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The Classical California Ultimate Playlist Goes to the Arcade!


Once again, so many of you let us know that you love video game music just as much as symphonies and operas when voting for Classical California Ultimate Playlist! Four video games made it onto 2022’s list so let’s hear a little more about them, as well as the games that nearly made the cut.

97. The Legend of Zelda Series by Koji Kondo

It’s a melody that we first heard through an 8-bit synthesizer when we turned on our Nintendo Entertainment Systems, and a melody that still makes us want to embark on an epic quest across the land of Hyrule. You play as Link, a young adventurer who must collect the pieces of the Triforce and rescue Princess Zelda from Gannon. Like the music from Super Mario Brothers and Tetris, this is perhaps one of the most iconic musical themes in video games.

135. Final Fantasy Series by Nobuo Uematsu

Across over 15 mainline entries in the Final Fantasy franchise, Nobuo Uematsu’s melodies are instantly recognizable. He’s perhaps the longest-running video game music composer on the Classical California Ultimate Playlist, beginning his tenure with the series in 1987. Since then, he has built the musical framework that his successors have continued to work from.

204. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim “Dragonborn Theme” by Jeremy Soule

Since 1994, players have been exploring the medieval world of Tamriel in The Elder Scrolls game series. In 2011, we were introduced to the hilly, sprawling region of Skyrim – a land crawling with ghosts, monstrous insects, and dragons. Jeremy Soule’s epic score for the game instantly makes you feel like a hero as you learn to speak with and fight dragons.

219. Fallout 4 “Main Title” by Inon Zur

Like Uncharted, Fallout will soon be headed to more screens as a television version of it is in development. Set in an alternate timeline, Fallout is a story-driven series of games where you explore war-devastated regions of the United States and if you so choose, try to make things better. Inon Zur kept his score moody and sparse like the landscape around you. In our interview, he revealed that he created improvised instruments out of things that you would find in Fallout’s wasteland.

But that’s not all! There are a handful that just missed the list this year or made the list last year including…

Civilization VI by Christopher Tin

American composer Christopher Tin has found amazing success in the video game world after getting his big break in 2005 when he composed the main theme “Baba Yetu” for world building simulator Civilization IV.  In 2016, he returned to the Civilization franchise, creating the stunning “Sogno di Volare” or “The Dream of Flight” for Civilization VI which he says captures “the essence of exploration; both the physical exploration of seeking new lands [and] the mental exploration of . . . science and philosophy.”

Detroit: Become Human “Hopeful/Opening Credits” by David Cage

In 2018, developer Quantic Dream took us to a near-future version of this country, one in which androids have replaced humans in most blue-collar jobs. One day the androids become self-aware and begin to fight for their freedom. This is a story that develops through your choices, and the music follows you on that journey. The score combined the talents of three composers, but it would be the opening title music from the game’s creator David Cage that immediately pulls you in as you follow android Kara through the city streets of 2038 Detroit.

And here are 7 scores to consider for next year’s list!

The Outer Worlds by Justin E. Bell

The Last of Us by Gustavo Santaolalla

Horizon: Forbidden West by Joris de Man

Eastshade by Phoenix Glendinning

Starfield by Inon Zur

Pentiment by Alkemie Early Music Ensemble

11-11 Memories Retold by Olivier Deriviere

Is there a video game musical score that you’d love to hear on the station? Make a request!

Written by:
Jennifer Miller Hammel
Jennifer Miller Hammel
Published on 01.10.2023