Nicole Smith ’18 / Emertainment Monthly Assistant Video Games Editor
There are all sorts of outlets for people to turn to when they’re particularly upset, stressed, or just want to relax and treat themselves well. Sometimes you rely on music, sometimes on video games, and sometimes, on the music in games! Here are ten songs from video games to bring some calm to your life.
- “The Streets of Whiterun” from The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
A lot of the music in Skyrim is meant to pump up the player, with tons of rousing chants and aggressive instrumentals, but Skyrim knows when to slow itself down, too. As much as it’s a game about besting your foes and becoming the legendary Dragonborn, it’s also a game about exploring the lush world and marveling at the things it has to offer. “The Streets of Whiterun” serves as a great breather piece between all the shouting about Dovahkiin.
- “Traverse Town” from Kingdom Hearts: Dream Drop Distance
The Kingdom Hearts series has a whole collection of great and memorable music, from Yoko Shimomura’s fanciful orchestrations to Utada Hikaru’s JPop-inspired opening anthems. Still, some of the greatest tracks in the Kingdom Hearts series are returns and homages to its earlier music. Dream Drop Distance’s rendition of the Traverse Town theme is much slower and sleepier, replacing the melodic clarinet with a saxophone, and comes together in a really soothing home world theme for series regulars.
- “Fall (Raven’s Descent)” from Stardew Valley
Really, every track in Stardew Valley is designed to be immersive, relaxing, and homey for the player. The soundscape of Stardew Valley, in both its music and its sound effects, is so deeply detailed and well thought out that it would be easy to say the whole thing is an exercise in destressing. Stardew’s developer ConcernedApe put together the music for fall with the intention of emphasizing the season’s mystery and beauty, and it’s really well showcased here.
- “Menu Theme” from LA Noire
This game is an aesthetic piece in and of itself. There are vivid memories associated with leaving LA Noire’s rainy, neon-sign menu on in a dark room at night, simply to encompass the room in its sad and suave atmosphere. You never really want to admit that there’s a small, comforted part of you that highly enjoys lounge music, but that part of you really makes itself known at this track.
- “God Only Knows” from BioShock Infinite
One of only two songs on this list with singing! You just can’t ignore the phenomenal, mind-bending things that BioShock Infinite did with reimagining popular music (and if you’re wondering where Westworld got the idea, here’s your inspiration.) Yes, it’s not technically an original song off the Infinite score, but you have to appreciate a really masterful arrangement and barbershop quartet performance of one of the biggest hits from The Beach Boys.
- “Blackwell Academy” from Life Is Strange
Life Is Strange’s whole claim to style can really be made for the lens-flare, pastel, soft indie feel. When the game isn’t weaving in subtle touches of José González and alt-J, it’s either making use of gentle acoustic guitar for its more low energy moments or dreamy electronica for suspense. Here, though, there’s an awesome synthesis of the two that serves as the musical backdrop to protagonist Max’s high school.
- “Rebuild, Renew” from Fallout 4
Who knew exploring the desolate wasteland of a post-nuclear Massachusetts could sound so pretty? Fallout 4 has its fair share of creepy and nerve-wracking score work, and pieces that are downright some of the most heroic composition you’ll ever hear, but its lonely yet curious tracks are some of its finest. It leaves you torn between taking in the beauty of the natural world around you and how architecture and infrastructure look post-society, and letting yourself be swallowed by the heartbreak of knowing you’re one of the last people left.
- “Nightingale’s Eyes” from Dragon Age: Inquisition
Our other song with lyrics! What appears to be the norm with modern AAA titles is the inclusion of movie-quality orchestrated scores, and Inquisition is certainly no exception. The gravity and grandeur of some of the game’s events is fully delivered by its music, but it also offers the player a brief moment of solace and recreation with the inclusion of tavern songs that can be heard in the environment all around Thedas. This track is one of a handful, a bard song concerning the game’s reclusive spymaster Leliana, and was always a treat to hear in game.
- “Brand New Days -The Beginning-” from Persona 3
The Persona Team’s head composer Shoji Meguro is known for his more colorful and eclectic work on the Persona games, but he’s certainly mastered the art of capturing pathos in his work. Persona 3’s menu theme is a simple one, concerning only a piano and a synthesizer, but it’s one that becomes more meaningful and more heartbreaking to hear as the game continues. This is a song that, many years later, can be returned to for that melancholy brand of comfort everyone searches out from time to time.
- “7PM” from Animal Crossing: New Leaf
And you just can’t gloss over Animal Crossing. This is the game that tends to be cited as a stress reliever and anxiety reducer in players from all walks of life. There’s something otherworldly about playing Animal Crossing at two in the morning on a rainy night, you begin to spiritually transcend your troubles and your woes. Any track at all from any Animal Crossing title, from 12AM to 12PM, from Wild World to City Folk, is sure bring some levity to your day. This one’s just a personal favorite.
Keep playing games, keep listening to music, and keep appreciating the good around you! Search for things that make you feel happy and safe, even if it’s just a little tune from a game you played as a kid.