As a teen, I was really into devising soundtracks in the form of mixed tapes for my various literary obsessions. The Lord of the Rings trilogy mixed tape had a healthy dose of shoegaze and ethereal goth; House of Leaves was a melange of industrial and indie rock, just to touch on a few self-created scores. Most of the books weren’t chose-your-own-adventure style, but I felt compelled to go beyond the text to affect the ambience and emotional tone of a story by providing the musical score.

Fast forward 14(ish) years, and I haven’t made a mixed tape until now. I blame college and grad school. That brings us to my Mass Effect mixed tape.

The Mass Effect video game trilogy takes individual gamer choice and customization to an extreme degree. Casey Hudson, Bioware‘s Mass Effect project lead, reports that over 1000 different variables are built up over the course of the gameplay. In the most simplistic terms, the games are chose-your-own-epic-video-RPGs. Bioware writers and developers have admitted that player feedback/desire has been a driving force for a few of the plot arcs. Overall, the trilogy provides for some very personalized in-game experiences. Mass Effect 3, the conclusion of Shepard’s (the main character) story, managed to piss (almost) everyone off, me included, in the last ten minutes of the game. There are very plausible theories about the game ending (SPOILERS!), but I’m not going discuss them here as they’ve been talked to death everywhere else on the ‘webs. Sure, I’m frustrated, confused, and slightly angry about the ME3 conclusion, but it’s like a bad break up. I just need to move on and talk about the music.

Clint Mansell and Sam Hulick, along with others, artfully composed the main score for ME3. It’s emotional, evocative, and fits well stylistically with the game’s retro-futuristic design. I received a digital copy of the score with a purchase of the Collector’s Edition, but it wasn’t included in the regular release. I’m not here to debate the brilliance of the score, or to improve it, but will attempt to put my own spin on musical storytelling. So, here you have it, my Mass Effect mixed ‘tape’. Please pop these songs in order, or not, into the preferred music player of your choice for maximum satisfaction. Clarification: most song sections do correspond with the originals for clarity, but are my particular choice for that section of the game. Enjoy.

Fate of the Galaxy:

Gary Numan – Random

Leaving Earth:

M83 – Safe


John Foxx – No One Driving

Shepard’s theme:

VNV Nation – Dark Angel

The Citadel:

Board of Canada – Zoetrope


Curve – Chinese Burn


Haujobb – Cleaned Vision (extended mix)

Future of the Krogan:

Portishead – Machine Gun


Dead Can Dance – Cantara

I was lost without you:

Lovage – Lifeboat

Fleets arrive:

Heroes – David Bowie & Philip Glass (Aphex Twin Remix)

An end once and for all:

Ego Likeness – Thirty-year War


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