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The Evolution of Game Soundtracks

boysketch.deviantart.com / Google Images / Creative Commons

Music in video games has come a long way from the bleeps and bloops heard in the very first games.

Early video game consoles like the original Nintendo could only play four or five sounds at once. For composers, this was extremely limiting, but a talented composer could still create compelling music.

Games like Mega Man and Castlevania, well known for their tight gameplay, are equally as well known for their music scores.

The Super Nintendo was released in 1990, and had a new kind of music capability. Instead of acting as a sound synthesizer, the system had a special chip designed by Sony that played back audio samples. For the first time, composers could use the sounds of actual instruments in their music.

One of the greatest composers for the Super Nintendo was Nobuo Uematsu, who worked on the Final Fantasy series and penned a 17-minute prog rock epic for the finale of Final Fantasy VI.

With the advent of CD and then DVD-based game consoles in the mid-90s, fully orchestrated music in games became a reality. Harry Gregson-Williams, known primarily for his film scores, also wrote the scores for Metal Gear Solid 2, 3, and 4. The third game took place in Cold War-era Russia and has a soundtrack that would sound at home in any James Bond film.

Independent games need scores, too, and there has been a wave of fantastic new composers making their names in that world. Games like Super Meat Boy, FTL, and Bastion all have soundtracks that perfectly capture the personality and charm of the games they accompany.


Hear the evolution of video game music entirely through Castlevania soundtracks here

And then there's this:

This commentary originally ran August 29, 2013