Our Music of the Year 2022 feature has some items that may surprise you, but before you ask, yes, these albums did release in 2022*, even if some of the games they represent were from 2021. Huge releases from the likes of Square Enix and From Software make appearances, alongside Atlus, Nintendo, and several notable indie games.
As usual, we have this top 20 non-ranked list of our staff’s Music of the Year, chosen through vicious combat… or maybe just a Google voting form. Six of us also wrote personal favorite lists, which contains even more great music from 2022. Finally, we published our Music of the Year episode of Rhythm Encounter in December, which doesn’t exactly overlap with this feature, so be sure to give it a listen if you missed it!
*Except that one that doesn’t have a soundtrack release.
Intro by Mike Salbato
AI: The Somnium Files -nirvanA Initiative- Complete Soundtrack
by Stephanie Sybydlo
AI: The Somnium Files – nirvanA Initiative sees you stopping serial killers with the use of high-tech equipment capable of diving into people’s minds and memories for clues. Real-world locations feature a bevy of musical fusions (along with some ass-kicking tracks), but it’s the game’s metaphysical worlds, the Somniums, that reflect character’s unique state of mind both visually and musically. Some Somniums are frightening places when our target harbors a dark secret, and other times they resemble daydreams when victims need to cope or hide from their problems.
The game wears MANY hats, and it’s impressive to see composer Keisuke Ito keeping up with Kotaro Uchikoshi’s hyperactive imagination. The game boasts songs so serene you’d swear your mind could slowly melt to it and more terrifying tracks meant to keep you on edge as the killer draws near! Or pop songs so dorky/catchy they’ll be stuck in your head forever! If you’ve played the game, I don’t need to convince you that this OST goes places; if you’re a VGM enthusiast just passing by, AI: The Somnium Files – nirvanA Initiative wants to take you worlds away!
Chained Echoes (Original Soundtrack)
by Caitlin Argyros
Out of all the surprises Chained Echoes provided us with right at the end of the year, an amazing soundtrack that feels both familiar and fresh is perhaps one of the greatest. I was constantly impressed by just how good the music was from start to finish and how well it fit both the game and nostalgic feel developer Matthias Linda was going for. The main theme is immediately iconic, and “Fractured Echoes” is already one of my favorite boss themes. Add to that all the tracks that sound like deliberate nods to music from classic RPGs like “Lindblum” from Final Fantasy IX and “Omen” from Xenogears, and this is a soundtrack you simply can’t let yourself miss! (See our review, too!)
Elden Ring OST
by Patrick Gann
The music of Elden Ring is gargantuan in scope, and publisher Bandai Namco knew it. Not only did they release the full soundtrack digitally back in February; come August, Bandai Namco published a full 8 LP vinyl set containing the 3.5 hour set of music. They knew they had something special on their hands.
The Elden Ring score was crafted by five separate composers, two of whom were central to Bloodborne and previous Dark Souls titles (Yuka Kitamura, Tsukasa Saitoh). While I am consistently impressed with Kitamura, some of my favorite Elden Ring tunes come from Basiscape veteran Yoshimi Kudo. I could keep “Consecrated Snowfield” on loop for hours.
Endwalker: Final Fantasy XIV OST
by Mike Salbato
Where do I begin? For over a year, I have been praising Final Fantasy XIV: Endwalker and its soundtrack. Keeping my soundtrack review to a reasonable length was an exercise in futility, as it clocked in at nearly 2200 words. Like Endwalker itself, Masayoshi Soken and his team created music worthy of an 8-9 year journey coming to a close, calling back motifs and themes from across Final Fantasy XIV‘s history while still instilling Endwalker with its own identity. Incredible city themes, unparalleled battle music, emotional vocal performances by Sam Carter, Amanda Achen, Jason Charles Miller, Susan Calloway, and more only touch on the musical brilliance in the expansion. Endwalker has some of the deepest emotional moments in the game yet, and songs like “Dynamis” and “Close in the Distance” are major parts of their impact. In fact, just thinking about the music again makes me want to go play the game, so if you’ll excuse me…
Final Fantasy VI Pixel Remaster OST
by Mike Salbato
Final Fantasy VI was the one title in the Pixel Remaster series that missed its original 2021 release window. After seeing the revamped opera scene, and especially the extent at which Square Enix arranged the music for one of FFVI‘s most iconic scenes, it was easy to see why. Not that the new arrangements of “Aria di Mezzo Carattere” and its ilk are the only reason this album is here, but it IS pretty fascinating to hear it in seven languages! Otherwise, the album lives up to the other Pixel Remaster soundtracks by offering refined and updated instrumentation, maintaining the true spirit of Uematsu’s incredible score but often in a richer or fuller soundscape. It doesn’t reinvent or even replace the original soundtrack, but it’s a carefully crafted series of arrangements worthy of your time as much as Final Fantasy VI itself is. And honestly, I’m probably still underselling it, compared to what Greg wrote in his review, so give that a read!
