Music Captivating Our Emotions In Games

Hey HMF, I’m gonna do one last forum post before I log off for a good while. A game’s soundtrack is something that some people see as one of the essentials in making a game good and overall making the players first experience memorable. The concept of this post came up after beating Saint’s Row 3 on The Nintendo Switch. To provide clarity no this is not my first time playing SR3 I played it originally on the Xbox 360 when it first released back in 2011. I’m choosing SR3 for an example since they arguably use their Soundtrack (both original and licensed) in a strategic way in order to bring out our emotions. I will be using two examples from two late-game missions and with that being said if you haven’t played a game that is almost 10 years old what are you doing?

The first mission I’m gonna bring up is titled Murderbrawl XXXl. The Boss (The Player) participates in this year’s Murderbrawl and you go up against Kill Bane and his Luchadors. Your companion goes up against Kill Bane and you fight off the onslaught of Luchadors. During this time Joe Esposito’s Hit from the 1980’s classic The Karate Kid “You’re The Best Around” plays as you chainsaw your way through what seems a never-ending horde of enemies. During this moment as the song plays you feel energized and badass and overall feel good as you hack your way through enemies. How could Volition top this moment? Well, the mission ends with Kill Bane (canonically) being demasked and escaping in a fit of rage and you truly feel the best around.

The next mission is, of course, the final mission before one of the two epilogues. The mission titled Three Way has you travel to three locations of the city that is in mass chaos and you diminish the horde of enemies. After you finish those objectives it is revealed Kill Bane is fleeing the City and that the Para-Military Group S.T.A.G plans on blowing up a monument and blaming it on The Saints because they captured Shaundi and Viola. The only problem is you only have time to do one. What follows is what I consider one of my favorite moment in a game in general which is Bonnie Tyler’s “Holding Out For A Hero” playing in the background as you make your choice. The song encompasses the situation perfectly. Anyone can become a hero if they try. If the player follows the canon route they will save S.T.A.G.S terroristic attack upon the monument and you truly become a hero because the girls are saved and you get the happy ending.

Music and Video games are bread and butter. For a lack of a better phrase “it just works”. I share with you one of my favourite musical moments from a game I very much enjoy every couple of years. I hope you share your experiences with the rest of the HMF and with that being said I’ma go log off now and I’ll see you guy’s for the next IOI stream!

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1st: Every second of an assault in Payday 2 when the badass music by Simon Viklund is playing in the background as you slaughter the cops

2nd: Dragonborn Theme playing when you encounter a dragon in skyrim

3rd: A lot of music such as Jupiter by Gustav Holst remind me of this small MMORPG called “Villagers and Heroes”, i poured 1180h in it, but i havent played it in almost 2 years now… Other than quickly popping to say Hi to old friends, every now and then. It sure brings back memories such as how i finally got through the The Great Sea Isles and the Corrupted Azar Isles, when i beat my first elder bosses, got to the pyrron lair, beat the halloween event, walked around in shiverspine, characters such as Rotburga, Karackus, Lord Pyrrus, Droktor, King Leo, all the times my fan art or such got featured (Like 70% of my submissions got featured), i even made a short piano piece for each of the 40 or so elder bosses. Good times, good times

From a lesser known set of videogames:


As a kid I loved the vibrating feeling these tracks gave to the in-game world, wich was on itself already pretty fantastical. Even to this day, all of the songs inspire me sensations of a big adventure and journey. Well, what else can be expected from the same studio that makes most of the tracks for the videogames of Sonic the Hedgehog.

Dancing to Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker together with Cohen’s splicers and my trusty wrench in the first Bioshock. Or, in the same level, poor Fitzpatrick forced to play that insane piano piece and then going boom. My favourite character introduction ever.

In Enderal, sneaking through the Aged Man’s manor, while he’s playing this beautiful piano music, that carries through the building. (I just love piano stuff)

In VtMB - Ocean Hotel level, tiny distant snippet of a radio track, that plays in the basement, while one hears ghosts and weird shit. It’s so small and random, but it added so much to the atmosphere. I was replaying that level many times just to hear that snippet.

From the more recent ones - Observer has awesomely strange music moments in some of the rooms, that - together with the wild visuals - are like something out of the void between meditation and psychosis or dunno… Disorienting and “this is highly uncomfortable, but -i wanna return to it- kinda uncomfortable”.

Music tracks in games that hyped me up:

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Oh and there are three more…

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Ok had to reply to @Soupienza. Everything about the Mass Effect 2 Soundtrack is great. Suicide Mission is just the best!

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Yeah… tbh ME2, partially due to the music, felt like a real epic… making it a lot harder for Bioware to up the ante in ME3.

