'Tis the season to recommend gifts to make your holiday shopping easier! This year, we at USgamer are taking a different approach to our video game gift guides. Instead of a handful of ideas from the staff, we're offering mega-focused gift guides for the sorts of people who you'll be shopping for this holiday season.
In this guide, we'll be helping you find a special gift or two for The Person Who Loves All Things Video Games and Music. Soundtracks and music-focused games are always great go-tos (and you'll find a few in this list), but we've also selected some gifts that can let the music-loving gamer in your life express their fandom or even start making their own catchy tunes. Ready? A-one, a-two, a-one-two-three-four…
Best Video Game Soundtrack Vinyls
Cuphead Double LP
It's possible that a few cuts from the Cuphead soundtrack may bring back memories of boss fights that made your gift-ee want to destroy their controller, but as a whole it's very easy to get lost in. Composer Kristofer Maddigan and the dozens of musicians behind should be proud of the jazz, ragtime, and big band music they produced—and Cuphead fan who fell in love with the soundtrack should use it as a jumping off point to explore the classics of the era that inspired it.
Mega Man 1-11: The Collection
I'm not the biggest Mega Man fan in the world, but I'll still find myself getting Mega Man tracks stuck in my head for absolutely no reason whatsoever. Not just the classic standouts from 2 and 3, either: Galaxy Man's theme from Mega Man 9 still slaps. For the big Blue Bomber fans out there, a 6-record collection of songs from all 11 mainline Mega Man titles can't be beat.
Music from The Last of Us Part 2 (7-Inch)
It'll be a while yet before we get to hear Gustavo Santaolalla's full score for The Last of Us Part 2, but super fans of the series shouldn't pass over this 7-inch release in the meantime. This two song release features Santaolalla's moving performance of "The Last of Us (Cycles)" and "Little Sadie," the song by bluegrass band Crooked Still that kicked off the E3 2018 trailer.
Into the Breach
Last year with Into the Breach, I killed thousands of giant bugs, saved hundreds of thousands of civilians and, yes, lost my fair share of alternate realities through tactical error. Across my dozens of hours of playtime and all those doomed timelines, I never got tired of hearing Ben Prunty's wonderful score. Turns out, it's just as good for getting work done as it is for squashing Vek with your mechs.
For The Musician Who Loves Games
Ah, the Nanoloop mono. If the person you're shopping for would prefer the classic Game Boy chiptune sound then you'll want to wait for creator Oliver Wittchow to restock the original Nanoloop one, but the mono is truly something special. It takes advantage of the fact that one of the connection pins in old Game Boys allows cartridges to pass audio through the system—where the Nanoloop one utilized the Game Boy's audio hardware to generate sound, Nanoloop mono is an actual analog synthesizer in cartridge form. The mono is only a few years old, making it a testament to the longevity of the Game Boy as a music-making platform.
$76, Nanoloop.com (exchange rates apply)
PO-20 Pocket Operator Arcade Synthesizer
No, the PO-20's chirps and fuzzy beats aren't authentic game music in a sense, but people love Teenage Engineering's line of Pocket Operators because they're so easy to pick up and play around with. One moment you'll start with a simple beat, the next you'll realize 20 minutes have passed and you've made a song to rival the catchiest 8-bit classics. The PO-20 is a good fit for all compositional skill levels, from apprentice to adept.
A Composer's Guide to Game Music
Though modern video games aren't subject to the same technical restraints imposed by retro hardware, there are still tons of skills specific to the medium that aspiring game composers need to develop. Winifred Phillips (Little Big Planet 3, Assassin's Creed 3: Liberation) wrote A Composer's Guide to Game Music to help demystify those skills for readers—it'd be a great gift for anyone with composition experience who needs a little push to try their hand at writing music for games.
Some Can't-Miss Video Game Cover Records
The World is Square by Mustin
As part of The OneUps, Mustin's been putting out great video game covers for well over a decade, but "The World is Square" is his first proper solo album. Consisting entirely of covers from classic Square titles (Secret of Mana, Chrono Trigger, Final Fantasy 4–7), it's a sincere, chill tribute to some all-time JPRG greats.
War of the Triad by Knight of the Round
If the music-lover you're shopping for would prefer Nobuo Uematsu covers that go hard, look no further. Knight of the Round's War of the Triad draws its 12 tracks from the same era of Final Fantasy as Mustin's album above, only it interprets them as gloriously chunky metal songs. There are a lot of metal video game music covers out there, but few hit so hard as any of the tracks off War of the Triad—this is what the Doom Slayer would listen to if he liked Final Fantasy.
Ways To Show Off Your FandomGuitar Hero II X-plorer Enamel Pin
Remember the first ever Guitar Hero controller for Xbox was revealed to be a white Gibson X-plorer? Shrunk down to controller size, the SG always looked a little tame, but the X-plorer screams "yes I'm going to full-combo the 'Freebird' solo or die trying." I'm sure there are still plenty of X-plorer controllers that see regular action, but if the person you're shopping for has retired their trusty plastic axe, they can still pay tribute to it with this snazzy pin.
Koji Kondo's Super Mario Bros. Soundtrack (33 1/3)
If you've never chanced upon a 33 1/3 book in the wild, they're small volumes each written by a different author on the subject of a different album. Over 100 of them were published before Andrew Schartmann took a crack at dissecting Koji Kondo's iconic work on the Super Mario Bros. soundtrack. Since Schartmann has to make the case for the soundtrack's place amongst the venerable albums in the 33 1/3 catalog, he situates it both within the canon of game music and, more broadly, the most influential compositions of the 20th century. It's a great gift for any Mario fans who've dabbled in musicology.
Beat Saber Tee
Beat Saber players need a Beat Saber t-shirt—as in, a t-shirt to play in, not necessarily this shirt. Look, unless you're cool as ice and move as little as humanly possible, you're going to work up a sweat from slashing all those boxes to the beat. If your gift-ee likes the look of this shirt, maybe it can be their post-Saber session (and post-shower) shirt for when they leave VR and head out into the real world. Save it for time spent out and about, and reserve the rattiest tees for saber sessions.
Two Great Music-Focused Games from 2019
Sayonara Wild Hearts
Is there any way a game that starts with you skateboarding through a dreamscape at impossibly high speeds to Debussy's Clair de Lune would not make this list? Simogo's Sayonara Wild Hearts blends hyperkinetic music video flair with endless runner gameplay in a way that music fans shouldn't miss. What Sayonara Wild Hearts does with neon and power pop could be adapted to work with so many other genres and aesthetics; here's hoping other devs follow its lead.
$13, Amazon (Nintendo Switch Code), also available for PS4 and Apple Arcade
Cadence of Hyrule - Crypt of the NecroDancer Featuring the Legend of Zelda
It's still hard to believe that a gem like Cadence of Hyrule exists. In her review, Nadia calls Cadence of Hyrule a "crossover we never knew we needed," and need it we do. It's both a great pick for fans of rhythm games and a good fit for folks who just love the songs of Zelda and want to revel in Danny Baranowsky's killer remixes. If you're shopping for a fan of video game music who hasn't already played and beaten Cadence of Hyrule, then toss a code their way and set a timer—they'll be bopping Octoroks to the beat in no time at all.