Best Game Soundtracks March 2017

From Night in the Woods to NieR, March was a moody, mysterious month of tunes.

Greetings, friends! March has drawn to a close, and so it’s time to take a look back at the game soundtracks that have dropped this month. The bounty continues unabated! The games that were wonderful happen to have amazing soundtracks, and the games that were disappointments still somehow had amazing soundtracks! There’s a lot of good stuff to get through, so I’ll go ahead and get started with…

...Horizon Zero Dawn, which was technically released at the end of February but whose soundtrack didn’t see release until early this month. Horizon has won some considerable accolades, especially for its beautiful art direction, and our own Steven Strom seemed pretty positive in his review of it. The game’s score, by composer Joris de Man (who previously worked with developer Guerrilla Games on their Killzone series) and band The Flight, features plenty of lovely vocals by Julie Elven over intense orchestral pieces. It’s huge, too: 80 tracks over four discs! Absolutely give this one a listen, even if you’re not going to check out the game.

Listen: Spotify  Buy: iTunes - Amazon

Remember last month when I told you I’d let you know when the full soundtrack to Night in the Woods dropped? Here it is! Mitch Kocen was pretty lukewarm on Infinite Fall’s story-driven game in his review, but I absolutely devoured Night in the Woods and fell head over heels for its nuanced depiction of the Rust Belt I once called home--I spoke to Scott Benson about it for Zam a couple weeks back! Alec Holowka’s score for NITW is by turns mellow and menacing, chill and chilling--do yourself a favor and check this one out in full.

Listen/Buy: Bandcamp (Vol. 1) - Bandcamp (Vol. 2)

Of course, just about every game released this month (and maybe even this year) is going to be hard-pressed to get out of the shadow of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. While Willie Clark was down on it in his review for our site, the general reaction to BotW has been unbridled enthusiasm, with equal parts glowing superlatives and passionate thirst for an anthropomorphic shark. I don’t own either of the systems on which it was released, so I’ve had to gaze longingly on him--uh, it, the game--from afar. I’ve been consoling myself by listening to the game’s wonderfully understated, Ghibli-esque piano tracks, which are a marked departure for the series and very calming. Unfortunately it doesn’t seem as though we’ll see an official soundtrack release for Breath of the Wild, though there’s a sampler CD that comes with the special editions if you happened to order one of those.

Listen: YT playlist

It’s something of a niche series, but another Atelier game released this month: Atelier Firis: The Alchemist and the Mysterious Journey. I haven’t played any of them myself, but I’ve listened to quite a few of their soundtracks, which have a lovely, pastoral feel to them that I’ve always found comforting as a long-time fan of JRPGs. It’s unlikely you’d be inclined to hop into a lengthy JRPG with Persona 5 right around the corner, but if you’re looking for the videogame equivalent of comfort food, Atelier Firis might be up your alley.

Listen: YT playlist  Buy: CDJapan (import, physical)

If someone was gushing on social media this month about a game they were enjoying and it wasn’t Zelda, they were almost certainly talking about the superb Nier: Automata, eccentric director Yoko Taro’s opus of robots, beautiful androids, and questions about the nature of humanity. The game’s score, by composers Keiichi Okabe and Keigo Hoashi, is intense and grand, perfectly capturing the game’s setpiece battles and frantic action. Fortunately for us, it’s gotten a proper US release, meaning that it’s easy to add this superb soundtrack to your library.

Listen: YT playlist  Buy: iTunes - Amazon - CDJapan (import, physical)

This month also saw the release of Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Wildlands, which had the dubious distinction of seeing a formal complaint against it by the Bolivian government for its ugly politics. There were also formal complaints against it by an awful lot of game critics, including our own Steven Strom. Nevertheless, the score, by composer Alain Johannes, does Bolivia much better justice than the rest of the game--heavily utilizing instruments like the charango and a cigar-box guitar alongside more traditional electronic fare. If you do happen to pick up Wildlands, make sure to turn the voices of your squadmates down and your music up.

Listen: Spotify - YT playlist  Buy: iTunes - Amazon

I’d heard absolutely nothing about Kona before gathering info for this roundup, but after a little bit of research and listening to the soundtrack, I’ve quickly added it to my “to play” list. It’s a survival game murder mystery set in the Canadian wilderness, and it’s got shades of The Long Dark and Firewatch. The soundtrack, by band CuréLabel, is moody and compelling. If you have time in your busy 2017 gaming schedule for a chilly mystery, it sounds like Kona can scratch that (admittedly specific) itch. Give it a listen!

Listen: Spotify  Buy: iTunes - Amazon

Loot Rascals is a goofy-lookin’ roguelike about an astronaut attempting to navigate an alien planet which is full of creatures intent on murdering them. I haven’t heard many people talking about it, which is a bummer on account of its distinct art style and quirky music by composer “Grandmaster Gareth.” The soundtrack is peppy and upbeat, reminding me a little bit of last year’s Diaries of a Spaceport Janitor soundtrack, which was one of my favorites. Scoot on over to Bandcamp and listen to a couple tracks off this one--you won’t regret it!

Listen/Buy: Bandcamp

And then, of course, there’s Mass Effect: Andromeda, the follow-up to everybody’s favorite space fantasy trilogy of the last decade or so, which had the unenviable task of trying to live up to its predecessors. Andromeda was unfortunate enough to stumble during perhaps the strongest few months games have had in years, and it was quickly separated from the pack and savaged by the ruthless predators of public opinion. Probably it got worse than it deserved, but I haven’t gotten around to confirming that for myself--there are kind of a lot of awesome games on offer at the moment! In any case, I’ve been listening to Andromeda’s score, by John Paesano, and it’s really quite excellent! It captures the same spirit of the original trilogy’s music, building off the sound of Mass Effect 3 and bringing it down a notch toward something more intimate. Even if you’ve already written Andromeda off, don’t sleep on the soundtrack.

Listen: Spotify - YT playlist  Buy: iTunes - Amazon

That’s it for this month! Check back at the end of April, when I will absolutely run down the month’s games and not just try to convince you to buy several copies of the Persona 5 soundtrack. I promise.