Top 10 Indie Game Scores and Original Soundtracks of 2019

IGR's top ten indie game music soundtracks of 2019

Best Indie Game Music of 2019

A good musical score can make a game so much more, elevating an experience from ephemeral to unforgettable. As we considered all the incredible video game music we heard this year, we tried to pick scores that stood on their own as listening experiences while also sonically embodying the games for which they were produced.

Encompassing a multitude of genres, from classic orchestral scores to classic hip-hop to death metal, we present:

Top 10 Indie Game Scores and Original Soundtracks of 2019

10. Afterparty

by scntfc

Afterparty’s soundtrack uses traditional motifs one would hear in religious-themed music – organs, gospel choirs and harpsichords – alongside some heavy synth drumbeats. Tracks even incorporate some more unexpected instruments to make a nicely varied mix of lively tunes. It’s largely ominous, which is perfect since the game takes place in Hell, but still retains a jaunty vibe. I like to think of Afterparty’s soundtrack as a trip to an electronic version of Hell. Andrew Rohrmann has created one of the most unique soundtracks of the year.” ~ FICTiVETRUiSM

Pair with: Rides down the River Styx
Not suited for: Weddings

9. Draugen

by Simon Poole

“You can’t deny how much more grandiose a soundtrack can become with an orchestral score. Triumphant moments are more triumphant, while unsettling moments can be even more evocative. Draugen‘s original soundtrack has a wonderful mix of violins, piano, cellos, and soft mellisonant vocals. A foreboding darkness underlies each track, further elevating the game’s mysterious setting. It’s a lovingly crafted, atmospheric soundtrack perfectly suited for the tension-filled ride that Draugen has to offer. I think the game would be a less affecting experience without Simon Poole’s hauntingly beautiful soundtrack.” ~ FICTiVETRUiSM

Pair with: Walking in the woods
Not suited for: Staying up past 4:00 am on too many cold meds and forgetting whether you locked the front door, walking in the woods late at night with only one new battery in the capsule

8. Lost Ember

by Will Morton, Dorian Behner, John Broomhall, Craig Connor, Maisy Kay

“A calm-inducing, ambulatory, luminous collection comprising acoustic guitars, pan flutes, muted piano, orchestral percussive instruments, upright bass and strings, Lost Ember‘s soundtrack is filled with demure melancholy and epic wonder. Standout tracks include ‘Rising Soul,’ an eerie atmospheric mist that accomplishes so much in so little time, and ‘Light and Dark,’ in which a lovely low end emerges halfway through that belies the epic scope of this marvelously ambitious game, focused on inhabiting the spirit of many different animals.” ~ Indie-Game-Freak

Pair with: The bow of the Titanic, Thomas Newman’s butterfly collection
Not suited for: Bar fights, crystal meth

7. ToeJam and Earl: Back in the Groove

by Cody Wright and Nick Stubblefield

ToeJam and Earl has always had a ‘phunky phresh’ aesthetic that just screams ‘the ’90s,’ and thankfully Back in the Groove, a spiritual successor to the Sega Genesis original by its creator, chose to lean into that more than ever. Of course, it wouldn’t be a ’90s throwback without a groove-laden hip-hop soundtrack, and on that front, the game delivers in spades. It’s got more than enough wobbly basslines, catchy beats, and baditude to make you reach for your old neon windbreaker and Hypercolor t-shirt. Just don’t bring back frosted tips, please.” ~ TheOverMatt

Pair with: Reebok pumps, No Fear, moving in with your auntie and uncle in Bel-Air
Not suited for: Being a scrub, buggin’, frontin’.

