The popular and highly challenging video game Elden Ring has released an accompanying official soundtrack, which could potentially change the way music features in video games.
The action role-playing video game was first developed by FromSoftware and published by Bandai Namco Entertainment. The soundtrack, released in 2022 along with the video game, has been created by Japanese composers Yuka Kitamura, Shoi Miyazawa, Yoshimi Kudo, Tsukasa Saitoh, and Tai Tomisawa. While this isn’t a revolutionary feat, in that video game music dates back to the late 1970s with the classic arcade game Space Invaders, since the turn of the century, it has become increasingly important to provide an official, often original, soundtrack with each game release.
Video games enhanced by soundtracks
The popularity of the Elden Ring soundtrack is demonstrated by its release as a limited edition vinyl collection. In addition, there are numerous subtle details that enhance the soundtrack such as the fact that, apart from the harpy’s song of lament, the chanting which features on the other tracks is not Latin, but rather simply invented to sound like ancient sounds. This carefully curated texture adds another immersive dimension to the soundscape.
Elden Ring’s haunting music suits the barren, solemn atmosphere of the game, and is critically acclaimed. However, there are other notable examples of music being used to enhance the gaming experience, too.
How game music provides atmosphere
The phenomenon of music enhancing a gaming experience is employed in another area of the entertainment industry: the iGaming sector. This is particularly important for games that feature on live dealer casinos such as Gonzo’s Treasure Hunt. The live game show involves a Spanish explorer on an adventure to find the mythical lost city of El Dorado. While the game hosts are dressed as explorers from ancient times, the music provides atmosphere and features the sounds you would expect to encounter in an adventure game associated with a mythical South American location. The game also uses the rhythmic beats of indigenous people to build tension as the game progresses and the hunt for treasure reaches its peak.
In a similar way, the soundtrack album of the video game Hitman 3 by Niels Bye Nielsen reflects the game plot of a lonely hitman, who uses stealth to murder his targets. The soundtrack is dark and full of suspense in the same way a Hollywood movie uses music to add to the atmosphere of the plot elements. Quiet violins and mournful choirs create a haunting feel, eventually rising to a crescendo as the hitman goes in for the kill. The titles such as Death Awaits, Agent of Change, and Mission Accomplished leave players in no doubt about the themes of each track.
Musical soundtracks are no longer the exclusive domain of movies and TV shows as video game developers have recognized the importance of having a soundtrack to match the theme of the game. This is particularly the case for epic video games such as Elden Ring and Hitman 3, for which an accompanying soundtrack has been essential to reflect the haunting mood of the game and enhance gameplay. The unique phenomenon of original soundtracks being released with video games is likely to grow in the future.