Electro-tinged soundtracks to complete your gamer transformation in isolation

Jonathan Van ness

We’ve entered a new period of self-isolation and social distancing worldwide. We’ve collectively gone through the first phase where everything was new and different. When we weren’t gripped with life-crushing anxiety, we were baking bread and spring cleaning our homes, and there was definitely an element of curiosity as isolation really kicked into gear.

A few weeks later, we entered a new phase. Does anyone actually remember a singular day in April? Days and weeks all blended into one big blur as the monotony of not doing all that much at all really settled in with no end in sight. There’s a science to this, and as we enter what’s being deemed the “third quarter” of isolation, in which the full extent of the dread that comes with this new normal begins to really take hold.

However, there are a few things we can do to keep occupied in between marathon cooking sessions, watching all there is to watch on Netflix and Stan, working from home and government mandated social outings and exercise. Many people have turned to the wide world of video games, and whether it be animal crossing, candy crush or something else entirely, we really couldn’t recommend it enough if you’re looking for a new hobby. Take it from Queer Eye star and all-round living icon, Jonathan Van Ness who recommended video games while in an interview with Vogue last year.

And look, if you’re not a gamer, it can be hard to figure out where to even start. I’m not saying you have to go full nerd with the Final Fantasies and the Worlds Of Warcraft, but if you’re so inclined, we’ve compiled a list of some highly recommended games based on just how brilliant their soundtracks are. From a short and sweet game with a soundtrack produced by a triple J host to 8-bit/chip tune tracks and of course one for you Blade Runner fans out there, you might just find something you enjoy listening to and, by extension, a brand new hobby.

The Gardens Between

The game: The Gardens Between is a subtle emotional stroll through nostalgia by Australian developers The Voxel Agents. The game centres around two childhood friends and neighbours as they relive their memories in dream like puzzles ahead of one final, heart-wrenching goodbye when their families move away. We all have that childhood friend who eventually left our lives because their family moved away, and this game sidles up to that sore spot in our soul and gives it a nice warm hug. It’s also a pretty short game with about two to three hours of play time, so a perfect beginner game to get you started.

The music: This soundtrack was produced by Aussie musician, radio host and label-owner Tim Shiel with appearances from Lonelyspeck, Jahnne, Leah Kardos, mara, Researcher, Liam McGorry and Biddy Connor. Across twelve tracks, Shiel and the gang offer a masterclass in ambiance layering trailing synths, distant piano and cooing vocals to paint a picture of the happiest recesses of memory. Every time you finish this album, you’ll feel like you’ve discovered something new and special.

Celeste

The game: Celeste is a retro-styled platformer by Canadian studio Matt Makes Games. It’s sort of like Mario but heaps better with a whole bunch more soul. The game follows protagonist Madeline as she climbs Celeste Mountain and faces not only the perils of the mountain but a pretty complex internal struggle too. Madeline lives with severe anxiety and the game offers a pretty genuine take on the experience which gives every forward step you take with her so much more weight and a warm level of depth to an otherwise pretty fun game. It’s a tough one but I believe in you, so give it a shot!

The music: The soundtrack is produced by Seattle-based freelance musician Lena Raine, who also releases more dance-focused tracks under the moniker Kuraine. Front to back, its full of little bops that deliver on the 8-bit/chip tune movement that really took off a few years ago but adds a bit of elevation on the production front; everything sounds super clear and crisp. On top of all that, the tone of the music really matches the aesthetics of the game, I can image synesthetes going wild over this soundtrack.

Hyper Light Drifter

The game: No heavy themes in this one I promise, it’s just a cool game with cool music. Hyper Light Drifter is a metroidvania, which is genre of game where you explore a big area, unlock new abilities and slowly uncovered a pretty cool plot. Find stuff. Fight stuff! Fuck stuff? Just kidding, this isn’t The Witcher.

The music: Produced by New York chiptune artist Disasterpiece, the soundtrack for Hyper Light Drifter is this awesome modernisation of the 80’s science fiction soundscape; if they made Blade Runner into a video game, this is what it would sound like. It also has this layer of creepiness all through it, which makes total sense because Disasterpiece’s best known work to date has to be the soundtrack for 2014 horror movie, It Follows. If you’re into synth work, you’ll love this.

Crypt Of The Necrodancer

The game: Crypt Of The Necrodancer is a combination of two genres, a Rogue-Like and a Dungeon Crawl. Rogue-Like games have their levels randomly generated from an algorithm at the beginning of each play-through, and a Dungeon Crawler is where you just go down into a dungeon to try to collect as much stuff as you can. The Rogue-Like element makes everything super quick, and the Dungeon Crawler makes everything super simple. The real point of difference for Crypt Of The Necrodancer is that everything in the game moves to a beat, so to get through the dungeon, or fight that enemy, you have to ddannccee.

The Music: It’s just banger, after banger, after banger. Legit if these were 20% less video-gamey, they’d be in clubs. The soundtrack is produced by Danny Baranowsky and he really nails the beat which is at the heart of Crypt Of The Necrodancer. Put this one on if you’re looking for a nerdy pump up.

And once you’ve finished these… You’ve done it! You’re a gamer! Welcome! If you’re wanting to take on something even bigger, you could dip your toe into the vast world of Final Fantasy. Try on a few of our favourite FF BANGERS in this playlist and see what you think:

Words by Nick Price
Image: Screenshot via YouTube

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