Let’s face it. The world as we know it today—2020 and then some—is a very stressful place. I like to fancy myself a generally calm individual, however, even the aura within my own personal bubble has become permanently tinged with anxiety. As such, I find myself turning to my own forms of stress relief; and tops on that list is relaxing music. While I have a plethora of chill music at my fingertips, thanks to my phone, I’ve recently been drifting towards listening to more and more game soundtracks that feature quiet beats and downtempo rhythms. One of the most recently additions to my self-proclaimed chill-out playlist is the soundtrack to The Witcher 3, for example. It’s elegant, sweeping, and made up of musical sounds that are very much at home in the world of Geralt of Rivia. But, it has yet to crack my top five most listened-to soundtracks of late, which I’m happy to share here for your (and my own) aural enjoyment.
Red Dead Redemption
As far as defining ambient soundtracks go, Red Dead Redemption tends to kick up all the feels. It’s probably the one I use most as general background music when working. Much like the life of John Masrton, it’s a soundtrack caught between two worlds, that of the old west and the modern nation. It’s full of the twangy heart of rural life, along with the queasy instrumental longings of a new city on the cusp of prosperity. It’s as majestic a soundtrack as it is an introspective one.
When it come to capturing place and time in sound, there are few game soundtracks that surpasses the original Mass Effect. Ever spot in its galaxy has it’s own unique background music, and honestly, if you’re not listening hard enough, you’d probably miss it. Each theme is simply part of the environment, quiet and stealthy. Listen closely, though, and you’ll be treated to a thoughtful musical experience, one that can easily transport your fretful mind to a more peaceful place and time.
Despite all it’s glaring flaws and broken parts, there really is something very magical about exploring Appalachia in Fallout 76. Most of that feeling comes directly from the game’s flawless ambient soundtrack. Sure, there are plenty of fun radio stations to which to tune into while you’re clearing out ghouls or taking on a pack deathclaws, but for just generally exploring the map, the non-radio soundtrack is all I need. It’s all things quiet, quaint, and just a little but creepy, as it is out there in the wilds.
The Outer Worlds
Although The Outer Worlds and I didn’t get along as well as I had hoped, I still had a great time in its old-timey/new-age atmosphere. The game’s amazing, orchestral soundtrack went a very long way in pushing me to get out there and explore nearly everything the game had on offer, at least a little bit. Stepping foot onto each new planet with the quiet, building sounds behind me both enhanced the excitement and quell any fears about the adventure that was yet to come.
I will forever be a broken record about my love of Russell Shaw’s incredible soundtrack for the Fable series. With the game, it’s brimming with quiet magic and humor. When divorced from the game, the soundtrack has legs all its own. Together the songs paint a brilliant picture of the weirdly delightful world that is Albion, while also being very low-key about it all. Fable’s soundtrack invites wonder and relaxation; it’s perfect for de-stressing in even the worst of moments.
What are some of your favorite chill-out video game soundtracks?
Lede image taken by author during PS4 gameplay of The Outer Worlds © Obsidian Entertainment, Private Division, Take-Two Interactive (2019).