Telling a person what game they should try is hard; it is a delicate balance of personal preference and ‘ah-ha!’ moments that make a person become deeply connected to a game experience. By extension, sharing the joy of musical-pairings with games can be tricky for the same reasons. The hope, with this list, is to inspire creativity in the music that rains upon whatever game fills the span of the living room screen, for you to enjoy.
That being said, this is a Soundcheck list of the five game/music combinations I personally recommend. If you disagree or have different suggestions, please leave them in the comments or send them to my Twitter, I’m happy to take any suggestions in the hope of adding new life to my favorite titles.
All of these combinations are easy to pair, just go to the in-game options, turn down the music and (depending on the console) turn on your music elsewhere. Give the volume-tweaking some time, but once you get a perfect mix you’re on your way.
Minecraft – Radiohead
I could not get enough of this combination. I listened to entire albums from Radiohead while playing in the world of blocks and cartoon monsters. The emotions the two share can come hard and fast, be it through OK Computer or killing an Ender Dragon.
Creative energy and unexpected changes in pace are frequent in both Minecraft and Radiohead. You are in a cave, creeping towards a coal deposit when suddenly the music takes a turn immediately before you discover lava resides behind your new-found treasure. While both of these selections seem targeted at different demographics, the ability to think for yourself is a theme both capture perfectly.
Journey – Tycho
Oh, the beautiful visuals matched by the beautiful audio. Austin Wintory takes the player on a musical experience with the original soundtrack, but we’re here to be off-beat. Journey is the name of the game, but it is also what Tycho takes the listener on.
With many of their tracks, Tycho provides a building, thoughtful approach to delivering their music. They never send everything they have at the listener, making each song feel like a lakeside sunrise that is taking place and, before long, the sun is in full view to behold.
Tycho could be paired with Minecraft, as well. But, the slower pace is not as conducive to the combat-heavy moments that take place.
Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain – Gotye
SOMEBODY! That is all that came to my mind when anyone would mention Gotye for the first long period after his runaway success ‘Somebody that I used to know” came out back in 2011. However, getting all of Gotye’s work together and playing it while enjoying the masterpiece that is Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain is a special treat.
This combination takes the plunk-y nature of Gotye’s music and pairs it with the slow, thoughtful approach I loved to take in TPP. Is it acceptable to go in, guns blazing? Absolutely, the game is at your disposal. But for my experience, all stealth and non-lethal as I could be, the magic of Gotye was perfect for the majesty that I felt completing a stealth mission.
Dying Light – M|O|O|N
If you have played a number of critically-acclaimed games or simply enjoy ultra-violence, chances are good you have at least heard of Hotline Miami. M|O|O|N has songs that feature in that game, so some of this may seem familiar.
However, M|O|O|N has a number of songs that pair well with Dying Light’s signature tension of (literally) running from incredibly powerful zombies and mutants. The explosive moments in the soundtrack slam back against the survivor’s pounding heart.
Stardew Valley – Jens Lekman
Oh, a story to tell and an expert storyteller to do so. Those simple ingredients alone build some of the greatest recipes of all time. This ranges from family gatherings, relationship adventures, or even two siblings caught up in a tense moment; nothing pairs so beautifully as a story and someone who can deliver it magically.
Jens Lekman is a masterful storyteller. With his upbeat personality and accessible work, every story he weaves is something that resounds within, as well as being fun to simply listen to. Pair with this the magic of creating one’s own story in Stardew Valley and the player is in for a treat, whether it is harvesting Kale for Julie or fishing with “Our First Fight” playing, Jens and Stardew are telling two stories in perfect harmony.
What games do you pair with music, and why? Let us know in the comments below, or reach out to me, I’m always happy to turn on my favorite console to someone’s favorite musical selection.