Music has always been a sure-fire way to create an emotional connection with the story. Films had soundtracks way before actors were able to speak on-screen. Even if it was just some guy playing the piano.
As games became one of the most powerful and immersive storytelling tools, developers are not afraid to be as inventive with their soundtracks as with the gameplay itself.
Though so often the music would sound incredible in the game, when you listen to it separately, it just sounds weird and overly dramatic. Not something you want to be accompanied by on your way to work.
That is why I decided to look into soundtracks that are not only great in the game but can also be good for casual listening like when we are at work, in the gym or on any other real-life mission.
10. Life Is Strange. Various Artists
First off, no, I am not an angsty teenager.
Despite rebellious main characters and the story that takes dark turns, the soundtrack for the first game of the franchise is quite heartwarming. Composed of the various songs from different independent artists, the playlist for Life Is Strange has always managed to relax me after a long day.
It lets your thoughts to wonder, but if you decide to listen to lyrics, it adds up to the story of the game.
Best for: Coming back home after work/uni/school
Where to listen: YouTube Playlist
9. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. OST
This one is definitely for the Zelda fans here. This franchise has always been famous for its soundtrack. Heck, in Ocarina of Time, songs were literally one of the central mechanics of the game.
Breath of the Wild soundtrack is full of character and perfectly paints a picture of locations and people you meet in the game. This kind of music would be a good replacement for classical or piano for when you need to concentrate but still want something playing in the background.
Best for: reading, studying, drawing, anything that needs a certain amount of focus
Where to listen: YouTube Playlist
8. Hollow Knight. OST by Christopher Larkin
Another instrumental addition to our list, this soundtrack is more dynamic and creates an atmosphere of mysterious worlds. Listening to this, you would definitely start seeing the reality around you in different colours.
If you are going for a run in the park or just decided to walk instead of taking the bus, this music would definitely make you feel like you are in some magical alternative reality.
Best for: walking or jogging
7. Far Cry 5. Into the Flames by Dan Romer
For this entry, I am talking about a particular album that Ubisoft has released along with the game – Into The Flames.
You might recognise those songs from when you were attacking another outpost or stealing one of the cult’s trucks. Sounding like it belongs in the country genre, this soundtrack is one of those where lyrics make a lot of difference.
When music itself sounds quite cheery and uplifting, the lines, especially knowing the lore of the game, leave a chilling aftertaste. Nevertheless, the songs and performances are definitely worth your time.
Also, it is quite cool how developers expanded into different media to add to the experience.
Best for: road trips
6. Red Dead Redemption 1 & 2. OST by Various Artists
Another contender for a road trip companion. If you always imagined yourself on a loyal horse with a rifle on your back, then this one is definitely for you. The album for the first game is filled with classical western tunes, whilst the second is a mix of instrumentals and songs with lyrics.
Both would be great for creating an atmosphere rife with adventure, whether you are driving through the country roads or just cycling in a local park. Surround yourself with nature, put the RDR soundtrack on and feel free like an eagle.
Best for: road trips, hiking, cycling
5. Unravel 1 & 2. OST by Frida Johansson
One of my personal favourites.
An amazing example of how important music is in creating emotion. Created for Swedish indie game Unravel – which doesn’t feature a single line of dialogue – the music manages to tell the story on its own. Even without the game, the folk-sounding soundtrack is one of those that you can put on repeat and not get bored of for some time.
Best for: work, commute or when you want something playing on a background at home
4. Night In The Woods. OST by Alec Holowka
As quirky and full of character as the game itself. The same way Night In The Woods is a kid’s looking game for adults, the music could just have easily been from a cartoon with deep characters and serious story. Each of the songs is different and unique in its own way, which makes me smile every time and is an amazing start of any day.
Best for: going to work/uni/school in the morning
3. Cadence of Hyrule: Crypt of Necrodancer. OST
No surprise that a great rhythm-based game would have an outstanding soundtrack. Also, another title from the world of Zelda. The Cadence of Hyrule soundtrack is dynamic and full of energy.
Created in the style of retro, 16-bit music, matching the art style of the game itself, it is a great soundtrack to spice up your time in the gym or any other way you prefer doing sports.
Fun fact: Cadence of Hyrule‘s composer has also created music for other indie titles like Super Meat Boy.
Best for: sports – cycling, running, gym
Where to listen: YouTube Playlist
2. Cuphead. OST by Kristofer Maddigan
The amount of hard work and attention to detail that went into this game would fascinate anyone, even without knowing the details of the development. Recorded by live musicians, a rag-time band and even a tap dancer, each song is a masterpiece of its own.
The game is built around boss fights and each of them has their song that perfectly reflects their character. At the same time, the album complements the art style of the game’s 30s cartoon aesthetics.
If you love jazz, Cuphead soundtrack is definitely a must-listen.
Best for: feel-good music for mornings, commuting or housework
1. Death Stranding. Various Artists
The recent winner of Game Awards for Score and Music, Death Stranding creates a unique experience through music as much as through stunning visuals.
Apart from a typical instrumental soundtrack that would accompany main events in the game, there were also songs by different artists that would come on when the player travels across the world. This completely transforms the experience, which otherwise might seem like monotonic walking.
At the same time, it creates a familiar feeling. Many of us would do the same, knowing that there is a long journey ahead – put some music on.
Thanks to that game I have discovered some great artists. If you are looking for new fresh music to listen to, check out a massive playlist on Spotify created by Hideo Kojima himself.
Best for: travelling, commuting, walking; when you are in the mood to think and spend some time with yourself
So there you go. There are so many options in this list for different tastes, but with one common trait – love for games. Personally, I listen to all of these depending on my mood and activity. And I can definitely say that all this music makes my experience of life so much richer. Moreover, it helps me to get closer to my favourite games and adds an entirely new dimension to the experience.
If you have any other game soundtrack that you listen to in your day-to-day life, please let us know in the comments. It would be exciting to add more amazing music to my library!
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