A Shoutout to the Video Game Soundtracks I Listen to the Most While I Write
When I'm not playing video games or writing about video games, I'm usually listening to soundtracks from video games because I guess I like video games.
Whether I’m sitting in a coffee shop, my apartment, or somewhere else writing things to throw up on this site, more often than not I’ve got some music playing in the background. A lot of time, that music just happens to be video game-related, for one reason or another. You’d think I’d be sick of filling my brain with video game content all day, but I guess that’s not the case.
The longer I’ve been writing about games, the more I’ve started to realize that there’s a handful of soundtracks that I revisit more than others. Some I think I go back to so often because the compositions are just that good. Others are more atmospheric and help me focus on writing. And some, I think, just give me good vibes and nostalgia which harken back to my childhood.
Regardless of why I put these soundtracks on all the time, here’s what I have found to be in my shuffle the most.
So I’ve never played Persona 5. Please don’t hurt me because of this.
I dig everything about the Persona games, and I have no doubt that I’d fall in love with them if I allowed myself the time to actually play one from start to finish. Even though I never got around to Persona 5 when it released last year, the soundtrack was one thing that I knew I could make time to experience, and I’ve been enamored with it ever since. As someone who loves jazz, this soundtrack’s combination of those elements mixed with funk and rock make for a unique experience that I can’t really compare to anything else, at least in the gaming space.
For the record, “Beneath the Mask” is my favorite track from Persona 5. There have legitimately been times where I’ve listened to that song on loop for hours. It’s really, really good.
The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
One of the true GOATs of video game soundtracks, if I do say so myself. The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time isn’t just my favorite game of all time, it’s the first one that really introduced me to how deep and wide-ranging this medium could be when I was a kid. There’s a nostalgic attachment between this soundtrack and I so whenever I put it on, I can’t help but feel warm inside.
I haven’t revisited Ocarina of Time in a few years, and I’ve really had the itch to do so. Because of this, I think I’ve just sort of subconsciously been listening to it more and more as of late to fill that void until I can get back to it.
I’d say a good 50% of why Cuphead is as good as it is is because of the music. Maybe that’s underselling the phenomenal artwork and tight controls that it has, or maybe this is just reflective of how great I think the soundtrack is.
Big band jazz is some of my favorite of the genre, and Cuphead has that old-school style of music in spades. I think some tracks from this game are way better than others (see “Floral Fury” above, maybe my absolute favorite) but from top to bottom, it’s a unique selection of music that you don’t hear too much of nowadays.
This has been a more recent addition to my rotation as of late and hey, Metroid music is pretty good. Who knew?
I’ve played Super Metroid in the past so I knew it had a pretty killer soundtrack already, but what I didn’t realize was how many great songs were in Metroid Prime 1 & 2. For some reason, I never played either of those games, but I did get around to playing Metroid Prime 3 on the Wii. I guess I just forgot that it had pretty good music.
Either way, I’m glad that I’ve found my way back to this music because it’s really atmospheric and kind of weird. Right up my alley. There’s a good compilation of tunes in the YouTube video above that you should check out.
Okay so here’s a very bold statement: I think Undertale might have the best soundtrack of all time.
For Toby Fox to solely develop every aspect of Undertale, including creating all of the music, still blows my mind. A lot of times, indie devs like Fox will create almost the entirety of the game by themselves, but then outsource the soundtrack and music for someone else to do. To create not only a fantastic game in its own right but also compose all of the music is just crazy, especially since I do really think it might be the best gaming soundtrack ever. At least within this modern era of games.
I can tell you exactly what is occurring within Undertale at a given moment just by hearing what song is on, and I’ve only played the game once. That’s possibly the biggest achievement of this soundtrack: it intrinsically ties those memorable moments from the game with the music playing in the background to create an experience that is almost impossible to forget.
Anyway, it’s a fantastic soundtrack: I listen to it all of the time, and long live Mettaton.
Hyper Light Drifter
I ran across the Hyper Light Drifter soundtrack randomly one day on Spotify and fell in love with it. I was familiar with the game but had never played it (I still haven’t other than for maybe an hour or so), and yet something about the music just really struck me in the moment. I remember sitting at the office where I used to work just being really sad that given day; I think it was even raining outside. I don’t know how to explain it: the music just really clicked with me and my mood at that moment.
I have a strange attachment to this soundtrack and as incredible as I think the full game probably is, I’ve kind of purposefully stayed away from playing Hyper Light Drifter because I don’t want it to ruin the way I feel about this music. Is that something that would happen if I were to play the full game? No, probably not. But for some reason, I just like to keep convincing myself that this music stands on its own and isn’t tied to anything else.
Maybe this is all a weird explanation, but I guess what I’m trying to say is that I still dig this soundtrack a bunch and I return to it often.
Hey! Another game I have never actually played.
It’s kind of weird how many soundtracks that I have on this list from games I’ve never actually sat down to play, but I guess I’m just drawn to good music. Chrono Trigger has notoriously always been on the shortlist for greatest gaming soundtracks, so when I decided to give it a listen a few years back, I immediately understood the hype.
With Chrono Trigger’s music specifically, there are also so many good covers from folks out there. One of my favorites is from PoopPoopFart (that’s legitimately the YouTube channel’s name) with his cover of “Secret of the Forest.” Please watch it, and please cry along with me.