Exploring Spotify Gaming Playlists

What are the first few things that come to mind when you think of Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End? Breath-taking vistas? Thrilling action? The Passenger by Iggy Pop? No? How about David Bowie’s Space Oddity? You may be missing a beat, as both of these tracks, alongside many other pop-rock classics, feature on the Spotify Uncharted 4: Nathan Drake playlist; an official mix that can be found under the streaming service’s ‘Gaming’ genre, along with a whole bunch of other categorized curiosities and eccentric selections.

Exploring Spotify Gaming Playlists
Heavy Metal and Dark Souls just fit.

The Gaming genre made its debut on Spotify this year, nearly two years after the music streaming service become available as an integrated app on PlayStation 3 and PlayStation 4. It was presumably set up to cater to the cross-section of tastes between game lovers and music lovers, and the result is this marvellously eclectic collection of playlists and albums, from original video game soundtracks to a fan-curated assortment of songs inspired by Dark Souls (spoilers, it’s almost all heavy metal).

There are some nifty and useful ideas here, like playlists created by staff from Polygon and Engadget, or the entire collection of songs from Guitar Hero Live. Others, meanwhile, are certainly interesting in theory, even if they ultimately feel a little random upon hitting the play button. I like the idea, for example, that Naughty Dog picked a bunch of songs to “showcase the older, tougher, wiser Drake” for the aforementioned Uncharted playlist, but I can’t think of any scenario where I’d actually want to give the mix a listen.

Similarly, the Street Fighter V playlist – which features tracks inspired by each character in the game – seems novel, but in what world does someone enjoy Five Finger Death Punch in the same space as The Beatles? Playlists are usually meant to capture a mood, so organizing one based around Street Fighter’s inherently diverse character roster feels like it’s defeating the point. Another mix called “Supernerd” ambitiously promises that “if you like movies, games, series…this is your playlist!”, before quickly taking a turn for the worse as soon as the Spongebob Squarepants theme song rears its abominable head.

Exploring Spotify Gaming Playlists
The Reload playlist and Call of Duty go together like Treyarch and shooters.

Spotify also aims to provide music to listen to while you actually play your video games, and you can definitely find a few worthwhile playlists for such a pairing. There’s “Power Gaming”, “Electronic Gaming” and even “Retro Gaming”, though the latter is admittedly just a disappointing list of bog standard hits from the 70’s and 80’s. Even so, this formatting allows players to select the appropriate mix of songs to fit their mood or the type of game they’re playing; we would be lying, for example, if we didn’t admit that the “Reload” playlist got us seriously motivated while enjoying a few quick rounds of Call of Duty: Black Ops III.

My own personal form of relaxation involves booting up a multiplayer game that doesn’t require too much concentration, and accompanying it with some calm instrumental tracks in the pursuit of a maximum state of chill. It turned out that the oddly named “Soundscapes for Gaming” playlist represents pretty much the exact kind of thing I was looking for. Another recommendation is the official Rocket League playlist, which bungs in all the great electro tracks you’ve found yourself nodding along to while waiting in the game’s lobbies, alongside a few other decent EDM songs that are at least worth a listen.

Exploring Spotify Gaming Playlists
EDM fans might like the Rocket League playlist.

At the end of the day, Spotify’s Gaming genre is hardly going to “take your music and gaming experience to the next level” in the way that it suggests, but it will almost certainly take it in some fascinating directions, for better or for worse. At the very least, it’s worth exploring purely to see what Spotify has managed to come up with when limited to such an odd topic for a category, particularly if you’re looking for backtracks to complement your gaming sessions. Plus, there are some genuinely great playlists hidden amongst the more bizarre options, so go in with an open mind-set and reasonably tempered expectations, and you may just find something you like.

We reached out to Spotify for comment on this piece, but were told that this was not something they were able to speak about “on this occasion”.