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Top Ten Tuesday 12
My Top Ten Video
There are many top ten lists, but this one is mine. If you think a game is
missing here, I either didn't play it, didn't have any interest in it, or I
just hate you.
I love music
and I love video games and I really really love video game music. I've had an
ongoing VGM mix playlist on my ipod for over a decade; it currently consists of
8 hours of original tracks, remixes, arrangements, and compilations of dozens
of different games and series - and those are just my favorites. Video game
music has come a long way since the bleeps and boops and now classic chiptunes
of the 80s and early 90s into full blown big budget orchestral soundtracks that
rival most Hollywood productions.
While I plan
on doing future lists of my favorite soundtracks and individual songs, I
decided to start with a slightly easier, but no less important list - that of
my Top Ten Video Game Composers. Like any successful medium, video game music
would be nothing without the talented men and women behind it.
Top Ten Video Game Composers
10) Inon Zur
a supremely awesome name, Zur began his career composing for movies and
television scoring some dubious titles like Power Rangers but nonetheless
winning accolades. He seemed to really hit his stride when he transitioned to
video games working with big budget RPG studios like Bethesda and Bioware.
While I wouldn't claim that any of the games he worked on were particularly
known for their music, that's more a testament to the richness of the game and
the way in which the music seamlessly adds to the immersion.
Games: Baldurs Gate II, Fallout 3, Dragon Age: Origins
9) Ben Prunty
A young up
and coming composer that I hope to hear much more of, and if his work on the
amazing FTL is any indication, deserves to have a prolific career. The very low
budget but successful Kickstarter project brought on Prunty to create an
immersive soundtrack that would reflect the vastness and dangers of space. In
doing so, Prunty created two versions of each level, essentially a wondrous
Explore track and an ominous Battle track, so the two could seamlessly blend
whenever danger struck. FTL is an amazing game in its own right, but even when
I'm not sinking hours into piloting my doomed crew to their deaths, I continue
to listen to the entire soundtrack in all its excellent glory.
Games: FTL: Faster Than Light
8) Mark Seibert
I'm a big
fan of adventure games, and I pretty much grew up with Sierra's two juggernaut
fantasy series King's Quest and Quest for Glory. With minimal gameplay compared
to most genres, adventure games especially rely on immersive storytelling to
create a rich experience, and obviously music plays a huge role. Former
guitarist and vocalist for 80s Christian band Omega Sunrise Mark Seibert
answered a wanted ad by Sierra On-Line to be a musician for King's Quest IV. He
quickly became the company's Music director, composing entire soundtracks and
even became a producer for many of Sierra's later titles. I always found the music in
Sierra's games to be particularly memorable, especially several key tracks in
the Quest for Glory series.
Games: Anything Sierra - King's Quest, Quest for Glory, etc.
7) Yoko Shimomura
the most famous female video game composer in the world, Shimomura began her
career working for Capcom and contributed to all their big games of the early
90s, including Street Fighter II, a soundtrack that has become one of the most
remixed in history. Yearning to move from arcade style music into a more
classical approach, Shimomura joined Square and acted as one of the primary
composers for many of their non Final Fantasy titles including Legend of Mana
and a personal favorite of mine - Super Mario RPG. She is most famous, however,
for composing the Kingdom Hearts soundtrack - a wonderfully unique series
blending Final Fantasy with the Disney universe in an Action-RPG format. Like
many successful Square composers, she left to become freelance but continues to
compose for video games.
Games: Street Fighter 2, Kingdom Hearts, Super Mario RPG
6) Darren Korb
part of Xbox Live's Summer of Arcade in 2011, Bastion quickly earned a
landslide of awards and the hearts of gamers with its simple yet fun action
combat system, beautiful artwork, intriguing story, and one of the greatest
soundtracks I've ever had the pleasure of listening to. This is one of those
weird cases where as much as I enjoy the game itself, the soundtrack is far and
away the most amazing part, and was composed entirely by former Rock Band champion
Darren Korb. As the audio director of Supergiant Games, Korb created all the
sound effects to the surreal and widely varied score to the outstanding
narration and lyrics. Many of the composers on this list have dozens of games
and scores to their credit, and it's a testament to just how amazing a job Korb
did with his first outing of Bastion that he makes it so high on my list.
5) Jeremy Soule
graduate of the Square School of Awesome Game Composers, Soule is an incredibly
prolific composer that has scored dozens of games for all kinds of genres and
won numerous awards. His music is usually paired with large open world role
playing games. Soule is probably the closest thing to a traditional Hollywood
composer in the industry, often considered the John Williams of Video Game
Music. He is probably best known for scoring the 3D Elder scrolls games -
Morrowind, Oblivion, and Skyrim, and his music often evokes feelings of
exploration, excitement, and wonder.
