5) To The Moon (PC)
At this point, I've talked to death about To the Moon, both to my friends and my fellow editors. It's a stellar experience, even if the gameplay is simple. A beautiful soundtrack combined with top-notch dialogue and story make this game one of the most lasting and moving experiences I had this year – not bad for a four-hour game, right?
4) Back to the Future: The Game (PSN/XLBA/PC/iPad)
Back to the Future is one of the greatest movie trilogies of all time and also undoubtedly one of my most well-beloved. And now, thanks to Telltale, it has a five-episode series of games that capture all of the humor, sharp writing, and time-traveling twists that made me love it in the first place. The series starts out strong, and each episode is better than the last. By the time the finale rolls around, the story has explored the relationship between Doc and Marty in an incredibly satisfying fashion. In fact, that is perhaps the greatest strength of this series – it doesn't just retread familiar ground, it forges ahead and expands on what we knew from the movies.
3) Radiant Historia (DS)
I can't count the number of times I've heard a friend say, "Man, I'd love to just play a really solid, classically styled JRPG." When they or I say that, we're talking about games like Radiant Historia. Everything about this game is engineered to bring you the absolute best of the PSOne/SNES-era JRPGs, and it works exceedingly well. The plot is interesting, the combat is enjoyable (if a bit time-consuming), and the soundtrack is one of the best that Yoko Shimomura has ever produced. I can't recommend this game enough to anyone who considers themselves a fan of Japanese RPGs.
2) Deus Ex: Human Revolution (PS3/360/PC)
Despite the heavy burden of nostalgia weighing on its shoulders, DXHR managed not only to meet, but in many cases exceed the huge expectations it was faced with. This was one of the most immersive and cohesive gaming experiences I had this year, and, much like every other game on my list, features an incredible soundtrack. Sure, the end may have been a bit hackneyed, but the rest of the experience was top-notch, and I can't wait to see where the talented team at Eidos Montreal takes this series next.
1) Dark Souls (PS3/360)
Dark Souls is one of the best games I have ever played. As a cohesive experience, I can name few other games that have hooked their tenebrous tendrils on my brain like Dark Souls has. The moment-to-moment gameplay is as exciting and tension-filled as some of the best survival horror games ever made, and the overall progression is akin to the greatest Metroid and Castlevania games. The game has a massive number of secrets buried within its world, and each hard-fought victory carries both in-game and intangible rewards. The fact that the game was compared to Skyrim is unfair to both titles, and the fact is that even if you don't think a game with the Dark Souls level of challenge is for you, you owe it to yourself to at least give it a few hours of your time – because you might find that the next eighty are easily sacrificed.
No Chrono Cross Arrange Album
Square Enix and Yasunori Mitsuda releasing Xenogears: Myth instead of the Chrono Cross arrangement album, which was promised to be "coming soon" two years ago.
5) Gray Matter
If the goal of a game's soundtrack is to produce an emotion and create a sense of atmosphere, then Robert Holmes' work on the Gray Matter soundtrack is a resounding success. As I mentioned in my review of the game (and the soundtrack), the visuals and music combine in this game to create an almost trancelike effect, and even nearly a year later, I can still recall all of the musical themes.
4) Xenoblade Chronicles
This soundtrack, featuring the work of Yoko Shimomura, ACE+, and Manami Kiyota, as well as a contribution from the legendary Yasunori Mitsuda, is outstanding. The battle themes are some of the best I've heard in years, and I love the day/night variations on every theme.
3) Radiant Historia
I've mentioned before on the site that Radiant Historia is one of Yoko Shimomura's best works to date, and I mean it. Her work on Xenoblade was stellar, but Radiant Historia has some of the best melodies I've heard in years, and is a strong argument for the typically Japanese, melody-driven style of composition. "The Garden Where the Celestite Sleeps" is an incredible track among many incredible tracks, and if you have any interest at all in VGM, you owe it to yourself to check this music out.
2) Deus Ex: Human Revolution
DXHR has the best soundtrack in the series, and were it not for the late arrival of FFXIII-2, it would have handily bested all the competition this year. The most commonly mentioned track, Icarus, is incredible, but if you look deeper, you'll find a great number of memorable and atmospheric tracks. Booting the game to the main menu for the first time is a moment I won't soon forget, thanks to that incredible piece of music accompanying it.
1) Final Fantasy XIII-2
This album came at the tail-end of the year and absolutely blew the doors off of the competition for me. It features a huge variety of styles, as well as some of Naoshi Mizuta's (one of my favorite composers) best work to date. If the game is even half as good as its music, we'll have a real winner on our hands.
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