OF 2022: My Most Listened Albums

‘Of 20XX’ is my attempt to look back and catalog the previous year of gaming in my life. I haven’t done the “Best Of” category stuff in a long time so what you’ll find over this week is a recounting of what I played (and listened to) in 2022 with a mini review or personal anecdote for each. And we’ll close out this annual look-back, Rewind, Recap week with my most listened to albums of the year.

It took me months after I set up Clone Hero to go through and organize the absurd number of tracks that were available in Guitar Hero Live’s GHTV mode (close to 500!). Lots of those songs were already near and dear to my heart from growing up in the 80’s and 90’s but there were also dozens of favorites I discovered through the game back in 2015. I was so happy to hear them again this year after GHTV was shut down in 2018 and I kind of put the whole tracklist out of mind.

I’m going to jump down to number three next because cleaning up and organizing MP3s is why Project Gotham Racing 2 ranked so high as well. The game’s soundtrack includes almost 270 songs divided up between rap, pop, rock, and electronica with artists hailing from all over the world. In 2004 it was astonishing to hear French rap and Chinese electronica while fiddling with the in-game car’s dashboard stereo. They aren’t all my favorites but there are plenty of special tracks in the list and I was happy to focus on them this year while organizing my game music collection.

I said earlier in the week that Balan Wonderworld’s soundtrack went a long way towards smoothing the gameplay’s rough edges and slow pace. It’s as diverse and whimsical as the dreamscapes that each track accompanies but there’s an overall gentility and genuine warmth to the whole thing. A few of these songs even had me on the verge of unexpected tears a few times. I was listening to it a lot early in the year as I was working through the game.

Let me just say, I didn’t like Final Fantasy VII Remake as a game but it did some great stuff with the soundtrack. There was also an overwhelming ton of it which is why just a few listens of the soundtrack put it at No.4. There’s plenty of dramatic orchestral flare throughout the soundtrack but Disc 4 of the OST seems to be the sweet spot for me. It’s where many of the remixed themes from Midgar’s slums and slice-of-life side quests sit. The variety on this disc alone is worth a listen but the track ‘Due Recompense‘ alone is the one that sealed this soundtrack as a favorite.

Blackthorne isn’t my favorite game by any stretch. Like many who grew up with it, my only real memory is how you could shoot a shotgun backwards with one hand and “accidentally” kill the captives chained to the walls. I finally played through it a few years ago though and now my prevailing memory is of its SNES soundtrack. Despite being a bit foreboding, Blackthorne is a soundtrack I could (and did) just turn on for nice background SNES synth ambiance.

Like Dinosaur Hunting in 2021, Drihoo ranked so high on this list because I created the soundtrack release while playing, documenting, and even translating the game. That’s not to say the music fell on deaf ears though, it has some of the most listenable and repeatable earworm melodies in gaming. It also has some great chill tracks that loop quite well, hence a lot of repeat plays throughout the year.

I don’t know what to say about this pair of Solitaire Overload titles. They feature heavily in my personal “chill out” playlist and also appeared in my pre-streams on Twitch this year. It’s just a nice collection of minimal, New Age-y electronic stuff, great for a puzzle game, or working on websites, or just having on in the background.

The official soundtrack releases for Command & Conquer are good but they’re slightly remixed and feature a lot of samples from the game’s FMV cutscenes. Getting hold of the original music has somehow eluded me all these years but I picked up the 2020 Remastered release and finally have those remastered-but-not-remixed tracks in rotation.

I’d say most years I listen to some amount of Super Mario World music but I didn’t realize that I played it enough to get on a Top Ten list in 2022. It’s classic stuff and I don’t think I have much more to say about it. The same is true for Animal Crossing that came in at No.10. It’s another one whose soundtrack features heavily in my playlist with a different plucky and chill track for every hour of the day.

This year was a bit of an outlier when it comes to my most listened albums. I’ve been working on re-ripping, re-tagging, and re-organizing my video game music collection since, oh, 2017. I pushed hard on it in the latter half of 2022 and finally got things squared away. It’ll be interesting now to see what populates my Most Listened list in 2023 without so much focus going to individual games or albums during the year.

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