You might think I’m being a bit dramatic here, but gaming is, by and large, more of an experience than a pastime. There’s so much that goes into making a game brilliant. While a title certainly has to have enjoyable gameplay in order to avoid being a flop, there’s so much more that goes into it. The writers pen compelling plots and craft interesting characters, the artists draw beautiful backdrops and breathe life into the characters, and the composers who set the mood with the perfect harmony.
I’m sure plenty of you will agree when I say that, by and large, one of the most memorable things about a game is the soundtrack. There’s something about a good piece that keeps us wanting more, and something about well-designed music that sets the mood perfectly, whatever the situation may be. It’s time we took a moment to appreciate some of the greatest musicians the games industry has to offer, those fine people who put some of our fondest childhood memories to song.
You’ll have to forgive me if I don’t get too descriptive or technical – I’m not particularly well versed in musical terminology.
If you’ve played any of the modern Elder Scrolls games (or Guild Wars), then you’ve both heard and appreciated Soule’s work. When I first heard “Auriel’s Ascension” in Oblivion, my jaw quite literally dropped, and you’re probably lying if you say Skyrim’s main theme didn’t at least give you goosebumps. Soule’s got a thing for operatic pieces that feel heroic, and he knows just how to set the stage for an epic.
For years, this guy was the chief composer for the wildly popular Final Fantasy series, and he also worked with Yasunori Mitsuda (who also appears on this list) on the soundtrack for Chrono Trigger. It’s fair to say that Uematsu could be counted as one of the undisputed masters of ‘battle music,’ as it were – after all, those were some of the most memorable songs in the series.
There’s not much else to say – the man has demonstrated his mastery of sound time and again, and he’s got years of experience under his belt, to boot.
Adam Skorupa/Krysztof Wierzynkiewicz:
Although these two only have two well-known games between them (The Witcher and The Witcher 2), they’ve still cemented themselves a spot on this list. Their music is absolutely beautiful, and when taken as part of the whole experience, spits right in the face of the claim that video games aren’t art (well, except for the sex cards from the first game. Those were just plain weird). They pretty much perfectly captured the journeys of Geralt of Rivia in their music- and they deserve to be commemorated for it.
Koji Kondo(Mario, Legend of Zelda):
One word: Legend. Remember the Super Mario Theme? One of the most classic pieces in video game history? This guy composed it. Same goes for all the music from The Legend of Zelda, and the Star Fox series. He’s one of Nintendo’s primary composers, and it’s easy to see why. Kondo’s music helped define an entire generation of gamers, and I don’t think there’s a single one of us alive who hasn’t heard (and appreciated) at least one of his compositions.
Yamaoka’s a bit of an oddity, since one could very well question whether or not his best known work could actually even be called music. You know all the disturbing, terrifying, and downright odd ambience and sound from the Silent Hill games? This is the man responsible. I suppose you could say he’s got enough of a mastery of sound to know exactly how to freak people out; the compositions of his which are actually musical are quite good, to boot. I suppose it’s telling that one of his inspirations was Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails fame (who was known for translating discordant emotion into discordant sound).
One thing I’ve noticed is that, while all of them have proven perfectly able to branch out from their norms, each artist here has a specific ‘style’ that they seem to prefer. Mitsuda’s definitely one for haunting and emotionally charged melodies. His music is quite beautiful to hear, and he’s put together the soundtrack for titles such as Chrono Trigger, Xenogears, Shadow Hearts, and, oddly enough Mario Party. That he’s been with the industry so long, and has made music for so many well-known games has earned him a spot.
Lead sound designer and composer for the Half Life series. Need I say more? Apparently Valve based Gordon Freeman’s face on his, as well, so that’s yet another claim to fame for the fellow. Not only did he set the mood for Freeman’s ascent from engineer, to myth, to savior, he also provided the look, too.
Uelman is one of Blizzard’s go-to composers, and perhaps his best known piece is the background music for the town of Tristram. He’s also done sound design for World of Warcraft and Starcraft.
This list by no means comprises all of the greatest, most brilliant composers in the games industry. There are, in truth, far too many to commemorate. I’ve just chosen a few of my personal favorites, truthfully. If you’ve a favorite composer who didn’t show up on the list, that doesn’t mean they aren’t brilliant. For all you know, I may well have forgotten to include them.
I’m a touch forgetful, sometimes. Feel free to let me know who I’ve missed!