5 Video Game Songs That Make Me Feel Things
When you play certain games, some soundtracks hit you harder than others. These are some of those for me. Enjoy!
Before we dive in, just in case anyone reading these isn’t familiar with the games I’ve mentioned, I've included short-ish summaries of each game before I proceed to talk through the songs I’ve listed to hopefully give a bit of context. I've also linked the songs through the titles so you can give them a listen on Spotify if you'd like.
Life is Strange is a game in which the main story and ending are both impacted by the choices the player makes throughout. It revolves mainly around Max Caulfield, a talented 18-year-old girl with a dream of becoming a famous photographer. Early in the game she learns that she can rewind time - a power, some could say, that she majorly abuses. She returns to her hometown of Arcadia Bay and is reunited with her former best friend, Chloe Price. Chloe tells Max about her close friend/love interest Rachel Amber who went missing and the two set out to uncover the truth about her disappearance. In the meantime, Max has a premonition about Arcadia Bay being destroyed by a storm.
There’s a lot more I could say about this game as what I’ve just summed up barely scratches the surface, but I’m trying not to delve into spoiler territory just in case any of you would like to pick it up and play it for yourself which, of course, I highly recommend.
I feel the need to begin this one by saying how much I love and feel for Chloe Price and if there was ever going to be a song that served to heighten those feelings, it would have to be this one. Santa Monica Dream is a slow, sombre song about the aftermath of a heart-breaking separation between two people who were once very close. The song plays immediately after the scene in which Chloe recounts the chapter of her life in which Rachel Amber was present. She mentions Rachel being important to her in many ways, even going so far as to say that Rachel saved her life. The heartbreak she feels as she talks about the impact that she had on her life leading up to her sudden disappearance is evident and really makes you feel her pain and loss, almost as if it were your own. Chloe is a character who has dealt with what she feels is abandonment many times and despite Rachel being missing, she still looks at it as though she also abandoned her. To me, there are two lines in this song that truly make you realise the real weight and meaning of this song to Chloe:
“I’m singing songs about the future
Wondering where you are”
Nobody has any idea where Rachel Amber is. Chloe included. And it really hit me listening to this song, thinking about their relationship and Rachel’s reputation around Arcadia Bay, that Chloe is probably one of the only people who truly cared about her and still thinks about her every single day, despite the seemingly hundreds of missing person posters that have been plastered all over the Bay. That is the main reason why this song stands out to me and one of many reasons why this game is such a masterpiece in my mind.
Telltale Games spectacularly popular The Walking Dead (inspired by and based off the comics) follows the story of several people trying their best to survive in a zombie apocalypse, and much like Life is Strange, the main story and ending are both impacted by the choices the player makes throughout.
You start the series by playing as convicted criminal, Lee Everett. After escaping a pretty bad car crash, he finds himself in the backyard of 8-year-old Clementine, who we learn has been surviving on her own hidden away in her treehouse. The two bond fairly quickly and soon become inseparable as they journey together through this new hell of a world. They eventually find a group to travel with and Lee finds himself becoming Clementine’s new father figure. By the start of the second season, Clementine finds herself without Lee, instead travelling with another member of their previous group. This however does not last long, and she ends up with a different group entirely (new characters, yay!). More devastating and heart-wrenching events happen throughout this season, some of which lead to Clementine having to care for a new-born baby named AJ, but by the start of the third season, a teenage Clementine is well and truly alone. AJ has been taken from her and she tags along with yet another group in search of him. During season 4, we see Clem and AJ reunited once again, only to find themselves in a car wreck. They are promptly rescued by a group of teenagers living in a Boarding School close-by. Unsurprisingly, this group also breaks down and Clem is forced to make several difficult decisions to keep herself and AJ safe.
Now as far as this song goes, it is significant to this games story for a couple of reasons. Take Us Back is first encountered when it plays during the credits for Season 1, Episode 5 – No Time Left. The track name is also used later as the title for the last episode of Season 4 aka The Final Season. The song itself talks about wishing to go back to a time before the world became broken, empty and quiet. Before things became lonely. The theme of which fits perfectly with the story of The Walking Dead, given that it takes place in an apocalyptic setting. The last verse seems the most fitting for these reasons, but some of my favourite lines from other parts of the song include:
“A lonesome bow, the creeks and moans of empty houses
Are songs like fallen rain
Windblown buildings, muddy ground”
And so, with our journey beginning and ending with Clementine, it only makes sense to begin and end the series with this song. Thank you Telltale!
This will be a very short one, but I’ll start by saying this, if you haven’t heard of this game you must have been living under a rock for the past three years. However, if you have heard of it but still haven't played it, rest assured, it absolutely lives up to the hype.
Death Stranding is a difficult game to summarise quickly, but I’ll do my best. The game follows Sam Porter-Bridges who, you guessed it, is a former Bridges porter. Sam’s dying mother asks him to rejoin Bridges and help reconnect America, which has been overrun with BTs after being destroyed by an apocalyptic event known as the Death Stranding. This has him travelling from city to city connecting everybody once more and bringing hope back to America. Sam’s sister Amelie helped their mother with the plans to begin this countrywide reconnection. There is one roadblock, however, that goes by the name of Higgs. Higgs is the leader of the Homo Demens cult, who are trying to put a stop to getting America online again, so to speak. He even goes so far as to kidnap Amelie to prevent it. Eventually, Sam encounters a woman named Fragile, a courier with her own company, who has also had an unpleasant run-in with Higgs. Another character that Sam has the misfortune of meeting is Cliff Unger who I won’t give details about in fear of revealing spoilers, so I’ll leave the plot summary there.
