We've already recognized a whole bunch of the best game soundtracks of 2011. But of course, there are only so many hours in the day—only so much time to play games, and one can only write about so many game soundtracks.
Fortunately, you guys were up to the task of nominating outstanding soundtracks that didn't make our official round-up. On Thursday, you put forth a ton of worthy original soundtracks from the year. I gathered 'em all together and listed them here.
As an unscientific aside, if I had to gauge the general tenor, enthusiasm, and number of nominations, Kotaku's "Readers' Choice" Award for Best 2011 Video Game Soundtrack would go to Deus Ex: Human Revolution, with Bastion and Xenoblade Chronicles as runners-up. Y'all have good taste.
Each of these entries has been written by a Kotaku commenter, sometimes more than one.
Let's get down to it, shall we?
There are two games that make my short list: Xenoblade Chronicles and Radiant Historia. If we are only counting US releases, then I will default to Radiant Historia. I place the Xenoblade OST above Radiant Historia's though. It is not because of the established talent behind it, but rather because of the surprising great work of ACE+. Each piece really brings you into your new environments, and the new battle theme that kicks in some time into the game is just fantastic. This is one song and environment I particularly enjoyed (and it is different from the other tracks usually posted by others and myself). —Dodgewd
At least for being released this year in the UK, Xenoblade deserves a call out for contributions from heavyweights like Yasunori Mitsuda and Yoko Shimomura.—Tye The Czar
True dat. Some great tracks throughout. This track plays in the first open area you get to explore. It conveys a great sense of freedom, one of the best aspects of Xenoblade from both a gameplay and a JRPG context. The first time I accidentally jumped off a bridge and plummeted hundreds of feet down into the water below, only to find that I could swim around and explore was something special. Even after spending hour 7 in Colony working on sidequest #4563, this track is fresh.—bobtheblob916
"Xenoblade Chronicles". I have played many videogames, among them many JRPGs and as a music hobbyist, if there something that I really appreciate is a soundtrack that helps you immerse in it's game world. "Xenoblade Chronicles" boasts a 4 audio CD soundtrack that manages to mimic the exact feelings of the what's happening on the screen. Beautiful, stunning compositions and I hope this wins next year when the game hits America and you will all see why I am nominating it right here.—Shiryu
To The Moon
There's a place deep inside me that rarely gets touched, moved. Too much of life is filled with the ordinary and mundane, we are surrounded by it, we choke on it. The moment I heard those first few simple notes I was swept to that place. The music has the ability to make the world stop for that brief moment when you listen to it. The soundtrack is all inclusive, all immersive and utterly captivating. It demands all of your attention, it gently compels you to feel, to share at that moment in the game the feelings that the characters go through... it is truly magical.—Han Cillers
Shadows of the Damned
There was a lot of great game music this year, I agree with most if not all of the previous posts. Though there's one game in particular that I feel bears mentioning: Shadows of the Damned. It has a really fantastic sound design, and I think this track is a descent, if not perfect, representation of the kind of atmospheric music you can find in it. That's not to say this is a great representation of the style of music you'll find in the game, though. That would be quite a feat, for the soundtrack shifts wildly from heavy metal, to old fashioned ragtime, to mariachi rock expertly from scene to scene. It would be impossible for me to disregard it as a heavy contender for my game music of the year.—VonAbsynt
Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective
I gotta say, Ghost Trick's music really gave the game's more intense moments the dramatic edge they needed. It's a bit like the music that plays when you make a successful objection in Phoenix Wright, it just gives you that "Oh man, shit just got real" feeling. My personal game of the year, for sure!—Diamond Sea
Batman: Arkham City
Bastion, Deus Ex: HR and The Witcher 2 are all highlights but I was most surprised by Batman: Arkham City. Perhaps because I could barely recall anything from Asylum, or because I was playing Arkham City so damn much. The theme is wonderful, and I love the build-up from about 1:17, that increase in tension that releases into a bold heroic yet tragic theme at around 1:56. 'This Court Is Now In Session' is also great music by which to punch people. In the game.—hot_heart
I am surprised not a single person has mentioned Sonic Generations and its incredible soundtrack! While I certainly wouldn't nominate it for any game of the year awards, its soundtrack is probably the best of any Sonic game. Rather than go straight-up rock, the composers instead went with a very violin-heavy sound that actually fits Sonic perfectly. Granted, almost every single song is a remix of a previous game, but it's impossible to deny that this is an incredible piece. The piano backing the violin is beautiful, and the drums really give the entire thing a sense of speed that just makes you want to move.—Goopygoo
Child of Eden
How could everyone forget Child of Eden's OST? The entire game is based on music, beats, and rhythm. This style of Tech-House is easy to listen to. Very catchy and with a soulful singer behind it too. Genki Rockets FTW!—tehjonel
The soundtrack to Catherine is an incredibly strange mix of classical music and, I guess, rock? Either way, it's tremendously unique and the perfect music for a frenetic puzzle game.—PsychoDantis
I can't BELIEVE that no one has posted anything about Battlefield 3 yet!
