There’s just too much incredible music out there to fit into one show! In an attempt to cover even a fraction more of it, we’ve each collected a few more songs we think are worth listening to. It was still nearly impossible for me to narrow it down so there’s quite a bit on here, but I hope you’ll take a few minutes to listen to a few of the songs here. Let’s start with a few songs from my all-time favorite game composers, in no particular order:
There’s a good chance that, like me, you first heard Hiroki Kikuta’s whimsical compositions while playing Secret of Mana on the SNES. Since then, he’s gravitated towards less prominent projects than most other SNES-era composers, like Koudelka and the Japan-only Soukaigi, but his music is absolutely worth seeking out. His two-disc original project, Alphabet Planet, sounds sort of like the soundtrack to an unreleased Secret of Mana game.
After firmly grabbing my attention with Brave Fencer Musashi’s bombastic score, Tsuyoshi Sekito has been frustratingly elusive in the console scene, usually contributing a few original songs to larger soundtracks like Dawn of Mana or arranging older songs for Square’s countless remake projects.
Brain Lord was one of Enix’s obscure SNES releases and its soundtrack was appropriately quirky. Masanao Akahori’s uninhibited score wears its artificiality on its sleeve and is an island in a sea of RPG soundtracks trying to be virtual orchestras.
I’m sure Paul will be laying out some praise for Mr. Mitsuda and I don’t want to steal his thunder, but I have to mention that this track was the perfect accompaniment to Xenogears’s cheerful, pastoral opening hours.
Shadow Hearts is one instance where I bought the soundtrack before even playing the game. A relatively new composer, Yoshitaka Hirota mixed sinister guitars and frenetic percussion with Eastern-influenced strings and a good amount of creepy to create an enormously atmospheric backdrop to the game’s early 20th Century China and Europe. I was disappointed when the series abandoned its macabre roots and became progressively campier with each sequel, but the soundtracks managed to retain Hirota’s unique sound.
The Silent Hill soundtracks are probably best known for the dark, ambient pieces that play while wandering through fog or trying to stay out of sight from some hideous creature, but Akira Yamaoka also does a terrific job writing a few guitar-heavy rock singles for each game. He usually collaborates with vocalist Mary Elizabeth McGlynn, but the haunting voice in “Cradel of Forest” belongs to Joe Romersa.
Undisputably the biggest name in game music and someone I closely associate with symphonic RPG scores, Uematsu can also drop funky electronic beats like no other.
Mr. Shiono, or, as I like to call him, “The Other Yasunori,” is responsible for all those Lufia series tunes that manage to stay buoyant and cheerful, despite each game being about the impending end of the world. “The Doom Island War” paints a foreboding picture of Lufia & the Fortress of Doom’s opening battle.
Koichi Sugiyama’s scores are what I most closely associate with the Dragon Quest series, at least after those smiling slime faces. Because of Dragon Quest’s immense popularity in Japan, it’s pretty easy to find most of his music performed by a live orchestra. In Dragon Quest VIII, the series’s classic casino song received the symphonic treatment.
Hands-down my favorite composer, Hitoshi Sakimoto’s compositions are recognizeable by their stately string and brass sections, nostalgic flute melodies, and a cascading piano or harp. He’s incredibly prolific and many of his pieces tend to be complex and layered, but his talent for creating powerful, emotional music really shows in the minimal and somber “Hero’s Theme.”
…And just a few more favorite songs I couldn’t resist squeezing in:
Wild Arms’s intro was an amazing intro to PlayStation RPGs, and this song had a lot to do with it. The Ennio Morricone-influenced whistling and strings were perfect for the game’s Wild West setting.
Mr. Viklund’s thumping remixes of this classic NES soundtrack were just what Bionic Commando Rearmed needed. (Bonus: This also makes a fantastic level in Audiosurf.)
I’m doing Yoko Shimomura an immense disservice by only listing one track since she’s one of the most accomplished composers in the industry, but this is probably my favorite from one of her best albums.
When you spend as much time traveling through hyperspace as you do in Star Control II, you’d better hope players never get sick of the background music. With this track playing, there were times when I didn’t want to leave hyperspace.
In case you need to kick some alien insect ass and you don’t have a copy of the StarCraft soundtrack within reach.
In case you need to kick some midget Power Ranger ass and some hooligan cut off your arm with a boomerang.
What The King of Fighters series lacked in popularity, it more than made up for with rocking soundtracks and the dedication to release a live soundtrack album for each year of the series’s main run. Each disc is filled with stormy saxophones and wailing guitar solos like only SNK can conjur.
This is simply one of the most achingly beautiful songs I’ve heard used in a video game.
Another case where the soundtrack turned me on to the game. Newcomer Takeharu Ishimoto takes Final Fantasy soundtracks in a radical new direction with his acoustic guitar.
The 2nd Impact provides a strange but appropriate backdrop for a new generation of street fighters, filled with jazz and funk influences.
As if the premise of Katamari Damacy wasn’t ridiculous enough, I had to pause and reprocess just what was going on when one stage greeted me with this insane Frank Sinatra/Dean Martin-esque ode to rolling junk into a ball. Absolutely brilliant.
Finally, no piece of music has ever brought me a greater sense of pride and accomplishment. Fellow hunters will understand.
And that’s it for now! I’d love to go on, but it’s your turn: Who’s in your list of top game music composers?