The Last of Us Part II – Gustavo Santaolalla and Mac Quayle

For each type of media there are announcements  for which people get extremely excited. Think about a new Harry Potter book, a new season of the hit television series Game of Thrones or a new Marvel movie. In the world of games, the long-awaited sequel to the game The Last of Us from 2013 fits that category. When The Last of Us Part II came out seven years after its predecessor, its fans were over the moon with joy and excitement. 

Both games are set in a world where a fungus has turned the majority of the Earth’s population into zombie-like creatures. What is left of humanity is in terrible shape, and instead of working together, everyone prefers to kill first and ask questions later. In the first game, Joel, a man who lost his whole family, has to take the little girl Ellie, who is immune to the fungus, to a faraway location. Joel can play the guitar, which is a glimmer of humanity in this world of death and terror. The game makers chose to emphasize that feature, by asking Argentinian guitarist and composer Gustavo Santaolalla to compose the score. The music he has written consists of many cues with him on a guitar and just playing by himself, only occasionally adding additional instruments, like extra guitars or strings, in the background. While gaming fans were delighted with the sequel in general, I was excited about the fact that Santaolalla was returning as well. This time he had help from Mac Quayle, who wrote additional music for the game.

One of the most wonderful things about the music in the The Last of Us games, is its main theme, which is a gorgeous piece with Santaolalla on guitar. It is intimate and emotional, and if I had to describe this theme with one word, I would summarize it with ‘pure’. In the first game the theme was played on a smaller guitar, but for the sequel, Santaolalla played the theme on a banjo, which is perfect for the melody. Most of the other tracks composed by Santaolalla on this score have the same vibe and are a pleasure to listen to as well.

While the first installment was already a very dark game, The Last of Us Part II is even more sinister, with gruesome deaths, betrayal and many other unpleasant experiences. For these events, Santaolalla’s intimate guitar play does not fit, so Mac Quayle, who is a composer specializing in electronic music, has written the music for these sequences and it is full of dark and moody ambient electronic sounds, sometimes with the support of percussion.

It is not the first time for me to say that I am of two minds about a soundtrack, and for The Last of Us Part II it is especially true. On the one hand, I adore the intimate guitar play by Gustavo Santaolalla, but, on the other hand, every time Mac Quayle’s music starts to play I press the “next track” button to get back to Santaolalla’s music. I do find it a bit unfair though. Quayle’s music is meant to be dark and moody, which probably fits perfectly with the events in the game it is supposed to support, but for me, Santaolalla’s tracks really stand out.

Listen or buy


1 additional music by Mac Quayle

The highlights are in bold.

  1. The Last of Us Part II (2:52)
  2. Unbound (1:57)
  3. Longing (1:45)
  4. Eye for an Eye1 2:37)
  5. It Can’t Last (2:19)
  6. The Cycle of Violence1 (5:04)
  7. Reclaimed Memories (1:42)
  8. Cordyceps1 (2:40)
  9. Longing (Redemptions) (1:42)
  10. Restless Spirits (2:12)
  11. Chasing a Rumor (2:54)
  12. They’re Still Out There1 (3:32)
  13. Unbroken (4:38)
  14. The Rattlers1 (3:41)
  15. The Obsession (1:21 )
  16. Soft Descent (1:50)
  17. The WLF1 (3:39)
  18. A Wolf’s Ghost (2:24)
  19. Masks On1 (2:02)
  20. It Can’t Last (Home) (4:29)
  21. Inextinguishable Flames (0:59)
  22. Allowed to be Happy (2:48)
  23. Collateral (2:22)
  24. The Cycle Continues1 (3:28)
  25. All Gone (The Promise) (3:03)
  26. Grieving (2:19)
  27. The Island1 (4:13)
  28. Beyond Desolation (2:24)

Total length: 1 hour and 17 minutes
Sony Classical (2020)

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