The Art of Video Game Music: Great Soundtracks to Classic Video Games

The Art of Video Game Music: Great Soundtracks to Classic Video Games

Posted 07.13.2012 in Articles by Neil-Denny

Grab any given person on the street and ask them to hum the Mario theme. Why is it that nine times out of ten they'd get it right? From 8-bit MIDI's to fully orchestrated compositions, a video game soundtrack can be just as important as the characters themselves in creating a video game franchise that endures the ages. Here's a look at a few of the greatest pieces of music in video games, and the masterminds who conjured up those all too familiar tunes.

“The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time” by Koji Kondo

A discussion on video game music without mention of audio legend Koji Kondo can be likened to omitting Beethoven from a discourse on classical music. Known for producing some of Nintendo's most memorable soundtracks, including the aforementioned “Mario Theme,” the final piece Kondo composed entirely on his own was an ambitious score of epic magnitude, 1998's “The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time.” In this game, music not only offers ambience for the trials and tribulations of our beloved hero Link, but is also an integral part of the gameplay, as Link must use an ocarina flute throughout the game to cast spells and unlock hidden passageways. “The Legend of Zelda Theme” was also composed by Kondo and has been used since the very first game in the franchise. Although written in a single day, the theme is one of the most widely recognized anthems in video game history, and is a testament to why Kondo is considered “the greatest legend in the video game audio industry.”

“Final Fantasy VII” by Nobuo Uematsu

One word: “SEPHIROTH! SEPHIROTH!” The daunting sound of a demon choir bringing on the final boss is a moment Final Fantasy fans will never forget. Thanks to the genius of Nobuo Uematsu, the “One-Winged Angel” theme is often regarded hands-down the greatest song in the game's long-running franchise. The score spans a variety of genres including heavy metal, techno, and orchestral compositions. The album sold over 140,000 copies and in 2012 was inducted into the Classic FM Hall of Fame. 

“Chrono Trigger” by Yasunori Mitsuda

1995 saw the rise of a new breed of video game music in the soundtrack of “Chrono Trigger” composed by Yasunori Mitsuda. Originally a lowly sound programmer, Mitsuda's true passion was music, and he made it clear when he threatened to leave the game developer Square Enix if they refused to let him work on the soundtrack. The result was an unprecedented amount of tracks at the time for any video game, an Oscar-worthy score highly revered for its inventiveness and emotional depth. The music for “Chrono Trigger” has been played upon numerous occasions by “Play! A Video Game Symphony” and the “Video Games Live” concert series.

“Metal Gear Solid” by the Konami Sound Team

The Metal Gear Solid soundtrack was produced by the in-house musicians at Konami Computer Entertainment Japan. The suspenseful score provided the perfect atmosphere for the stealth action gameplay, and played a major role in boosting the game's popularity with over 6 million copies shipped worldwide. The opening theme composed by “TAPPY” Iwase brings tears of nostalgia to avid gamers to this day, while the chilling shriek of violin strings, that always accompanied an oncoming enemy with the signature red flashing exclamation mark, still brings fits of night terrors.

Honorable mentions could include Hirokazu Tanaka, who took the Russian folk song “Korobeiniki” and created an infectious electronic rendition we all know and love as “The Tetris Song.” Recently we witnessed the resurrection of “Guile's Theme” from the music of “Street Fighter 2,” a song that went viral on the internet after being paired with a guest on Maury Povich dancing after he found out he wasn't the baby daddy. Like the games themselves, video game music has become a staple in pop culture, and as the games evolved, so did the music, strengthening the validity of video games as a true form of modern art.

Image (CC) Antonio de la Mano


Login or create an account to post a comment

Posts: 1
Reply #1 on : Mon October 15, 2012, 08:12:56
solid list..... pretty standard, but i'd add Halo 3 ODST Deference for Darknesss. Music played a huge part of ODST!!!

also check out Ozma's cover of the Tetris song. Most awesome.

really wish game composers got more recognition outside of gamers.

Related Articles

Articles Categories