6. Rainswept

by MicAmic

Rainswept’s soundtrack meshes well with its heavy narrative themes. Tracks mirror the heartbreak, loss and sadness of this game’s story. Mostly comprising of somber piano arrangements, low synths and soft violins, the score fits Rainswept perfectly, giving more life to the game’s voiceless narrative. Michal Michalski is able to capture the sorrow and intrigue of this small-town murder mystery.” ~ FICTiVETRUiSM

Pair with: BBQs canceled due to weather
Not suited for: Spinning class

5. Valfaris

by Kurt Victor Bryant

Valfaris exudes Heavy Metal in all its gloriously over-the-top forms – the musical genre, the science fiction comic book anthology and the animated film. Soundtrack composer Curt Victor Bryant (best known for his work in seminal extreme metal act Celtic Frost) delivers the metal as well. Though surprisingly diverse, incorporating everything from acoustic passages to prog-rock keyboards – ably complementing the game’s grim alien environments – and even North African rhythms and flute passages, it always comes back to raw, dirty electric guitar riffs and pummeling blast beats.” ~ InfinityWaltz

Pair with: Mead, spiked armbands, sweaty denim
Not suited for: High tea, posers

4. Katana ZERO

by LudoWic, Bill Kiley, DJ Electrohead, Justin Stander and Tunç Çakır

“Synthwave is essentially what you get when a bunch of folks who grew up on ’80s New Wave and John Carpenter movies go ‘Hey, what if we made this a genre?’ It’s a genre that, aside from just being straight-up awesome, is heavily influenced by video games, and we’re starting to see some games return the favor with soundtracks like this one. Katana ZERO’s frenetic neon action is paired perfectly with thumping beats and dirty, grungy synthesizers that draw you into a world that’s equal parts magnificent and hideous. Violent homicide has never sounded so catchy.” ~ TheOverMatt

Pair with: Drives through the city, dimly lit rooms with brightly lit computer screens, neon everything
Not suited for: Goons of the mega-corporations

3. Neo Cab

by obfusc

“This teasingly minimalist electro score by obfusc perfectly evokes the feeling of driving a car around a future LA at night. The mix between prowling and floating, delirium and bliss, numbness and danger. “Neon Moon (feat. Saxophone Warrior)” may be the best place to start to understand what that means.” ~ Indie-Game-Freak

Pair with: Dilaudid in the chill-out room, gasoline on white vinyl
Not suited for: Driving a truck through the night in softly falling snow

2. Pathologic 2

by Vasily Kashnikov and Theodor Bastard

“It’s rare to find a horror game whose soundtrack is more than just a collection of ambient noise and jarring stings, let alone one that’s memorable. Imagine my surprise then at Pathologic 2’s legitimately great collection of atmospheric electronica mixed with various folk elements, which the game gives you plenty of time to appreciate with how much walking you’ll be doing. The inclusion of things like throat singing emphasizes the game’s aesthetic of Industrial Revolution-era Russia meets Mongolian steppe culture brilliantly, and much like the game itself, I guarantee you haven’t experienced many other things like it. ~ TheOverMatt

Pair with: Herding bulls, straight vodka, Dostoevsky
Not suited for: Your nephew’s fifth birthday party

1. Ape Out

by Matt Boch

Ape Out is even more inseparable from its soundtrack than games like FRACT OSC that are technically about making music. Ape Out removes that meta-layer, combining the action of rampaging primate with Matt Boch’s procedurally generated, purely percussive jazz rhythm. It’s not music production game or rhythm game, it’s the symbiosis of two forms of improvisational play: jazz drum solo and top-down gorilla game.” ~ InfinityWaltz

“Imagine John Zorn (implied) and Joey Baron going to war with mediocrity. They take stabs in the dark, jab at shadows, poke holes in structure, and attempt to incite a ritualistic fervor. The whole action breathes and pumps through German bucket brigade compression and then pierces that obstacle. ’cause you’re TRYING to BREAK OUT, OK? Ape the hell Out.” ~ Indie-Game-Freak

Pair with: Insurrection
Not suited for: Fragile glassware, tranquilizer darts

What were your favorite indie game soundtracks from last year? Let us know your picks – and what you’d pair them with – in the comments!