Game Music in Concert – 2024-02-09, Groningen

When I attend a concert, friends often accompany me, but sometimes I am just by myself. For the game concerts of the North Netherlands Orchestra (NNO), which they are now doing for the third time, this is quite convenient because these are free seating concerts, and there is always that one free chair available in a good spot for me to sit in. I had a good view of the stage from my location, but I could also see the audience walking in, which is quite unconventional for most of the concerts I attend. Most people were in their twenties, holding a glass of beer or wine, but you could also see some families with young children walking in. I had a couple of them sitting near me, and what I loved was that the fathers were not only there to please their children but were gamers themselves as well, showcasing that games are now for multiple generations.

The NNO has been doing these game music concerts since 2017 and has established a formula that works for them quite well, because the concert I attended in Groningen was practically sold out. This formula consists of three people, with Rami Ismail as the host, Julie Elven as the main vocalist, and Arjan Tien as the conductor. Another part of this formula is that the NNO has collected a library of game music pieces they could choose from. These pieces are great listening experiences on their own but also are very suited for Elven’s gorgeous, soothing voice.

The first half started with “Snake Eater” from Metal Gear Solid 3, which was the encore of their last concert. More familiar cues were performed in this half, including the wonderful “And Ever We Fight on” from Killzone, “Main Theme” from Fallout 4 and a suite from Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag, but also some new magnificent pieces. The pianist of the orchestra had the honor, but also the extremely difficult task, to perform “Cohen’s Masterpiece” from Bioshock. He did quite well, since the piano did not explode, as it did in the game. Another highlight was “A World Divided/Anduins Theme” from World of Warcraft, with Julie Elven singing her part as she had done for the original version. I wanted to applaud when she was done, but Tien continued to conduct the orchestra straight into the next highlight, which was a combination of the main theme from God of War and the song “Blood Upon the Snow” from its sequel. The song was a special delight with Elven’s unique voice.

After everyone got new drinks during the intermission, the second half of the evening could start. Just as the first half, this part also contained pieces that I have heard NNO perform before, including the gorgeous and emotional “All Gone” from The Last of Us and, of course, the fantastic suite from Horizon: Zero Dawn with Elven singing her original part that gave me the traditional goosebumps. One piece I did not know was a suite from Final Fantasy IX. I know its main theme, but the rest of the music was new, making it an exciting piece for me to listen to. Another evening highlight was the final piece on the program, in which Elven performed “In the Flood” from Horizon Forbidden West.

I love what the NNO has been doing in recent years by creating new innovative concerts for a wider audience, including concerts for film music and evenings like this one for games. While I had a fantastic time, hearing the same pieces again that I had experienced at their concerts before starts to wear out on me. So many games are being made with fantastic music, including ones with Elven’s intriguing voice, and I would have loved to have heard even more different, new and exciting pieces. Julie Elven showed us again that she is able to brilliantly sing many other pieces that other vocalists performed initially. So you could still use her impressive voice for more different songs. 

The almost sold-out concert was filled with gamers, and you need to keep gamers interested, as if it were a game. The small boy next to me was looking forward to this concert, but he did not know any of the games on the program, which I would see as a challenge to overcome. You would love to see someone like him return to concerts like this. Speaking in gaming terms: The NNO introduced us in 2017 to this game music concert as it was their first game. They have made two excellent expansion packs based on it that were also well received, but now it is time to make an even greater sequel to keep the players, including me, engaged.

Concert information

Where: Oosterpoort in Groningen, the Netherlands
When: February 9, 2024
Orchestra: The North Netherlands Orchestra conducted by Arjan Tien
Vocalist: Julie Elven
Host: Rami Ismail


  • Norihiko Hibino – “Snake Eater” from Metal Gear Solid 3
  • Brian Tyler – Suite from Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag
  • Martin O’Donnell – “Unforgotten” from Halo 2
  • Martin O’Donnell – Main theme from Halo
  • Inon Zur – “Main Theme” from Fallout 4
  • Joris de Man – “And Ever e Fight on” from Killzone
  • Gary Schyman – “Cohen’s Masterpiece” from Bioshock
  • Neal Acree – “A World Divided/Anduins Theme” from World of Warcraft
  • Bear McCreary – “Blood Upon the Snow” from God of War: Ragnarok
  • Bear McCreary – “God of War” from God of War


  • Ryan Amon – Suite from Bloodborne
  • Nobuo Uematsu – Suite from Final Fantasy IX
  • Kow Otani – Suite from Shadow of the Colossus
  • Gustavo Santaolalla – “All Gone” from The Last of Us
  • Joris de Man – Suite from Horizon: Zero Dawn
  • Oleksa Lozowchuk – “In the Flood” from Horizon Forbidden West
  • Jeremy Soule – “The Dragonborn Comes” from The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (encore)

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