13 Nostalgic & Relaxing RPG OSTs To Zone Out To During Quarantine

13 Nostalgic & Relaxing RPG OSTs To Zone Out To During Quarantine

Role-playing games to the rescue!

If you’re anything like me, then this home quarantine city lockdown business has been slowly creeping up on your mental well-being. Not saying we’re ungrateful for our health, a roof over our heads, and food on our table, but being stuck in the house for more than two weeks because of a global pandemic does take a toll on your mood and outlook on life. 

So, where do we turn to? The arts, of course! Since we can’t roam and travel, we turn to creative outlets to comfort us, whether they’re virtual tours or live-stream concerts. But you know what one underrated option is? Listening to role-playing game (RPG) original soundtracks (OSTs)! 

So many RPG OSTs out there are sadly overlooked even though they might as well be Oscar-worthy. Personally, I have a soft spot for OSTs that take me back to my childhood (’90s kid right here!), sway me into relaxation, or make me nostalgic of touching narratives (yes, RPGs can make you emotional too!). 

If you’ve got the time to listen — and I’m sure you do — I’ve rounded up my favourite nostalgic RPG OSTs, as well as those suggested by my friends, for you to tune in to. Sit back, relax, and press that play button!

1. Chrono Cross

Let’s start with a bang and an all-time classic. Chrono Cross is hands down one of the most loved RPGs in history. It’s a story of a teenager named Serge, who suddenly finds himself dealing with parallel worlds. In an alternate reality, he discovers that he has passed away as a young boy. Unravel a unique adventure as Serge searches for the truth of his past and reason behind the two realities. 

With a story that ventures to a number of island destinations in parallel worlds (one island is even called El Nido), the OST — composed by Yasunori Mitsuda — is heavily influenced by the Mediterranean, Fado, Celtic, and African music. No wonder I felt like I was experiencing so many cultures at once when I was playing this as a kid. The music of the different villages and islands was already taking me to cultural destinations before I even knew about them. The best part is, plenty of these tracks are both soothing and upbeat that you can actually imagine yourself sailing away into the horizon. 

My personal favourite tracks in Chrono Cross’ OST are Another Arni, Dream of the Shore Near Another World, Radical Dreamers, Ephemeral Memory, Dimensional Beach, and The Girl Who Stole The Stars. Do I hear fellow gamers second the motion?

2. Final Fantasy VIII, IX, and X

What better game to follow Chrono Cross’ iconic OST than the Final Fantasy (FF) franchise? Decked with a total of 17.2 instalments (counting FF Tactics and FF Dissidia), the first of which was released in 1987, the FF series is something we’ve all grown up with; and it’s as valuable to gamers as Star Wars is to fans of sci-fi movies. If you haven’t played a single game, now is the perfect time to learn about this franchise while waiting for our quarantine to end!

As beloved as Final Fantasy has become, there is no doubt that music played a part in the powerful storytelling of each instalment. And we have the legendary composer, Nobuo Uematsu, to thank for the first nine beautiful OSTs!

Final Fantasy VIII

Thousands of Final Fantasy fans claim FFVIII to be their all-time favourite. The story revolves around a group of mercenary students; one of whom, Squall, falls in love with a sorceress named Rinoa. The two have a developing love story as the game progresses, and this is what pretty much gets gamers hooked. Together with the other mercenaries, they battle their way to stop an evil sorceress who seeks to compress time. That doesn’t make sense on paper, so you’ll have to play the game to understand!

Since this RPG strongly highlights a love story, the OST has a couple of sweet and nostalgic tracks that you can unwind to. Try listening to Balamb Garden, Julia, Fragments of Memories, Love Grows, and Eyes on Me (piano collection)

Final Fantasy IX

The first FF I ever played was Final Fantasy IX on PlayStation 1 — and to this day, it remains to be my favourite RPG. With a universe not as technologically-driven as other fan-favourites like FFVII, VIII, and X, Final Fantasy IX still has the best storyline when it comes to the themes of purpose and friendship. 

Because the game is an ode to the earliest FF instalments, a melodious and medieval-themed soundtrack was composed to fit its universe. And get this — out of all the Final Fantasy OSTs, this is the one that Nobuo Uematsu said he was most proud of! 

Travel the different Gaia continents with Zidane and his party as they seek to stop his brother, Kuja, from destroying their precious world. The OST tracks, Crossing those Hills, Village DaliSong of Memories, and Melodies of Life (piano collection), are sure to soothe and pull on your heartstrings! 

Final Fantasy X

Final Fantasy X is the franchise’s first instalment for PlayStation 2, and the first where Nobuo Uematsu was not the sole composer. He had help from fellow Japanese composers, Masashi Hamauzu and Junya Nakano. But the RPG’s OST is no less impressive. In fact, I think it’s one of the most memorable FF OSTs to date. 

