Music has the ability to make us laugh, cry, and dance. So it’s no wonder that a perfectly timed song in a film, tv show, or video game can really make or break a moment. This is especially true with indie games.
Unlike their triple A counterparts, the indie crowd tends to implement smaller sounds, and less of the bombastic orchestras found in series like “Battlefield” or “Elder Scrolls.” Below are 10 indie game scores or soundtracks that are worth listening to, in and out of their games.
“Monaco” is a digital sendup of the Hollywood heist movie. Pulling inspiration from movies like “Ocean’s 11,” the score is an upbeat soundtrack that mixes jazz, disco, and chaos into a volatile concoction. Like any great heist-film, the score is filled with surprises.
- The Stanley Parable
“The Stanley Parable” is a self aware game. The music is aware of that. Mixing humdrum, stale, elevator music, the game makes the world seem both storybook and dull. At times, the music is sinister, while at other points, it’s absolutely beautiful.
With such a range of emotions in the game, the score has a tough job to keep up with them all. For the most part, it passes with flying colors.
- Papers, Please
Perhaps it’s cheating to put this game on the list, but what “Papers, Please” does with little-to-no music is more than what most games do with a full orchestra. The day-in-day out life of a border guard is so dull, that not even a score can distract from the boredom.
Doing its best to sell the tedium and realism, there is only a tiny bit of music littered throughout the game. “Papers, Please” proves a point, sometimes the best music, is no music.
“FTL” is a clinically evil game. Randomness is god, and that god is often cruel. However frustrating the game may be, at least the score is there to soothe potential rage quitters.
Inspired by the 8-bit tunes of retro games, “FTL” is filled to the brim with beeps and boops. The sounds alternate from serene, to unnerving, as players are fully aware of how fast their voyage can go wrong. The music enhances the game’s wonderful immersion and tension.
- Pay Day: The Heist
Most FPS gamers don’t pay close attention to the sounds that score their carnage. That’s a shame, because in “Pay Day: The Heist,” that sound is exceptional.
Taking cues from classic heist fare like “Point Break” and “Heat,” “Pay Day” backs its action with heavy beats and energetic noise. Perfectly scoring each heist, the music never gets repetitive, invoking the styles of composers like Hans Zimmer. Tight, efficient, and quick paced, the music copies the style of the very heists it’s set to.
- Lone Survivor
Akira Yamaoka has been the inspiration for gaming musicians since the first “Silent Hill” game. After he was replaced by…Korn…his absence in the franchise was felt.
In his wake, he left us with a number of imitators, including the creator of the spooky score for “Lone Survivor.” This 8-bit ode to “Silent Hill” came complete with a soundtrack that served as an homage to Yamaoka. That isn’t to say the music doesn’t stand on its own. “Lone Survivor’s” soundtrack is a fresh take on Yamaoka’s style, and will also scare the pants off you.
- Gone Home
The music for this indie darling is an example of setting false expectations. With a diverse score, “Gone Home” never lets the player know what type of experience they’re in for. An added bonus are the in-game cassette tapes, preloaded with faux 90’s grunge.
When the game isn’t giving the player insights into it’s characters, it’s crafting a haunting atmosphere, that keeps the gamer on edge. Nostalgic, sad, and a little scary, “Gone Home’s” score keeps players guessing until the moment it ends.
- The Swapper
“The Swapper’s” score is as mysterious as the game itself. Echoey music fills up the halls of the abandoned spaceship the player explores. The music’s tone never rises any higher than melancholy, truly isolating the player in the sad void of space.
Echoes and diegetic music evoke the imagery of film’s like “Alien” or “2001 A Space Odyssey.” Odd and lonely, this score is out of this world.
- Kentucky Route Zero
Who could predict that synth filled soundscapes and blue-grass worship music would mix so well? Not since peanut-butter met chocolate has their been a pairing as weird, and as successful.
“Kentucky Route Zero’s” world is one of anachronism and nuance fighting each other. The soundtrack emulates this battle. The game’s music fits into two categories. One, a heavily electronic score, the other, folk and bluegrass melodies. Both are enjoyable, but it’s their combination that produces greatness.
- Hotline Miami
Pretty quickly, “Hotline Miami’s” soundtrack will mirror your heartbeat. The breakneck synth beats drive the violence and frenetic pace.
Made up of some of the hottest indie DJ’s out there, the soundtrack is a colorful blend of retro and modern styles. Highlights include the game’s title screen track, entitled “Sun Araw.” The piece’s gentle flow, and wave like crashes, open the game with unsettling serenity. “Hotline” is the definition of a game soundtrack that rises above just being background noise.