You should live your life with music playing in the background

Right now, as I’m writing this article, NieR: Automata’s Emil (Despair) is playing in the background. I can’t really understand the words—to be fair, no one does since it’s a “futuristic language”—but at the same time, I’m typing to the beat.

That’s just for writing an article. When I edit articles for Variable, it’s Let the Battles Begin, the Final Fantasy VII Remake version, of course.

Of course, these are just some of my favorites. If you’d look at my Spotify or YouTube history, you’d see a playlist full of video game tracks, anime opening and closing themes and some overworld themes.

In fact, it might not even be video game music that gets you through the day, and that’s all right. In fact, a study from the American Psychological Association suggests listening to music as you work out or play sports, as it can help you get pumped and make reps more effective, to name a few benefits. Even more studies have linked music to better learning, improved memory and even lower stress and anxiety levels.

So, if you’re ever in the mood to improve your life’s soundtrack by adding some game music to it, here are some of our recommendations.

If you’re typing or writing, go for songs without lyrics

A study from the University of Cardiff in the U.K. says that instrumental music is better for learners than music that contains lyrics. If that’s the case, here are some word-less game music you can listen to:

  • Emil (Despair), NieR: Automata — you can’t be bothered by something you don’t understand; plus, the accomplishment of typing at the same tempo feels amazing. This version is an update of Emil (Karma) and Emil (Sacrifice) from the first NieR.
  • Overworld Theme 1, Breath of Fire III — the upbeat sound of young Ryu traveling with Nina through the Wyndian region really hides that fact that half of the time, they’re running away from a bad guy. Plus, it’s always nice to let your imaginations run wild with such a cheery overworld theme.

Working out? Go for fast songs and strong beats

A recent study on college students showed that the most popular types of exercise music were hip-hop, rock, and pop. That’s a lot to cover, to be honest, but here are some great selections.

  • Otherworld (Jecht’s Battle Theme), Final Fantasy X — It’s the first Final Fantasy game where Nobuo Uematsu wasn’t the sole composer, and the game is so much better because of it. It’s got all the elements for you to achieve a rhythm response while you work out—a solid tempo and a great pace. If you’re more into pop, I’ll go for Fight with Seymour. I can just put that on repeat and run on and on.
  • Literally anything from Bust a Groove — It’s too bad that Enix didn’t think of reviving the Bust a Groove franchise when it merged with Squaresoft. The game has everything, being a fighting music game, after all. Bust a Groove 2 isn’t too bad either, since it has my favorite track, Zombie Hopper from Bio’s stage.

Go for storyline music to get a hit of nostalgia

Music is deeply tied to emotions and memories, that much is a given. In fact, scientists are looking to harness the memory- and emotion-evoking benefits of music for people with emotional disorders or even dementia. If you’re looking to get hit in feels, here are some recommended listenings.

  • People Imprisoned by Destiny, Chrono Cross — The Squaresoft classic, which just celebrated its 20th anniversary recently, is best known for its music, which perfectly captures every scene of the game. It only plays twice in the game, and for good reason, since it’s always a gut punch. And that battle (you know what I’m talking about) was one of the saddest moments in the game.
  • Aerith’s Theme, Final Fantasy VII — Yeah, you knew it was coming. Listening to the first few notes can immediately transport a player to Midgar to see our favorite staff-wielding flower vendor. Or the other scene, where we collectively learned to cry.

The takeaway? Just take the time to appreciate the music

Listen, we’ve got all day to share with you how game music can be a part of your life. But at the end of the day, our favorite games (and life in general) wouldn’t be just as exciting without the music playing on.

So the next time you’re playing a game, try stopping for a bit to listen to the background. Who knows, it might be your next real-life overworld theme?

If you’re looking for more, we’ve also recommendations for video game soundtracks to listen to in your spare time.

Ralph Gurango

explainer | newsman | jrpg adventurer

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