Ambient (Game) Music

While listening to this atmospheric rendition of the Chrono Trigger 2300 AD overworld theme I began thinking about just how well the medium of video games lends itself to ambient music. Though I enjoy this genre for its ability to establish mood and atmosphere in a vacuum, the explicit visual context, especially an interactive one, really elevates both. I‘m curious to hear others’ thoughts about their favorite game tracks or scores that might fall into the amelodic (or minimally melodic) genres of ambient, noise, found sounds, or something similarly experimental. Here are a few examples from more well-known games that I thought of right away:

The eerie opening drone of the original _Metroid_, scored by Hip Tanaka, still blows me away as such a bold choice for such an early and mainstream game. There are more melodic sections to the track, but the transitions between the heroic main theme and the foreboding bass pulse are striking (and in some way remind me of Faust's ["It's a Bit of a Pain"](

Going back to the inspiration for this thread, I think it is worth listening to Mitsuda's original 2300AD track from _Chrono Trigger_. The sense of ruin and desolation is perfectly captured by the heavy wind sfx and (more memorably to me) these persistent atonal clanking chimes, with only sparse synth/piano accompaniment:

Returning to Tanaka, I must mention _Earthbound_, from which I could probably draw at least a dozen tracks. I would like to draw specific attention to _The Place_, which absolutely _mutilates_ a Beach Boys sample for the unsettling penultimate area of the game.

Oh, what the heck, I also definitely need to mention the looping Ric Ocasek-sampling Moonside Swing, which perfectly captures the neon nightmare of one of my favorite locations in the game:

I'll leave it at there for now, but I am sure I will be back to post more as I think of them! Also, I wanted to make sure to mention a couple ambient recommendations:

[Kankyō Ongaku: Japanese Ambient, Environmental & New Age Music 1980-1990]( is a great comp put out by Light in the Attic records, I think the title says it all

[Does it Look Like I'm Here?]( is one of my all-time favorite albums, from the now defunct Emeralds (though the members' subsequent solo work is worth listening to)

Feel free to throw in some non-game ambient recs as well!

Agreed on all counts! Earthbound especially for me was hugely influential. Here are a few recommends -

The first thing that jumps out to me is parts of the Star Control 2 soundtrack. While some of it is typical background music fare, other parts are deliberately sparse. I have spent countless hours listening to these over the years.

Just floating about in space, within a star system

Orbiting a planet

Some of the alien races have equally ambient/spacey themes. Some examples:

i lobe the quake soundtrack. it got me into nine inch nails, and it‘s outlasted my interest in nine inch nails. i don’t know if it‘s the best nin album, but it might be, and it’s the only one that's actually industrial music.

@pasquinelli#26502 This actually reminds me, I would be remiss if I didn‘t mention the original score composed by Aubrey Hodges for DOOM 64 and DOOM for PSX. The original DOOM soundtrack is, of course, legendary, though these always felt more right to me for the game–in fact lately I have been playing a PC source port modded to add this in. Although a lot of DOOM involves frenetic action befitting a MIDI metal soundtrack, I would argue that the lion’s share of the experience consists of exploring and navigating strange, byzantine worlds. This deep, groaning alternative soundtrack is often just audible enough to instill a sense of unease.

Its hard for me to recommend a specific track outside of the context of playing the actual game (you should!) but this one exemplifies it pretty well:

Here's [an interview he did with ShackNews last year]( on the subject.

I‘d say that Control has ambient music. I can tell that it’s ambient because I can‘t hum any of it even though it is actually melodic. Not sure it’s great though because I really only notice it every once in a while when combat starts. The SFX of the Hiss chant is arguably music and that's more effective at setting and conveying mood than any of the melodic work in Control.

_American McGee's Alice_ certainly is in this space. It was written by Chris Vrenna (a Nine Inch Nails contributor). It's melodic but very repetitive and there for atmosphere. The standouts in my opinion are ["Pandemonium" ]( love the heavy bass string chords). ["Labyrinthine Revenge"]( is another good one what with the heavy harpsichord hits and the crying toddler SFX thrown in for good measure.

I'm listening to a wonderful New Age music comp by Light in the Attic–some really great ambient works on here, less like Enya than you would expect based on the title:

I bring it up mainly because it reminded me of the amazing score that would play in Outer Wilds leading to the end of a loop. I'm not sure if any work has made me feel such a profound sense of awe as I did drifting in space or standing on a desolate planet waiting for the sweet release of an encroaching supernova:

Obsessed with the synths on this track—so perfect for evoking unease