As someone who has surrounded herself with music since childhood, I like to think music in videogames is pretty damn important. Like story, it’s not always necessary, but it can give a game an extra push towards being awesome. We talked a lot about music in a podcast in December, and now here I am with my own opinion!
Let’s start with the obvious: music and dance based games. Games like Rhythm Heaven, Ephemerid, Rock Band, Dance Dance Revolution, Just Dance, and Guitar Hero are games about music or games that need music. Going along with the rhythm, dancing to popular songs, playing an instrument—it’s all music-based and wonderful. Music and dancing games are a lot of fun, especially when you play with friends. Rock Band and DDR are games meant to be played with others. Music games bring us together, people.
Now onto other types of games. Try to imagine games with kick-ass soundtracks. What comes to mind? For me it’s games like The Legend of Zelda, Ace Attorney, and Undertale. Whatever came to mind when you thought about it, try imagining what playing those games without music would be like. I don’t think the games I mentioned would be the same. It’s all subjective, of course—you’re not required to love music in games. It might be easier for others to tune out the music, but for me personally, music is what makes the experience ten times better. Music evokes emotions that other works of art can’t at times. That’s half of the reason I believe it’s so important.
If a certain tone needs to be set, music can help set it. I’m going to make the argument that in a horror game, music playing and then suddenly stopping or phasing out into silence can make everything seem a lot scarier. If a game wants me to feel sad, then a slow, haunting song will more than likely make me cry. Even if you don’t notice the music much, it can have a huge impact on your mood if the music changes slowly or suddenly. It can make the experience more immersive.
Games that have little sound design at all always seem to bore me. Even when music isn’t used to set a mood, it’s good to have. Short puzzle games and mobile games probably don’t need music, but having the option to listen to music is nice. It fills the void of what would otherwise be silence.
I asked around on Facebook what others thought, and the general consensus was “it’s important”. Here are some of the comments that went into more detail.
It depends on the kind of game, but it can really push the game the extra step from good to amazing.
A majority of Square Enix games would really miss that key component without the gorgeous accompanying soundtracks and scores.
For others that are less intense like platformers, i.e. Super Mario, they’re poppy, fun classics that everyone knows from playing the games for hours on end.
Others that are moreso multiplayer-focused (MOBAs, shooters, arcades) aren’t as reliant on the music but they can be good additions; Soul Caliber sticks out to me here.
Music is known to evoke emotion. Not just the Western scale, but any culture’s music is helped to be defined by that culture by being associated with concepts and emotions.
Extremely, I’d say. Music elicits physical responses and really can make the game. Without the dramatic music in horror genres for example, the game could be ruined because many games thrive on atmosphere, environmentally and musically produced.
Instead of rehashing what everyone has already said, which I basically all agree with, I will say that some of my best gaming memories are evoked more from the music of the game than revisiting the gameplay itself. Star Wars: Galaxies, Guild Wars, Call of Duty 2, Halo 2. The most nostalgic games for me are tied pretty heavily to the soundtracks.
This is all subjective, so you may have your own opinion on the topic. Have something to say? Let me know what your thoughts are on music in games in the comments!