For me, programming and music go together like peanut butter and, well, music. Or like spaghetti and…music. Basically everything goes well with music.
I have been on a constant quest to discover the best programming music over my seven-and-a-half years as a professional programmer. During that time I’ve maintained a gigantic Spotify playlist of albums and songs that I consider the best to work to. It’s aptly titled “Work,” and it contains over 1,000 songs and 54 hours of music.
Not all albums are of equal quality, however. Below are my top 10 favorite albums to program to—all of which are rated to video games. These are the albums that, throughout the years, I consistently return to time and time again.
While I’ve never played the game Thomas Was Alone, I still stumbled upon its score and would now consider it one of my favorites. At 27 minutes long, Thomas was Alone is the shortest album on this list. What I appreciate about this album is that it contains the typical chip tunes sounds you’re used to hearing in video game music, but layers on an orchestrated score for a more melancholy and ultimately hopeful result.
Favorite track: “Freedom”
You won’t hear many chip tunes in Bastion by Darren Korb. Instead, this album takes a more industrial approach which matches the games steampunk aesthetic. If you’re like me then you’ll probably want to skip over the vocal tracks while working; however, the rest of the album is consistent solid.
Favorite track: “Spike In a Rail”
Minecraft is a moody and atmospheric soundtrack that helps players get lost in the game. Working to the Minecraft soundtrack has a similar effect, where it aids listeners in getting lost in programming.
Favorite track: “Minecraft”
Sword & Sworcery LP was my first foray into Jim Guthrie’s music, so it holds a special place in my heart. Guthrie is a sort of indie music legend in that community, and for good reason. Sword & Sworcery LP is an album that constantly surprises.
Favorite track: “Under A Tree”
The Ori games both have some of the most beautiful orchestral music I’ve heard. This is not your standard video game soundtrack. Instead, Ori and the Blind Forest sounds like something out of Avatar or perhaps Lord of the Rings spinoff that focused more on the elves.
When I first heard the Journey score several years ago I thought that I’d never hear another video game soundtrack like it, and I’m happy to be wrong.
Favorite track: “Light of Nibel”
5 - FEZ - Disasterpeace #
Disasterpeace is another video game composer who, seemingly, can do no wrong. My favorite album of his is certainly FEZ. After listening to FEZ, don’t forget to give his Hyper Light Drifter score a try.
Favorite track: “Adventure”
Journey is one of my favorite scores from any medium. I’ve probably listened to it 25 times over the last 8 years, and it never gets old. The album does an excellent job of taking you on the kind of journey that the player takes in the game itself.
Favorite track: “I Was Born for This”
Like the biomes in the game Hollow Knight, the Hollow Knight score is incredibly diverse. Some tracks are more mellow (“Dirtmouth”), some are epic (“Sealed Vessel”), and some are just fun (“Dung Defender”). None are better than “City of Tears,” though, which is named after what your face looks like while listening to it.
Favorite track: “City of Tears”
Jim Guthrie is consistent in all of his albums, but to me Indie Game: The Movie is the most consistently great of them all. If you’re into this album then be sure to try out literally anything else Jim Guthrie has done.
Favorite track: “A Glow You Know”
Celeste is my favorite video game soundtrack. Like the game it is at times fast paced and anxious, while at other times it is slower and more melancholy. To me it is one of those few perfect albums from start to finish and I’d recommend it to anyone.
Favorite track: “Scattered and Lost”