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.

Wiki Linkage: None Available

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!

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48 Responses to “Top 10 Video Game Music Composers of All Time”

  1. Lack of Yasunori Mitsuda? lol

  2. Woah, Chrono Trigger/Cross, Shadow Hearts and Xenogears O_O How the hell did I miss him?

    In particular I remember CT having an absorbing soundtrack.

    Well pointed out!

  3. I got to number one and was worried because I had expected Nobuo to get that #1 spot, but where on Earth was Koji?

    Then I saw it was a tie.

    Nobuo Uematsu is definitely the best. I couldn’t agree more. But Koji Kondo rivals very closely, because as mentioned, A) he did Ocarina of Time’s music, which was outstanding, and he did the theme for Yoshi’s Island, which is amazing beyond comprehension.

    Both deserved their crown spots on Brawl’s composer list, which turned out to be the best video game soundtrack ever (and probably longest soundtrack period).

  4. Where are Dave Wise and Grant Kirkhope?!?

  5. I was never really into the DK games as a kid, so I’ve only recently heard the soundtrack – it’s catchy and I can see how it would weld itself into the fabric of your childhood!

    Grant Kirkhope though – Goldeneye and Perfect Dark. Woah!

  6. …And Banjo Kazooie – that was an AWESOME soundtrack.

  7. You’ve made a good and very different list. I would have included some of those and there are a few I’m not familiar with.

    I would definitely have included Motoi Sakuraba, for Star Ocean, Valkyrie Profile, Baten Kaitos, Sol-Deace, and many others.

    I would also have included Michiru Yamane and Yuzo Koshiro. Yamane for her work on the Castlevania series and Koshiro for his work on Ys and Streets of Rage.

    Another definite is Yoko Shimomura for Street Fighter II. She also has done some Squaresoft soundtracks, or Square Enix, these days.

    There are, of course, others worth mentioning. Darren Mitchell for Turok 1 & 2. Yoko Kanno for Uncharted Waters and Nobunaga’s Ambition. Noriyuki Iwadare for Langrisser and Grandia. Daisuke Ishiwatari for the Guilty Gear series. Koichi Sugiyama for the Dragon Quest series. Akira Yamaoka for the Silent Hill series. Kohei Tanaka for Bounty Sword, Sakura Wars and Xardion. Kentaro Haneda for the Wizardry series. And Ikki Nakamura for Ragnarokkr and Vain Dream. Hisayoshi Ogura for the Darius series. Tamayo Kawamoto for the Rayforce series. There are probably 50 more I could list. Lol.

  8. Dude. Jeremy Soule.

    Nuff said.

  9. Harry Gregson Williams……. MGS>>>>> O.O

  10. Tekken 3 had some of the best game music i’ve ever heard

  11. Some names I might include are Yasunori Mitsuda, David Wise, Yoko Shimomura (in addition to Street Fighter II, she did Super Mario RPG and Legend of Mana), Eveline Fischer (Donkey Kong Country 1 and 3), and Soyo Oka (Super Mario Kart, Pilotwings).

  12. Oh, and how could I forget Naoki Kodaka’s excellent work on Albert Odyssey, Batman, Blaster Master, and Journey to Silius? He was a genie with the NES technology and an enrapturing composer overall. You’d be hard-pressed to find a better RPG soundtrack than Albert Odyssey.

  13. yeah, I love Naoki Kodaka on Albert Odyssey too! just very beautiful & touching music!

    but really, does anybody know whatever happened to this guy now?
    I’d appreciate if you know the answer, to just email me.
    thanks.

  14. What about Nobuyuki Shioda? Known for Summer Carnival ’92 Recca. He is my favourite videogame music composer.

  15. Motoi Sakuraba? Shining series, Golden Sun, Tales of Series and star Ocean series. To name a few :)

  16. Martin O’Donnel and Michael Salvatori not here? The Halo soundtrack is the most epic I’ve ever heard. It makes me itch to play.

    http://www.halo3ost.com/

  17. Frank Klepacki anyone!?? CNC games :D
    I might be alone here on this one lol.
    Jeremy Soule and the Perfect Dark/James Bond composer. BUt this is a sick list ya got going here guys! I couldn’t agree with you more :D

  18. C&C Game music was the first heavy metal I really liked. Absolutely awesome. Perfect Dark had that ace menu music… good choices my homeslice!