Who can forget the game’s iconic opening where Tidus looks out into the scenic ruins as the haunting music of To Zanarkand plays in the background? Trust me, once you hear this tune three times, it’s easy to recognise anytime and anywhere. Other nostalgic pieces include A Fleeting Dream (Someday the Dream Will End), Yuna’s Theme, and Besaid

That said, the OST is filled with not only mellow tunes, but also tracks that carry diversely influenced music. This is because Final Fantasy X is set in a half-old world and half-futuristic universe. Aside from this, the game takes cues from the South Pacific, Thailand, and Japan. So, go on this adventure with the main protagonist Tidus, and find out what lies in store for you in the world of Spira!

3. I Am Setsuna

If you couldn’t get enough of the RPG style of Chrono Trigger (prequel of Chrono Cross), and early Final Fantasy instalments, then try playing I Am Setsuna. It’s something that pays homage to the golden era of RPG battle modes. The story revolves around a mercenary and his ward, Setsuna, who must offer herself at a shrine to appease the demons. 

Since this narrative is centred around themes like servitude and self-sacrifice, there are plenty of lethargic and nostalgic tracks in the game’s OST. The common denominator? Every composition is played on a single piano (with the occasional percussion)! The genius behind this was composer, Tomoki Miyoshi, who thought all the tracks should be mellowed down due to the RPG’s theme of sadness.

I won’t even bother enumerating which ones you should listen to. Every single one is melodious; sometimes joyful, and at other times poignant. But most of them are definitely tunes that you can play in your room as you read a book or meditate during the quarantine. 

4. Kingdom Hearts series

If you’ve played Final Fantasy, then you definitely know about Kingdom Hearts! To those who need a brief background, Kingdom Hearts is an RPG crossover between Final Fantasy and Disney. The story starts with Sora, an island boy who is chosen to be a keyblade wielder and fight the Heartless (monsters) lurking in different worlds. Together with Donald and Goofy, Sora sets out to find the source of the darkness that has spread everywhere. 

Unlike the Final Fantasy instalments though, Kingdom Hearts has a younger market due to its Disney influences. Hence, its OST, composed by Yoko Shimomura, has a lot of charming and sentimental tracks in it that are comforting to listen to even if you haven’t played the game. My go-to tracks for when I’m just chilling in my room are Dearly Beloved Reprise, Lazy Afternoons, Hikari (instrumental version), and Kairi.

5. Suikoden series

Here comes one of the best RPG series ever made! The Suikoden saga is composed of five instalments, all of which are set in magical worlds where themes of politics, revolution, friendship, and enchanted runes comprise each story. The common favourite out of all the instalments? Suikoden II! Trust me, because there hasn’t been an RPG that’s come close to making me weep as this has, and I don’t easily cry about video games. Get ready for an emotional roller coaster!

The Suikoden OSTs have different composers, but Miki Higashino was the main composer for Suikoden and Suikoden II. Here are some nostalgic tracks that stand out for me: Recollection, Beautiful Grasslands, Theme of a Moonlit Night, Main Theme guitar version (Suikoden I), Reminiscence, and Days Past

6. Legend of Mana

The Legend of Mana is actually the fourth instalment of the Mana series, but this instalment shares a common composer with Kingdom Hearts — Yoko Shimomura! As this is a story driven by magic and nature (the goal is to literally restore the Tree of Mana), you can count on a lot of zen-like tracks in the OST. 

But if you like a little more skip to your music, you’ll be pleased to know that a lot of the compositions fall under classical electronic and symphonic rock, some even have a Celtic feel to them. For music that’ll allow you to keep calm amidst your quarantine, try listening to An Old Song, World of Mana, Nostalgic Song, and A Place With Heart

7. Ragnarok Online

Almost everyone knows what Ragnarok Online is because unlike the other RPGs on this list, Ragnarok Online is a massive multiplayer game where players from all over the world get to meet, team up, and battle. People my age will remember buying load-up cards just to get more playing time when this was first released. But recently, the franchise has come out with a mobile version where you can play for a limitless amount of time every day. It’s easier to level up now too!

And with all the towns you can travel to in the world of Ragnarok, there’s a plethora of musical tracks to enjoy, no matter what your taste is. When it comes to nostalgic and relaxing music though, you can’t skip the Theme of Prontera, Payon, Midgard Camp, and Gonryun

8. Journey

Journey is one of the most unique RPGs ever created because its concept is hinged on two strangers, who are real players, that need to team up online to finish the story of the game. These players can’t communicate in speech or text, nor can they see each other’s names until the credits roll. Such a concept has had a very strong emotional impact on players all over the world. And so, expect to hear a lot of stirring, nostalgic, and mellow tracks in Journey’s OST. 

