Good Game Design: The Importance of Sound Design and Music

Mega Cat Studios
6 min readMay 21, 2024

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In the silence of the early morning, I find the best times to play. In my monitor’s cool, dim glow, I get to immerse myself in my games with nobody to interrupt me. No work to do, no chores to run through, and nothing else to worry about other than the game I have in front of me. Armed with my trusty headphones and mouse, I go into battle, armed and ready.

And I game.

The latest game I’ve been running through has been EA’s Dead Space Remake. Playing as Isaac Clark, I trudge through the ruins of the Ishimura with nothing but my Plasma Cutter, braving the darkness and taking down foes that would make a lesser man quake. I fend off the remnants of its mutated crew, and as I put them to rest, hear in my ears the guttural cries of their fury as they’re put down. The music heightens and rings heavy in my ears. I turn, trying to shoot down another foe, only to get hit. I hear Isaac roar in anger as he takes a slash, and the music rises to a crescendo as I finally take the last foe down. I’ve survived another horde, but what other horrors await me deeper in the ship?

Dead Space | Courtesy of Electronic Arts

I take a breath at the nearest save station. The music drops to a low tune, steady and rhythmic. The calming sound of the save station confirms my survival. I had earned a breather, made permanent progress, and finished yet another chapter, with many more left to go. And as I move to turn off my game, I realize just why I had been so tense. Dead Space was a great game, but what really elevated the experience was its sound design. And let me tell you — Dead Space has some really good sound design!

Good Sound Design — Setting Up Themes, Environments, and Atmospheres with

Sound can be easy to overlook. Oftentimes, it’s easy to get all caught up on a game’s graphics. It only makes sense. After all, a game’s looks are its most obvious. How good does it look? Does it have ray tracing, bloom, god rays, and all those other graphical features that turn it from a good-looking game into a great-looking one? Is it realistic or stylistic?

Once you get into the nitty-gritty, though, you’ll realize that a game’s sound design plays as important a role as its graphics.

Take something like Amnesia: The Dark Descent, for example. While this game’s visuals have aged a fair bit, its atmosphere has not. The dark corridors are still unnerving, the monsters are still creepy, and the environments are still unsettling, and most of it is because of the game’s sound design. From the creepy monster groans to far-off screams at a distance, Amnesia’s sound design doesn’t let up and makes sure to keep you constantly on your toes.

Amnesia The Dark Descent | Courtesy of IMDB

You might say, “Well, horror games really do need good sound design to creep you out,” but this also extends to non-horror games! First-person shooters like Cultic thrive from its guns’ crunchy, meaty sounds. Hack-and-slash games like Samurai Warriors have to get you into the zone with their combat and scale, and even story-driven games like Life Is Strange need good voice work to sell their stories.

Without good sound design, a game just falls apart by the seams because playing it won’t feel satisfying or give you the feedback necessary to enjoy what it offers.

Musical Tracks — Adding Emotion to Gameplay

Of course, a game’s sound effects and sound design aren’t the only thing that can tickle your ears. Music is an important aspect of any good video game. Unless you’re aiming to be something like Bungie’s Marathon II (a game with no musical score and completely reliant on ambient sound effects), you’re going to need a good composer and fast.

Marathon II | Courtesy of Marathon’s free Steam release

But music isn’t always needed, you might think. A game doesn’t need a good soundtrack to shine. While that can be true, having good music accompanies your gameplay is integral to getting your players in the right mood.

Take RPGs, for instance. Something like The Witcher 3 punctuates its battles with tracks like Hunt or Be Hunted, emphasizing the kill or be killed nature of combat while also being in line with the game’s atmosphere. Baldur’s Gate 3 combat sequences often play the song Nine Blades, a haunting combat piece that brings with it feel and themes of mortality.

And for first-person shooters, Id Software’s classic Doom is arguably one of the most iconic tracks in history, with the E1M1 music track At Doom’s Gate being a song that retro shooter fans all know by heart.

Musical tracks don’t just have to excite either! The classic RPG Planescape Torment has Deionoarra’s Theme, a haunting, soulful track that conveys the lost love its namesake had.

Planescape Torment | Courtesy of sorcerers.net

Simply put, music is just as important (if at times even more important) than a game’s sound design and goes a long way toward making a good game great.

A Feast For Your Ears — Good Music and Sound Design Coming Together

Even today, there are people who will recognize certain sounds and music tracks. Half-Life fans will know by heart the familiar boops and beeps of the HEV suit. Total War fans will recognize the familiar, militaristic chanting of the track Soldier’s Chant. Thousands of Final Fantasy VII fans around will still recognize Nobuo Uematsu’s Let The Battles Begin! as FFVII’s battle theme.

Let The Battles Begin! From Final Fantasy VII | Courtesy of YouTube

These have captured gamers’ hearts and minds everywhere, and thousands of people search for their favorite tracks daily.

If you’re an aspiring game developer, don’t skimp out on having good audio. Memorable sound effects and good music tracks are the key to accessing the hearts and minds of your most loyal fans and should not be underestimated.

Hell, some games even get big BECAUSE of their music! Plenty of fans buy their favorite game’s soundtracks, and even Spotify recommends songs and playlists made up purely of video game music. Don’t underestimate the pull of a good music track. It might just earn you a fan for life!

Spotify

If you’re a budding game developer out to make your own dream game come to life, why not visit and subscribe to our YouTube channel? We currently have our own set of game soundtracks, with songs from games like WrestleQuest and Renfield: Bring Your Own Blood! With our varied array of games and songs to watch, their music might inspire you to make your masterpiece come to life!

About the Author

Alexander Cuaycong is a writer with a passion for history and video game. When he’s not busy buried in dusty books, he’s out there trying to make his fantasy worlds come true. For him, gaming isn’t a hobby so much as a calling, and it’s one he’s been doing his best to follow. Whether it’s reviewing games, or writing about their history, he’s on a mission to spread that love with others.

Originally published at https://megacatstudios.com on May 21, 2024.

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Mega Cat Studios

Mega Cat Studios is a creative first company based out of Pittsburgh, PA. We love creating games. From retro cartridges to PC & VR, come play with us.