10 indie video game soundtracks you should check out
If you think back on some of your most memorable video game moments, games you spent hours playing, exploring, conquering, levels you spent an obsessive amount of hours on -- one thing that will stand out more than the gameplay itself is the music that accompanies it. From the curated sounds of Tony Hawk and Grand Theft Auto to the early days of Super Mario Bros and Sonic the Hedgehog originals, the latter whose third soundtrack was so good it was rumored that Michael Jackson was one of the game’s contributing composers.
Indie game soundtracks are no different. Similar to the indie genre of music, indie game soundtracks offer a variety of memorable sounds to complement innovative gameplay. Whether you are looking to revisit some of your favorite moments or want to vibe out to your favorite score, we have rounded up a list of 10 epic indie video game soundtracks available on Spotify. Level up.
Cuphead is a crowd-favorite when it comes to gameplay, and the soundtrack is no different. Composed by Krisofer Maddigan, the Cuphead soundtrack is a period piece with 1920s-style vaudeville music blending jazz, early big band, and ragtime music to back the game’s chaos. Inspired by the likes of Duke Ellington, every song in the game is played by live musicians, and the frenzy, spontaneity, and surprises of the jazz soundtrack complement the gameplay well.
Celeste is a wonderfully written story, and the iconic Lena Raine-composed soundtrack allows you to relive the emotional highs and lows of the protagonist’s epic journey. The music seamlessly mirrors the flow of the game. When Madeline is experiencing anxiety, so is the music that surrounds her. During the more melancholy scenes, you feel the heaviness in the accompanying sounds. While each song has a story to tell and the soundtrack stands just fine on its own, it is so custom fit to the game that is almost impossible to separate the two. You’ll definitely find yourself getting flashbacks to your favorite moments.
The Transistor soundtrack features a musical style that has been described by songwriter and producer Korb as "old-world electronic post-rock." This sound is very experimental, filled with electric guitars and pianos, harps, mandolins, accordions, and synth pads. During gameplay, an EQ filter is applied to add a distant, blurry effect to select moments such as pausing the game or using the “TURN ()” menus, adding layers of texture to the game.
Gris is a beautiful soundtrack that can be enjoyed as background music while studying, driving, or chilling around the home and is best played with your best headphones or speakers. Still, there is a strong emotional connection to certain tracks that comes along with the gameplay. Minimalism works very well here and is very soothing to the soul.
Hyper Light Drifter
This atmospheric soundtrack is from the same person who brought you FEZ’s wonderful marriage between synths and Impressionism. Disasterpeace is among the best video game composers to date in my opinion. This album was my start in Impressionism, and I can't wait for the Solar Ash soundtrack! One of the best synthesized/chiptune soundtracks I've ever heard, featuring a diverse instrumental palette suited for such a beautifully detailed yet stylistically simple game. But duality lies at the core of the film and game composer’s recent output. Play a short section of Hyper Light Drifter and this becomes clear. Heart Machine’s new 2D action RPG for PS4 and Xbox One is a tranquil take on dystopia, an 8-bit picture-postcard of a broken world on the verge of an even greater disaster.
Ori and the Blind Forest
The score for this game is just as gorgeous as the game itself and provides a sheer level of enchantment on the first listen. The Mouldies are haunting and full of melancholy, and it speaks to the soul in a way that few scores are able to do nowadays. There is also a very childlike and contemplative element to the sounds, mirroring the vibrancy and multitude of colors and sounds found in the game, along with the tensions of highs and lows. Even if you’ve never played the game, the soundtrack will spark your imagination.
The Spiritfarer soundtrack is a beautiful complement to the Thunder Lotus Games production about guiding spirit friends to the afterlife. Just like the game itself, there is a feeling of mindfulness and flow, exploring the delicate balance between serenity and grief, contemplation, and compassion. The soundtrack is overall ambient and chill, with nice changes in pace and tempo, accompanied by the vocals and lyrics of Max LL alongside Maude Plante-Husaruk and harpist-songwriter Timbre Cierpke.
The Undertale soundtrack is endearing at first listen, thanks to its retro sound. It keeps you emotionally invested in both the music and gameplay. Sometimes the role of the music is to provide stamina and motivation throughout your adventures. According to composer Toby “Radiation” Fox, the original version of the soundtrack had a bit of a more somber feel to it, but he was inspired to rework the music and guitar accompaniments after hearing Redline Day.
Both the Outer Wilds game and soundtrack are out of this world. The soundtrack feels both intimate and grandiose, which was intentional on the part of composer Andrew Prahlow. Rather than have each Traveler, or musician, play their own tune on their own planet, the sound is designed to feel like they’re all playing the same song together like one universal band. From the mood pieces and soulful melodies to the cello solos and electric riffs, the music grabs your attention and causes you to focus on what’s going on in this vast space exploration game, full of surprises.
Katana Zero has such a diverse and iconic soundtrack that feels fast-paced and intense in all the best ways. This is definitely something you can bump on its own outside of the game, even though each track is fitted with each stage perfectly. It has almost an early Trent Reznor vibe, mixed with ‘80s synth wave. The sound is described as neo-noir, to match the breakneck action and combat, and contains original music by LudoWic and Bill Killey, along with Tunc Cakir, DJ Electrohead, and Justin Stander. Another win/win gaming and music combination.