As the 66th Grammy Awards jury gears to present the second-ever Best Score Soundtrack for Video Games award in 2024, we review the nominated soundtracks
A moment from God of War: Ragnarok. PICS COURTESY/YOUTUBE
For those who came of age during the ’90s, the term ‘video game soundtrack’ evokes memories of Super Mario Bros’ familiar opening tune or the 8-bit melodies accompanying journeys through Pokémon worlds on Nintendos. Video game music has evolved by leaps and bounds since then. A testament to this evolution arrived with the Grammy Awards introducing a new category in 2023 — Best Score Soundtrack for Video Games and Other Interactive Media. We check out five tracks that were nominated for the 2024 Grammy Awards in February.
God of War: Ragnarok: Bear McCreary
While we expected the usual cinematic orchestral arrangement with large-hall reverb in a game that places you in the shoes of a character who embodies the spirit of war, this score shines through with its thunderous percussion and emotive strings, reminiscent of Norse mythology. The use of Scandinavian folk instruments for powerful crescendos and haunting melodies adds authenticity, enhancing the game’s Viking-inspired themes. This is our pick to win the coveted trophy in 2024.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II: Sarah Schachner
The good news is that sections featuring a marriage of strings, brass, and synth textures create a soundscape that immerses the player in the game’s warfare-heavy gameplay. The let-down is that these sections are like needles in a haystack. While the score stands out in such moments, the arrangement and mixing of the score might be a tad relaxed at times for a high-action game.
Star Wars: Jedi Survivor: Stephen Barton and Gordy Haab
The first few seconds of the opening track were enough to evoke a mental image of the landscape of a deserted Star Wars planet in this reviewer’s mind. The bold brass, majestic sustained choir sections, and the signature sweeping strings seem like a hat tip to John Williams’ original movie score. There’s not much to say about this one other than it feels like a Star Wars score. While sitting through the four-hour soundtrack was not feasible, sections that sound fresh were few and far between.
Hogwarts Legacy: Peter Murray, J Scott Rakozy and Chuck E Myers
The enchanting melodies carried majorly by strings and woodwinds transport you straight to Hogwarts. The score does a delightful job at blending classical orchestration and whimsical elements without making it seem too forced, capturing the magic and wonder of the wizarding world perfectly. The score’s playful vibe complements the game’s adventurous spirit, and makes for an
immersive listening experience overall.
Stray Gods: The Roleplaying Musical: Jess Serro, Tripod, and Austin Wintory
Roleplaying musicals are a novel game genre by themselves. So, we dive into this one expecting a few surprises and it’s safe to say that the soundtrack is full of them — featuring orthodox theatrical compositions with cellos and violins to unplugged a capellas and even, contemporary jazz tracks. While a handful of these tracks sound generic and passé, this score gets brownie points for blurring the lines between a video game and a captivating musical experience.