The strange, electronic soundtrack goes perfectly with the atmosphere of the game, both in the singleplayer and multiplayer. For instance, when a multiplayer battle is reaching its conclusion, a track starts playing in the background, and the fight seems more and more intense until you see "Your team lost." or "Your team won!"
For me the music is a tribute to the intensity of battle that the game is trying to convey. That syncopated 6-feel rhythm sounds spastic yet oddly ordered, sort of like a series of autocannon shots or mortar shells going off. That little synth line that comes in on top is just so wonderfully placed, and carries the song, which starts out rhythmically, harmonically. All the little beeps and sounds are very similar to a lot of the noises that you hear in the game, like the target lock sound on your Javelin or a bullet whizzing by, or bits of dirt hitting the ground after an explosion.
Something about this music just really gets me into the game... makes me want to sprint around and vault over things before snapping my sight onto that Russian that's about to cap a flag.—llama.fragments
Yoko Shimomura just nailed it with Radiant Historia's OST, in my humble opinion. It's a game that goes without complex graphics and voiced dialogue, but it doesn't really need either because every track does such a wonderful job of setting the mood of a scene, conveying a particular emotion. This is the stuff classics are made of, both the game itself and the soundtrack.—Paradox Me
Someone already mentioned it but my vote goes to Radiant Historia too. Even though the soundtrack hasn't that many tracks it's still fantastic. Then again I shouldn't be surprised since the soundtrack was composed by Yoko Shimomura. And the game is amazing as well so if you haven't played it yet, go play it.—klezdoom
Dark Souls for certain. Some of those boss themes are outright intense, but I fell in love with the game as soon as I heard the menu music. It's just so calm yet haunting as well, as if it were trying to comfort you before your hardship comes about each time. It almost reminds me of the Resident Evil save room themes.—GanymedeJupiter
Rarely does a game's negative use of music affect how powerful the musical parts actually are.—snakelinksonic
Blasphemous Experiment (Nybbeth's theme) is probably the best example I can think of [of why this soundtrack needs more attention]. That song is just plain chilling, especially considering it's a battle theme. The original SNES version is okay, but the PSP arrangement is just ridiculously good. Such a good damn song. Whenever you hear it, it's also a good sign that you're probably about to get your ass kicked!—Archaotic
And there you have 'em, our readers' picks for the best soundtracks of 2011. Thanks to all who contributed!
The "Casino Night Pinball" minigame that console gamers got for preordering the game will be available to PC gamers via Steam on Dec. 26. It'll only run you $1.59 in the U.S. (Overseas, it's £0.99, €1.59, $2.99 in Australia).
In the minigame, you play as either classic Sonic or modern Sonic, and he's the pinball. Modern Sonic has a limited number of boosts, but otherwise the two are identical. Sega released these three screenshots with the announcement.
Still no word on when or if this will be made available over Xbox Live or PlayStation Network.
Masato Nakamura says he composed the remix of Sonic the Hedgehog's Green Hill Zone theme the way he did the original: By imagining it as a film. The difference is he only had still photographs when he wrote the song 20 years ago. Now for source material has the advantage of full motion video—and, of course, one of video gaming's most iconic pieces of music.
Wrapping up a series of vignettes on Sonic's 20th birthday, Sega takes a look at the substantial musical history of its flagship series. I'm not sure I gave the soundtrack in Sonic Generations enough credit; the remixes were very well done, although some of the tunes with vocals (notably City Escape's) had a sugar-pop way of boring into your skull.
But in any ranking of contributors to the much loved genre of video game music, Sonic and its artists would have to get a prominent mention. This video gives them a chance to take a bow, so give it a watch.
One thing we need to own up to with all these video game icons coming up on 15, 20 and 25 year anniversaries is that we're getting older, too. Just yesterday, Crecente was talking about all the trouble he has peeing lately. Poor guy.
With that aging comes memory loss, so you might need a refresher on how Sega's spiky blue mascot came to be. Or, maybe the young'uns amongst you need to learn it for the first time ever. This video in support of Sonic Generations rounds up the folks who where the creators and decision makers behind Sonic's debut and explains how the speedy icon came into the world. Blast processing!
