March game soundtrack roundup

Feast your ears on the best of March's new game music.

Greetings, fellow audiophiles! Nate Ewert-Krocker here again, to walk you through a smorgasbord of auditory delights: All the game soundtracks released this month that are worth sampling! Strap on your headphones and get cozy.

I’m honor-bound to begin this month’s roundup with an admission of oversight: February’s roundup was written just far enough from the end of the month that I neglected to point you toward the soundtrack of the excellent Stardew Valley. Composer/developer/benevolent harvest god Eric Barone has managed a collection of tunes that successfully evoke nostalgic memories of the game’s inspiration, Harvest Moon, while also giving Stardew Valley its own distinct identity. Not an easy feat! If you’re anything like me, you’ve already been listening to these songs for several dozen hours as you meticulously plot out your cranberry harvest, but if you haven’t yet made a trip to the Valley, maybe have a listen and contemplate the agricultural life. Here’s “Summer (The Sun Can Bend An Orange Sky)”:

You can purchase Stardew’s soundtrack on the game’s official website, or listen to more sample tracks over on SoundCloud.

Also released at the end of February just after my last roundup was The Town of Light, a first-person psychological thriller set in a faithful recreation of a very real asylum in Italy. It sounds like the game is uneven but exceptionally bleak, making it a good choice for those of you who’d like to test your mettle against the legitimate cruelty of early 20th-century society’s treatment of the mentally ill. The soundtrack, by Italian artist Aseptic Void, is dark, ambient, and atmospheric--not exactly a joy to listen to, but very effective. Here’s a sample:

You can have a listen to the rest, if you’re feeling bold, over at Aseptic Void’s Bandcamp.

Which brings us into March proper, in which the biggest AAA release was undoubtedly The Division, which has been the talk of the (plague-swept, post-apocalyptic) town for several weeks now. You can read about the game’s fine shooting and ugly, ugly politics here at Zam or, really, pretty much anywhere else on the web. I like shooting and looting as much as the next dude, but reading the tide of sentiments highlighting the game’s moral ickiness left me pretty confident that I could give the game a pass--but the game’s soundtrack, by composer Ola Strandh, is totally worth listening to! It’s bombastic and cinematic, intense without being obtrusive, an excellent choice to put in your headphones if you’re trying to power through that paper, align all your spreadsheets, or file the last of those pesky TPS reports. Here’s “Mall Rats”:

Ubisoft, bless ‘em, has put the whole OST up on their UBILOUD YouTube channel and on Spotify, and it’s available for purchase on Amazon and iTunes.

If The Division isn’t your thing, you could always check out the much quieter apocalypse of Shardlight, the latest point-and-click adventure by Wadjet Eye Games. The story of a young woman with a fatal disease in a world ravaged by nuclear war is scored by Nathaniel Chambers, who uses acoustic guitar and string instruments to create a sound that’s alternately oppressive and cozy, and always bleak. Here’s “The Doctor”:

The Shardlight OST has a plethora of excellent tracks, so do click around over at Chambers’s Bandcamp page.

At the end of every month, when I go back over my list of releases, there are always a couple of smaller titles that I realize passed completely under my radar: Top of that list this time was Deadbolt, which looks and sounds like it belongs at the intersection of Hotline Miami Ave. and Gunpoint Drive. The soundtrack, by Chris Christodoulou (of Risk of Rain fame), is an absolute blast from start to finish, bouncing back and forth between guitars and electronica to produce a darkness imbued with energy. Listen to “Blood on the Dancefloor” and get your toes tappin’:

I highly recommend taking a jaunt over to Christodoulou’s Bandcamp, where other fine beats await. (Check out “The Proverbial Dust Biters,” another great jam.)

Whew! That sure was a lot of darkness in a row, huh? Still with me? Need a little levity? Here’s the main theme from Mario & Sonic at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.

