With the recent addition of most of the Final Fantasy soundtracks on Spotify, fans of the famous JRPG series flocked to the music-streaming service to get hit with waves of nostalgia. It got us thinking about the other fantastic videogame soundtracks on the service. There are some phenomenal soundtracks missing—like that of NieR: Automata or Kingdom Hearts—but there is plenty of music to enjoy, help you work or cry to. So, we figured we’d recommend you some of the best videogame soundtracks on Spotify right now in no particular order.
It feels fitting to start this list off with Final Fantasy—all of it. Not every song in each installment’s soundtrack is great, but each soundtrack has several breathtaking pieces. We recommend iconic tracks like Final Fantasy VI’s “Terra’s Theme,” Final Fantasy X’s “Zanarkand” and Final Fantasy VIII’s “The Extreme,” but also less known tracks like Final Fantasy IX’s “You’re Not Alone,” Final Fantasy XIII’s “Sunleth Waterscape,” and Final Fantasy XIII-2’s “Noel’s Theme The Last Travel” to bless your eardrums.
The songs in this soundtrack are short, but they don’t need to be long to resonate. Even though the many characters of Undertale are wildly different from each other, they manage to be so charming that it’s easy to associate specific songs with them. That’s why we recommend playing the game first, then listening to tracks like “Fallen Down,” Hopes And Dreams,” and the unforgettable “His Theme” to make the most out of your experience.
Many songs here complement the undercurrent of melancholy that seeps into even the happiest of scenes in one of the best-written games of this generation. A highlight is certainly the tranquil “Rainy Day,” but there’s also the groovy “The Long Fall” and “Back To The Holler,” which you’ll hear often yet never get tired of. Whenever you’re anxious or need to allow yourself to feel depressed on a bad day, listening to this soundtrack is something we recommend to make you feel better.
Celeste’s extremely good soundtrack deserves having won the awards for Best Audio at the 2019 Game Developers Choice Awards and the 2018 Video Game Score of the Year for the ASCAP Composers’ Choice Awards. “Little Goth” captures the feeling of anxiety, one of the game’s central themes, perfectly; “Reach for the Summit” conveys the arduous journey of climbing mountains both literal and figurative; and “Quiet and Falling” possesses an emotional weight that is both captivating and crushing. Several tracks are lengthy, reaching nine minutes and above, yet their quality is so impeccable that it’s hard to skip even a second of them.
Across all the Dragon Age and Mass Effect games, Inquisition might just have the best soundtrack. Trevor Morris delivered outstanding songs like “Journey to Skyhold,” “In Hushed Whispers” and “The Inquisition Marches” that capture the scope of this enormous, rich universe. And while they’re not included in the official album on Spotify, the game’s tavern songs are brilliant, with “I Am The One,” “Empress of Fire” and “Nightingales Eyes” standing out. If only you could go to your local tavern and listen to bops like these every time.
Both the visuals and audio of Transistor are nothing short of stunning. It has beautiful tracks like “Signals” as well as dynamic songs that make for perfect background music, such as “Forecast” and “Coasting.” And “Vanishing Point.” And “Apex Beast.” And “Tangent.” Basically, this entire soundtrack goes off and you should listen to it regardless of whether you’ve played one of the most beloved indies.
With the absence of death and the pressures that come with avoiding it, Gris has one of the most peaceful videogame soundtracks out there. “Gris Pt.1” is the game’s defining track—rightfully so, since it’s pretty dang magical—but tracks like “In Your Hands” and “Komorebi” breathe life and color into the universe of Gris as she embarks on a journey to process her grief. Much of the music is depressing, but in an almost comforting way—as if it’s enveloping you in a hug and saying you’ll be okay in the end.
Videogame music usually comes in three styles: you’ve got your cinematic scores, your electronic dance music, and your 8-bit-aping chiptune throwbacks. Rhythm games are especially prone to the EDM, even when they’re using licensed tracks and not original compositions. Thumper, the so-called “rhythm violence” game from Marc Flury and Brian Gibson, throws all that in the garbage; Gibson’s clattering, ominous score evokes the noise rock he’s made for the last 25 years as half of the band Lightning Bolt, only far more subdued. It’s a paranoid, claustrophobic set of atonal drones and noise washes set to primal percussion, and it perfectly captures the spirit of Thumper. Like the game itself, it seems to exist outside the mainline of gaming culture, with an entirely different set of influences and signifiers than what you typically find in a game or game soundtrack. It’s also the only game soundtrack released by Thrill Jockey, the long-running experimental rock label that’s released music from people like Trans Am, the Boredoms, Keiji Haino, Matmos, and a half-dozen or so Oneida spinoffs. Thumper’s soundtrack could easily stand alone without the game, and would fit in perfectly on your local college radio station’s noise or experimental show (assuming any of those things actually still exist).—Garrett Martin
Sometimes, it’s hard to focus on work—especially if you work from home on a computer and thus have unlimited access to your favorite distractions. While the soundtrack’s battle themes are intense and empowering, it’s the more quiet tracks that make for some of the best ambient music you can find in videogames. Listening to “Kaer Morhen,” “The Vagabond” and “After the Storm” in the game can tempt you to leave it playing in the background just to soak in the mood of these excellent compositions.
There’s a reason why Journey’s soundtrack was the first videogame soundtrack to be nominated for a Grammy. Every instrument in every song—from the overpowering cello to the violin that tugs at your heartstrings—is weaved together to effortlessly make listening to this soundtrack an experience that’s worth dropping what you’re doing to fully process. “Temptations” is overpowering; Reclamation is teeming with wonder and hope; and the echoes of “Fifth Confluence” cut right through your soul. There are few games and soundtracks quite like this.
Natalie Flores is a freelance writer who loves to talk about games, K-pop and too many other things at @heartimecia.