  19. No Jesper Kyd (Hitman, Splinter Cell) or Yuzo Koshiro (Streets of Rage)?

  20. Streets of Rage was AMAZING for the jazzy, funky midi. Good call.

  21. Amon Tobin for inFamous on PS3 anyone??? that was such an epic soundtrack, or the girl who done the mirrors edge soundtrack, cant remember her name though lol!

  22. oh Amon Tobin also did the Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory soundtrack which was also frickin’ schweeeeeeeeeet!!

  23. Koji Kondo ftw x)

  24. Very surprised nobody has mentioned Rob Hubbard! Also, David Whittekar who did the soundtracks for Shadow of the Beast 1 + 2 (Amiga) was pretty up there!

    I guess is largely depends on what era we are talking!

    Great site by the way, respectz!!

  25. [...] From the mid 80s to early 90s a whole host of future legends in the video game music world were born – Koji Kondo of Mario and Zelda fame, Nobuo Uematsu of Final Fantasy… the list goes on. [...]

  26. MORTAL KOMBAT!!!

  27. Where are Yasunori Mitsuda, Yoko Shimomura, Michiru Yamane, Kenki Ito and Motoi Sakuraba?

  28. And wot about the composers of the Soul Calibur Series. It has some of the best arrangements in a game and so epic sounding- makes you just wanna play that game!! My emphasis on Soul Calibur 2 and the Soundtrack for Street Fighter EX2 Plus and SF Plus Alpha.

  29. I was surprised not to see David Wise on there, and I definitely have to say I’d put Michiko Naruke up there too. Wild Arms, anyone? Most recently I suppose you’d know her from the opening/end songs in Riz-zoawd

  30. AKIRA YAMAOKA – he is genius.

  31. Kelly Bailey, who created the music for half-life, half-life 2, half-life 2 – episode one , half-life 2 – episode two and Portal. he is also part of the half-life and portal sound designer team

  32. I do not think the first place is a “tie” in any way. The thing is Uematsu likes to compose more complex arrangements, while Kondo can actually come up with the most memorable tunes of all time.

    I always prefer atmosphere and memory over average orchestrations no one care to remember very often. Thats their main difference in my opinion.

    Then fact is that almost any random piece played on the piano can sound “great” to the average Joe, but the that are chosen and where they are placed is what makes Kondo that much more memorable than Uematsu (imo).

    Uematsu reminds me of a ton of different videogame composers, always trying to compose intrincate orchestrations while the compositions lack that emotional landscape precision Kondo so easily displays. There is no “draw” here.

  33. I think Russell Shaw deserves a place with these guys, fable ONE has VERY good music!

  34. This is lacking Akira Yamaoka.
    His music adds so much to the atmosphere of Silent Hill and stuff.
    And if you just listen to his music you’ll see why.

  35. no jesper kyd come on

  36. umm are you forgetting Yuzo Koshiro? music composer for all 3 streets of rage, Shinobi, Wangan club and etc…???

  37. where the f*** is ZUN from the Touhou Series?!!?!??!??!?!?!?!?!?!!??!??!

  38. [...] Og jeg er ikke alene om å synes musikken er fantastisk. Her finnes det en til. Og her. Og en til. Enighet. [...]

  39. Koichi Sugiyama???……………..

    Dragon Quest (warrior) 3 way tie for first.
    The fact that he’s not mention blows my mind.

  40. Koichi Sugiyama???……………..

    Dragon Quest (warrior) 3 way tie for first.
    The fact that he’s not mentioned blows my mind.

  41. Apparently, you have to be Japanese in order to write good video game music. That’s the only explanation for why Tommy Tallarico, Chris Hülsbeck, and Tim Wright aren’t on this list.

  42. Oh, and Tim Follin! Don’t know how I forgot him.

  43. Wheres Jeremy Soule!!!!

  44. Adam Skorupa — certainly an honorable mention.

  45. Good list! And also some good additions from other comments. But people, you are forgetting something!

    And his name is Paul Ruskay. He did the Homeworld 1 and 2 soundtracks, which were so very unique! This is the only game series I know that has ambient/soundscape music throughout the entire game, and it fits so well!
    If you don’t know him yet, go check out the game now! :-)

  46. I vote for
    Michiru Yamane: the whole Castlevania sieries
    Yoko Shimomura: Luminous Arc, Legend series,…
    all incredible

  47. No Yuzo Koshiro? Really?

  48. I believe Shoji Meguro should definitely be on this list, somewhere. He’s done very extensive and great work throughout the entire Shin Megami Tensei series, and more besides.

    If you don’t know him, check his music out-it’s wonderful fresh.

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