Music is an important, under-looked element of any video game. A good soundtrack can elevate moments to heights not possible in any other medium. Music is designed to complement everything from blockbuster action setpieces, to smaller, tenderer sequences often driven by impactful dialogue. There are plenty of pieces that lend themselves to the backdrops of real-life scenarios. Let’s take running, for instance.
According to Statista, the United States alone sports an estimated 60 million people that participate in some form of running as exercise. These stimulating sounds are the perfect complement to that sort of cardio. They might even kick start you into running for the first time!
Services like Spotify have pick up on the power of video game soundtracks, too. They’ve been adding to their library of video game selections for the last couple years. Square Enix, for instance, recently uploaded its entire catalog of Final Fantasy soundtracks. Fans have an easier time than ever to listen to these scores while outside and on the move.
To help get you started, here are 10 handpicked video game music tracks to help boost your run.
Super Mario Odyssey – Honeylune Ridge: Caves
In the vast history of Mario games, you have an abundance of great running tracks to pick from — such as the classic “Ground Theme (Hurry Up!)” from Super Mario Bros., or “Slide” from Mario 64. Instead, let’s look to the athletic plumber’s latest 3D release: Super Mario Odyssey.
Composed by the legendary Koji Kondo, “Honeylune Ridge: Caves” is powered by electric guitars under a full orchestra that is unlike most Mario tunes. Every time the beat begins to die down, it just fights back with higher energy from blaring trumpets, making it an overlooked gem worthy of your playlist.
Crash Bandicoot 2: Cortex Strikes Back – “Unbearable”
Want to add a little tension to your run? Perhaps you’d like to imagine yourself being chased by a giant polar bear! Enter “Unbearable,” from Crash Bandicoot 2. The song itself is nothing like its name implies. “Unbearable” features a light jingle surrounding the powerful synthesized drums and electric notes. Everything about this composition creates a sense of urgency, never letting up or stopping until the final hurdle has been cleared. Ideally celebrate with some Wumpa Fruit after every jog.
F-Zero – “Big Blue (Super Smash Bros. Ultimate Remix)”
Many versions of “Big Blue” from F-Zero have graced our ears throughout the years, iterating upon the song with new mixes that always add something a little different. But the Smash Ultimate remix of the high-speed racer is exactly what’s needed for a morning run. Supervised by Takeshi Kuramochi, leaping out of bed to this tune will easily energize your legs and give you that engine speed only Captain Falcon’s own Blue Falcon could muster.
Doom (2016) – “Rip & Tear”
What’s great about the Doom soundtrack is that it’s completely unrelenting rock, in the best possible way. Everything screams anarchy and lends itself spectacularly well to those final sprints at the end of a long run. Feeling tired? Slam the rambunctious anthem “Rip & Tear.” Not only will you get that adrenaline boost needed for the last leg takeover, you’ll run straight through your fellow joggers, leaving them in your blood-soaked trail.
Sonic Unleashed – “Rooftop Run (Day)”
Let’s be honest: We could quite easily include the extensive majority of Sonic the Hedgehog music on this list. The blue blur is all about speed! Therefore his musical arrangements have all been composed to give off the same sense of momentum (to varying degrees of success over the years).
Sonic Unleashed in particular has a terrific selection of fast-paced tunes from its day stages — such as Holoska’s “Cool Edge,” Mazuri’s “Savannah Citadel” and Chun-nan’s “Dragon Road.” Even the title’s main theme, “Endless Possibilities” by Bowling for Soup’s Jaret Reddick, brings with it a great sense of acceleration. However, it’s Spagonia’s “Rooftop Run” (the day version) that makes this cut, due to its continued effort of never letting up while also evoking a huge fun factor. Just listening to this track makes me want to grab a pair of Power Sneakers and head on out.
Death Stranding – “Death Stranding”
Hear me out! Yes, Death Stranding is a game where you basically play an Amazon delivery worker, but a number of these songs work sublimely for starting off with a light pace, before increasing to a strong stride, and finishing with a sprint to the finish. Written especially for the Hideo Kojima experience, Scottish synth band Chvrches’ title track tops the lot. Featuring a rousing chorus belted out by Lauren Mayberry and an electronic beat blended in the back, this song is perfect for running in the rain.
Punch-Out!! (2009) – “World Circuit Theme”
Coming in hot with electric riffs, the updated version of the “World Circuit Theme” from Punch-Out!! is a genuine, well, knockout. Seeing as they so closely mimic Rocky series, it’s only natural that Little Mac and company would receive their own uplifting workout number. The only caveat is the track’s length — at just a little over two minutes. But hey, that’s why they invented the repeat button. Go get ’em, champ!
Rocket League – “We Speak Chinese”
Lovers of EDM, Rocket League’s supersonic soundtrack is full of striking themes all easily accessible to even those that normally don’t listen to the genre. Everything included in the original release was produced by Psyonix audio director Mike Ault and his band Hollywood Principle. As the game became more and more popular, however, more and more artists became involved.
Ault’s collaboration with Abandoned Carnival for “We Speak Chinese” is where the collection truly flies, though. That’s thanks to its aggressive synthesizer and electronic beats that keeping rising for maximum impact. The constant reverberating sound makes striding to the beat as simple as one, two, three.
Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception – “Museum Bust”
Of all the tracks on our list, this one takes the longest to jump into a run-worthy tempo. Yet when those Spanish guitars go off, they explode onto the scene. Accompanied by thundering trumpets and an underlying percussion beat, it’s easy to get lost in the music and start leaping across rooftops like Nathan Drake. Think of this as something to stretch too before leaping into action. Just promise you won’t leave any falling structures in your wake!
Cuphead – “Floral Fury”
Big band boisterousness and jazz jollies. That’s the devilish Cuphead soundtrack in a nutshell. Taking inspiration from early 1930s cartoons, the ornamental run-and-gun fighters, Cuphead and Mugman, take on numerous colorful characters on their journey through the Ink Isles. One of these fights involves a disgruntled sunflower ready to tear the duo limb from limb.
Here, the jazz band go into overdrive, with thrilling notes and fast-paced jams that casually build to an electrifying chorus. “Floral Fury” helps bring spring fever to any dull day of the year.
The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening – “Tal Tal Heights (Remix)”
Final Fantasy V – “Battle at the Big Bridge”
Metroid Prime 2 – “Multiplayer”
Kirby Super Star – “Meta Knight’s Revenge”
Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty – “Yell ‘Dead Cell'”