Making this topic is inspired by listening to the Ori and the Blind Forest soundtrack and being rather surprised when I got a bit teary-eyed while listening to it. It made me think about how there are many soundtracks or individual tracks that have more of an effect on me based on the memories I have from playing these games.
Some ones I have and emotions/states they trigger in me:
- Ori and the Blind Forest - Nostalgia, happiness, pleasant sadness. The art direction and music of the game blends in a way that makes me feel happy and sad at the same time while listening to it.
- Dustforce - It helps induce a focused flow state. This game was so hard and I don’t think I would have stuck with it as long as I did had the soundtrack helped soothe what would have otherwise been maddening frustration.
- FTL -This soundtrack brings back memories of wrapt attention. Sitting staring at what initially seemed like an unwinnable situation and finding a possible way out. I listen to Ben Prunty a lot while working.
- DOOM 2016 - RIP AND TEAR! This soundtrack gets me super pumped up. Great for working out or if I’m having a bad day to unleash some of my aggression and anger. Just visions of being a badass murdering demons.
- VVVVVV - This is similar to Dustforce except I got all but the one really hard achievement in VVVVVV. I also found the story unexpectedly compelling and was pleased at the story reward for gathering all the shiny trinkets. Another soundtrack I often put on while working to help get myself in the zone.
- Chrono Trigger - Man how much do I love this game. I don’t think there is a single more nostalgic soundtrack for me. It was the first JRPG I played to completion and the length and interconnectedness of the story was totally unexpected to me at the time. I assumed that the game would be over once we returned with Marle to 1000 AD. And again after the showdown with Magus. The fact that there was so much game and that the story kept me engaged was really remarkable for me at the time when the most story I’d had in a game before was the “Story” of the Sonic games.
- The Genesis Sonic games - Just good old nostalgia here. Really top quality stuff. Special shoutout to Mystic Cave Zone. Dat bass riff!
Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture.
That game is an extremely mediocre walking sim, but I absolutely adore the soundtrack.
I was able to play through the entire game simply because of Jessica Curry’s beautiful contemporary classical choral soundtrack. It does SO MUCH with so little in terms of harmonies and melodies.
There are few pieces of music that make me feel like that soundtrack does. It’s a tonal bath.
Disasterpeace’s soundtrack for Hyper Light Drifter is music I want to live inside of. Just iconic music that will forever be a part of me and will always draw me back to playing that incredibly crafted game.
Here are some other game soundtracks I adore, which I listed in an article I wrote a number of years ago.
Swapper, the recreation center gets me every time. The soundtrack perfectly captures the tone, sense of space, and temperature of the game. The rec theme, in particular, is just the perfect amount of ‘should be warm’, but it’s still so cold.
I listen to the Fez soundtrack a lot and it gets me in a melancholy but optimistic mood every time. Now I listen to it when I’m studying or writing because it gets me in a focused space where nothing else matters but what’s directly in front of me.
I immediately start misting up when The Sun Rises from Okami starts playing.
Exceeding Love, the opening theme of Suikoden 3, should go down in history was one of the best opening themes ever. I still get shivers down my spine every time I listen to it.
Any Sonic rock themes or anything Poets of the Fall did for Alan Wake also gets me going, and I often bob my head to them. Ditto for the Yakuza fight themes, especially North Menace from 2.
Marty O’Donnell speaks to my soul. The soundtrack to Halo 3 OSDT in particular.
The sadder songs on the Mother 3 soundtrack always take me straight back to high school. I had no idea I was mentally ill and that it was fucking up my life and ability to feel things properly. Mother 3 was so genuine in its emotion that it was one of the very few things that managed to break through that barrier. I cried a ton playing it, and several times afterward, often at school, just from thinking about it. All of that together gives it a key to my heart (and often tear ducts) and I will be devastated when it gets its ass kicked in the game theme contest.
This is a great question! I love a lot of game scores and listen to a ton, but thinking about which ones that change my mood because of my experience with the game is a good exercise! Here’s a few:
Revali’s Song from Breath of the Wild gives me goosebumps every time I listen to it. For whatever reason that song evokes so much of the joy I got from playing the game.
- My experience with the PAYDAY games is overall a mixed bag, but the music from first world bank still puts me on edge, a little overwhelmed, but excited. Also, apropos of nothing, the drums coming in here (and especially the snare sound when it goes back to the main theme) are just like, really freaking good.
The Demon Souls theme is just so… off. It never fails to make me feel uneasy. I remember when I first booted up the game and thinking of how much this game felt so unfamiliar and uncaring. And yeah, the horns and organ and everything sound sort of cheesy in some lights, but they are just so slightly weird that it just makes me so uncomfortable.
The score for The Last of Us destroys me and makes me super contemplative every time. But, you know, Sad Songs Make Me Feel Better.
Mondo did a vinyl pressing of the soundtrack, including the Left Behind DLC, and it’s one of my favorite things I own.
Did you see someone finally leaked Music of the Spheres?
I really like the music for D2, reminds me of a time when I still thought that game was good …, think the music is probably my favourite thing from the game now
Oh shit, really?! It there a legal way to get a hold of it? I bloody loved his work on Destiny!
Edit: It’s on YouTube! Thanks for the heads-up Branwen. My work day just got better
NP, happy to have shared/helped work
Some game music I find is kind of a similar triggering stimulus to smell. It’s the kind of memory that absorbs somewhat subconsciously, especially when you’re really young. You’re main focus is on beating the game, but maybe you’ll repeat a level over and over and just imbibe this music on a loop so it just engrains into your memory. Then when you experience it again later, you probably won’t remember the exact details of the game or level, but the music will instantly be hummable even though you haven’t heard or thought about it in 10, 20 years. And that strong memory will bring with it a bunch of other small details, like where you were when you played that game, or old friends and forgotten experiences.
Anything from the original THPS puts me in a better mood. Especially Superman by Goldfinger.
I once wrote an essay on this subject with regards to how Nintendo has used variations on the Starman theme for invincibility across the Super Mario franchise and even across into the spinoffs like Kart, and how in The Legend of Zelda they’ve reused melodies a ton, in particular the Secret Sound, which triggers when you solve a puzzle, and has been present in the series since the original in 1986. So when you hear the Starman theme you get the music that accompanied you when you were invincible countless times before, and when you hear the Secret Sound, you hear the music that rewarded you every time you triumphed over a puzzle and forged ahead, so my theory is that they remind you of those times and bring up the feelings of those times, which can exaggerate your feelings of invulnerability or accomplishment more than you would ordinarily feel. Of course that could all be horse apples.
I’m really hoping I’m not the only goober who reads this and wonders why Nintendo would reference Jeff Bridges in Mario games, only to be relieved (and mildly disappointed) when they realize what is actually being discussed.
When writing that post, I was for some reason remembering the British docusoap Pineapple Dance Studios which featured some preening hack trying to be a pop star in a band called Starman.