Games: Total Annihilation, The Elder Scrolls Series, Guild Wars series
4) Jack Wall
the other non newbie composers on this list, Jack Wall is a relatively late
entrant into the world of video game music but no less revered. Beginning with
his scores for the Myst sequels which would win him several awards, Wall also
co-founded the Game Audio Network Guild to promote video game music
appreciation in the early 2000s. Even better, Wall produced the Video Games
Live Concert series in 2005 as a touring live orchestra performing video game
music with video footage and effects. Oh, and Jack Wall also did all the music
for the Mass Effect series. You may have heard me mention that series a few
times on this blog. The hauntingly beautiful and memorable tracks are
consistently amazing throughout the series, from the epic intro to the simple
Games: Mass Effect Series, Myst series
3) Yasunori Mitsuda
Stop me if
you've heard this story before: young talented composer interested in music and
video games gets a job at Square making music for awesome roleplaying games and
has amazingly successful career. That sentence could be applied to several
composers, many of whom made this list, but none can compare to the greatness
of Yasunori Mitsuda. I have two words for you: Chrono Trigger. And here's two
more: Chrono Cross. Two amazingly cool roleplaying games that transcended the
genre in their respective eras, but the aspect that really lives on for me
personally are the soundtracks - simply some of the best stuff you can feed
your ears. Like the other successful Square Graduates on this list, Mitsuda
quit Square to start his own freelance company in 1998, but thankfully one of
his first gigs was to score the Chrono Trigger sequel, Chrono Cross, a game
with very mixed opinions, but I will fight anyone that doesn't think it has one
of the best soundtracks in gaming. Chrono Trigger's unforgettable score alone
would have cemented Mitsuda's place in gaming history, but he continues to be a
prolific composer for Japanese Role Playing Games.
Games: Chrono series
2) Koji Kondo
Miyamoto is the father of Nintendo, and to an extant modern gaming, then
Nintendo's main man composer is surely the father of modern video game music.
The widely recognized Super Mario Bros. theme song is undoubtedly the most
iconic track in all of gaming, with the Legend of Zelda, his other major franchise,
coming in at a close second. The final game he scored as a solo composer - The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, can easily be considered his magnum opus; a game that is celebrated as much for its fantastic and revolutionary gameplay as it was its unforgettable tracks - from upbeat strings and wind instruments accompanying you across Hyrule Field to the head bobbing guitar licks of Gerudo Valley and of course the instantly familiar Ocarina songs. Kondo has been with Nintendo practically since its
inception into the video game industry, and he should be as much a household
name as anything Nintendo has created.
Games: Anything Nintendo - Mario, Zelda, etc.
1) Nobuo Uematsu
other composers that rose up through the ranks of Square arranging tracks for
various role playing games? They were all influenced by one man, a man and that
had been with Square since the beginning, and spent nearly twenty of the most
influential years of the gaming industry gracing us with his masterful talents.
Uematsu's tenure at Square included all of the Final Fantasy games, a series
recognized for exceptionally memorable music. Final Fantasy VI is a personal
favorite of mine, and I still hum many of his tracks to this day. There have
been countless remarkable remixes and compilations with varying degrees of
sophistication, and even Uematsu himself has performed entire CD's worth of his
tracks on piano, many of which I used as beautiful lullabies for my infant
2000s, Uematsu formed a rock band with his colleagues named The Black Mages,
playing incredibly awesome rock versions of famous Final Fantasy tracks, and to
date they've released three albums and have appeared in concerts.
Square in 2004 to form his own freelance company, though he still primarily
works with Square and Square's former President Hironobu Sakaguchi's studio
Mistwalker. Without any real formal musical training, Nobuo Uematsu is nothing
less than a musical prodigy and creative genius.
Final Fantasy series
When I began doing the research for this list, I honestly
had no idea so many of my favorite composers worked for Square (now Square
Enix). Obviously if you were a talented composer and could sign on with the
biggest name in epic role playing games, you could end up with a super
successful career. The way is not so clear nowadays however, and yet it's also
easier than ever for young and new composers to get their work into the ears of
gamers thanks to the internet, streaming, youtube, and digital distribution.
With young but super talented guys like Ben Prunty and Darren Korb gathering a
huge amount of notoriety and fans from smaller independent titles, the gaming
industry seems to be entering a golden age for video game composers. Larger
studios continue to turn to talented big names in video game music, and many of
the most successful composers enjoy the luxury of starting their own company
while continuing to pursue their passion for video games and music. Even if
you've only heard of a few names on this list, I urge you to check out some of
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