Fans of classical music will love the OST too. Composer Austin Wintory has even described the RPG’s music to be “like a big cello concerto where you are the soloist and all the rest of the instruments represent the world around you”. To understand what Wintory means, you have to play the game. But the standout music for me include Nascence, Threshold, and Apotheosis.

9. Nier: Automata

You’d never think a story about the trials of a human-crafted android would have a standout OST. But given that Nier: Automata is set in a post-apocalyptic world and filled with characters who don’t feel, it’s only right that the creators asked composers Keiichi Okabe and Keigo Hoashi to produce a haunting and memorable OST to match. 

Some of the best tracks even feature the game’s own fictional language inspired by real languages like Scottish Gaelic, French, Spanish, and Italian, to name a few. Zone out to the tracks of Amusement Park, Vague Hope, and Ashes of Dreams. But honestly, all the songs will either give you chills or make you fall into sweet slumber. It’s a useful OST to play when you’re starting to feel numb over the whole lockdown situation.

10. Fire Emblem series

Fancy strategy games? Well, Fire Emblem is a game series that revolves all around tactical movements where characters manoeuvre across grid-based environments. 

Of course, the different instalments all have stories to unfold in a medieval and renaissance-themed setting. So, if you’re into European-influenced tunes, this is another soundtrack that can transport you to another realm while you’re stuck at home. Cool and relaxing tracks include Petals In The Wind, Eternal Glory, In The Stars, Reminiscence, and One Star By The Next

11. Okami

Those who have a strong love for Japanese culture are going to adore Okami. The game is set in classical Japan, highlighting both Japanese mythology and folklore. Learn about the Shinto sun goddess named Amaterasu, who takes the form of a white wolf and saves the land from darkness. 

Traditional Japanese instruments and sounds naturally inspired the OST, while the oriental essence brings the Land of the Rising Sun closer to its listeners! In the midst of your self-isolation, find peace and escape through these relaxing, hypnotic tracks, just to name a few: Theme of the Celestials, Susano and Kushi’s Love, True Strength, Kamiki Festival, and The Sun Rises

Also read: Bedtime or Bartime? This Izakaya in Japan Lets You Sip on Sake and Sleep on Futon Beds

12. Assassin’s Creed franchise

Assassin’s Creed (AC) is a game series whose setting goes back and forth several real-world eras and is designed with a whole lot of magic and sci-fi. Because of its passionate following that rapidly grew over the years, AC has arguably overtaken the popularity of the Final Fantasy franchise, albeit being the younger video game. Would you believe that there are currently 22 official Assassin’s Creed instalments, and there were even three which were unfortunately cancelled out? I digress.

AC’s story is centred on an assassin from the past and one in the present named Desmond Miles. The protagonists are wrapped in an age-old struggle between Assassins who believe in peace with free will and Templars who fight for peace through control.

With such an ambitious concept, the creators of the game admitted to how difficult it was to find the right composer for the franchise’s OST. But they eventually found what they were looking for in Danish composer Jesper Kyd. According to producer Jade Raymond, Kyd “turned out to be the perfect match for the title because he is able to create epic historical pieces fused with both traditional medieval instruments and modern synth sounds.” Listen to nostalgic and goosebumps-inducing tracks like Flight Through Jerusalem, City of Jerusalem, Cathedrals of Steel, and Ezio’s Family.

13. The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim

If you’d like a sprinkle of The Lord of the Rings feels into your gameplay and OST, then say hello to Skyrim. You will play as a Dragonborn who sets out to defeat Alduin, the World-Eater dragon, who is prophesied to annihilate the world.

And like a true high fantasy-inspired narrative, Skyrim’s OST is filled with musical compositions that are hair-raising, lethargic, and invoke a sense of wonder. Whenever quarantine is taking a toll on you, return to the world of fantasy while listening to nostalgic tracks such as Awake, Ancient Stones, Far Horizons, and Journey’s End

Also read: How Switzerland Inspired the Magical Landscapes of The Lord of the Rings

Whoever said role-playing games isn’t a form of art hasn’t really stopped to listen to the heartfelt OSTs that come with each storytelling. These compositions help us escape into enchanted worlds when the real one seems to be too much. Now if you’ll excuse me, I think I’ll tune out the global pandemic for the meantime and get lost listening to my favourite RPG OSTs!

Facebook image credit: Final Fantasy IX Official Website;  Chrono Cross Facebook PageSuikoden II Page | Konami Official Website.

About Author

Therese Sta. Maria
Therese Sta. Maria

Therese's close friends know that if they haven’t seen her around recently, then she’s probably having an adventure with her luggage and camera in hand. Though she loves staying at home and spending lazy afternoons with friends, there are times when she has to be "away from home to feel at home," — that’s when she’s bitten by the travel bug. See her travels on Instagram @reesstamaria.


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