Once upon a time, “composers” wrote only for Classical instruments. The greatest found ways of pushing their instruments — even violin pizzicato was once avant-garde extended technique.

Now, of course, composers are writing for film, digital media, multimedia, robotic guitars, cell phones, and yes, video games. While Hollywood movies have remained conservative in their taste for original music, games have become a new field for exploration.

So, while we’re on the topic of orchestral concerts of game music, I’m curious: what video game scores do you think are the most original and inspirational? 8-bit or 64-bit, I’ll compile your faves — email or comment here.

(Watch for an interview with composer Jesper Kyd soon; I’m editing it now. And if you write for games, by all means drop me a line!)

  • Guest

    The Ico score is pretty awesome.

    Everyone likes to claim the FF scores were pretty awesome, but honestly except for a few theme elements here and there (Terra's theme has been a personal fav for a while) I never liked the sum total of the scores, they felt too homogeneous…

    I guess when RJD2 is dropping the zelda theme in a name-that-tune interlude between sets, video game themes have hit the big time 🙂

  • niall

    the pause music for _victory_, on the colecovision, was the first thing i'd heard from a video game that really grabbed me {although _slither_'s pause music was pretty cool, and i could see it passing for an old freeform demo today}. i haven't played the game in twenty years, but i know every note of that song.

    bowser's industrial techno theme from _super mario world_ {snes} was a stunner, as well.

  • mute

    _Forbidden Forest_ on the Commodore 64!

  • Guest

    I've only discovered it in post-SNES rom form, but Tales Of Phantasia has to have one of the best video game soundtracks period. It sounds remarkably good and even holds it's own against the CD and greater quality sounds in modern RPGs. It even had a recording of a female singer for one of the tracks on the cart, and it sounds GOOD. Despite the limitations of rom-carts back in the 16-Bit days.

    It's worth checking out for sure!


  • Indicator

    My favorites are still the classic 8-bit titles. The Legend of Zelda (original) has to be one of the most memorable theme songs from any video game (certainly on par with Mario). Other favorites include Kid Icarus and Metal Gear.

    What astounds me about these soundtracks is the limitations forced upon the composers – 4 voices to create all that sound!

    Today's mainstream game composers have it easy – full orchestras, big-name acts, etc., but I'm still most impressed with people who are able to coax an emotional charge within the confines of they're given. Game music – even with the advent of DVD-based games, is still severely limited in the "space" composers are allowed in the final product. It isn't uncommon to have to deliver your final product in only a few MB.

    IMHO, Nobuo Uematsu is one of the best in the field, but others such as Tommy Tallarico, Jespyr Kyd, Jack Wall, Michael Salvatore, and others are doing for game music what John Williams did for Hollywood.

    Great topic, Peter!

  • Guest

    I'm probably cheating by pulling this one out, but Amon Tobin's soundtrack for "Splinter Cell 3" just blows me away every time I listen to it. Of course, a lot of a piece of music's success is in how well its used and I have no idea how his stuff holds up in the game… I've never played it.

    A lot of the music in "Lunar" was pretty good. They had a really catchy Japanese pop song that opened the menu in the Sega CD version, and the in game music was even better. The stupid looping music that plays whenever you win a battle will forever be stuck in my brain.

    "Parappa the Rapper" was also really catchy.

    I don't know… most of the games I really enjoy are all about the music in them, like Frequency or Dance Dance Revolution. That's not really "game music," though.

  • Guest

    i think the best scores comes out at the time where the computers have 8 bit and the musicians did real fantastic work like rob hubbard, martin galway and so on. yes amon tobin rules my x-box burnout 3 and doom3 also but it is nothing in comparision to old 8 bit style. i love it and i miss tru music today gamescore is just a licence and "how can i make more money" thing. best item in this licence war is amon tobins splinter cell soundtrack. ninja tune have to buy the rights to make a normal cd… this business sucks

  • Guest

    Wizards & Warriors for NES (a band called The Advantage plays a killer medley)

    Legend of Zelda (of course!

    Super Metroid has always gotten to me…

  • Guest

    I'd have to nominate Earthbound for SNES (Mother II in Japan). Not only a great RPG in a modern setting (ATMs and cell phones), but the score is amazing. There were times where I had to put down the controller and just listen. Thank god for ZSNES movies!

  • Guest

    A pirate I was meant to be! Arrgh!

  • admin

    Amon Tobin definitely qualifies. I'm up for listing best scores from vintage to current.

    Speaking of which, on the Nintendo front, I've been quite impressed with the new scores for Zelda: Wind Waker and Metroid: Prime (particularly that cool opening music).

    But, yeah, nothing quite like the 8-bit classics. 8)


  • Guest

    But on C64!

    the best

  • Guest

    Definitely some of the best old school music belongs to the megaman sieries.

    Megaman's music is fast, fun and varied. It ranges from lighthearted jaunts, to roaring epics.

  • Guest

    I suppose it is cheating also, but the classical sound track on Return Fire for 3do is perhaps the only example I have found of a non-bemani game where the score takes a front seat.

    Nothing like laying waste to everything in your path to Gustav Holtz' Mars!

  • Guest

    I suppose it is cheating also, but the classical sound track on Return Fire for 3do is perhaps the only example I have found of a non-bemani game where the score takes a front seat.

    Nothing like laying waste to everything in your path to Gustav Holtz’ Mars!

  • Guest

    The theme to Metal Gear Solid 3 was really good. Probably the best out there