Why I’m a shrill for video game music.

Where do I even begin with such a massive topic? This will be one of my most important articles to date, the scale and the expectation to do it well are terrifying. Because video game music is special, and every fibre of my snobby wordplay wants to convey that.

So why do I love video game music? Well, often they’re background tracks devoid of lyrics that prop themselves up unnecessarily. And when there are lyrics, it’s usually not literally describing what’s going on. “He dashed and slashed and uppercut the enemy into the grouuunnddd~”

You don’t read or listen to the music of games as stories, you feel it.

It’s the culmination of everything built up. The emotional association is a cut above just telling a story that might come across as contrived.

Sure, to the uninitiated ear, it’s simply a nice-sounding melodic piece in a vacuum. Not fueled by what has come before, and what is to come.

Unchained anger, rage and an indestructible force of nature with DOOM

Scale, gorgeous fantasy and innocent wonder with Ori

Melancholic inevitability, sadness burdened with the knowledge of the future.

Intrepid adventure into the unknown, a big world for small fry.

Uplifting unity and a sense of warm belonging.

Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Explorers of Sky.

(Spoilers for all 3 games ahead.)

The White Knight (Ori)

The theme sings in your ear, a warm beautiful glow. It feels sacred, the beginning of something special. The soft hum of voices cascades into an intimate and personal narrative ahead.

Listen for 15–30 seconds

When it ramps up, urgent drums beat in the background, threatening all that you’ve come to love. The epic conclusion to the White Knights' journey, as our knowledge of what Ori has been through, and all they’ve done to get here, comes back as a gut-wrenching tension as they fight desperately, for the last time.

Listen for 15–30 seconds

Against Hell (DOOM)

You grit your teeth and pump another shell in. The demon screeches as you tear him apart, his mouth a mirror for the adrenaline-pumping beats that drive you forward like an unyielding piledriver. I don’t really need to say much more. I’ll let your ears do the talking.

Satisfied customers in the comments.

Just a taste of how uncompromisingly badass and cool the music is

Don’t ever forget (Pokemon)

In this story, you’ve been with your partner through it all. The long nights on straw beds under moonlit burrows, the gritty adventures and obstacles you’ve overcome. You’ve seen him grow into himself, so much more than he ever thought he could. It’s all thanks to you he says.

So in a cruel twist of fate, you, the protagonist, die. You leave him alone in the world with just memories. Each step you take towards the final act of the game, you know of your impending demise. Yet you don’t have the heart to tell him. And when it happens, seeing him tear up, saying how he can’t do it without you…

It gives so much unspoken weight to the music.

I cri

Like Ori, it’s the culmination of everything. The emotional association is effective compared to telling a story that might come across as contrived.

Sure, to the uninitiated ear, it’s simply a nice-sounding melodic piece in a vacuum. Not fueled by what has come before, and what is to come.


We’ve studied pieces that harp on the fleetingness of time with loved ones in Pokemon, naivety turned stalwart resolve in our little White Knight Ori, and being a total f-ing badass in DOOM.

Video game music is the most involved music. Music in tv shows, movies, or standalone? They’re not video games.

Video games is to music what reading is to storytelling. It’s the most involved way to experience it. It isn’t quite drumming up an enchanting song of your own levels of involvement, it has to be curated and made still, but you’re the closest to involved as you can, experiencing and playing to the beat of the music.

From cheeky mystery with the hums and rattles of Among Us, to heart-pounding beats that get you riled up to slay demons, or emotional moments, silent sobs loud with memories of what once was and will never be again.

Music is unique in video games because I can’t think of any way most people can be more engaged in it. It sets the tone and mood. It gently nudges you into what the game is about. It’s special.


For additional reading, this excellent video touches on Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: EOS’ Leitmotif as an example and breaks down more thoroughly what a Leitmotif is.

In short, A Leitmotif is “an associated melodic phrase or figure that accompanies the reappearance of an idea, person, or situation”

Iconic Star Wars music, given just a short snippet, and you’ll know it’s distinctly Star Wars. Whether distorted to fit scenes of renewed hope, falls from the light, or everything in between, we’ll know if it sounds “Star Wars”.

Even The Moon Rises, considered one of the best pieces of music created by the My Little Pony fan community, uses the leitmotif of the main theme song, twisted with off-key notes and a dark hue, giving a dreaded sense that something is awry, shrouded in uneasy beauty. The Moon Rises is one of the most beloved fan songs for a reason. And I wager this is one of the many things it does right.

Listen for yourself!

The first 5 seconds will do
The beginning gives me shivers.

Dialgia’s fight to the finish in Pokemon EOS

This is just moments before achieving your goal of charting the course of the future to brighter days. As someone who came from that future to change it, the paradox means you’ll have to leave too.

But he doesn’t go down without a fight. The journey, the adventure ends here. It’s sad but very, very real given what is at stake. The madness has consumed what was once benevolent, twisted what had commanded respect, and now feared for his indifferent destruction. The reoccurring riff, the iconic mystery dungeon tune comes on, a sombre reminder of how far we’ve come, and how close we move to the journey’s end. And it is the end. They’re gone after this. The world moves on, and our tale dies in the past.

Just 20 odd seconds from the time it starts

Guess what? Leitmotif.

Just the first 15 seconds, if you have that much self-control ;)

These melodic pieces can tear you up without ever having uttered a word. And imagine if they did? Oh wait, we don’t need to.


so unnecessarily badass it became a meme



Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store


If I was 20% cooler I’d be published already