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Staff Pick: Top 5 Video Game Soundtracks to Listen to While Studying

Blog/FavouritesOctober 23rd 2018
Hayley Mullen

Meet Hayley, CFMU's Production Coordinator and writer of this week's staff picks!


Midterms season has arrived at McMaster, one of the longest and most unforgiving seasons of the year. Whether you enjoy camping out at Thode or curling up in bed with a warm drink, staying on track can be a challenge for any student. Luckily, the right music can do wonders for your concentration, or help you relax while off the clock. To help you beat procrastination, here are Study Jams’ top 5 video game soundtracks to listen to while studying for midterms.

Need a place to study? Check out McMaster's newest cafe The Grind.

Number 5: Firewatch

Composed by Chris Remo

Firewatch tells the story of Henry, a fire lookout in the Shoshone National Forest. As Henry, the player uncovers a mystery within the park, with the only contact from the outside world being Delilah, the voice on the end of a handheld radio.

Firewatch’s music perfectly encompasses this story: the calmness of solitude, the troubled tones of a mystery waiting to be solved, and the sheer depth of the Wyoming wilderness. The use of guitar, bass, and subtle synthesizer can evoke a longing for the great outdoors, even if you’ve never been.

If you enjoy atmospheric music with a slightly darker tone, this is the soundtrack for you.

Favourite track: Calm After the Storm

Number 4: Plants vs. Zombies

Composed by Laura Shigihara

The original in a series of garden warfare games, Plants Vs. Zombies is Pop Cap’s most popular tower defence game, where the player uses plants to defend their home from invading zombies. Since tower defence-style games require strategy and concentration, the music is perfectly crafted to keep you focused and engaged.

The piano and string melodies draw you into the world, then ramp up during zombie invasions. Shigihara incorporates a surprising amount of instruments into the soundtrack, including clarinet and a singing sunflower.

Check this out if you need a catchy melody to keep you on track.

Favourite track: Graze the Roof

Are soundtracks your thing? Listen to our show Soundtrack, weekly specially composed film soundtracks by Lucky 7 Director and Producer Stephen Hayes.

Number 3: Journey

Composed by Austin Wintory

Journey has quickly become an indie favourite, and for good reason: its intricate imagery, immersive world, and Grammy-nominated soundtrack weave together a profound experience no other medium could capture so perfectly. The player controls a robed figure who begins their travel through the vast desert, undoubtedly towards the faraway mountain looming in the distance.

The ambient multiplayer allows you to encounter other players during your travels, adding to the experience. The soundtrack’s orchestral composition evokes the vast feeling of the desert, with rich strings and soft harps.

This soundtrack is perfect to leave on while writing up an essay or quizzing yourself.

Favourite track: Threshold

Number 2: Kingdom: New Lands

Composed by Amos Roddy

Building a kingdom is no easy task, but who knew there would be such great music? Kingdom: New Lands is a strategy/adventure game that expands upon its original game, Kingdom. The retro-style graphics and layers of depth complement the game’s beautifully calm soundtrack, which can be purchased on vinyl for hardcore fans.

The game easily captivates you with its soft piano, echoing strings, and warm synth pads blending together seamlessly. Occasionally the reverberating instruments imitate the wind and wildlife around you, blurring the distinction between sound effects and music.

If you prefer calm while studying, look no further than this.

Favourite track: Rest

Number 1: Animal Crossing: New Leaf

Composed by Manaka Kataoka, Atsuko Asahi, and Kazumi Totaka

It’s a formula that’s tried and true: The player begins a new life by moving into a new town full of animal villagers, all with distinct personalities and traits. The daily activities of fishing, bug catching, fossil hunting, and interior design add up for hours of entertainment, in which players will come to care for their town and the animals inside it.

Many enjoy the series for its stress-reducing nature, and the music no doubt plays a large part in this. The game happens in real time, with a different song for every hour of the clock. No matter what time you’re playing, there will always be something to hear and a character to chat with. The memorable melodies are often go-to songs to play while working or studying, and I have completed more than a few essays to this soundtrack.

It’s playful, warm, and familiar: the perfect mood for putting your best foot forward.

Favourite track: 1 AM

Want more video game tracks to listen to? Tune in to Study Jams Thursday nights on CFMU.