Sound design is unique because you might not even notice it if it’s done well. Making sure a game feels right sometimes has more to do with how certain sounds come together. If a game designer tries to skimp on this aspect, the whole experience can quickly fall apart.
So while we like to talk about gameplay and graphics, sound design is a hallmark of great immersion. A genre that basically depends on immersion is role-playing games. These following games draw you in with engaging environmental sounds and music.
8/8 Cyberpunk 2077
Cyberpunk 2077 had a less than ideal launch, but bounced back and is now one of the more enjoyable RPG experiences. CD Projekt Red has been known to go above and beyond for their sound design, and this game was no exception. The game designer used multiple microphones to get the right sounds for cars, used different ambient noises and elements for other parts of the city, and even changed the sound palette depending on the clothes the characters were wearing.
Music plays a huge part in the cyberpunk vibe, and CD Projekt went more with 90s metal rock than the general 80s synth wave to give the environment an oppressive feel. This choice gives Cyberpunk 20777 a feel that isn’t just a Blade Runner rehash.
7/8 World of Warcraft
World of Warcraft’s sound design is brilliant because if we say something like “Murloc”, a sound effect plays in the back of our head. These sounds are iconic from the swing of your melee weapon or a spell.
While the game may stink at giving gameplay tips, Blizzard lathered Azeroth with a delightful layer of atmosphere. It pairs perfectly with menu and inventory sounds, making moving items all the more satisfying. Sounds had to shine in MMOs because the player would search for a long time, and poor sound design would have made World of Warcraft monotonous.
6/8 Final Fantasy VII
While Final Fantasy 6 was released on the aging Super Nintendo in 1994, Square took the legendary RPG series to the next level with Final Fantasy 7. The culprit behind the leap was the Sony Playstation, whose CD-ROM offered more storage space than cartridges and cassettes. 24 audio channels compared to eight channels on the SNES.
Square used eight channels for sound effects only and the rest for music. Composer Nobuo Uematsu had the music complement the game like a cinematic soundtrack, reflecting the moods of the scenes of the game’s epic story. These things combined into one of gaming’s best games ever, and are truly epic in the multimedia sense.
5/8 The BioShock series
The parent of the BioShock series – System Shock 1 and 2 – would be proud of its offspring. The Bioshock series brought Rapture to life as an underwater city. It could easily become another video game city, but Irrational Games added squeaking effects and leaks throughout the levels to give the environment a unique flair.
Hearing Big Daddy moan or Lady Comstock sing adds so much to this haunting environment. The music in the game also evokes our emotions, adding to the experience. It’s easy to see why players are still happy with how this game sounds.
All of the Elder Scroll games tend to have excellent sound design, but Skyrim is on another level. There’s a reason why “Skyrim Ambiance” YouTube videos are numerous and have tons of views. The collection of sounds in Skyrim bring the world to life, from bubbling streams to wind, the idling of characters and even the roar of a dragon in the distance.
The game’s sound design goes a long way in immersing you and portrays different moods throughout the game. Throw in the epic soundtrack and you have one of the most delightful audible treats to have been re-released six or seven times.
3/8 Demons, Dark Souls and Bloodborne
Since Demon Souls, Dark Souls and Bloodborne share the same hard DNA made by FromSoftware, these games sound amazing. While they all have different audio approaches, they all hit the player with ambient and atmospheric sounds in environments that will give you the creeps.
The music is also used differently, with Dark Souls 1 emphasizing themes in specific areas and boss fights, but otherwise being understated. The other entries use different styles of music, but it is masterfully used. If you want to start a debate among Souls fans, ask them which game had the best sound and watch the sparks fly.
2/8 The Diablo series
The original Diablo may have charming graphics now, but the sound design still hits. From the sad music of Tristram to the heart-pounding echoes of the monastery levels, Diablo is a treat for the ears. Enemies have all sorts of unique sounds that can sometimes alert the player before anything becomes visible.
Diablo 2 and Diablo 3 continue this tradition of excellent sound design, which is a challenging feat considering hack-and-slash RPGs usually have the swing of a blade playing over everything else.
1/8 Witcher 3
The amount of effort CD Projekt Red put into making Witcher 3 sound right was impressive. They did not create sounds for a game, but rather a soundscape to be experienced. The game developers recorded various aspects of the fantasy settings, from monster sounds to sword strikes and weather effects.
To make sure nothing became repetitive, they would record variances and change the pitches of sound effects for actions that would occur frequently. The game also had an adaptive music system, and the result was incredibly organic sounding. The sheer amount of audio resources for Witcher 3 makes it one of the best sounding games ever made.
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