RPGFan Music

RPGFan Music of the Year 2022 ~ Editors’ Favorites: Mike Salbato

Music of the Year 2022 Featured

Endwalker: Final Fantasy XIV Original Soundtrack

In May 2022, I agonized over how I could objectively review the Final Fantasy XIV: Endwalker soundtrack. Now it’s time for Music of the Year, and I don’t have to be objective, right? Right. Both the story and soundtrack for the latest FFXIV expansion were filled with incredible moments, expertly establishing its own identity while offering a culmination of throwbacks to tie the last nine years of the game together. It recently dawned on me that this game’s music has been with me — and dear to me — for nearly a decade, and that Soken and Co. can still delight me, surprise me, and move me to tears is a compliment of the highest caliber.

Ghost Song Original Soundtrack

Ghost Song was in development for so long I have RPGFan design files dating back to at least 2017, in which I used the game’s artwork as placeholders. So, I’ve had my eye on it for a while! Back then, I had no idea the soundtrack would be so hauntingly atmospheric and moody. Are those words nearly redundant in this context? Perhaps, but I stand by them. The unique score Grant Graham created for Ghost Song featuring dissonant electronic sounds is sometimes sparse, cold, warm, chill, powerful, and many other combinations that sound contradictory on paper but somehow all work together. Ghost Song‘s music is so good it appeared on both episode 99 and episode 100 of Rhythm Encounter, not to mention Pat’s glowing soundtrack review.

Chained Echoes Original Soundtrack

It may be too soon to proclaim Chained Echoes an “indie darling,” though I don’t know the official timeline or requirements for an indie game to claim that title. But at the end of 2022, Chained Echoes transitioned from “oh, that looks like a cool Kickstarter” to one that won both Best Indie Game and Best Sleeper Hit in our Games of the Year awards. Wherever the game lands historically, composer Eddie Marianukroh created something absolutely beautiful for its soundtrack. While all my friends and colleagues have described Chained Echoes as a must-play, I have yet to jump in. But the soundtrack is a must-listen.

Shadows Over Loathing Original Soundtrack

Why does a game with goofy stick figures and simplistic graphics have such good music? I suppose the same reason Shadows Over Loathing — and West of Loathing before it — features fascinating stories and characters, fun RPG systems, and dialogue that is so well-written and genuinely funny that I can’t get enough of it. Put all that aside, and what’s left is Ryan Ike. Ike completely nailed the spaghetti Western sound in West of Loathing and may have even outdone himself with Shadows Over Loathing; the soundtrack goes everywhere from the dramatic intro song to some memorable character themes, and yes, a song that is nothing but creepy glockenspiel named “Glockophany II – The Glockening.” It’s got something for everyone and is the year’s best example of a game not to judge by its cover — though that cover does feature an awesome Jazz Agent, so maybe there’s merit to it in this case.

Mario + Rabbids Sparks of Hope: Original Game Soundtrack

Ubisoft and Nintendo spared no expense in creating and marketing Mario + Rabbids: Sparks of Hope, but I still had no idea that the soundtrack is the collective work of Yoko Shimomura, Grant Kirkhope, and Gareth Coker. Excuse me?! That is an incredible trio of talent, and I’d never have imagined them collaborating. Kirkhope’s work on older Rare games is the stuff of legends in the VGM world. Coker’s score for the Ori games still gives me chills years later. And Yoko Shimomura is one of the best people in the world outside of Koji Kondo himself to take on Mario music (the Super Mario RPG soundtrack is also the stuff of legends). I haven’t played either Mario + Rabbids game yet, but I need people to know who created this soundtrack.

Honorable Mentions:

  • Chrono Cross: The Radical Dreamers Edition – An all-time great with new bonus songs? Excellent.
  • Xenoblade Chronicles 3 – A treasure trove of incredible music. Where is the soundtrack release, Nintendo?
  • NieR Replicant Ver. 1.22474487139… Choir Arrange Album – I am required to listen to any new NieR album that releases, and this gorgeous choir album based on Replicant‘s music did not disappoint.
  • Final Fantasy VI Pixel Remaster – A soundtrack that needed little refinement, but got it anyway. And recording the vocal opera themes in eight languages? Above and beyond, sound team.
  • Harvestella – A game I’m worried flew under too many peoples’ radars, despite an okay marketing push. If you missed Harvestella in the end-of-2022 shuffle, don’t miss this great album by Go Shiina.
  • Loot River – A short soundtrack for a game only somewhat in our coverage, Wobblersound created a deeply atmospheric soundscape that caught me entirely by surprise. Check it out on Bandcamp.
Mike Salbato

Mike Salbato

Mike has been with RPGFan nearly since its inception, and in that time has worn a surprising number of hats for someone who doesn't own a hatstand. Today he attempts to balance his Creative Director role with his Editor-in-Chief status. Despite the amount of coffee in his veins, he bleeds emerald green.