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9 Ambient Soundtracks for Zen Gamers

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9 Ambient Soundtracks for Zen Gamers

Key Points

  • Quake has a dark ambient soundtrack with industrial elements by Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails.
  • Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture has a beautiful and bombastic soundtrack with lush string sections and post-rock influences.
  • Citizen Sleeper has a relaxing soundtrack with sparse instrumentation and electronic motifs.
  • Journey has a captivating and sedate soundtrack with sparse strings, rich instrumentation, and gentle electronic elements.
  • Donut County has a delightful ambient soundtrack with indie-tinged guitar work and strings.

What sort of ambient soundtracks do you enjoy? Chilled-out music meant to relax and soothe the worried mind is just part of the overall experience for some games. Now, you can easily spend your time looking around on Spotify for some of the best ambient soundtracks to set the mood for your gaming session. However, there is plenty of material to be found in these game soundtracks.

Let’s take a closer look at nine of the best ones available for ambient music. At least one of these hews a little closer to dark ambient, which is to be expected given the game it comes from. The rest of these should be great for sessions of Minecraft or Stardew Valley. You might even find these worming their way into your study session music.

Game Soundtrack Primer

Music and gaming go back a long way. Hardware limitations often meant that the earliest arcade games would rely on basic motifs and jingles before settling down into the handful of sounds played during gameplay. Early sound hardware didn’t really allow for sound effects and music at the same time.

However, it was the NES from Nintendo that brought music to the fore, being a core element of games. Across the pond, you could see similar developments with the ZX Spectrum and Commodore 64. At any rate, soundtracks can make or break the immersion in a game.

Not every game leans on ambient stylings, with cinematic underscoring being a hallmark of a series like Call of Duty. However, some games are just tailor-made for ambient music, giving way to a relaxing and almost blissful experience while playing.

9. Quake

Our Pick
Quake (Vinyl)
$100.00
  • Music by Nine Inch Nails' Trent Reznor
  • Ambient electronica soundscapes
  • 10 tracks in total
We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.
02/23/2024 02:14 am GMT
ComposerTrent Reznor
PublisherGT Interactive
Developerid Software
GenreFirst-Person Shooter
Release DateJune 22, 1996
PlatformPC originally, ported to PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, and Nintendo Switch

The first up is arguably the scariest of the bunch. If you don’t mind a little dark ambient tinge to your game sessions, then the Quake soundtrack is a great fit. As an ambient soundtrack, you can definitely feel the industrial elements woven in from the mastermind behind Nine Inch Nails. Fortunately, Trent Reznor’s unique style of composition has been seen in film and television shows since Quake was released.

Quake remains one of the top picks for creating a sense of dread, as well as tranquility. Honestly, while it might not be your first pick for relaxation, its moody and broody nature is well suited for tabletop RPGs like Dungeons and Dragons, Shadowrun, and Cyberpunk.

8. Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture

Our Pick
Everybody's Gone to the Rapture
$30.96
  • Vinyl, 2LP limited edition
  • 28 tracks in total
  • Ethereal choir, orchestral accompaniment, solo vocal performances by Elin Manahan Thomas
We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.
02/23/2024 01:35 am GMT
ComposerJessica Curry
PublisherSony Computer Entertainment
DeveloperThe Chinese Room
GenreAdventure
Release DateAugust 11, 2015
PlatformPS4 and PC

The Chinese Room had its hands full capitalizing on the success of Dear Esther. The soundtrack of Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture is beautiful, blending lush string sections and post-rock ethos into a haunting and relaxing composition. It is a little more bombastic than other soundtracks featured on this list.

However, as a general mood piece, it is a great and stirring soundtrack. Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture isn’t particularly vocal-heavy, so the beautiful instrumentation gets a space to shine. If you’re after something with a little more baroque influence with sparse electronics throughout, this is a fantastic choice.

7. Citizen Sleeper

Our Pick
Citizen Sleeper Original Soundtrack
$9.68
  • Composed by Amos Roddy
  • Metal artwork adds a unique and nostalgic touch
  • Can be hanged thanks to pre-drilled holes
We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.
02/23/2024 01:35 am GMT
ComposerAmos Roddy
PublisherFellow Traveller
DeveloperJump Over the Age
GenreRPG
Release DateMay 5, 2022
PlatformPC, Mac, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, PS4, PS5

Citizen Sleeper is a unique blend of Western RPG storytelling with tabletop elements. As such, the genre-bending game also has a decidedly apt soundtrack. The instrumentation is sparse, typically soaked in a lush reverb so you can feel the electronic motifs develop.

This is a fantastically relaxing soundtrack despite the somewhat heavier subject matter in the game. If you’re after one of the great ambient soundtracks, this is a perfect fit for your listening. The game itself is also magnificent, with very mature themes in a cyberpunk setting.

6. Journey

Our Pick
Journey (Vinyl)
$45.14
  • Vinyl, 2LP anniversary edition
  • Composed by Austin Wintory
  • The blend of cello and gentle electronic synth creates a unique ambiance
We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.
02/23/2024 02:14 am GMT
ComposerAustin Wintory
PublisherSony Computer Entertainment
DeveloperThatgamecompany
GenreAdventure
Release DateMarch 13, 2012
PlatformPS3, PS4, Windows, iOS

Gamers were delighted and surprised by the former PS3-exclusive Journey. This breathtaking game is as much a piece of art as it is a delightful adventure game. Part of what makes the experience so captivating as a whole is the soundtrack driving the action on screen.

