Video Game Music

When I’m working, I like listening to repetitive instrumental music to minimize distraction. Video game music works really well for this since it’s designed to be background music that can be looped over and over. Thankfully there are lots of video game music fans that have uploaded soundtracks to YouTube that you can easily pull up and listen to. Also, Red Bull Music Academy did a great documentary series called Diggin’ in the Carts which can be found on YouTube that I highly recommend.

I figured I’d share how I listen as well as some of my favorite music. VGMPlay is a nice command line player that emulates the sound chips used by consoles and arcade hardware. It uses .vgz files which contain samples and instructions to the sound hardware emulated by VGMPlay. The files are nice and small: my entire library is only about 160MB.

VGMPlay isn’t terribly well documented, but you can find the default .ini file here which you copy into the same directory as vgmplay and alter to your taste. To increase the number of loops per song, change MaxLoops in the .ini to a higher hexadecimal value. It defaults to 0x02 (or two loops), I pump that up to 0x04 which causes the desired amount of repetition.

Places to get music files

  1. VGMRIPS for arcade games. Some console stuff, but mostly NES.
  2. Project2612 for Genesis/Mega Drive music.
  3. SMS Power for Sega Master System.

Some personal favorites

I included YouTube links as an easy way to listen. The VGMPlay links typically include an .m3u playlist that you can give to vgmplay to hear the whole soundtrack.

  1. Battle Garegga - Arcade - YouTube / vgmplay
  2. Cave Story - PC/Various - YouTube
  3. Cho Ren Sha 68k - Sharp x68000/PC - YouTube
  4. Darius - Arcade - YouTube / vgmplay
  5. Fantasy Zone II - Arcade - YouTube / vgmplay
  6. Gimmick! - NES/Famicom - YouTube / vgmplay
  7. Lagrange Point - NES/Famicom - YouTube / vgmplay
  8. M.U.S.H.A. - Genesis/Mega Drive - YouTube / vgmplay
  9. Phantasy Star - SMS FM version - YouTube / vgmplay
  10. Raiden Fighters 2 - Arcade - YouTube / vgmplay
  11. Recca - NES/Famicom - YouTube / vgmplay
  12. Revenge of Shinobi - Genesis/Mega Drive - YouTube / vgmplay
  13. Ridge Racer - Arcade/PSX - YouTube / vgmplay
  14. Street Fighter II - Arcade - YouTube / vgmplay
  15. Streets of Rage 2 - Genesis/Mega Drive - YouTube / vgmplay
  16. Strider - Arcade - YouTube / vgmplay

Play Script

I keep this script in the Dropbox folder with all my music files, it will continually pick a random .m3u playlist.

for i in `find . -name "*.m3u" | gshuf`; do
    vgmplay $i
    echo "Press q to exit or any key to continue"
    # Timeout after 3 seconds to keep the party rolling
    read -n 1 -t 3 input
    if [[ $input = "q" ]] || [[ $input = "Q" ]]
        then exit 1