Desperately attempting to please two different sets of fans on Sonic the Hedgehog's 20th anniversary, Sega has crammed two different types of hedgehog gameplay into Sonic Generations, a formula that never fails to create entertaining game reviews.
What else can Sega do? Some fans hate 2D Sonic, other fans hate 3D Sonic. They've tried making different games for different fans, but one group or the other always feels alienated, or something isn't quite right, or the stars are knocked out of alignment. They just can't win, so they've just crammed the whole history of the series into one title with two very different types of gameplay and called it a day. Here's your damn Sonic game, thanks for playing.
So tell me, assembled video game reviewers, how does that make you feel?
Revisiting two decades of games, Sonic Generations is pitched as a celebration of Sega's previously pudgy mascot and the timeless appeal of blue skies, checkerboard loops, and things that go "boing." But much like the one Sonic receives in the opening, Generations is closer to a lame birthday party that you attend out of courtesy.
That feeling you get from playing every Sonic game after Genesis brews as disappointment and eventually becomes sympathy, mostly for the branded custodians at Sonic Team. They can't seem to please anybody, can they? Oh, Sonic's jumping feels wrong. The momentum is messed up over here. It's about exploration, not speed! Guys, the physics of my anthropomorphic blue hedgehog is inaccurate within this segmented fantasy landscape! Even when they make a game — well, let's say half a game — dedicated to capturing Sonic as he was, before vocal chords and a third dimension, they still can't win. Why?
The quest begins with side-scrolling tributes to memorable Genesis-era stages as classic Sonic. These levels rekindled the magic of being a wide-eyed kid seeing Sonic's world for the first time. Platforming is slightly tighter than in Sonic 4, which makes landing precise jumps easier. Tearing through loop de loops in Green Hill and bouncing across clouds in Sky Sanctuary are among my favorite Sonic moments, and they translate perfectly. Unfortunately, the good times fade when Sonic begins cruising through 2D versions of levels from post-Dreamcast Sonic games. Traversing the burning ruins of Crisis City from the awful 2006 Sonic the Hedgehog reboot is an exercise in frustration packed with unfair drop-offs and annoying gales.
The 2D levels feel as close to the original Genesis games as ever, and their use of old-school moves and physics was a smart call. But even the 3D takes on Sonic's oeuvre do the franchise justice, as they avoid most camera-based frustrations of early 3D editions. The two takes on nine different stages actually benefit from being based on the same template: seeing a 2D version of a modern enemy or hearing an updated version of Green Hill Zone's iconic theme makes you want to try both stage types.
After each of the worlds has been restored by playing both acts, five challenge maps open for each world, each playable as - and completely different as - either Sonic. New Sonic has friends along to help, Amy helping him jump with her hammer, Knuckles digging for treasure, and (shudder) Cream providing a limited number of rings in otherwise ringless levels.
These are 90% optional - you only have to play one of each of the world's ten challenges to grab the boss keys and move on, but they're also where you'll go to get your money's worth, when your relatively short minimum obligations end.
But when you put the past to one side and look at the new game in isolation, there are essentially two games on show here - and I don't mean the classic/modern divide. The first is the one that stumbles on the things that Mario does so well. The attractive yet haphazard experience ridden with missed platforms, unexpected deaths and awkward low-speed movement in 3D space.
Then there's the other game. The one that's cruising by on the grind rail above it all, pulling tricks through bonus hoops with stars in its wake, locking onto secret ziplines and waiting for the split second where Sonic completes an aerial somersault to face the next platform before boosting away for another S grade. The one that's everything fans have wanted for so long. You can guess which one I've been playing.
It feels refreshing to be able to say that Sonic is good again. His upward trajectory over the last year continues and he's only gaining momentum. Sonic Generations is largely a game for the most hardcore of Sonic fans, but for the millions who have fond memories of narrowly dodging spikes, grinding on rails, or even that time he was a pinball, Sonic Generations is a game made for you.
My suggestion? Find a friend that likes the Sonic you don't.
Sega is looking to reward that with a speed-run contest through the 3D version of Green Hill Zone in Sonic Generations, and you don't even need a full copy of the game to participate. Just go get the game's demo, and then practice, practice, practice (and say goddammit, goddammit, goddammit) until you get that time below 1:50. The video above (which is fun to watch even if you don't have the game) breaks down the optimal path with protips to help you get it perfect, but it still looks like it will take a lot of patience, practice and retries.
Capture your performance, upload it to YouTube, and you'll be eligible for some Sonic-themed prizes from Sega, but the bragging rights are the real reward. See the link for details and rules. The contest is open from today until Nov. 9.