Springtime for Gamers: A Relaxing Musical Playlist for the Quarantined Soul

by Kyle Vaughn
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My increased time at home from the pandemic quarantine has allowed to me spend more time outside with my family. Though in my hometown of Las Vegas, Nevada the temperature has quickly been approaching 100 degrees F, I’ve still enjoyed my increased time in nature walking, running, and hiking. At Level Down Games, we spend a lot of time listening to and talking about video game music, and I’ve curated a shortlist of songs that have provided the soundtrack to my springtime adventures.

“Garden of Hope (Morning)” from Pikmin 3

Starting off the list is a charming track from the Wii U exclusive that, unfortunately, too few people played. Pikmin 3 balances the line of tense, with timed missions and the constant threat of being eaten by giant monsters, and relaxation, with beautifully rendered fruits, plants, waters, and comically large everyday items. It’s a difficult line to tip-toe, but listening to the outstanding soundtrack led by composers Hajime Wakai, Atsuko Asahi, and Asuka Hayazaki makes it nearly impossible to not fall into the game’s tranquil spell. Rumors are swirling this week that Pikmin 3 is set to be the next port to arrive on Nintendo Switch, so if so, don’t skip out on this game again!

“A Short Flight” from A Short Hike

A Short Hike is a unique and charming game where you, a bird, spends about two hours taking… well… a short hike. There’s nearly no action throughout the entire experience, but there is an overarching sense of calmness and exploration. The island is yours to explore at your leisure, and the soundtrack by Mark Sparling makes it easy to do just that. Leave no stone unturned!

“Outset Island” from The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker

Outset Island is perhaps one of the most charming starter areas of any game I’ve ever played. There’s only a few buildings and residents, but each is brimming with personality and the wide, waving ocean teases you throughout the entire opening act. You can’t wait to set sail and explore the seas, but leaving your home island behind is difficult in large part due to this wonderful track from all-star composers Hajime Wakai, Kenta Nagata, Asuka Hayazaki, and Atsuko Asahi.

“Welcome Horizons” from Animal Crossing: New Horizons

Unless you’re BRAND NEW to Level Down Games or any of our podcasts, then of course you expected to see an Animal Crossing track on this list. This particular song is the main tune that has played in all marketing for the newest Nintendo release, and is so catchy that I CAN’T STOP LISTENING TO IT! I even have it playing in my house in the game. Somebody help.

“Spring (The Valley Comes Alive)” from Stardew Valley

The shining jewel of the indie Kickstarter scene, Stardew Valley has become known as the farming sim standard that you just can’t seem to quit. There IS combat in Stardew Valley, but the game is most itself when you’re slowly tending to your crops, charming the pants off of local townsfolk, and taking in the beautiful scenery. The one-man crew at ConcernedApe can be thanked for planting these seeds in your ears.

“The White River” from The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

The highlights of Skyrim are slaying dragons, delving deep into caverns, and conquering forts of bandits while learning the ancient Dragonborn tongue, but fans of the generation-defining game will recognize tunes like this from the hours and hours they spend exploring the hills, mountains, and woods of one of the most memorable game worlds of all time. Jeremy Soule, who has been described as “the John Williams of video game music”, earns that moniker with this entry.

“Birdman” from Pilotwings 64

Pilotwings 64 is one of the first games I owned on my Nintendo 64, and is the first time I can remember playing video games purely for relaxing. The free flight mode was just that – no objectives, no missions, no timers, just you and your pilot wings. You could change the time of day to suit your mood, and this soothing track by Dan Hess would accompany you all the way.

“Sanctuary in the Glades” from Ori and the Will of the Wisps

From one of my favorite games so far this year comes one of my favorite tracks so far this year. The sanctuary is such a nice, bright respite from an otherwise often dark and brooding plot, and the track that plays behind it, composed by Gareth Coker, is absolutely perfect for the mood. I returned often to the sanctuary – if not to interact with the colorful cast of vendors, then to zone out and refocus to this tune.

“Onion Cabin” from Overcooked!

Few games have filled me with such a perfect mixture of fun, frantics, and frustration as the Overcooked! series. I’m not sure most people would consider Overcooked! a relaxing game, but there are definitely moments to catch your breath and laugh about how much you hate your co-cooks amongst the madness, and the background music by Benedict Nichols matches this crazy dichotomy.

“Petalburg” from Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door

I am an outsider in the Paper Mario community, in that I really enjoy ALL of the games in the series… including the much-maligned Sticker Star and Color Splash. All of the games of the series are charming and hilarious and make for a fun, relaxing experience that nearly anyone (in my almost unique opinion) can enjoy. The soundtrack, composed by Yoshito Hirano, Yuka Tsujiyoko, and Saki Haruyama, is an energetic yet comforting palette, this track chief amongst the many. With The Origami King recently announced for a July 17 release date, now is the perfect time to invest in this series if you haven’t yet!

“Aerith’s Theme: Home Again” from Final Fantasy VII Remake

Last – but definitely not least – on this list is one of my favorite tracks from a game much of the world has been anticipating for many years. The classic soundtrack, composed by Nobuo Uematsu, has been remastered and reorchestrated to match modern standards, and to beautiful effect. This particular track comes from one of my favorite moments in the game and provided such a relaxing moment in an otherwise frenetic journey.

Take some time from your life to listen to songs from your favorite games. In times that have proven difficult for many of us, I’ve sought these rhythms and beats to remind me why springtime represents life, growth, and happiness. Let us know what your favorite springtime or relaxing tracks are in the comments, or hop into the Level Down Games discord server and interact with us there, where we are always available.

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