As far as ambient soundtracks go, this is one that has a sense of wonder and awe instilled within it. You’ll encounter sparse strings, rich instrumentation, and gentle electronic elements that weave in and out of the score. It is sedate enough to be great for listening while you work or study.

5. Donut County

Our Pick
Donut County (Original Soundtrack)
$8.99
  • Music by Daniel Koestner and Ben Esposito
  • 42 tracks
  • 1 hour and 40 minutes
We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.
02/23/2024 01:45 am GMT
ComposerDaniel Koestner, Ben Esposito
PublisherAnnapurna Interactive
DeveloperBen Esposito
GenrePuzzle
Release DateAugust 28, 2018
PlatformPC, iOS, Mac, PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, Android

Donut County was a surprise hit for publisher Annapurna Interactive. Part of the charm of the title comes from its overall aesthetic. Donut County embraces a cartoonish sense of minimalism for the graphics. And it has one of the most delightful ambient soundtracks heard in recent memory.

You’ve got beautiful indie-tinged guitar work interspersed with strings, foley, and a lot more. This is one of those rare ambient soundtracks that would be right at home for gaming sessions or just a relaxing drive along the countryside.

4. Outer Wilds

Our Pick
Outer Wilds (Original Soundtrack)
$8.99
  • Music by Andrew Prahlow
  • 28 tracks
  • 1 hour and 8 minutes
We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.
02/23/2024 01:49 am GMT
ComposerAndrew Prahlow
PublisherAnnapurna Interactive
DeveloperMobius Digital
GenreAction-Adventure
Release DateMay 28, 2019
PlatformPC, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, PS4, PS5

Outer Wilds is a game that has to be played, full stop. However, if you’re after one of the most moving and special ambient soundtracks to accompany a game, this is it. You’ll find lush instrumentation with banjos, string sections, and synthesizers coalescing into a cohesive whole.

This is a special game, so it makes sense that the music accompanying it is equally unique. A special note has to go to some of the more guitar-centric compositions. They can make you feel at ease with little hesitation. If you’re looking for something for low-key gaming sessions, Andrew Prahlow’s score has you more than covered.

3. TUNIC

Our Pick
TUNIC (Original Game Soundtrack)
$14.49
  • Music by Lifeformed and Janice Kwan
  • 60 tracks
  • 2 hours 58 minutes
We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.
02/23/2024 01:50 am GMT
ComposerTerence Lee (Lifeformed), Janice Kwan
PublisherFinji
DeveloperIsometricorp Games
GenreAction-Adventure
Release DateMarch 16, 2022
PlatformPC, Mac, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, Nintendo Switch, PS4, PS5

There is no shortage of games inspired by Nintendo’s Legend of Zelda series. TUNIC is a special case, however, being a passion project for developer Isometricorp Games that covered seven years of development.

Unsurprisingly, such love and vigor for a game is accompanied by one of the best ambient soundtracks ever given to a game of this scope. It is very electronic by nature. TUNIC’s OST calls to mind cinematic scores, as well as the work of ambient pioneer Steve Reich.

2. No Man’s Sky

Our Pick
No Man's Sky: Music for an Infinite Universe
  • 10 tracks
  • A collection of 6 soundscapes
  • Audio CD (2-disc album)
We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.
Composer65daysofstatic, Paul Weir
PublisherHello Games
DeveloperHello Games
GenreSurvival
Release DateAugust 9, 2016
PlatformPC, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, PS4, PS5, iPad, Mac, Nintendo Switch

While many can point to the maligned launch of No Man’s Sky and wonder how things turned around, the soundtrack was never lacking. Composed in part with help from math-rock band 65daysofstatic, this is one of those rare ambient soundtracks that makes an impression.

If you’re playing games that center around exploration, the sense of wonder and unease of being in unfamiliar lands is immediately evoked by this OST. No Man’s Sky is a fantastic game coupled with an absolutely incredible score.

1. Minecraft

Our Pick
Minecraft (Vinyl)
$49.99
  • Exclusive, limited edition Fire Splatter Colored Vinyl (2LP)
  • A player with anti-skate features is recommended
  • 17 tracks
We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.
02/23/2024 02:09 am GMT
ComposerC418, Lena Raine, Kumi Tanioka, Aaron Cherof
PublisherMojang Studios
DeveloperMojang Studios
GenreSurvival
Release DateNovember 18, 2011
PlatformPC, iOS, Android, Mac, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, PS4, PS5, Nintendo Switch, Linux

What hasn’t been said about Minecraft at this point? Minecraft is more than a game, it’s an absolute cultural phenomenon that is still going strong well after a decade after its release. Curiously, one of the strongest elements of the game comes in the form of one of the best ambient soundtracks.

As you might expect, more music has been added to the game as development continues on it. The original score by C418 is still worth listening to. If you’re after one of the best ambient soundtracks ever designed for zen gaming sessions, Minecraft delivers it with ease.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do all games have ambient soundtracks?

Not at all, it really depends on the type of game.

What sort of compositions do people use for game soundtracks?

They run the gamut from fully electronic to bombastic orchestration.

Is the Minecraft music by C418 good ambient music?

Absolutely, it is one of the best gaming soundtracks ever created.

Does Quak really have an ambient soundtrack?

It is more in line with dark ambient and industrial, but yes.

Can you purchase the soundtracks for these games separately?

Yes, you absolutely can. Some game soundtracks even get limited presses on vinyl.

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