Within video games you will find innovative and extraordinary modern music. The highly creative nature of the industry, which promotes unrestricted imagination, has resulted in an exceptional array of diverse recordings over the last three decades.
To celebrate the genre, here are 30 examples of brilliant video game compositions (you can find many of the complete soundtracks on YouTube), and the geniuses behind them.
1 . Donkey Kong Country
David Wise’s Aquatic Ambiance, from the famous 1994 SNES game, begins the list. A British composer, Wise joined developers Rare in the 1980s and has since created a critically acclaimed body of work.
2. Donkey Kong Country 2
The Donkey Kong Country sequel from 1995 improved on the original, with Stickerbush Symphony remaining one of the finest recordings.
3. Donkey Kong Country 3
Wise concluded the Donkey Kong Country trilogy in 1996 with another sublime selection of compositions. Frosty Frolic remains a particularly enduring piece.
4. Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze
After a brief spell away from music, Wise returned to work on Tropical Freeze in 2013. The result is a wonderful soundtrack for the Wii U edition, with Grassland Groove proving a big hit with fans.
This unique title also offered an inspired soundtrack. Infused with Japanese culture, the compositions are mesmerizing. It was such an achievement Capcom won the Best Soundtrack at the 2007 Video Game BAFTAs.
6. Secret of Mana
A role-playing game from 1993, Secret of Mana was not only brilliant, but complemented by an emotive soundtrack by Hiroki Kikuta. The title now holds legendary status within the gaming community.
7. Rayman Origins
Ubisoft’s extraordinarily imaginative Rayman Origins is overloaded with innovative music. Desert of Dijiridoos’ Lost Beats is one of the many highlights.
8. Rayman Origins
From the underwater levels on The Sea of Serendipity, it’s clear why Rayman Origins’ soundtrack is so well regarded. This is The Lum’s Dream (Glou Glou).
9. The Curse of Monkey Island
LucasArts hit new highs with this remarkable soundtrack – a popular inclusion at video game music orchestral performances. Michael Land composed the music to this charming 1997 adventure game.
An enigmatic RPG from 1994, EarthBound (Mother 2 in Japan) has only just become available to Europeans. The soundtrack was composed by Hiroshi Kanazu, Keiichi Suzuki, and Hirokazu Tanaka.
11. Final Fantasy VII
Arguably the finest moment in the Final Fantasy franchise, VII reached a peak in storytelling and emotional impact. Nobuo Uematsu composed the unforgettable music.
12. The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
Still considered by many to be the best game ever, Ocarina of Time naturally showcased many mesmerizing compositions. The Forest Temple piece is a highlight – Koji Kondo composed the game’s music.
13. The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess
Twilight Princess built on the increasingly mature themes of the Zelda series. Toru Minegishi, Asuka Ota, and Koji Kondo were the composers.
14. Halo 2
The landmark Halo series had its critically acclaimed soundtracks composed by American Martin O’Donnell. This is Peril, from the second release in the franchise.
15. The Last of Us
One of the finest games of 2013, The Last of Us boasted some extraordinary musical moments. Gustavo Santaolalla was the composer – he’s the winner of two Oscars for his work on the films Brokeback Mountain and Babel.
16. Assassin’s Creed II
Jesper Kyd is the composer for the series’ much celebrated music. Also employed for the second Assassin’s Creed game was a 35-person string ensemble and a choir.
17. Super Mario 64
A legendary title from Shigeru Miyamoto, Super Mario 64 revolutionized the games industry in 1996. It’s still a classic, and its music is as beautiful as ever. This is Dire Dire Docks, as composed by Koji Kondo.
18. Super Mario Galaxy 2
Nintendo’s composer, Koji Kondo, employed some 60 musicians for what was dubbed the “Mario Galaxy Orchestra,” a symphony orchestra offering new depth to the Mario series. This is a more playful composition, highlighting the franchise’s sense of fun, known as Puzzle Plank Galaxy.
19. Super Mario 3D World
One of the very best games from 2013, the latest Super Mario title offers more inventive takes on Mario’s musical landscape.
20. Bit.Trip Presents…Runner2
This fiendishly addictive platformer boasts arguably the best soundtrack from 2013. A heady mix of jazz and dance, it’s exhilarating stuff. Petrified Productions provided the music – this piece is Superfunk.
21. Lost Winds
A humble platformer from 2008, Lost Winds utilized minimalistic Japanese music to great effect.
22. World of Goo
This wonderfully quirky soundtrack was created by Kyle Gabler. This track, Brave Adventures, has vocal sections performed by two people – Gabler used a keyboard to amplify the effect. The World of Goo soundtrack was released, free of charge, in 2009. You can download it here.
Mine, Windbag, Mine is from the highly creative Bastion soundtrack by Darren Korb. What he has dubbed as “acoustic frontier trip hop” makes up the compositions, with the intention to be as innovative as possible.
2012’s acclaimed PS3 game had its soundtrack composed by Austin Wintory. He based the soundtrack around one theme, with heavy use of the cello in order to represent the player. This track is called Reclamation.
25. Shadow of the Colossus
This is Swift Horse from the outstanding soundtrack by Kō Ōtani from the 2005 PlayStation 2 game.
Jeremy Soule composed the music for Skyrim, relying on a choir of over 30 men for certain sections of the game.
27. World of Warcraft
For an MMORPG like the World of Warcraft series, a brilliant soundtrack is a necessity. Developers Blizzard have used over a dozen composers since the game’s inception in 2004, with sheet music for the many recordings released in 2011.
28. Jet Force Gemini
Rare’s 1999 N64 classic was home to some of the most advanced music ever heard in a video game. Robin Beanland composed it all – this is Water Ruin.
29. Earthworm Jim 2
Composer Tommy Tallarico used inspiration from classical music (primarily Beethoven) for a number of Earthworm Jim 2’s distinctive tracks. This is one of Tallarico’s original creations, from the level Lorenzo’s Soil.
30. Metroid Prime
Nintendo’s remarkable Metroid Prime Trilogy featured ethereal music that perfectly complemented its futuristic themes. This is the iconic opening world music, which is remixed from a level in the 1994 SNES game Super Metroid. Kenji Yamamoto and Kouichi Kyuuma created the soundtrack.
Featured photo credit: Video Games Live/Roxanne Ready via flickr.com