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A Video Game Soundtrack For Every Occasion

Playing a game without a soundtrack is like eating a meal that you can’t smell. Sure, you can still taste it and it’s great, but it’s just not the same. Game developers have taken note of the crucial role music plays in enhancing the overall gaming experience, and produce some remarkable music to accompany their games. Sometimes when the game ends, we want to take the soundtrack with us so we can pair it with different moments in our life and enhance our personal experiences in the same way it complements the game. Here are some of the most fitting video game soundtracks for various situations in everyday life.

For Studying

When focus and productivity are on the docket for the day, your musical backdrop must be carefully selected. The soundtrack needs to foster attention and efficiency, while fading into the background to avoid being a distraction itself.

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Undertale –The Undertale soundtrack provided the backdrop for a game built around humor and distinctive personalities. The result is a variety of musical motifs that seek to capture each character or setting and represent them audibly. Within each track, there comes a sense of underlying monotony that propels focus elsewhere, namely toward studying, writing, etc. The heterogeneous nature of the soundtrack is an important aspect of concentration, as well, in that it continuously stimulates the brain as opposed to the strict calming mechanism you’d look for in a sleep aid.

SimCity (2013) –The SimCity soundtrack induces a similar sense of urgency as the tracks in the forthcoming Running category, however instead of driving you toward physical exertion, it instills a calmness that compels your mind to focus intellectually. The industrious tone suggests advancement and progression, influencing your mind to keep pushing forward rather than your body. This phenomenon is a great cure for writer’s block and helps to keep the mind busy with the task at hand.

Other Good Soundtracks: The Last Guardian, FEZ, Xenoblade Chronicles

For Running

This type of music uses melodic intensity and driving musical phrases to spur you onward. It’s up-tempo and positive to aid your mental and physical endurance.

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Valkyria Revolution – The Valkyria Revolution soundtrack provides a sense of urgency over its entire course, with driving melodies that push musical phrases, making it the perfect companion for an activity of high continuity such as running. The orchestral qualities are conducive to a sense of wonderment, perfect for running outdoors and getting the sense of a journey on a larger scale. The intensity of the strings pushes you toward a final goal while the percussive elements create a great pacing structure. 

Assassin's Creed III – The majority of the Assassin’s Creed soundtracks fill this same sort of niche. The music is built around the idea of running and parkour being a mainstay of the game, so the soundtrack propagates the idea of a chase. Rumbling percussion and heavy brass push the music forward in an off-kilter, pressing manner that urges you to keep moving forward. Bonus points if you actually have someone chasing you.

Other Good Soundtracks: Nier: Automata, Persona 5, Sonic 3 and Knuckles

For Working Out

The best workout music serves as a constant distraction for your mind and lets your body do its work. It also possesses emphatic musical qualities that push you further and ramp up your adrenaline. 

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Crypt of the Necrodancer – For those who like to work out with more of a techno jam, the perfectly synchronous groove of drum tracks paired with rigid synths will take your workout to the next level. Crypt of the Necrodancer pulls inspiration from a variety of genres, namely techno, jazz, metal, and trap, combining them in ways they were never intended to be. The result is a unique musical hybrid, perfect for getting lost in your workout.

Doom – Nothing pumps you up to slaughter demons quite like the music of Doom. Heavy guitar riffs and a powerful, punchy drum kit get the adrenaline pumping through your ears, while the slower tracks are perfect for downtime between reps. This soundtrack can work to hype up a variety of situations and it’s impossible to deny that the Doom tracks will maximize your workout potential, just like they maximize your demon slaying.

Other Good Soundtracks: Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance, No Man’s Sky, Mega Man 2

For Falling Asleep

Music in this category is relaxing and non-intrusive, fostering a sense of safety and comfort. These types of soundtracks often carry a familiar quality and ease your mind, readying you for sleep.

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Minecraft – The music of Minecraft is easy to overlook due to its minimalistic and unobtrusive nature. Each track presents a different musical styling, making this one of the most technically varied soundtracks, despite its unassuming complexion. The soundtrack takes inspiration from a variety of historical musical forms, such as the appearances of interlude-like structures and atypical motifs. The calm and soothing tonalities permeate the soundtrack, making it ideal for sleeping or relaxing.

Firewatch – The Firewatch soundtrack is relatively short, but takes full advantage of every second to provide a uniform, familiar experience. Repetition of melody is largely what creates the lulling characteristic indicative of relaxing music, and Firewatch’s soundtrack is the epitome of a lullaby. Composed to bring serenity into its world, the music of Firewatch doubles as the perfect sleep aid. 

Other Good Soundtracks: Hyper Light Drifter, Child of Light

For Meditating

Meditation allows the individual to train the mind or promote relaxation. To assist these types of practices, music should be thought-provoking, contemplative, or otherwise engage a person on an emotion and spiritual level.

