In video games, everyone notices graphics and gameplay. All too often, one crucial aspect is left out of the conversation: The music. No matter what game you’re playing, it’s virtually always there, driving us on, helping to immerse us in the world of the game we’re playing. But how many video game composers can you name? Read on to learn about some of the best, most popular musicians you may never have thought to appreciate.
1. Koji Kondo
Super Mario Bros., The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, Super Mario Galaxy
Quite possibly the best video game composer of all time, Koji Kondo has probably penned more tunes that are etched into the brains of gamers than anyone else. That’s why it’s a shame that more people don’t know his name. From the beloved soundtrack of the original Super Mario Bros. to the sweeping orchestral scores of Super Mario Galaxy 2, Kondo has been killing it behind the scenes for 30 years.
2. Nobuo Uematsu
Final Fantasy series, Chrono Trigger
If you’re a fan of Japanese role-playing games, then you know Nobuo Uematsu’s work even if you don’t know his name. He’s responsible for music from pretty much every main Final Fantasy game, as well as work on Chrono Trigger, Blue Dragon, The Last Story, and Fantasy Life. That’s a resume just about any composer — in games or not — would kill to have.
3. Jesper Kyd
Borderlands and Assassin’s Creed series
With all the craziness that goes on in the Borderlands games — skag screeches, explosions, revving engines, and death rattles — they would hardly seem to need a soundtrack at all. Composer Jesper Kid creates a bed of driving electronic beats for the chaos of the games to rest on. Better yet, the music sounds just as good on its own, without the madness of Pandora on top of it.
4. Darren Korb
Part of being a great video game composer is the ability to deliver a sound that will get players into the game. But that doesn’t always mean the music should sound like what players expect. Bastion is a terrific example of a game whose music and visuals don’t seem like they would work together until you grab a controller and start playing the game. Then the two create a whirlwind that sucks you right into the game world, where it’s so pleasant you might not want to leave.
5. Akira Yamaoka
Silent Hill series
Horror isn’t horror without a spooky soundtrack, and no horror series has a better soundtrack than Silent Hill. The games are all full of chillingly weird creatures that rip you to shreds on sight. The soundtrack is moody and dark, but often in surprising ways. It uses rock instruments to excellent effect, only bringing in the grimy industrial sounds when it needs to turn the terror up to 11.
6. Gustavo Santaolalla
The Last of Us
Many modern video game composers either started working in film, or jump between the two mediums regularly. That’s the case for Gustavo Santaolalla, the man behind the hauntingly beautiful music in The Last of Us. Santaolalla penned the scores for Amores Perros, 21 Grams, and Brokeback Mountain, before being tapped by developer Naughty Dog to work on its incredible, haunting, post-apocalyptic masterpiece.
7. David Wise
Donkey Kong Country series, Sorcery!
If the jungle beats of Donkey Kong Country don’t get you out of your chair and shaking your booty, nothing will. The games can be incredibly difficult at points, which makes it even more remarkable that people remember Wise’s musical scores fondly. If you can be driven to controller-throwing levels of frustration while still enjoying the tunes, the tunes must be pretty darn good.
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