Final Fantasy XIV Orchestral Arrangement Album Vol. 3
by Patrick Gann
This December 2022 release is the latest Final Fantasy XIV arrange album, and it is not one to be overlooked. The album runs somewhat short at 36 minutes, but it’s quality over quantity here. Arranger Sachiko Miyano makes excellent use of the Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra, Glory Chorus Tokyo, and several solo artists. Square Enix is also poised to release a Blu-ray concert version of this album, likely with additional content, in April 2023.
Final Fantasy 35th Anniversary Distant Worlds: Music from Final Fantasy Coral Live CD
by Audra Bowling
The Final Fantasy 35th Anniversary Distant Worlds: Music from Final Fantasy Coral Live CD is a celebration of the venerable series’ incredible soundscape, featuring beautiful orchestral renditions performed by the New Japan Philharmonic, conductor Arnie Roth, choir BARZZ, and guest Nobuo Uematsu. I was especially floored by both medley tracks, as the battle medley arranging the battle themes from the first six Final Fantasy titles is spectacular! Given the sheer amount of games represented in the album, there’s no doubt a favorite song for every FF fan. Both Emiko Shiratori’s and RIKKI’s live performances of “A Place to Call Home ~ Melodies Of Life” and “Suteki Da Ne” are incredibly emotive and moving, and I adored the arrangement of the main theme for Final Fantasy. Each track offers a unique and gorgeous rendition of a beloved FF song, and this CD proves just how strong the Distant Worlds concert series is. It’s a fitting collection for the series’ thirty-fifth anniversary!
by Stephanie Sybydlo
Some form of the phrase “amazing soundtrack” frequently follows any game that Go Shiina is a part of, and the music from this year’s unexpected farm-sim favourite Harvestella is no exception. Shiina utilizes a perfect blend of fantasy and pastoral flavors to create a very enriching and simply enchanting soundtrack. Folksy and friendly tunes resound in towns; adventurous (and even kinda epic) tracks play while exploring; and some truly beautiful numbers help provide that touch of magic to the fantastic Seaslights realms. It’s the type of soundtrack you should try checking out, even if farm-sim games aren’t on your radar.
Horizon Forbidden West Official Soundtrack
by Caitlin Argyros
Horizon Zero Dawn’s ethereal and atmospheric soundtrack was one of my favorite things about that game, so I had high expectations about Horizon Forbidden West’s music. My expectations were almost immediately met when I heard the title screen’s gorgeous reimagining of “Aloy’s Theme,” and then they were completely blown out of the water by vocal themes like “In the Flood” (both versions of it), battle themes like “Guardian of the Deep,” and exploration music like “Riddles in Ruins.” The game even does cool things like using unique compositions for each branch of a conversation, and then seamlessly stitching them together into a medley on the album, as in “Lost in the Keg” and “Gravesinger.” Overall, this is a huge, six-disc soundtrack that is simply overflowing with lovely music that makes for a great listening experience in game or on its own. Read more about it in my review.
LIVE A LIVE HD-2D Remake OST
by Patrick Gann
A full 30 years after the original Super Famicom release from Yoko Shimomura, the LIVE A LIVE HD-2D Remake Original Soundtrack renews and revives the 16-bit synthesized tunes with dozens of studio recorded instrumentals prepared by nearly a dozen arrangers. Square Enix spared no expense to make this musical overhaul something worth celebrating, and apparently they know it. I say this because, more than any other album Square Enix published in 2022, they are aggressively copyright striking anyone posting this music on YouTube. Apparently they want to protect this music fiercely and compel you to purchase it. [Editor’s Note: So if the video preview above is broken when you view this, that’s why.]
Well, I can’t blame them this time. You really should buy it. I consider it one of the best, if not the best, published soundtrack of the year, as I mention in my review.