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The Last of Us – With its varied instrumentation of guitars and percussive textures, the music of The Last of Us demands attention, but also soothes the mind into focus with poignant moments of reverie. It takes an exceptionally delicate, yet powerful soundtrack to elicit these kinds of thoughts independently. The music pushes out environmental noise and extraneous thoughts with striking melodies and enveloping harmonies, opening you up to deeper and more emotional ponderings. 

Journey – The game gained a special role in the history of video games in 2013, becoming the first video game soundtrack to be nominated for a Grammy. The composition provided the underpinnings for the spiritual journey taken during the game. It was so successful in achieving this goal that the standalone soundtrack is just as provocative on an emotional and spiritual level. The music directs your attention inward with its contemplative and introspective properties. Journey is an exceptionally well-crafted video game experience, enhanced by its beautiful soundtrack.

Ori and the Blind Forest – The soundtrack from Ori and the Blind Forest sets itself apart from the previous two Meditation entries with its expansive ensembles and striking intensity. While the other entries emphasize the internalization of thought, the music of Ori and the Blind Forest looks to broaden the meditative experience, offering the opportunity to expand your psyche into your surroundings. The soundtrack was made to be complementary to the gorgeous art style featured in the game, and this carries over into external use of the soundtrack. Its music invites you to engage in walking meditation in addition to sitting, allowing you to experience the world around you.

Other Good Soundtracks: Life is Strange, Abzû

For Throwing a Party

Party music needs to be up-beat, energetic, and fun. While video game music isn’t exactly the best source for this type of music, certain soundtracks encapsulate the party vibe and get your foot tapping.

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Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime – The soundtrack from Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime capitalizes on the club-feel of heavy synths and then some. Heavier metal and trance influences push this soundtrack over the top and closer into EDM territory. The electronic elements and heavy builds give way to distinctive drops on several of the tracks, making this one of the best dance soundtracks video games have to offer. This is about the closest video games come to a mosh pit being acceptable.

Hotline Miami – Video game soundtracks certainly aren't the first thing that comes to mind when throwing a party, although Hotline Miami is the perfect representative of this type of music. Taken out of its context, this soundtrack could be blasted at a club and no one would be the wiser. The repetitive synths layered on top of driving drum tracks are screaming with the chill nightclub vibe. Taking inspiration from the house and underground genres, Hotline Miami is the poster child for video game dance music.

Other Good Soundtracks: Afro Samurai, Sound Shapes

For Road Trippin’

Long drives can be tedious and boring, so the paired soundtrack needs to counteract this monotony with variety and energy. If you’re going to be sitting for hours on end staring at cornfields, the music better at least be good.

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Bastion – The Bastion soundtrack brings the perfect mix of styles to keep it interesting the whole way through. The overall tone carries a gallivanting mood that hits home on the idea that it’s about the journey, not the destination. The appearance of several vocal pieces adds yet another layer of texture to the soundtrack’s variety. Put this soundtrack on and you’ll wish the drive was longer.

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild – Much like its predecessors, Breath of the Wild boasts an engaging and diverse soundtrack. As the first installment that takes on the open-world design, Breath of the Wild’s soundtrack contains musical themes that are suggestive of travel and exploration. As an added bonus, the soundtrack’s duration is just over four hours, making it great for dealing with hefty travel times.

Other Good Soundtracks: Transistor, Ocarina of Time, Hotline Miami 2

For When The World Is Ending

Sometimes life ends up taking a wrong turn; someone you love passes away, your significant other leaves you, or maybe things just seem like they’re falling apart. These soundtracks speak to us on an emotional level, turning just music into something even more special.

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To The Moon – This is the soundtrack to all of life’s mishaps. The melancholic piano matches some of the most difficult feelings to express, giving them a voice when we seem to be incapable of expressing them. Possibly more important than that, the music carries with it a renewed sense of hope that when the bad is over, there’s something good waiting on the other side.

Valiant Hearts: The Great War – If loss could manifest itself in a sound, it would be this soundtrack. Although it contains several more militant tracks, the slower, piano-driven ones create a devastating sense of mourning. In the game, it is applied to the ravages of war, but outside it offers respite for the many sorrows of real life. Sometimes people need a companion to facilitate their inexplicable feelings, and this soundtrack is the perfect embodiment of such a companion. It’s soundtracks like these that touch players and leave us with more than just a great gaming experience – they bring us exactly what we need, whenever we need it.

Other Good Soundtracks: That Dragon, Cancer; Gone Home; Final Fantasy X

For more video game music, check out some of the best video game soundtracks of 2016 or take a look at our top 10 musical performances by video game characters. Also take a look at the best video game soundtracks available on vinyl.

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