Also little did anyone know at the time that the big “Act 3” of ME3 would be full of disappointment (ie: Choices across the trilogy that didn’t matter, etc.)… but the music was definitely part of that vibe.

ME2 was the big climax of it all.

Literally all the music in Red Dead Redemption 1 and 2

This in particular is known for making the tears flow. ESPECIALLY if you know the context behind it

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Don’t want to spoil the context because I think if there’s one video game above all others whose story you should experience on your own it’s SH2. Not overrated in the slightest

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This.

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Ah, I see you are a man of culture as well…

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It really bugs me that I keep reading this phrase in the “Isle of sgail” welcoming voice of “Ah, one more I see”.

Will add to this topic later, have got some ideas but not in a place where I can share YouTube links now. Music is a key factor in games, not only in their enjoyment but especially in bringing back emotions and memories when hearing the music later, without necessarily playing the game itself. A lot of my palylists are based on games I played in the past.

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Ah, I see someone’s in a rush to get inside. Well, no one’s putting a gun to your head.

When you’re a kid playing your PS1 and you think you just beat the bad guy, the screen turns black, music slowly fades out …

And then this kicks in

Oh shit.

It’s difficult to pick favorites, but here are some I can just keep listening to:

The Gabriel Knight games all have brilliant music, mostly composed by Robert Holmes. This piece is very melancholical to me and gets me in a lyrical mood.

What would this thread be without Jesper Kyd? This track always gets me pumped up, ready for action.

While this one allows me to calm down and fall into bliss.

Need I still introduce Deux Ex? According to the video description, the soundtrack was “extolled by critics for aptly complementing the gritty and haunting atmosphere predominant throughout the game.”

Many of its tracks are great, but I chose the one from the Training Room, because it’s easily overlooked. It has a slightly playful and protected vibe, but you can feel the danger that oppress the walls of the facility that prepares you for them.

A bit in the same vein as the Deux Ex soundtrack.

Honorable mentions:

I’m going to start with Max Payne 1 and 2 but skip well known main theme’s of games

I love this one so much.Scary and full of suspense.Makes you feel like there’s always someone waiting for you just around the corner.It flows so well with gameplay

Creepy and disturbing

Full of energy and agression,brilliant for some of the harder shootouts in later levels

Max Payne’s OST is in imo pretty underrated.It has a unique sound and communicates well with gameplay.

Max Payne 2 is just as good

2:08 till the end.So amazing

Hitman 2 has two of maybe my favorite Kyd’s pieces-slow and fast ambience.I love them because they are so subtle,you don’t even notice them while you’re playing yet you feel scared

TWAU has some of the best soundtracks I’ve ever heard

Pure melancholy and loneliness


I’m sure TWAU’s world and characters wouldn’t be half as loveable and magical if it wasn’t for the brilliant music in the game

LA Noire

tension

Amon Tobin is amazing

I like the drums that start at 5:16

I don’t know who did Double Agent ost but I liked this one

There are many other games I can’t remember right now

I fondly remember my first boss encounter in a soulsborne game. I had been fumbling and stumbling my way around Bloodborne’s Yharnam for way longer than I want to admit, when suddenly some massive creature jumps into the level, shrieking with a sound of terror. On one side I was glad that I was finally making progress, but on the other the whole thing stressed me out because I was so lacking in experience. This banger starts to play

Truly hair raising, blood pumping moment. When I finally managed to beat him it turned out to be a dead end so RIP.

So lets see music in games. I am pretty sure I made it clear how I stood at one point. That the best music does something clever, never tells you how to feel at any given point, it needs to capture the scene not command it and can be good even if it is background noise. With that said here are some of my favourite moments.

Billie Jean/Self-Control by Michael Jackson/Laura Brannigan coming on the radio was one of the first things I heard as a game (Billie Jean) and nice welcome back (Self-Control) to Vice City.

On the topic of Rockstar is “Unshaken” by D’Angelo and “Cruel, Cruel World” by Waylon Jennings both are some of the best tracks of 20818 to me. Any remix of The Shootist (i.e. American Venom and Jim Milton Rides Again) is also fantastic.

Again with Rockstar is Tangerine Dream’s original score for V and The Russian Connection in IV. Both are excellent original pieces for a Rockstar game.

Then we have Skyrim with “Sons of Skyrim” and the “One They Fear” which is the main theme of the game and it damn awesome. In fact alot of the music there is awesome.

Then there is the Witcher 3. With “Silver for Monsters” and “Steel for Humans” being my preferred tracks. But almost every single piece of music in that game has a pull with me.