Looking for a great programming playlist, try a video game soundtrack! The lack of lyrics stop them from being a distraction, but they're engaging enough to help you focus and drown out background noise. Below are five soundtracks I regularly listen to when I need to shut out the world and code.
5. Doom (2016) - Mick Gordon
For when you find yourself up too late with bloodshot eyes and an energy drink in hand, blazing through code like a wannabe hacker channeling your inner Cereal. There's nothing better to keep you in the zone like the grandfather of shooters: Doom!
Filed under Progressive Metal, Mick Gordon's TGA winning soundtrack is full of high energy tracks to get your blood pumping. While a few songs feature samples of the 1993 classic (I'm looking at you "At DOOM's Gate"), most tracks set themselves apart from the original game's already great songs. If you want to make an evening of debug feel like you're pulling off a Shadowrun heist, look no further than Doom.
4. Celeste - Lena Raine
A game that needs no introduction, Celeste is an incredibly popular platformer that still manages to regularly show up on "hidden indie gems" lists. When an entire subcomponent of the game is to collect floating casette tapes to unlock "B-Side" levels, you know music must play a big role, and Lena Raine does not disappoint!
I find myself regularly looping through the 100 minutes of tracks only to be left wanting more when it ends. The feel of the songs range from motivating and energetic, to downright haunting, but every one is a perfect accompaniment when focusing on a task.
3. Desktop Dungeons - Danny Baronowsky & Grant Kirkhope
There's a solid chance you haven't heard of Desktop Dungeons, a smaller indie game from 2013. However, you've probably heard of Ubisoft's X-Com/Mushroom Kingdom Crossover Mario + Rabbids, Kingdom Battle (music by Kirkhope) or the indie hit turned Legend of Zelda spinoff Crypt of the Necrodancer (music by Baronowsky). With two great composers behind it, it's no wonder the Desktop Dungeons soundtrack turned out as good as it did.
Mostly orchestral with some great brass sections, these tracks are great to put on when you need a bit of energy but don't want something so intense that it distracts your focus. The game itself is well worth attention too. Branded as a "coffee break" turn-based dungeon crawler, the games 15 minute rounds are incredibly satisfying, and the alpha is available for free on the developer's website.
2. Payday 2 - Simon Viklund
Similar to Doom, Payday 2's soundtrack is full of blood pumping tracks to keep you amped while you fly through for loops (or rob a bank, you do you). Unlike Doom's metal approach, however, Payday's songs are more suited for an early 2000's rave, with lots of industrial sound effects and synthesizers.
Only recently going up on Spotify, these tracks are the creations of Simon Viklund, who has since left Overkill Software to make another well received Co-Op shooter, GTFO. Supposedly Payday 3 is in the works for a 2023 release, but with both Viklund and original game designer Ulf Anderson out of the picture, I'm hard pressed to believe it will capture the charm of the originals.
1. A Hat in Time - Pascal Michael Stiefel
If you need to dedicate a long period of time to focus, look no further than the soundtrack to A Hat In Time. Clocking in at over five hours, this is the perfect soundtrack to put on when you want a constant stream of background music without jumping between albums.
Originally released in 2017, this is the only game on the list that I hadn't played before hearing the soundtrack. But after listening to it multiple times, I've picked it up to see just what crazy world all these upbeat tracks exist in. Standout songs are Train Rush and Trainwreck of Electro Swing but you really can't to wrong with any of the tracks that vary from slow and atmospheric, to upbeat and jazzy. Best of all, each song is full-length and fleshed out, instead of being a collection of looping sound bytes.