My first top five list is for the best original soundtrack of the year. This means no games which has the majority of tracks as licensed music, and no games where the majority of songs are remixes (sorry, Smash Bros. fans!). With that out of the way, let's get to my top five soundtracks of 2014!
5) Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII (PS3, 360)
When Nobuo Uematsu relinquished his role as lead series composer for the Final Fantasy series, I was not expecting the quality of the soundtracks of the series to be maintained. However, Masashi Hamauzu stepped up to fill the role quite nicely with his Final Fantasy XIII soundtrack, and now his Lightning Returns score offers an astounding variety of tracks from numerous genres.
4) Hyrule Warriors (Wii U)
The Dynasty Warriors games may generally take place in Feudal Japan, but their soundtracks are rocking, guitar-driven affairs. Hyrule Warriors takes the Dynasty Warriors gameplay from Japan to the lands of Hyrule with equally hardcore music. While the rock 'n roll remixes of Zelda franchise theme faves are there with stunning renditions, Hyrule Warriors also possesses several brand-new themes that are just as great for pumping the adrenaline.
3) Bravely Default (3DS)
I am a huge fan of progressive rock, and artist Revo is one whose career resides heavily in the genre. No wonder the soundtrack for Bravely Default offers a mixture of classical music and hard rock. From the riveting battle themes to the character-driven songs, Bravely Default's music is one of the few things that can keep players going during that particularly arduous middle chapters of the game.
2) Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze (Wii U)
David Wise continues to be one of my favorite Western video game music composers. He finally returned to the Donkey Kong series with this year's Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze. With this soundtrack, it's easy to see that Mr. Wise hasn't missed a step. The new themes lend well to the ambiance and environments of the levels they play in, and the new takes on old classics like Stickerbush Symphony and Lockjaw's Saga make for a soundtrack that is hard to top this year.
1) Mario Kart 8 (Wii U)
However, unlike David Wise's soundtrack, Mario Kart 8's music, from a cavalcade of Nintendo's finest composers, doesn't have a boring track to it at all. Each theme for tracks, menus, and more is peppy, energetic, uptempo, and/or entertaining to the ears. It's indeed a treat for the ears to listen to the themes of the sixteen new tracks and the remarkable remixes of the sixteen retro tracks. From new favorites like Dolphin Shoals and Mount Wario, to classics like GBA Mario Circuit and N64 Royal Raceway, the amount of great musicianship, jazz, and funk all add up to my favorite original soundtrack of 2014!
Stay tuned from now until New Year's for more SuperPhillip Central Best of 2014 Awards action!