The music in Celeste is very good…but you probably didn’t need me to tell you that. Anyone who has played the game can attest to this statement.
Composed by Lena Raine, the score beautifully supports the narrative and tells a story within the music. The game has a strong theme of anxiety, something which is experienced in every chapter. The score continuously evokes this sense of anxiety throughout the game, matching Madeline’s mental state on her journey. It works with the story and tells a story itself.
Although I am not a music expert and have no formal music education, I will do my best not to embarrass myself and explore how a few tracks work to tell a story. Since I can’t really put into words why the music is doing what it is doing, I have included some recommended YouTube videos at the end of the article that explore these ideas more deeply.
In the first chapter, the track “First Steps” evokes an anxious and cold climate. Chapter 2’s “Resurrections” provides a very dreamlike melody, telling the player Madeline is dreaming long before the game formally does. As the chapter continues, the track becomes more and more intense, mirroring Madeline’s terror as she runs from the part of herself that is chasing her.
The track “Scattered and Lost” plays in Chapter 3 when Madeline makes her way through the hotel. It is very spooky and gives off the feeling of clutter and claustrophobia that surround Madeline.
Chapter 5 starts with the track “Quiet and Falling” which contains strange pulsing sounds that make the environment feel otherworldly. This makes sense as parts of this chapter are a manifestation of Madeline’s inner demons. This becomes much more pronounced in “In the Mirror” which builds on “Quiet and Falling” with a lot more pulsing sounds and deep synths that instill the fear and anxiety that Madeline is facing.
“Reflection” plays in Chapter 6 after Madeline falls down the mountain. She has just reached the lowest point, physically and emotionally. She has just realized that she can’t run from Badeline but must embrace her. Now she must make her way back up toward the top and it is a moment of calm before the storm. The song is soothing and builds as the chapter continues, similar to “Resurrections” in Chapter 2.
This all builds up to “Confronting Myself,” the track that plays when Madeline and Badeline (the name fans use for Madeline’s doppelganger) have their ultimate confrontation. The song completely encapsulates this moment with its chaotic melody overlayed by an epic choir. It is anxious yet also empowering.
“Reach for the Summit” plays in the final chapter. Like past tracks, it still carries anxiety in every note, but it is also a very motivating track. There is a sense of finality to the track. This is it. This is Madeline’s moment. She is facing her greatest challenge and she can do it now because she isn’t running away. The track also resembles past tracks. Madeline is making her way back up the mountain and back through the areas she had already traversed. These callbacks subtly bring Madeline’s journey full circle.
These are just a few observations of this incredible soundtrack. Not only does it work in service of supporting the game’s story and gameplay, but it is also pleasing to the ears.
- Matt Makes Games, Extremely OK Games, Ltd. Celeste. Matt Makes Games. Switch/PS4/Xbox One/Windows/Mac/Linux/Google Stadia. 2018.