With a million and one fitness playlists available, there should be an ideal mix for every gym-goer. For individuals who enjoy pop, rap and country, the options are limitless. Even if you prefer instrumental music as the backdrop to your workout routine, you could find the right set of tunes in less than five clicks.
But, most exercise fans neglect an entire medium of potential songs. Last time I checked, video games also have original and workout-worthy scores.
Considering video game soundtracks have the monumental task of engaging players in dynamic settings and also hyping them up for that final bout of combat, they’re an ideal workout partner.
Pumping you up or whisking you away for a few hours is hardly exclusive to the digital domain. If it works on screen, it can also work at the gym. In particular, these five video game soundtracks tick both boxes while introducing a distinctive mix of sounds to spice up your tired exercise rituals.
1. “Persona 5”
A best score nominee at the Game Awards last year, the soundtrack of “Person 5” is an amalgam of superb energy and style. From the opening notes of “Wake Up, Get Up, Get Out There,” the lively score pulls you in with a literal call to action, using potent lyrics like “Take the mask off and be free/Find yourself in the debris/If you hold on life won’t change.”
All 110 jazz-influenced tracks carry some semblance of the same message: You have the power to change the world. It’s the perfect confidence booster to kick off a workout session. Although you may be trekking along on a treadmill, you’ll feel like a 10th member of the Phantom Thieves, traversing a corrupt cityscape to deliver a suave brand of vigilante justice.
Forget working out — this soundtrack also will transform you into a badass on your drive to the post office. This is entirely thanks to the combination of powerful synth beats and the soulful prowess of singer Lyn Inaizumi echoing throughout tracks such as “Rivers in the Desert” and “Last Surprise.”
When you’re ready for a cool down, this video game soundtrack also delivers. Favoring a unique blend of genres, “Beneath the Mask” stands in contrast to the other lyrical songs in several aspects. It presents an underlying vulnerability as Inaizumi sings “I’m a shapeshifter/Chained down to my core/Please don’t take off my mask/My place to hide” with a softer timbre than ever before. In the background, a simple beat comparable to the ringing of electronic bells hums along with no heightening tension. Capable of lulling you into a calm and contemplative state, it’s a prime choice for stretching or a moment of rest.
A personal favorite, this entry steals the spotlight from other video game soundtracks with the massive amount of “sax appeal” that bleeds through its entire score. Thriving on a unique infusion of classic jazz and gothic elements, all of “Bayonetta’s” 150 tracks will keep you captivated through a long workout. The score features lyrical and instrumental options, while daring to pull inspiration from iconic songs both inside and outside of the gaming scene.
“Fly Me to the Moon,” now with more zest and female vocals, is far from a failed cover attempt of one of Sinatra’s greatest hits. As one of the game’s main combat anthems, it sustains a lively allure capable of holding your interest through repeated listens.
In a similar vein, “After Burner” and “Battle for the Umbra Throne” capitalize on pep for high intensity exercises. While the former prefers a rock-esque guitar backbeat, the latter flirts with the addition of bagpipes to a grand jazz battle tune.
For more laid back activity, “The Gates of Hell” plunges you straight into a classy lounge setting with its lax piano melody and charming saxophone runs. However, it’s a rare moment of peace. As a whole, “Bayonetta’s” soundtrack opts for over-the-top sound and flair to parallel the events of the game. It’s definitely a must-listen if your fitness routine shares the same goal. If not, a terrible case of mood clash could ruin your day at the gym.
3. “Super Mario Sunshine”
Even if you can’t make it to the beach this summer, the soundtrack of “Super Mario Sunshine” will bring the splendor of a tropical paradise to your preferred workout location. While a short score at only 46 instrumental tracks, it has no trouble immersing you into the sunny environment of Isle Delfino.
With fan favorites like “Delfino Plaza” and “Bianco Hills,” you can feel the gentle shifting of the virtual wind and ocean waves mirrored in the airy rhythm of strings and horns. Repetitive in nature, the core tempo acts as a built-in metronome for your breathing. The tracks are a fitting companion for a bit of light cardio or yoga, but won’t give you the vigor necessary for sprints and heavy lifting.
However, such an eccentric game isn’t without the occasional burst of energetic bliss. Falling in line with past “Mario” titles, “Super Mario Sunshine” contains a handful of boss battles. These moments resonate throughout the video game soundtrack as fleeting scores equivalent to bottled lightning.
Filled to the brim with vivacity, “The Manta Storm” and “Boss Battle” themes erupt with intermingling beats of jazz and electronic music. Together, they uphold the warm beach vibes and reflect the influence of Mario’s robotic sidekick, F.L.U.D.D. on the skirmish. Should you desire to test your own physical limits, both are great, albeit unusual, options.
For a less traditional choice, “Undertale” boasts a fresh sound inspired by retro gaming eras. Their impact is prominent in the chiptune music present in nearly every track. It’s very much a “gamer’s” score. However, even if you aren’t an avid player, it’s easy to sink your teeth into its infectious youthful ambiance.
Combat tracks like “Spear of Justice” and “Megalovania” thrust you into a 16-bit struggle for your life. The erratic beats mimic a high-speed chase at times, and a fist fight at others. Refusing to let up on the excitement factor until the ending note, both will propel you forward in your run regardless of how drained you feel.
For a less strenuous experience, “Hopes and Dreams” borrows the same sense of urgency, but integrates sections of delicate synth chimes to appeal to your sensitive side. Of all the video game soundtracks, this one was intended to evoke an emotional response, but it also gives you an opportunity to take a breather.
Even the songs that play while the protagonist strolls around the environment refuse to fade into the background. “Another Medium” is a standout as its mechanical sounds clash with typical chiptune goodness. Coupled with the deep hum imitating the location’s lava flow, it can revitalize any walk or jog.
5. “Uncharted 2: Among Thieves”
The “Uncharted” series has been taking its players to every corner of the world since 2007. Music is always one of the greatest contributors to this ambition. Each score crafted for the franchise uses traditional sounds from the regions portrayed in its specific game. All are masterpieces in their own right, but “Uncharted 2: Among Thieves” is my preferred selection for a workout.
This video game soundtrack opens strong with “Nate’s Theme 2.0,” a remastered version of the series theme. While retaining the same grandeur as the original, it adjusts the influence of percussion for a varied feel. When the famous first notes burst forth from a flurry of horns, it’s nothing short of epic. By the time the strings join the fray, you’ll be overtaken by chills. It’s a fitting theme song for a world-class action hero — and there’s no better way to start a workout.
Afterwards, it’s time to continue your grand adventure in the city streets and imposing mountains of Nepal. The score throws you into the shoes of protagonist Nathan Drake with thrilling tracks like “Warzone” and “Broken Paradise.” Like a majority of the score, these songs are sweepingly cinematic and depict the illusion of great stakes for greater rewards extremely well.
Similar to the main theme, the striking horns and strings combo emphasizes sections of danger and success. Uniting this typically Western sound with a myriad of Tibetan chants, wind instruments and boisterous gongs make for an authentic and immersive experience. Until the final track comes to a close, you won’t feel like you’re at the gym. You’ll be (mentally) clinging to ledges and rappelling down buildings all the while.