The 10 Best Indie Game Soundtracks 2018

Top Indie Game Soundtracks and Scores from 2018

There literally are no “best” soundtracks of the year, because they are all great in their own way, and game scores don’t fall out of trees – they require highly specialized skill. So we picked ten that crossed our radar and that we thought were great. Let’s put them in some kind of order, because we do that here:

10. Desert Child

by Oscar Brittain

“Oscar Brittain is a lunatic who also managed to push out Desert Child in GameMaker Studio and – when his composer sort of bailed due to smoking too much of the kine – chose to just write the music himself. Using Ableton Live, some guitars, a couple of plug-ins and a Korg synth, he pretty much made up a genre.

According to the publicist/publisher we spoke to at IndieCade, he was just trying to channel Vaporwave, but like his game, he is clearly overachieving. Imagine George Harrison with an MPC 2000 and a glitch blender. Super dope. I mean, for the cost of admission you are getting full blown Consolidated or MC 900 Ft. Jesus-style raps like ‘Girlfriend Material — Spatula (feat. Barksdale).’ Don’t miss.” ~ Indie-Game-Freak

Pair with: Eric B. and Rakim
Not suited for: empty gas tanks

9. Extreme Meatpunks Forever

by Visager

Bouncy and atmospheric folk/punk with banjos and fiddles meets understated electronics on a soundtrack that’s as unexpected a blend as Extreme Meatpunks Forever – a visual novel and combat game about queer mech pilots – itself. “CRASH QUEEN (feat. M Gewehr)” is nicely heavy; it feels like classic punk rock despite being mostly acoustic. But there are bits of everything in there, from folk and punk to glitch to even dark ambient soundscapes, as on “Something Bright and Shining and Horrible (Remix by Heather Flowers).”

“Reminds me of Ween on codeine. How is that not a good thing?” ~ Indie-Game-Freak

Pair with: post-apocalyptic campfires, home invasions
Not suited for: beginners

8. Forgotton Anne

by Peter Due

Perhaps less experimental than most, but this fluttering, teasing series of compositions from Peter Due performed by the Amsterdam Philharmonic leads to pure orchestral wonder and magic. Forgotton Anne is a steampunk world rife with melancholy sock puppets and derelict lampshades, and this whimsy runs through the sweeping, glittering arrangements. Opening with big orchestral pieces that instantly conjure the game’s iconic scenes, the score eventually opens out to reveal quieter magical pieces and points of interest, like the vocal ballad “Forgotton Anne,” the sparse piano of “Regrets,” and the buzzing Medieval bagpipes of “Scrappers,” delivering a personality that will be remembered.

Pair with: the ride to Disney World, eating ramen while watching Studio Ghibli films with the sound off
Not suited for: GWAR, Monday mornings

7. Frozen Synapse 2

by nervous_testpilot

The cold but emotive mixture of electronic textures, understated drum ‘n’ bass rhythms and light cinematic and symphonic elements – strings on “Incursion,” piano on “Contact and “Security,” and choral chanting and flute on “Complicity” – conjure a world that’s as cold as the graphics in this turn-based cyberpunk strategy game, but still occupied by humans. Just listen to the vocals on “My Killer!”

“This is all the melodrama of Vangelis coupled with Dead Can Dance if they ever used a quantizer with Enigma rehearsing in the next room, doing A-Ha covers. God, I love that little decelerando on ‘Incursion.’ nervous_testpilot made a big record here.” ~ Indie-Game-Freak

Pair with: spinning class, road trips to Palm Springs
Not suited for: appendectomies

6. Floor Kids

by Kid Koala

Kid Koala is a master. I still haven’t recovered from the remix of Moon River he did for his mother. Meanwhile, here is a new joint from the Canadian turntablist and that, for any reason, is a sign to be happy. Floor Kids is a constant stream of ideas, games, exhibition and groove so deep in the pocket that you will find coins just when you thought you couldn’t do the laundry.” ~ Indie-Game-Freak

“This is such a perfect mix of game, theme and sound. The sampled James Brown screams in ‘Blue Prints’ in particular conjure up the same exuberance as mastering dance moves in this B-boy-themed rhythm game, and songs like ‘The Studio’ mix up the Kung Fu film-style voice-overs of classic Wu-Tang Clan with actual tutorial information.” ~ InfinityWaltz

Pair with: bus rides, transcendental heartache, head spins, refrigerator boxes
Not Suited For: income tax returns, adult diapers

5. Lucah: Born of a Dream

by Nicolo Telesca

Evocative of Aphex Twin‘s Selected Ambient Works 2, Pete Namlook and early Future Sound of London, this taut minimalist electro undercurrent is fully a part of the fever dream of emotional sketches and pastiches wrought from the chalk-drawing soma of Lucah‘s journey.

Standouts include “Harbinger” – a pulsating industrial/Bristol hybrid with robots, sample-and-hold patterns, and asthmatic compressors. Or how about “The Hive,” using found sounds like metal mallets and drills to create a hypnotic glitchy mantra? “The Marked” is Jefferson Airplane‘s “White Rabbit” through N.E.R.D.‘s bong. “Visions” is an astringent, ambient contemplation for the end of the world – a Pete Namlook deep sea special, if the sea were made of the grey goo of a trillion nanobots and you could slow down tiiiiiiiiiime to think about that before it ate you.

