Listen to Your Game: The Importance of Music and Sound in Video Games

Video games are largely a visual medium; it is half the name of the industry after all. However, just as the visuals of a game can play a key role in your immersion in its world, so can the soundtrack.

For some people, a good soundtrack can make or break a form of entertainment. I’m not sure if the Guardians of the Galaxy movies would be so revered without the excellent choice of music that they give to accent Peter Quill’s personality.

On the flipside of that, you have the music from Suicide Squad, which for some – like myself – didn’t quite fit. Some of the songs that were chosen didn’t quite fit the tone of what I believe they tried to do with the film, and it dragged it down.

Queue the Music

Now, take those ideas and apply them to some of your favorite video games.

As a kid, I would be humming Super Mario’s iconic opening loop as I did chores around my grandparent’s house.

When I would visit my uncle I would know that he would be playing Tecmo Super Bowl the instant I heard the music that goes during a play.

More current examples of games like The Witcher and Skyrim will actually queue up more intense music to indicate when you’re in battle (or when you should be but you can’t find your enemy). And then as you explore the world, the music is more subdued to help you feel at ease so that you can take a moment to smell the roses and enjoy the beautiful scenery the programmers built.

Simpler games like Shovel Knight and Guacamelee have great soundtracks as well, because they fit the game world that’s been created.

Guacamelee’s Mexican inspired soundtrack is perfect, and it makes the game feel that much cooler to play. It makes me feel a part of that world for a moment, and that’s something that just looking at the game couldn’t do.

Shovel Knight’s soundtrack is epic, and each track fits the mood of the next level you’ve entered. From the great opening track to the haunting finish, the music helps to make you feel like you’ve been on some grand adventure.

The Sound of Silence

Just as much as great sounds and music help to immerse you, so does the absence of all the noise.

The best example that comes to my mind is Dead Space. This game’s sound design is immaculate. Wandering around the hallways with almost no music and then hearing something in the wall or from behind you creates an atmosphere of terror that is nearly unmatched.

But my favorite part of Dead Space’s sound design is when there is no sound during the parts where you’re on the outside of the USG Ishimura. You see the damage of the ship and sometimes even see explosions, but all you can hear is Isaac’s grunting as he moves, and it’s brilliant.

Play that Funky Music

Leave comments letting me know what some of your favorite soundtracks are! Could be any form of entertainment you enjoy. I always love listening to suggestions and I add a lot of soundtracks to my Spotify playlist.

Thank you, and keep on playing.

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