Yes, that is a real videogame! I am surprised to note that it has not dominated my entire Twitter timeline in the way that The Division and Stardew Valley seem to. I don’t imagine that many of you would have sought out the M&SatR16OG soundtrack of your own volition, but you might consider giving it a listen anyway if you feel like your day would be improved by a little light samba. It’s pleasant! Some generous soul has put together a YouTube playlist you can check out.

A game that I have seen some buzz about on social media is Pokkén Tournament, the Bandai Namco/Nintendo collaboration that lets you put a luchador outfit on Pikachu and do you really need to know anything else about it? I confess that with the Pokémon front and center, I’d forgotten that Bandai Namco would put their dance-heavy Tekken talent on the soundtrack, and the result is a whole bundle of high-energy songs sure to put a skip in your step. Here, check out “Neos City” for a taste:

 

The songs on this OST are varied as heck, so it’s totally worth clicking around this YouTube playlist to find something that’s your speed. (May I recommend “Tellur Town (Autumn)” and “Magikarp Festival” for some serious variety?)

If you want what is probably the peppiest, most smile-inducing soundtrack of the month, you’ve got to listen to Brandon Ellis’s OST for Catlateral Damage, the first-person mischievous feline simulator. This is a game where you hop up on shelves and knock valuables onto the floor for points. If you’re not already sold on it, I’m not sure what I can add to entice you, but have a listen to “Feline Fine,” the tutorial music, which is sure to elicit at least a grudging half-smile, you grump, you:

(Did I mention the tracks all have names like “Pawsative Catitude” and “Get Meowta Here”? The dad in me approves of all of these puns.) Unfortunately, I think the OST is only for sale on Steam at the moment, but you can stream it all over on SoundCloud. Go on, what are you waiting fur?

No? Fine.

One of the big names in videogame composition released a soundtrack this month-- Jack Wall, who’s rightfully praised for his scores for the first two Mass Effect games, contributed his talents to Fugitive Games’ Into the Stars, which is being billed as a more visually-detailed FTL. The score rather sounds like Mass Effect, coincidentally, so if you think you’d like more of that in your life then you might want to have a listen:

If you want to grab the soundtrack digitally, it’s available on Amazon--if you’d like to grab it physically, iam8bit has put out a lovely-looking vinyl, perfect for throwing on the turntable at your next space-themed brunch.

The last soundtrack I’ll highlight this month is from a game that I’d wager is going to get overlooked, and if this soundtrack is anything to go by, that’s going to be an unforgivable crime. Tomáš Dvorak’s score for Samorost 3 is ethereal, otherworldly, and absolutely mesmerizing. This is the kind of music for which you want a nice pair of headphones, a comfy beanbag chair, and two solid hours of uninterrupted free time. It conjures up an alien world that begs to be explored, even divorced from the game it accompanies. Please, have a listen:

Take the afternoon off. Tell Jonathan to hold all your calls. Go to your beanbag chair (or purchase one), grab your headphones, and listen to the rest of the album over at Dvorak’s Bandcamp page.

Did I say that was the last album I’d mention this month? I misled you. I think it’s important that you know that the soundtrack to Transistor is now out on vinyl, so if any of you folks wanted to know what to get me for my birthday, well, there you go. That, or this positively scrumptious vinyl remaster of the soundtrack to Streets of Rage 2, the greatest Sega Genesis music of all time. If any of you moonlight as a DJ and you want to drop some sick beats up in the club, Yuzo Koshiro’s masterpiece would be a powerful addition to your arsenal.

I’ll close out this roundup with a prediction: Assuming you’re reading this on or after March 31, you’re going to want to head to Google and search for “Hyper Light Drifter soundtrack”. Just trust me on this one. I’m no Nostradamus, but I’m pretty sure it’s going to be worth your while.

That’s all for this month! Plenty to look forward to in April: Dark Souls III, Quantum Break, Banner Saga 2, Bravely Second--and of course there will be a few surprises. In the meantime, happy listening!