a slight reprieve in the volatile, sad story of protagonist Lee Everett. It is a beautiful, and fitting song to one of the best games of the year.

 

Mass Effect 3 – “Leaving Earth” (by Clint Mansell)

Mass Effect 3 saw the series’ story arc come to a close. Players were no longer preparing for an upcoming alien invasion, but were in the middle of it, and they were losing. “Leaving Earth” by Clint Mansell captures the games tone perfectly: a desperate piano part spiked with looming horns, and an end that crescendos just enough to let you know there is still hope. Mass Effect 3 and its soundtrack perfectly rounded out, and bookended of the best video game experiences of this generation.

 

Journey – “I Was Born For This” (by Austin Wintory)

The soundtrack to Journey was the first video game soundtrack to be nominated for a Grammy Award. Composer Austin Wintory was put in the same category as Howard Shore, Hans Zimmer, and John Williams. John. Freakin’. Williams. A huge honor to be sure, a giant leap for video games, and completely deserved. Let “I Was Born For This” show you why:

 

 Sound Shapes – “Cities” (by Beck)

Man, Beck just keeps popping up everywhere. In addition to a bevy of movie work, he somehow found time to contribute three songs to the addictive, music based puzzle game Sound Shapes. “Cities” is a raucous and catchy song that fits perfectly within Beck’s soundscape. Sound Shapes may be the closest you ever get to running through a Beck song:

 

SPECIAL BONUS WUB-WUB: Borderlands 2

2012 was the year of dub-step in video games. Borderlands 2’s Claptrap did it best though.