Pair with: Gemini Rue, hair crimpers, sake
Not suited for: Ry Cooder

4. The Red Strings Club

by fingerspit

“At times this score reminds me of Rain Tree Crow or David Sylvian and Robert Fripp’s first collaboration, The First Day. ‘Corporate Lawyer’ feels like Tom Wait’s Bone Machine and Sylvian inside a Jean-Michelle Jarre, offering textures front and back with excellent auditory depth of field.

‘Marketing Director’ feels like a sweaty and exhausted collaboration between Washedout and Com Truise‘s Vaporwave spice. ‘Macro Psychologist’ is a twangy, late night bar mop for Rick Deckard, complete with sustained, Tube Screamer guitar solos, smoky breakbeats and Dick Dale baritone guitar plucks. I could write 20 screenplays with this score and a retro-themed Keurig. On ‘Social Engineering’ we are into the aural equivalent of Cronenweth arclights as CS-80 leads oscillate like that mod wheel is stuck to a nicotine build-up and got married to the plinky provocations of Múm.

fingerspit is offering up some supreme work here, and you should own this collection of tracks created for the super cool futuristic bartender sim for which it was created. Get it.” ~ Indie-Game-Freak

Pairs with: Joshua Tree at midnight, being kidnapped by crypto-kids on a yacht in Monaco
Not suited for: teetotalers, algebra exams

3. CrossCode

by Deniz Akbulut

“This is an astonishing work that bridges everything from 1980s fusion movie soundtracks like Limahl’s Neverending Story in ‘Battle 3’ and ‘Exponential Conclusion’ or the virtuoso rock of super-trio Animal Logic to Art of Noise (‘Infiltration,’ ‘Challenge 2’) or the Ocarina of Time-themed chill-out room musings of ‘Awakened’ and pastoral accordion hearth-side arrangements of ‘Valse d’Ahoge’ or even bossa nova ‘Rookie Harbor.’ There are no less than 64 tracks on this offering, and every single one will give you the 16-bit/analogue modular synth-mated feels. Akbulut also perfectly captures Japanese chord progressions on such nostalgic compositions as ‘Travelling Together.'” ~ Indie-Game-Freak

CrossCode has a heartfelt soundtrack that sounds like it comes straight from the PS1 RPG glory days. Composer Deniz Akbulut deserves to have his name on par with the great RPG composers of the ’90s and early 2000s. His soundtrack for CrossCode feels inspired by legends like Takeo Miratsu, Noriyuki Iwadare, Nobuo Uematsu and Masashi Hamauzu. As an enthusiast for PS1-era RPGs, you can’t get any better than this.” ~ Michael.Duhacek

Pair with Bebel Gilberto, Falcor, Doritos 3D
Not suited for: Ministry, gruel

2. We Happy Few

by The Make Believes, Nicolas Marquis

To create the necessary sense of verisimilitude for the perkily paranoiac alternate ’60s England of We Happy Few, the developers put together a super-group of Montreal musicians – including members of The Dears and The Barr Brothers – to put together an album of psychedelic pop that sounds straight out of the ’60s. Sugary vocal harmonies ride over bouncing Farfisa organs and guitars so shimmery it’s easy to miss the subtle undercurrents of menace. Similarly, composer Nicolas Marquis used era-appropriate Moog synths and Vox Continental organs to tie everything together with his instrumental score.

“This is a huge, brilliant counterculture manifesto disguised as a disguised video game soundtrack that sounds like actual Phil Spector entered the TARDIS. It’s genius, and creepy as Roger Waters in Pink Floyd.” ~ Indie-Game-Freak

Pair with: skinny ties, Harvey’s Bristol Cream
Not suited for: death metal, oxygen bars

1. Chuchel

by Dva

“I sometimes wonder which comes first – Amanita Design‘s hilariously curious and winsome critters, often negotiating impossibly strange landscapes, or the plinking, playful, looping and experimental compositions of Czech alternative band Dva. Both comedic and mysterious, this is music that delivers you to another dimension almost immediately, no matter who you are or where you are, which is perfectly suited for its subject matter. Hell, you may even get some 8-bit Julee Cruise by the so-hard-winking-you’ll-get-bruised-titled ‘Chuchel Walk with Me.’ We feel lucky that indie games exist to catalyze new efforts from these free-spirited maniacs.” ~ Indie-Game-Freak

“Dva’s Bandcamp page describes the duo’s music as ‘folklore for non-exist nations.’ They are the kind of band that is so steeped in whimsy and imagination that their merchandise page sells socks instead of T-shirts, so of course they’re a great fit for a game like Chuchel, but highlighting the whimsy and playfulness sells them short. They’re virtuosos, as well, equally adept at clarinet, guitar and electronics, not to mention an approach to vocal composition that blends both real and made-up languages with human beat-boxing. Their style works so perfectly with Amanita Design’s similarly playful and eclectic visual approach, but I can imagine the duo working equally well with any number of disparate themes, media, etc.” ~ InfinityWaltz

Pair with: Bjork after-parties, running through a field naked for the first time, psilocybin with Keebler Elves, Twin Peaks
Not suited for: C-SPAN, staying up too late on Sunday night

What were your favorite soundtracks or original scores from indie games in 2018? Teach us in the comments below.