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Jumpscare and Jive: Top 13 video game horror tracks of 2015

Here's a list of frightening tunes to get any gamer in a spooky mood.

Every game's soundtrack is crucial to the story-telling element, adding subtle touches that extenuate gameplay, dialogue, and general plot devices. This goes double for horror games. Without the proper ambiance, horror games fall flat. Players yawn through jump-scares and become distracted by every noise outside the game in the hopes that it promises something more exciting than their current task. I've gathered the creepiest and most terrifying tracks from horror releases of 2015 to get any gamer in the right mood for Halloween or any ominously-themed movie night. 

A small disclaimer before we get started: the following list includes some tracks from games announced in 2015 with release dates pending for 2016. I also sorted through a surprising amount of techno to get here, leading me to wonder...just who on earth decided techno was frightening?

13. H1Z1 Soundtrack

Composer: Greg Spence

The survival MMORPG launched for PCs in January of 2015. This game's soundtrack provides a great introduction to a horror playlist, allowing a steady build by starting off with a standard, slower-paced but nonetheless creepy nod to the genre.

12. Alone in the Dark: Illumination - "Labyrinth of Dreaming"

Composer: Jeffrey Brice

Atari's sixth installment in this survival horror series debuted in June for PC. The creepiest tune in this game, "Labyrinth of Dreaming", can be found at 55:31 in the video below, ending at the 59:46 mark. This piece adds tension, most notably with sounds that grate on the ear ever so slightly.

11. Dying Light - "Destination/Game Finale/Rais' Tower"

Composer: Pawel Blaszczak

Here's that techno I warned you about, straight from another January launch. Luckily for us, Dying Light incorporated the appropriate creep factor into their OST. The addition of siren-esque sounds stands out here. This particular track contains the best of two other songs from the game: the adrenaline pumping sense of immediate pursuit in "Escape" and the almost warped noise of wailing instruments from "Antizin".

10. The Order: 1886 - "In the Darkest Hour"

Composer: Jason Graves

This dark action-adventure game incorporates enough of the occult to count in my category of horror. This song's terrifying effect results from it's purposefully steady pace. It demonstrates the ability to haunt the listener or player without emphasizing too much of the tension found in tracks like #11. It's a refreshing musical twist on the "show, don't tell" technique. 

9. Five Night's at Freddy's 3 - Main Menu/Title Screen

Composer: Scott Cawthon

Sorry guys, but this one was unavoidable. This track from the third installment of the point-and-click indie hit executes a clean, subtle verison of the technical scares in #11. The piece plays effectively on the grating nature of some sounds seen briefly in #12, though it does risk irritating listeners with reminders of a barrage of jumpscares.

8. Koduku - Trailer Track

Composer: Rami Ismail

Koduku's official launch date hasn't been announced, but the trailer promises a creepy survival experience dotted with monster encounters straight from Japanese mythology. The track from the game's trailer plays well on its unique source of horror, bringing to mind the Japanese mastery of the genre in films and games. Sometimes a deceptively simple tune turns out to be among the creepiest.

7. Darkwood - Trailer Track

Composer: Artur Kordas

Here's another pending survival horror release that plays on classic sounds and drives home the effectiveness of a slow build on the listener's anticipation. This track is creepy, adding common taps and chimes among its halting, disjointed piano keys. The mix of familiar and jolting plays well together.

5. Kholat - "The Beginning" ft. Penelopa Willmann-Szynalik

Composer: Arkadiusz Reikowski  

Kholat is an indie survival game inspired by a true story. This particular song plays on a creepy sound the brings lullabies to mind without the in-your-face recitation of lullabies and nursery rhymes from children. The tune carries both sad and terrifying notes.

5. Doom - Theme Music

Composer: Andrew Hulshult

Doom is set to release in 2016 on next-gen consoles as a reboot of the classic, frightening shooter. This track moves away from subtle creepiness and towards in-your-face horrifying. Notice the screeching monsters, the constant clash of weaponry, and what I seriously suspect is the sound of flesh being torn apart. The strong appeal to metal, along with an overall sound more familiar to action sequences, went far enough beyond pure horror to prevent this number from ranking higher on the list, but its terror still deserves proper recognition.

4. Darkest Dungeon - "Combat in the Ruins"

Composer: Stuart Chatwood

This dungeon crawler launched in February with roguelike and turn-based gameplay. The track selected from Darkest Dungeon takes the combative feel of #5 and tones it down into a more chilling call to battle. The main theme of the game builds and drops with an alternating pace for tension more reminiscent of horror film soundtracks, but "Combat in the Ruins" just has a little something extra that feeds the immediacy of "scary."

3. Until Dawn - "O Death"

Composer: Amy Van Roekel

This drama survival where choices matter was introduced fantastically with a disturbing song following the game's intro. "O Death" sets the mood for the game beyond the intro to the plot, using resounding bass notes against a background of direct pleas with Death. This personification makes the track particularly terrifying.

2. Resident Evil: Revelations 2 - "Determination"

Composer: Ichiro Komoto

This episodic game featured a song that takes the best of #5 and #4 and finds their middle ground. Moans and brief bursts of chanting in the background construct a sense of terror. High-pitched piano chords and an unreliable tempo that pulls listeners back and forth add to this track, putting it right near the top of the list.

1. Bloodborne - "Cleric Beast"

Composers: Ryan Amon, Tsukasa Saitoh, Michael Wandmacher, Yuka Kitamura, Cris Velasco, & Nobuyoshi Suzuki

This action-packed and wholly disturbing PlayStation 4 exclusive launched in March. It wins the #1 spot for a very crucial inclusion in its track: the chanting of monks, specifically in Latin. This tool ranks high on the creep-scale, right next to children singing nursery rhymes and lullabies. The traditionally monophonic sound of a Gregorian chant switches up its style with classic horror groundwork for a solid piece of music. This track balances creepy and terrifying.

What track did you find the creepiest? Are there older soundtracks you believe trump these more recent ones? Discuss in the comments below!

Published Oct. 30th 2015

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