This song, as great as it is, is also a little hard to fully talk about without referencing spoilers. I will say though that if you read the lyrics after playing this game, you will understand exactly why I choose this particular song, even though there are many Low Roar songs featured throughout the game which are all just as good. My favourite thing about this song in connection to the game is that it clearly highlights the struggle that Sam is going through on his journey, the hardships and all the truths he learns along the way. These lines are my favourite example of this:
“And will the rain I don’t accept wash away my sins
Or simply trouble my walk home and my spirit”
Another Telltale Games success! One that I would’ve loved to have had a sequel to if I’m being completely honest.
Tales from the Borderlands is an episodic game based around two different main characters - Rhys, who works for Hyperion, and Fiona, a con-artist from Pandora, which is where the game takes place. The tale begins with Rhys not getting the promotion he’d been waiting for and as if his luck couldn’t get any worse, he then gets demoted by his new boss, Hugo Vasquez. After learning that Vasquez is planning on purchasing a Vault Key from a man named August, Rhys and his buddy Vaughn steal a briefcase full of money and venture down to Pandora to take the deal for themselves. Though things inevitably go wrong when they all discover that the Key is fake and almost immediately afterwards, the money is stolen from them. Rhys then installs a Hyperion ID chip he found into his cybernetics in the hopes that doing so will help them locate the money, but instead he just loses consciousness for a while. However, once they finally track down the briefcase, they also find a secret Atlas facility and discover the Gortys core inside. By the end of the first episode, Rhys begins hearing a strange voice that no one else seems to be able to hear. This turns out to be none other than Handsome Jack who manifests into a hologram that, again, only Rhys can see. This is all due to the ID chip that Rhys plugged into his cybernetics.
And that’s all just episode 1 of 5! The story then becomes a little more complex due to the whole Gortys situation, which makes it difficult to sum up the rest of the game briefly, so on to the song!
Busy Earnin’ is played at the very beginning of the first episode. It isn’t necessarily an important or deep song for the game itself, but I do think some of the lyrics could relate to Rhys’ life at Hyperion:
“You think that all your time is used
Too busy earnin’
You can’t get enough
And I get it always
But I bet it won’t change, no
Damn, that’s a boring life”
It’s a brilliant upbeat, funky song that really sets the somewhat light-hearted and comedic tone of the game, in a similar fashion to how the other Borderlands games begin. The song is a great listen and the game is a great play. I would recommend this song to people even without the link to this game just to put someone in good groovy spirits.
Now, before you say anything, I know I started this list with Life is Strange but all the games in this franchise have such amazing soundtracks that I couldn’t not include this one as well.
Life is Strange 2 follows brothers - 16-year-old Sean and 9-year-old Daniel Diaz. After the sudden and unexpected loss of their father, the two set out on a journey from their hometown of Seattle to their father’s hometown of Puerto Lobos in Mexico. It eventually comes to light that Daniel possesses the power of telekinesis after he angrily lashes out at Sean for hiding the fact that their father was dead. Along the way, the brothers end up at their grandparent’s house. The next day they are invited to go to the Christmas Market with the neighbours where Sean meets a homeless girl called Cassidy and her friend Finn, both of whom become rather important later. The boys soon find themselves in trouble and are forced to leave their grandparent’s home, leaving them on their own once again. They end up staying with Cassidy, Finn and a few other drifters in the woods, working on a cannabis plantation. Unable to escape more trouble, they end up leaving the group and the plantation, with Sean becoming injured in the process. Daniel goes missing and Sean is taken to hospital where he is placed under arrest. He breaks out of the hospital in hopes of finding his little brother, which leads him to Nevada where he also finds their estranged mother. Sean discovers that Daniel has been brainwashed into joining a religious cult of sorts and is being used for his unique powers. The two eventually destroy the cult and go with their mother back to the small community she lives in in the desert. Shortly afterwards, they leave their mother behind to escape the police and continue their journey to Puerto Lobos. They finally make it to the border, but the ending the player gets depends on the choices they’ve made throughout and the ones they make in the moment, so no ending spoilers here, folks!
With the lengthy plot out of the way, let’s talk about the song.
The first time we hear this song in the game is when Sean and Daniel are at the Christmas Market in episode 2. Cassidy is sat in a corner of the market singing this song while playing her guitar. Singing it beautifully, might I add. We can then hear the original version of the song during the credits for this episode. I Found a Way is a lovely Indie Folk song that does well to describe the adventure, or misadventure, the brothers are on from Sean’s perspective, I would say. One verse particularly stands out for me:
“There’s a heavy load upon our backs
Of things we carry from the past
My guilt-filled mind, it tried to run
But it traced us back to where we’d begun”
I think this verse speaks volumes as to what was going through Sean’s mind throughout the game. He couldn’t forget his past, his friends, his dad. He blatantly carried around a lot of guilt the entire time, especially where Daniel was concerned. It felt to me like they were just going in circles for a while. Getting into trouble and running away. They kept repeating the cycle and all that trouble was related to the incident that caused them to leave home in the first place. It was as though they could never truly escape that day. A beautiful song for a beautifully made game. Please give this series a try.
And with that, we’ve reached the end of the list!
I hope that you’ll give these songs a listen. I also hope that some of you at least may even pick up these games if you haven’t already. If you like story-heavy games, then you won’t regret it.
I plan of writing more things like this in the future, so if you enjoyed this one, keep your eyes peeled for more.
If you care to leave any tips, that is also greatly appreciated!
Either way, thanks for reading!