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It’s tough to get motivated to exercise sometimes. If I’m honest with myself, I’d really rather get in one more League of Legends match than go outside and punish my body by jogging.

Exercise is healthy, though, and an hour or so of intense physical activity each week isn’t such a huge sacrifice. I may grumble and groan about it when I’m putting on my gym shoes, but I feel better mentally and physically when I run.

Unlike hobbies like soccer or skiing, video gaming doesn’t have an inherent active component, but there is a way we can bring a piece of our pastime with us while we’re exercising. I’m a huge fan of video game music, and I’ve recently discovered that a lot of it makes for great running fodder.


Etrian Odyssey: Destruction Begets Decay

I like music with a steady backbeat and a strong melodic line for my runs, and this track is just perfect. The lead synth is gorgeous and compelling, and it really calls to mind the first moment in Etrian Odyssey when I realized that the game was going to kick my ass.

Metal Gear Solid: Encounter

Although I’ve never actually played MGS, I watched one of my former roommates take on the challenge. The game seems to capture the “hurry up and wait” nature of war very well. This theme plays during the combat sequences. Its restrained intensity makes it great for the point midway through my run when I haven’t hit my stride yet and I could use a little boost.

Final Fantasy VI: Decisive Battle

It’s all about the MIDI organ line here. Uematsu’s rock influences make a lot of his battle themes great for running. Substitute your favorite from the seventh or eighth entry in the series, or include all three if you like. 

McKids: Stage 2

I take a certain grim pleasure in placing this theme on a playlist intended for exercise. Most games created to promote fast-food franchises are boring, uninspired flops. (I’m looking at you, The Noid.)  McKids is a bit of a diamond in the rough, though. Even if the quirky platforming doesn’t catch your fancy, the music surely will.

Dark Souls: Gwyn, Lord of Cinder

It’s always great when this song comes on during my cooldown lap. By then, I’m usually exhausted, my legs are sore, and I’m wondering if my knees are going to hold up better than my dad’s have. There’s a lot of hidden depth beneath the emotive piano work in this piece, and the residual anger from having Lord Gwyn ruin my shit so many times helps me churn out those last few paces to get home to a nice, hot shower.

I hope these songs give you some ideas to start your own jogging playlist. There aren’t any wrong choices; just pick whatever gets you on your feet and out the door.  One caveat, though: Try not to pick any of your absolute favorites. Songs can easily start to seem less magical when you associate them with sweat and an elevated heart rate.

If anyone has suggestions to add to the list, I’d love to hear them! I’m always happy to be introduced to video game music I’m not familiar with.