A heavily contested category in 2019.
Winner: Astral Chain
After working in the sound department for a number of Platinum-developed games - as well as last year's runner up for this category, Torna: The Golden Country - Astral Chain is the first composing credit for Satoshi Igarashi, and he knocked it out of the park right away.
An unforgettable mix of techno and orchestral rock, Astral Chain's soundtrack perfectly sets the mood for the futuristic Ark that the game takes place in, and allows the many silly and convoluted story beats to rise above the lackluster writing that mars the plot. Gameplay is accented with exciting, hype-building compositions that live up to the high standard set by Platinum's past work and the cheesy anime opening ties everything up in a wonderful, ridiculous bow.
Anime aesthetics reigned supreme in 2019, and Astral Chain's music is the cornerstone to that aesthetics success in the latest new IP to join the ranks of Nintendo's storied franchises.
~ Matt Zawodniak
Runner Up: Cadence of Hyrule - Crypt of the NecroDancer Featuring the Legend of Zelda
You know how Zelda music is, in large parts, amazing? Do you know how OC Remix is out there with a strong community of fans who make fun remixes of video game music? What if I told you a guy from OC Remix's heyday worked with Nintendo to make a whole mess of new Zelda remixes for use in a rhythm-based Zelda game? Well, Danny Baranowsky did that and this is the best soundtrack I've heard all year.
~ Neal Ronaghan
Runner Up: Sayonara Wild Hearts
In a way, Sayonara Wild Hearts is a failure if it doesn't get discussed in the Best Music category. Thankfully, the soundtrack to this pop album of a video game absolutely rules. It's bright-eyed Euro pop music with soaring lyrics and emotional beats that drive home an otherworldly story in concert with the eye-popping visuals and comforting rhythmic gameplay. Sayonara Wild Hearts is pure delight.
~ Neal Ronaghan
Special Dispensation: Fire Emblem: Three Houses - "Apex of the World"
Apex of the World stands out to me as one of my favorite songs of the entire year. Fire Emblem's soundtrack is covered with arrangements of the game's main theme - Edge of Dawn - but this is easily the best. It opens with an orchestral swell that mixes in the main leitmotif of the entire franchise before transitioning into The Spirit Dais (the theme of the Goddess) and then finally resolving into the best final boss theme the series has ever seen. I love the use of leitmotif in soundtracks, and Apex of the World is a masterful combination of three of the game's most important tunes, creating the perfect backdrop for my favorite chapters of the game.
~ Matt Zawodniak
Special Dispensation: Luigi's Mansion 3 - "Grand Lobby Theme"
I really like this song in particular, and do enjoy the majority of the soundtrack. It blends an older, noire style with some whimsical notes. Each floor builds upon a motif of the Luigi's Mansion series akin to many of the Nintendo titles that use a single track that transform based on the setting. I appreciate how cartoon-y and moody this soundtrack can get. Whether the lighthearted, but whispy notes of the Twisted Suites are swirling through my head, or the very-catchy trumpet improv of the Grand Lobby is playing on a traversal up the stairs, I really was impressed.
~ Xander Morningstar