Some of the best music ever written was played during boss battles, getting you pumped for that grand prix or taking your emotions to soaring heights in the plot-defining cut-scenes. I have about 16 years of game-playing experience and here are the Top 10 Video Game Music Composers I have come across.
10. Junichi Masuda
Best Known For: Pokemon
The first stop on memory lane in this blog post – Listening to Masuda’s compositions take you back to Pallet Town, they heal you up at the Pokemon Center, they Fire you up for the Final Elite Four battle… What I’m saying is that his pieces are immediately memorable. It is truly a challenge to make so many catchy tunes, and I am sure that they in no small part attributed to the success of the monolithic Pokemon franchise.
Wiki Linkage: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Junichi_Masuda
9. Takenobu Mitsuyoshi
Best Known For: Shenmue, Virtua Fighter, Sega Rally, Daytona USA
This guy is the king of arcade music. I hear the soundtrack to Sega Rally and I want to insert a coin somewhere (In a good way o_O). And to be able to go from high-energy arcade racers to the epic soundscapes of Shenmue is a testament to his versatility. Shenmue, being possibly the most underrated game of all time, would not have had half the atmosphere were it not for the cinematic pieces Mitsuyoshi composed. Nice one!
Wiki Linkage: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Takenobu_Mitsuyoshi
8. Kazuhiro Hara
Best Known For: Dynasty Warriors Series
The series with the most hilarious voice acting of all time was pulled from the brink of audio failure by Hara’s awesome Guitar-Based Oriental Techno Power Metal. Nothing makes you want to cut through swathes of Yellow Turban warriors or to defeat the almighty Lu Bu more than an insane guitar solo over some top notch Drum and Bass.
7. Masato Nakamura
Best Known For: Sonic 1 and 2
The Green Hill Zone theme is iconic. It’s another one of those pieces of music that takes you back to the level, collects the three rings at the start and jumps on the badnicks that follow. While Nakamura is not the most prolific composer in terms of video games, he certainly hit the mark with the two titles he composed for!
Wiki Linkage: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Masato_Nakamura
6. Tappi “Tappy” Iwase
Best Known For: Metal Gear Solid (main theme)
It’s a hell of an achievement to be in this list based on a single song. Tappy wrote one of the most instantly recogniseable game themes ever composed. It has been played by orchestras all over the world, and it has put goosebumps on the arms of many a seasoned gamer. A well deserved 6th place there, Tappy!
Wiki Linkage: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tappy
5. Naoki Maeda
Best Known For: Dance Dance Revolution
Going by about a million different pseudonyms, Maeda composes the vast majority of the original music in the DDR series, including the beautiful “Vanity Angel” under the Pseudonym “Fixx”, the song that along with “Brilliant 2U” got me physically fit because I had to keep playing them again and again. Amazing Epic Hard Trance, Drum and Bass and Electronica.
Wiki Linkage: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Naoki_Maeda
4. Yu Miyake
Best Known For: Katamari Damacy
Anyone who has played a Katamari game will agree that it is unique and more than a little crazy. The music captures that perfectly. Ranging from obscure lounge-pop to Tom Jones-soundalikes on the big band track that accompanies the rolling up of the world, to the accapella beatboxed tutorial level theme that is catchy to the point of insanity, Miyake is a composer with an ear for something truly original.
Wiki Linkage: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yu_Miyake
3. Hidenori Shoji
Best Known For: F-Zero GX
The F-Zero series has the second coolest music in a video game ever. Varying from futuristic techno to… futuristic hard trance metal, Shoji has used anything and everything to refine the intense pieces in this game. And they are so intense. The music made F-Zero GX for me, and it’s one of the few soundtracks I listen to on my mp3 player. EPIC win, Shoji! (Especially on the track for the “Fire Field” level, which makes me feel like I can jump out of my vehicle at 3000mph and falcon punch something into oblivion)
Wiki Linkage: no linkage available
2. Hideki Naganuma
Best Known For: Jet Set Radio (Jet Grind Radio to you Americans!)
The coolest music in a video game EVER. JSR broke new ground artistically and in gameplay, being the first ever cell shaded game and, to my knowledge, the first graffiti-rollerblading game too. The soundtrack was the thing that stuck in head the most, however, with me singing the scratched and stuttered samples used in the tracks over and over until my girlfriend tells me to please for the love of god stop. Tracks ranging from energetic, fast paced funk-dance for the rollerblading, to the cool jazzy hip hop of the character select screen (and the “Suh-weet!” of selecting the character “Cube” still rings in my ears over that bassline) make this one of the most memorable game soundtracks of all time.
Wiki Linkage: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hideki_Naganuma
And in first place…
IT’S A TIE!
1. Nobuo Uematsu
Best Known For: Final Fantasy Series
Arguably the best known composer in the video game music world. Nobuo Uematsu has created track after track of mind-bogglingly good quality music for the FF series. This seemingly quiet man comes out with the most brutally harsh DnB-Electro-Metal as well as the most resplendent orchestral and piano pieces. The boss themes in every game have been absolute genius, the main theme for Final Fantasy X is beautiful enough to bring tears to your eyes, the Turks’ theme in FF7 is hilariously cool. Uematsu is one of the most talented and versatile composers in the world, for sure.
PLUS! He made a Final Fantasy cover band called “The Black Mages”, which makes him the coolest composer ever. Check out the live version of the FFVII Boss theme “Those who fight further” on youtube here. Wow.
Wiki Linkage: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nobuo_Uematsu
1. Koji Kondo
Best Known For: Mario Bros. Mario 64. Mario Galaxy. Zelda.
If you are unfamiliar with gaming composers, you might be wondering who could possibly challenge Nobuo Uematsu’s crown. Koji Kondo wrote the music that came out of the Ocarina of Time. He is pretty much the godfather of chiptune as we know it thanks to the popularity of the original Mario Bros. theme music. With a back catalogue that reads like an A-Z of Nintendo’s best creations, Koji Kondo is probably the most prolific video games music composer ever.
Wiki Linkage: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Koji_Kondo
Do you agree with the order? Any composers I forgot? Share your opinions in a comment!