Video game soundtracks are the unsung heroes of the Spotify world. Perfect running tracks, deep focus backgrounds, and chilled fillers await in the world of video game music, and where better to start than the golden years. Video games of yore have provided us some of the most emotional and / or badass tunes and they often go ignored by the mainstream. In this list we’ve only included full soundtracks that you can stick straight on a speaker, not specific theme tunes. We’ve also tried to steer clear of the obvious choices – your Super Mario and your Tetris are nowhere to be found here. Instead we’ve looked for soundtracks you can actually pop on in the background, rather than the ones that rattle around your head for hours after.
Final Fantasy X
A strong favourite in the series, Final Fantasy X is just as loved for its vibrant and dynamic soundtrack. Soothing piano trills provide a clean and relaxing experience, while other tracks bring in some punchier synth and hi hat combos. Rousing battlefield anthems use rolling strings and tumbling drums to boost bravado and heroism. Variety reflects the incredibly diverse and dynamic world of Final Fantasy as well as the sense of wonder that always accompanies. Ideal for working, slow ethereal tunes give you some deep focus time while driving battle music can fade in just at the moment you need some heroic motivation.
Playlist: Psych Up
Released in 1990 primarily for the C64, Turrican‘s impressive graphics and colours gave the console a new lease of life. While its level design and graphics achievements somewhat overshadowed its soundtrack, it’s resurfaced in the contemporary era. The low bass and techy high melodies jump around each other in this pumping soundtrack. A rousing combination of strong melodic hooks and driving rumble rhythms makes this an excellent choice for that pre-work out psych up session.
Playlist: Deep Focus
While you might not initially peg the Quake soundtrack as a background to serious contemplation what with its Nine Inch Nails’ Trent Reznor composer. However amongst the badass futuristic guitar distortion festival, most of Quake‘s score is comprised of echoey, emptily atmospheric grumbling. Moody, low, and fairly non-melodic, Quake can, surprisingly, provide a perfect background to your intense study sessions.
The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
Music is such an integral part of Ocarina of Time that it’s not surprising the soundtrack has won awards for its complexity. Opening tracks slowly progress through simple piano chordal melodies on with repetitive yet charming ocarina / flute melodies over the top. Relaxing and invoking a childlike awe reflective of the game itself, this mix of slow relaxation and fast-paced, high-pitched childishness makes it a perfect choice for ambling through the countryside or simply trundling to work. The light-hearted, jolly atmosphere can turn any Monday morning trudge into a whimsical skip.
Strangely relaxing, Turbo Outrun is full of 8bit-esque flurries of synths layered over each other. Synth call and response creates incredibly catchy hooks, as well as some satisfying crescendos so cruising to this car-inspired soundtrack is an obvious choice. The sheer amount of layers can create a crushing intensity when reproduced from a good set of speakers (back in the day they were more of a headache), and a melodic set of riffs provide plenty of restrained head bopping potential.
Dragon Quest IX: Sentinels of the Starry Skies
Jolly, simplistic melodies have come to define the Dragon Quest experience. From the familiar riffs and melodies that plagued our parents since the dawn of the series to heroic anthems of each individual battle, Dragon Quest IX has it all. Though often slipping under the radar, the series has some seriously catchy tunes featured, and if you’re a fan of the games each one will bring with it warm rushes of nostalgia. Slower moments bring out the more ethereal tones of the game, with swooping echoes of melody and charming slow hooks. Trills often add a bit of colour to these laid-back moments, and pattering light melodic lines feature throughout the heftier tracks. A simple, repetitive, but ultimately crowd pleasing background symphony, Dragon Quest XI: Sentinels of the Starry Skies is perfect for your chilled evenings, mornings, and me time.
Donkey Kong Country 2
Playlist: Morning Pump
Once again, Donkey Kong is back to lend a hand to those mornings when you need a bit of self-affirmation of badassery. With its funky undercurrents and incredibly catchy melodies, the soundtrack has a bit of everything. While the aforementioned funk is incorporated in most of these upbeat ditties, it often works well beneath some calm, swooping, atmospheric melodies. On the flip side, other tracks indulge this rhythm with intense and intricate yet ultimately endearingly childlike melodies and chordal accompaniment. Before a big day, meeting, or interview, Donkey Kong Country 2 will lighten your tone and put a self assured spring in your step with its euphoric mix of rousing and motivating atmosphere.