The Best ASMR Games To Play With Headphones
Until only recently, audio design in games was a scarcely discussed topic. Though sound effects and music were heavily talked about, the overall ambiance and audio aura of a game were certainly neglected. Nowadays, the rise of more specific content, and the appreciation of such design aspects, are more popular than ever.
Today, the realms of audio and sound design are covered more by streamers, YouTubers, and other content creators, renowned for devoting content to such lesser-celebrated work. Sound design is near the forefront of such underappreciated work, with masterful examples extending far beyond mere sound effects, realism, and music. True immersion and escapism can be achieved through effective use of ambient sound, realistic dialogue, and unique effects.
A quintessential example of less being more, SUPERHOT hit the nail on the head when it came to immersive audio in gaming. Few games have made players feel quite so effortlessly Matrix-y as this FPS puzzler, which saw players freeze time by remaining stationary as they battled endless waves of weapon-wielding enemies.
Though on paper not the most relaxing game, the ethereal nature of the game and its lack of soundtrack make the experience a strikingly calm one. This has allowed players to hone in on every audible detail, whether in slow or regular motion. Shimmering, shattered glass raining past you as bullets whiz past your ears is a goosebump-inducing experience.
7 Red Dead Redemption
Though Red Dead Redemption 2 is considered technically superior to its predecessor by many, there are still many elements of the original that are cherished. Part of what made the original so iconic for open-world gaming was through ambiance, particularly in audio.
Exploring ghostly buildings in Tumbleweed, roaming the desert-like passages of Rattlesnake Hollow, and looting corpses post-shootout on horseback in Fort Mercer were all reinforced experiences because of their audio. Be it crickets chirping, thunder cracking in the distance, or the gentle gallop of your horse as it transitions from dust to grass to snow, Red Dead Redemption is a masterclass in dynamic ASMR.
6 Shadow of the Colossus
Less is more in this game of juxtaposing extremes. Where one moment players could be roaming a forest, guided by the resonant beam of their sword, the next they could be battling against one of the game's sixteen gargantuan bosses.
With each colossus built to reside in an environment-rich location, players were climbing the mythical beasts in water-logged temple ruins, soaring above deserts, scurrying around geysers, and traversing the land on horseback. After each of these epic battles, scored with triumphant blaring horns and the booming cries of the Colossi, players returned to an overwhelming calm, a near silence as they continued their quest across the plains for the next beast to slay.
A single moment of this game qualifies this indie title's entry on this list, and anyone who’s played the game can most likely guess what it is already. From the makers of Limbo, Playdead’s side-scrolling puzzler, set in a not-too-distant dystopia, features an iconic moment — and justifiably so for its sheer impact and soundtrack.
In this particular segment, players are thrust into the unknown dusk, where a recurrent shockwave is blasting everything in its path to smithereens. Activate a moving panel at just the right time to protect you from the wave, and players are treated to a moment of minimal, singular, cinematic bliss.
4 DOOM Eternal
Figuratively and literally, none of the DOOM games pull any punches when it comes to in-your-face sound design and soundtrack. The hectic shooter makes almost every sound it can as intense as possible, be it jumping, reloading, or killing.
This rollercoaster ride of hellish mayhem is best experienced with headphones cranked way up, as it’s the best way to embody the unrelenting energy of the Doom Slayer that players control. Also, it bears one of the most memorable and addictive soundtracks to have ever graced gaming, finally incorporating thumping, thrash metal into gaming, which is best described as ancient alien heavy metal.
3 Uncharted 3
At the time of its release in 2011, the third installment in the modern-classic action-adventure series was renowned for being one of the most cinematic games of all time. Nathan Drake’s adventure took him from burning chateaus, inhospitable deserts, sinking cruise liners, and sandstorm-stricken towns.
The audio for each of these locations takes each level to new heights of immersion, punctuated by a traditionally epic soundtrack and an array of weapon-specific gunfire. In almost every way, the Uncharted series is the ultimate action-adventure gaming experience that comes close to a cinematic experience.
2 Death Stranding
Few games encapsulate so much unique and specific audio into a single experience. Hideo Kojima’s controversially divisive sci-fi title managed to incorporate the sounds of futuristic vehicles, remote mountain trekking, and storm-roaming BTs, making all manners of exploration and story progression as involving for the player as possible.
It also goes without saying that BB, your test-tube baby accomplice, is another great addition to the audio experience. There’s nothing like the noise of a crying baby and an increasingly frantic beeping from your BT detector to raise your heartbeat in the midst of a tense stealth segment.
1 GTA 4
Of all the GTA games, GTA 4 is arguably the most immersive and atmospheric. The seventh-generation console exclusive was one of the most committed in the series to varying weathers, making Liberty City feel as alive and real as any other in reality.
Whether players walked through parks past yoga sessions or brushed off insults from aggressive pedestrians in rough parts of town, the audio alone carried much of GTA 4’s detailed lifelikeness. Overhearing phone calls of passers-by whilst listening to the radio over the humming engine of your stolen car in the rain amplified the believability and engaging nature of the city more than any GTA that came before it.
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