30 Years of Playlist: Your Spotify guide to the last 30 years of British video games
If there’s one thing that British video games are known for, it’s having absolutely banging soundtracks. So we’ve decided to honour that by producing a super special playlist to celebrate the tunes, tracks and songs that have stuck in our heads over the years.
The 30 Years of Playlist features 30 different tracks from video games from the last 30 years of British video game releases. And you can see the playlist in full at the bottom of the piece, including details on how to access it.
But before we get there, here are four thoughts from us on what we’ve learned about the British video games industry through its publicly available video game scores.
New high (music) scores
It can’t have escaped your notice that a lot of the tracks on the 30 Years of Playlist have scores worthy of prime time on Classic FM.
From the militaristic The Battle at Arcole from Napoleon: Total War, to Little Big Planet’s pastoral Orb of Dreams and up to David Garcia’s imposing The Northmen from Hellblade, British video game soundtracks have a real scope of classical ambition.
And this hasn’t gone unheard. Jessica Curry - whose track All the Earth from Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture opens the playlist - has dragged video game soundtracks into traditional classical radio shows. This has extended the reach of soundtracks to a new audience and, reportedly, brought newer (and younger) listeners to classical music.
Good work, video games.
Cool Britannia (and beyond)
The British music scene has always had a reputation for punching well above its weight, both in terms of its influence and the extent to which its proved itself a cultural powerhouse.
So it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that British video games sporting curated soundtracks tend to be as cool as a cucumber. Wipeout boasted Firestarter by The Prodigy; DJ Hero has bangers like Galvanise by The Chemical Brothers; even an indie hit like Not Tonight has an arch playlist to bop along to.
Importantly, British video games with soundtracks don’t keep to British tracks alone. Forza Horizon 4 channels LA vibes by giving Beck some prominence. And with Burnout Paradise benefitting from the bubblegummy guitar of Avril Lavigne’s Girlfriend, British video games don’t limit their horizons.
Independent games, independent music
The indie dev scene has thrived in Britain for decades. And importantly, many of those independently minded devs have been responsible for composing (or commissioning) thoroughly independently spirited scores across the musical spectrum.
Some of them are quintessentially British. Hivory Towers from Grant Kirkhope - which is taken from the score for Yooka Laylee - channels as much of For the Benefit of Mr Kite as much as he does his own work from Rare’s pioneering platform Banjo Kazooie in the late 1990s.
But its the spread of tracks that shows how independent game scores in the UK mirror the creativity of the dev scene as a whole.
The franticness of Focus by Chipzel - which is the perfect terrifying companion for Super Hexagon - is offset by Obfusc’s palate cleansing Monument Valley soundtrack. 65daysofstatic’s shoegazey electronica sits so far away from Transport Tycoon’s Little Red Engine on the cool spectrum it almost hurts. And Tobey Evans’ Piano Study in Botflat Minor from The Swindle veers off in a completely different direction by feeling like a lost Chopin score.
It’s an extraordinary - and at times almost baffling - spread of genres. But it shows just how wide the creative influences of British video game developers have been over the past three decades.
The soundtracks that couldn’t be accessed
Finally, a note about the soundtracks that couldn’t be accessed. Despite much research, most games from the 1980s and 1990s with memorable soundtracks were not present on Spotify in any form other than well intentioned (note: not necessarily good) covers. This really restricted our spread of tracks in the playlist.
Additionally, plenty of other video games from the 00s and event the past decade did not have their soundtracks online. This is why so many independent devs with the foresight to put their great soundtracks online - Wargroove creators Chucklefish deserve a big high five here - found their way into the list, while many of their illustrious peers did not.
So what does that mean? Well, developers and publishers should look at how they can get soundtracks online. While some will be nixed by rights issues, internally composed soundtracks that aren’t going on Spotify nowadays simply represent a missed opportunity to contribute to the historical record and support communities.
Get the playlist
So, ready to listen to the playlist? We’ve embedded it below so you can listen to it in your browser now. But if you’d like to subscribe to it on Spotify, hit the link here to add it to your account.
Game soundtracks featured: Transport Tycoon, Tomb Raider, Overcooked 2, Yooka Laylee, Little Big Planet, Lumino City, Planet Coaster, DJ Hero, Wipeout, Elite: Dangerous, Napoleon: Total War, Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture, Grand Theft Auto, Red Dead Redemption, Fable: Legends, Hellblade, Frozen Cortex, OlliOlli2, Not Tonight, Burnout Paradise, Super Hexagon, Velocity 2X, Wargroove, Project CARS, Batman: Arkham Asylum, RuneScape, The Swindle, Monument Valley, No Man’s Sky and Thomas Was Alone.