The Soundtrack That Moves Us: Iconic Video Game Music

Music is an essential element of any video game. It sets the mood, creates the atmosphere, and enhances the emotional impact of the gameplay. Some video game music is so memorable and iconic that it transcends the medium and becomes part of our culture. And that’s exactly what I’m covering in today’s article.

The Pioneers of Video Game Music

The history of video game music goes back to the early days of arcade games and home consoles, when the technology was limited and the sounds were simple. Despite these constraints, some composers managed to create catchy and memorable tunes that defined the genres and franchises they were part of. For example, Koji Kondo composed the iconic themes for Super Mario Bros. and The Legend of Zelda, which are still instantly recognizable and widely covered today. Nobuo Uematsu created the epic and emotional scores for the Final Fantasy series, which spanned multiple platforms and genres. Yuzo Koshiro revolutionized the sound of action and RPG games with his innovative use of synthesizers and electronic music, such as in Streets of Rage and Ys.

The Rise of Orchestral and Cinematic Video Game Music

As video games evolved and became more complex and realistic, so did their music. The advent of CD-ROMs and other storage media allowed for higher quality and longer tracks, which enabled composers to create more orchestral and cinematic soundtracks. These soundtracks aimed to match the scope and scale of the games they accompanied, and to immerse the players in the worlds and stories they created. Some examples of this trend are Jeremy Soule’s majestic and atmospheric music for The Elder Scrolls series, Hans Zimmer’s epic and dramatic scores for Call of Duty and Crysis, and Yoko Shimomura’s beautiful and emotional melodies for Kingdom Hearts and Final Fantasy XV.

The Diversity and Creativity of Video Game Music

Video game music is not limited to one style or genre. It can be anything from rock to jazz, from folk to techno, and from ambient to metal. It can also incorporate elements from different cultures and traditions, such as Marty O’Donnell’s fusion of Gregorian chants and electronic beats for Halo, Christopher Tin’s use of multiple languages and world music for Civilization IV and VI, and Gustavo Santaolalla’s blend of acoustic guitar and Latin American instruments for The Last of Us. Video game music can also be experimental and innovative, such as Akira Yamaoka’s use of industrial noise and distorted sounds for Silent Hill, Jesper Kyd’s use of dynamic and adaptive music for Hitman and Assassin’s Creed, and Disasterpeace’s use of chiptunes and minimalism for Fez and Hyper Light Drifter.

The Emotional Impact of Video Game Music

Video game music is not just background noise. It can also affect how we feel and react to the games we play. It can make us excited, scared, sad, happy, or anything in between. It can also make us cry, laugh, or sing along. Some video game music is so powerful and memorable that it stays with us long after we finish the game, and becomes part of our personal soundtrack. Some examples of this are Austin Wintory’s moving and poignant music for Journey, which earned him a Grammy nomination, Michael Giacchino’s heartbreaking and heroic music for Medal of Honor and Up, which won him an Oscar, and Garry Schyman’s haunting and mesmerizing music for Bioshock, which won him a BAFTA.


Video game music is an art form that deserves recognition and appreciation. It is a vital part of the video game industry and culture, and a source of inspiration and enjoyment for millions of gamers and listeners. It is also a testament to the talent and creativity of the composers who create it, and the role of music in enhancing our lives. Video game music is the soundtrack that moves us, and we should celebrate it.

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