Tracking down game soundtracks used to be a bit like being an aristocratic big game hunter in the late 19th century. It required a whole lot of groundwork, weeks of research, a raft of foreign help and a stack of money. Now though, digital distribution means that you can poke your eager little finger at a screen and get anything you want in seconds. iTunes in particular is a brilliant tool for acquiring hundreds of brilliant game noises old and new, with the most contemptible of ease. But just in case you don't want hundreds, I'm going to point you in the direction of the twelve most essential ones you can get right now.
But remember, I myself was once that handlebar moustached hunter of bespoke electronic tunery. So just imagine that I'm giving you all of this information with a curmudgeonly "You don't know you're born" look on my face. Oh, and don't forget to argue over my choices in the comments. That's always the most important part, after all.
Deus Ex: Human Revolution
Composer: Michael McCann Buy it here
Alternately frenzied, soaring and soothing, the original score to Deus Ex: Human Revolution is perhaps the best new game soundtrack of the last couple of years. With insistent electronic percussion blending with cool ambient synth and subtly-powerful abstracted human vocals, it's an accessibly complex soundtrack with sound and a mood both unmistakable and untouchable.
Scott Pilgrim vs. The World
Composer: Anamanaguchi Buy it here
The retro-gamey soundtrack to the game based on the film based on the retro-gamey comic book. Arriving as the result of so many resonant stacked levels of brilliant, the Scott Pilgrim OST is an absolute stunner. Basically, it's the most potent and fast acting cheer-up music money can buy.
Silent Hill 2
This one shouldn't need any introduction, but in case it does, know this. Akira Yamoaka's soundtrack to Silent Hill 2 is one of the most revered in gaming for a reason. It's one of the most touching, chilling, and deeply beautiful soundtracks ever to grace any piece of media. Combining soaring rock, ethereal synth and abstract soundscapes, it's powerfully affecting on a level you just will not be able to imagine if you haven't already heard it. So hear it. By buying it.
Composer: Normand Coubeil Buy it here
Repetitive and one-note as it may be in the game, Heavy Rain's melacholic, ominously fatalistic score works a lot better in separation. Free from over-use, the various character-specific themes shine as pieces in their own right. The overall tone might rarely stray from 'sad and a bit doomy' across the selection of tracks, but it's a strong and unique set of tunes with a personality all of its own.
Batman: Arkham City
Composer: Nick Arundel and Ron Fish Buy it here
Forget that dodgy "Music inspired by..." album that's knocking around, attempting to purvey its array of unrelated licensed tunes off the back of the game's high profile. This is the real thing. The orchestral score. The pounding, sweeping, at times damnably emotional stuff that actually appears in the game. It's bloody brilliant, and up there with the very best Batman scores ever to grace the cinematic adaptations. In fact it's a good blend of the best bits of all of them.
Bionic Commando Rearmed
Composer: Simon Viklund Buy it here
Halfway between the exhilarating abrasiveness of 8 and 16-bit chiptunes and the layered finesse of modern electronica, the soundtrack to Capcom's pitch-perfect NES remake is as fun and imaginative as it is pulse-poundingly exciting. One of the most vital game soundtracks around right now, in both senses of the word. It's that simple.