Perfect Score: Three Composers Who Changed Video Game Music Forever


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It’s almost like praising a book for its cover art or a movie for the font that it used in its credits, but video game music is an art in and of itself that adds to the overall experience of playing a title. You can’t have Mario without the ludic tunes that accompany the plumber throughout his romp through the mushroom kingdom and its safe to say anybody who’s ever heard the tetris music will be able to recite a large portion of the melody on command. For as memorable as many video games are, they are only able to reach such heights in part because of the feel created by the soundtrack. 

And as technology progresses and video game soundtracks advance more and more they gain increased recognition. It was just four years ago that Austin Wintory, composer for Journey, was nominated for a Grammy for best soundtrack in a visual media. But Wintory entered the game fairly recently. There are multiple composers who have been around since the days of the NES, back when technology was far more limiting and composers worked with much less. So now we pick three of the greatest video game composers who have been around the block a time or two and put them on display. 


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Nobuo Uematsu

For anyone who knows video game music at all this will likely be the least shocking entry on the list as this Japanese composer created many of the soundtracks for the classic Final Fantasy series as well as Rad Racer, Blue Dragon, Lost Odyssey, Granblue Fantasy and contributions in Chrono Trigger. Music for Final Fantasy was so beloved that a traveling orchestra named Distant Worlds started in 2007 and continues to play music around the world to this day where they just recently celebrated the 30th anniversary of the RPG in Sydney last month. Although Uematsu has risen to such reat heights, he got his start while working at a music rental shop, where Square (the company who created Final Fantasy) asked him if he would be interested in working for them. It just goes to show that you should always consider every job opportunity because you never know where it’ll go. If you’d like to look up more work by Uematsu be sure to search “The Black Mages” on Youtube. 


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David Wise

This English composer worked on many NES classics such as Wizards & Warriors, Marble Madness, Snake Rattle ‘n’ Roll and Battletoads, but his best-known work is on the Donkey Kong Country series which is considered to have some of the most recognizable tracks in all of video games. While Wise has worked on some obscure iOS titles recently, which are similar to mobile games Sugar Pop, Jungle Spirit and Wizard of Gems on where you can try it yourself, he has also worked on the Wii U version of Donkey Kong Country and even composed the soundtrack for developer Rare’s newest return to form, Yooka-Laylee, where he collaborated with another highly-regarded composer, Grant Kirkhope. 


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Yoko Shimomura

Usually when you see the name “Yoko” it means something very different in other parts of music, but as far as video games are concerned Yoko Shimomura is quite the legend. She has composed the soundtracks for Street Fighter 2, Kingdom Hearts, Final Fight, Front Mission, Super Mario RPG, Legend of Mana, Parasite Eve and the very recent Final Fantasy XV to name a few. For Square Enix to give Shimomura the job to work on a franchise as beloved as Final Fantasy, is a testament to just how skilled she is. The soundtrack was one that took a decade to create because of development issues, but despite the extended process, Shimomura still managed to get nominated for best video game soundtrack of 2016 by multiple websites. If you’re a fan of her work be sure to look out for Kingdom Hearts 3 as she reprsises her role as composer on the Disney/Square Enix actio adventure game. 


While there are many composers out there that have made their mark on the industry, these three have been around for quite some time making music for games since they were able to have soundtracks. It’s just a matter of time before these greats retire and hand over the reins to a new generation of composers who will perhaps take things in a new direction. Without a doubt, though, we’ll be sure to see these geniuses’ influence in video games for decades to come.