A blog about writing and self publishing

KWL Playlist of the Month: Video Game Soundtracks

Writing to music is a controversial subject. Some of us need absolute silence to get writing done, some of us need some background noise, and some of us require the perfect soundtrack. I fall into the last camp. I always have music playing, no matter what I’m doing in my life. But finding the right music to write to can be a challenge, at least for me – it needs to be primarily instrumental, interesting enough to be good but not so interesting it’s distracting, and it can’t remind me of anything. Movie soundtracks are great, but I have a hard time separating the music from the movie (there is no instance in which I hear any music from a Star Wars film and am not immediately transported to a galaxy far, far away).

But do you know what has the perfect music for writing? Video games! Like movie soundtracks, this music was intended to be in the background, behind the action. But thanks to the active participation aspect of video games, the music is less likely to evoke a specific memory, even if you’ve played the game. When I hear the music from Halo, I’m not thinking about Master Chief because I was too busy fighting off The Flood to remember what music was playing at the time. When I’m listening to Mass Effect, I’m not reminded of Commander Shepherd because I was too busy smooching Garrus to listen to the music (and fighting off the Reapers I guess). I’ve gone deep into the music of video games to find the perfect accompaniment no matter what you’re writing. You can find the full playlist on our youtube channel, but if you want to try a singular soundtrack to fit your particular mood or genre, read on.


Halo 4 (the later games in the series have better music IMHO)
The Vibe: Sweeping orchestra with a splash of science fiction, intense drums, a bit of choir, a smattering of sci-fi ambient noises
Perfect for: Writing an epic fantasy, a space opera, any fight scene, or some hard sci-fi

Skyrim
The Vibe: A stunning orchestra featuring a male chorus, slightly ominous, strong Medieval battle vibes,
Perfect for: Writing high fantasy, historical fiction, or anything that involves dragons or demons

Final Fantasy VII (you want the remastered one, trust me)
The Vibe: This soundtrack is incredibly diverse. You get some orchestral tracks that are slower and a bit somber, some epic and intense symphonics, some piano and synth, and some upbeat groovy tunes
Perfect for: This soundtrack can be your backdrop to writing anything from dreamy romance to sci-fi chase scenes to anything fantasy (resisting the urge to make a title-related pun right now)

Horizon Zero Dawn
The Vibe: Lots of percussion, lots of strings, some vocals, very strong “surviving in the wilderness” vibes
Perfect for: Writing anything that involves action and adventure, the great outdoors, or anything that gets your heart pounding

Far Cry 5
The Vibe: Very “middle of America meets high intensity survival”; lots of banjo, lots of fiddle, and some aggressive percussion
Perfect For: Writing some action and adventure or anything with cowboys

Assassin’s Creed II
The Vibe: Orchestral with hypnotic percussion, upbeat guitar, with a smattering of lyrical melodies throughout
Perfect For: Writing anything historical, from fantasy to steamy romance, or stories packed with action and adventure

The Last of Us
The Vibe: Spooky and melancholy, lots of acoustic guitar, piano, and solo strings with some high intensity drums occasionally thrown in
Perfect For: Writing horror, fantasy, or anything a little bit spooky or a little bit sad

Mass Effect 3
The Vibe: Some piano, lots of strings, with some sci-fi inspired synth and ethereal vocals
Perfect For: Anything high action, especially space operas, science fiction, or action and adventure

Dragon Age Inquisition
The Vibe: Lots of strings, both sweeping orchestra and solemn solos, with some nature sounds thrown in, a chorus, plus some tavern songs!
Perfect For: Writing anything fantastical, from historical to contemporary fantasy

Bastion
The Vibe: Ignore the dialogue in the first track and then you’ll move through some acoustic guitar western vibes, some sitar, and some compelling percussion, strings, and vocals
Perfect For: Writing westerns, action and adventure, and anything that gets that heart rate up

The Sims (3)
The Vibe: Happy and upbeat orchestra and piano
Perfect For: Writing romantic comedies, HEAs; anything heartwarming and uplifting

Witcher 3
The Vibe: Medieval adventure with strings, harpsicord, possibly a lute, and some pretty epic choral sections
Perfect For: Writing anything fantasy, action and adventure, or historical fiction

Uncharted 4
The Vibe: Intense instrumentals and percussion that switch between building suspense and high action, with some slower, more somber tracks mixed in (this is the last game in the series after all)
Perfect For: Writing action and adventure, espionage, and heart pounding thrillers

Transistor
The Vibe: Chill beats, electric guitar, and a smattering of vocals with almost machine-like percussion elements
Perfect For: Writing anything Sci-Fi and Fantasy, especially Steampunk

Into the Breach
The Vibe: Beautiful, slow strings juxtaposed to upbeat rhythmic percussion and melodies, featuring some incredible cello which makes the whole thing feel hypnotic
Perfect For: Writing science fiction, dystopian fiction, fantasy, or anything paranormal

Stardew Valley
The Vibe: Happy strings and synth, joyful melodies with an almost music box vibe
Perfect For: HEAs, romantic comedies, sweet romance, or anything generally upbeat and positive

Fable
The Vibe: Lush orchestra with moods ranging from uplifting to suspenseful to a little spooky to a bit melancholy
Perfect For: Honestly, anything. This soundtrack is the closest to standard classical on the list and it’s beautiful. But if I had to choose, I’d say it’s best for fantasy or historical fiction.

World of Warcraft
The Vibe: Absolutely epic. From the percussion to the strings to the chorus, this soundtrack is as big as the WoW universe
Perfect For: If my use of the word epic didn’t already tip you off, this is made for epic fantasies, but is also great for any massive battles you’re crafting, or any mythical creatures you’re creating.


Do you have a favourite soundtrack to write to? Or a favourite game to play? Drop us a line in the comments and let us know!

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