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Playlist: Video game music from Finland

by FMQ

This playlist highlights the work of composers, arrangers and performers of video game music in Finland. Our list boasts a selection of addictive sounds from epic orchestral textures to quirky technopop and tunes that make you want to dance. How about next trying them as part of a gaming experience?

Salla Hakkola’s score for Merge Mansion (2022) was awarded as the best mobile game soundtrack in NYX Game awards 2023. In this special feature, Hakkola elaborates on the functions of game music: “In Merge Mansion, […] the stories of the game are incorporated into the music, which does not always mickeymouse the screen but instead provides an emotional enhancement. Music makes a game much more multi-dimensional.”

“Since game music has been seen as a kind of curiosity and there hasn’t been any routine regarding performances of it, the audiences haven’t been able to experience gaming soundscapes at concerts, even though there is a demand for it. The Game Music Collective was born to meet this demand, as an orchestra created on game music’s own terms”, notes Markus Kärki, the arranger and music producer of the Game Music Collective. The orchestra's debut album, RESTART – Finnish Game Music Revised, was released in 2023. Oceanhorn Medley is a representative example of the group’s work.

Fall ‘N’ Roll from Fall Guys, by contrast, is a quirky and fun electric piece – and a relatively recent global hit of Finnish video game music.

Trine 2 Medley, composed by Ari Pulkkinen, is featured on the debut album of the Game Music Collective. “When you’ve worked with so many genres and styles, you have a pretty good idea of what works where and what hasn’t been done yet,” elaborates Pulkkinen in this Special Feature.  

The quirky Angry Birds Theme, again composed by Ari Pulkkinen, is a true classic of Finnish game music. Salla Hakkola is also familiar with the tune, having “made a dozen arrangements of it, from Vivaldi style to campfire song and from Danny Elfman style to the music of the Andes,” as she notes in her discussion with Pulkkinen. Can you recognise the style in Marie Hamtoinette?

Let’s stay in the world of elegant sounds for a moment: Nobuo Uematsu’s Waltz Tycoon in F Major became Waltz Suomi (“Waltz Finland”) on the arrangement album, Final Fantasy V Dear Friends, which was recorded in Helsinki. You can here listen to the tune from the original soundtrack. Imagine the original tune played on Finnish folk instruments, and you’re close to the “image of a Finnish open-air dance pavilion,” as Lasse Lehtonen notes in his column.

Speaking of Final Fantasy, the Finnish composer and arranger Jonne Valtonen has garnered notable international recognition for his symphonic arrangements of Uematsu’s music for the Final Symphony concert series. As Valtonen notes in his column, his orchestral versions “have varied from arrangements closely following the original music to freer and larger works, from tone poems to a violin concerto up to a three-movement symphony.” The Final Fantasy VII symphony is a representative example.

Alan Wake is one of the most well-recognised Finnish game franchises. This piece by Petri Alanko is a fan favourite.

Game music can be highly emotional and dramatic, as Alanko’s piece demonstrates. But let us close our playlist with something lighter: the cheerful and dreamy Cloudspotting from Merge Gardens Countrysde Getaway. “Mobile games are usually casual and don’t involve that anxious moods,” notes Salla Hakkola – but the music can incorporate emotional depth of another kind, as our final song demonstrates.

The whole playlist: