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10 great video game composers

Composers in games are always the bloody bridesmaids. While Kojima, Clifford Bleszinski the Third and Shigeru Miyamoto lap up all the credits, complimentary hookers and free mini muffin baskets, the men and women behind their games' epic music go unnoticed.

Steven Spielberg famously said that composer John Williams' score in Jaws was responsible for 50% of the movie's success. And when you consider the iconic tunes from Super Mario Bros. or Shadow of the Colossus' sweeping score, it's hard to underestimate the impact a well composed soundtrack can have on a title. But while the music itself is often celebrated, the talented folk behind it rarely are. That's why we're giving some of gaming's finest composers the long overdue recognition they deserve. Oh, and don't worry peeps, the mini muffins are in the post.


Harry Gregson Williams

Notable scores: Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty, Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots

Before a certain suave owner of the sexiest in specs in gaming approached him about scoring a mildly anticipated game, Williams was a big time Hollywood composer. His works include Enemy of the State and Team America: World Police (F*CK YEAH!). Ahem.

Anyway, during the development of Metal Gear Solid 2, Hideo Kojima sent Harry a sample tape with loads of the composer’s music on it, some of which he hadn’t even been credited for. Williams was so impressed by the effort Kojima had gone to, he immediately agreed to start work on Snake’s megaton adventure, even though he’d never scored a game before. And as your eardrums will attest, the results were nothing short of epic.



Inon Zur

Notable scores: Men of Valour, Fallout 3, Prince of Persia (2008)

Probably the composer with the most ‘interesting’ CV on the list. And when we say ‘interesting’ we mean a bit shit. Well, at least until he started scoring games. Before his award-winning work on Dragon Age: Origins, Zur worked on a direct to video spin-off of the Casper film and even scored Power Rangers in Space.

After assumedly realising there was only so much emotion he could squeeze out of the men-in-cheap-plastic-suits genre, Zur made the wise move of switching to game composing. While we love the melancholy tunes of Fallout 3, his theme for Vietnam shooter Men of Valour is pretty inspiring.



Jack Wall

Notable scores: Mass Effect, Myst IV: Revelation, Splinter Cell: Pandora Tomorrow

If video game composing was the mafia, then Mr. Wall would be… well, not Don Corleone, but at the very least the guy that beats the bolognese out of his sister's abusive husband. Not only did he help found the Game Audio Network Guild in 2005 (control yourself, girls), he was also responsible for organising the Video Games Live concert series. You know, those gigs where the classically trained musicians played themes from Zelda and Metal Gear Solid.

Despite these kick-ass accomplishments, and his award-winning work on Myst IV, Jackie boy will always have a special place in our ears for the Mass Effect menu music. Known as Vigil, we spend hours just listening to the ethereal melody that so beautifully encapsulated the mythic wonder of exploring space. God, just thinking about it makes us want to treat our earlobes to a damn good stroking.



Jesper Kyd

Notable scores: Freedom Fighters, Hitman series, Assassin's Creed II

If there’s any man you want scoring the moment you blow up a woman with a barbecue while dressed as a clown, it’s Jesper Kyd. His work on Agent 47’s grizzly games are his best known work, and rightly so. He’s given each game a chilling atmosphere, with a subtle foreboding score underlying each instalment.

While we love what’s he’s done in the murder folk for moolah genre, our favourite score of his comes from 2003’s criminally overlooked Freedom Fighters. A pulsating, rousing composition, it made the already frantic squad shooter even more intense. The Battle For Freedom, which we’ve included below, is pretty incredible. And we can say with confidence, there’s no other piece of music we rather shoot Russians in the face to.


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93 comments

  • maestromike1 - September 15, 2014 6:39 a.m.

    I say Chris Hülsbeck just for the Turrican games on Amiga alone! http://guitaristcomposer.co.uk
  • dhana-rizky-ramadhan - August 29, 2014 9:56 a.m.

    Shoji Meguro?
  • ryanrdk - July 20, 2014 6:49 a.m.

    This guys an idiot if he thinks Inon Zur composed for shitty little games Dragon Age: Origins was the complete opposite (not so much Dragon Age 2 :P except for the combat) and Fallout 3 and New Vegas were both ground breaking games
  • ian-schmoeller - October 5, 2013 6:30 a.m.

    My favorite game soundtracks, the ones worth mentioning here hehe, are from Total Annihilation (Jeremy Soule), Age of Empires (Stephen Rippy and others), Sim City (Jerry Martin) and God of War (specially the ones from Gerard Marino and Mike Reagan). I still listen to those very often, years after I stoped playing them.
  • athletes21 - August 3, 2012 1:06 p.m.

    I too, made an account solely to say that David Wise deserves recognition. The compositions he made in the three Donkey Kong Countries, such as Aquatic Ambience and Stickerbrush Symphony are beautiful and perfectly represent each atmosphere. He did this, all while working with limited technology
  • Sabtos - June 13, 2010 12:59 a.m.

    Anyone mention the God of War composers? First videogame soundtrack I've ever listened to separately from playing, which of course got me to do it with other games. God of War III to be precise, it was amazingly awesome. Never has orchestral music felt that hardcore.
  • JaySherman - June 9, 2010 1:58 p.m.

    Fail for no Nobuo Uematsu (Final Fantasy series) or Koichi Sugiyama (Dragon Quest/Dragon Warrior series)
  • Samael - June 9, 2010 5:19 a.m.

    The lack of Akira Yamaoka, Marty O'Donnell/Michael Salvatori, Nobuo Uematsu (I've played 2, count em 2, FF games and I still know he's a god), Michiru Yamane, Jeremy Soule and Garry Schyman is criminal. All the people on this list are awesome though(especially Gregson-Williams and Jack Wall) and this is easily my favorite Meikleham article but a part of me really wanted Brett to write this...I doubt he would've snubbed Yamaoka...
  • Colicub - June 9, 2010 12:17 a.m.

    Lack of Uematsu is one thing, but seriously? No Yuzo Koshiro? The Streets Of Rage 2 soundtrack alone should mean he's on this list. Also noted is the lack of Hideki Naganuma (Jet Set Radio, Jet Set Radio Future, Sonic Rush). And anyone who worked on the Space Channel 5 games.
  • Samus - June 8, 2010 10:19 p.m.

    I am severely grieved to find that David Wise has not been represented here. So much so that I have just registered on Gamesradar! Those unfamiliar with Wise's work, you have to check him out: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Wise_(composer) To get through Finals exams, I downloaded the soundtrack to DKC 2 and listened to it on library breaks. Wise's music was the soundtrack to my childhood. My uni room mate and I just beat all the DKC's again and even arranged Stickerbrush Symphony using a guitar, a harmonica and a laptop. Screw everyone, we are really cool. You NEED Wise in your life.
  • minimaxi - June 8, 2010 5:43 p.m.

    yay for including Kou Otani, boo for not including Matt Uelmen (ex-Blizzard) and Michiru Yamane (SotN)!
  • Millikin - June 8, 2010 3:48 p.m.

    Definitely a fail without Nobuo Uematsu. The guy who showed the world that game music didn't have to be repeating jingles or mundane obscurities? Key music composer of a game series internationally recognised for beautiful soundtracks? The one person, above all others, who deserved to be on this list? Ring a bell?
  • Clovin64 - June 8, 2010 1:38 p.m.

    I could moan about how you didnt mantion Yamoaka or Uematsu, but to be fair their music featured in Game Music of the Day not that long ago, also you did justice to SOTC's soundtrack, so you are forgiven. Seriously though, the soundtrack to SOTC is mankinds greatest acheivement. The game is awesome, but it wouldnt be nearly as awesome with some lesser talent working on the music. A big part of the reason I cried at SOTC's ending was due to the music.
  • shopping88 - June 8, 2010 1:17 p.m.

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  • CombatCat120 - June 8, 2010 1:16 p.m.

    Oh man, Harry-Gregson Williams and Jesper Kyd really know how to set the mood. That MGS2 theme makes me wanna play the whole game ALL over again. Also WTF guys! How could you forget Greg Edmondson. His work on Uncharted and Uncharted 2 was AWESOME.
  • Stahlbrand - June 8, 2010 12:36 p.m.

    WTF, where is Jeremy Soule on this list? He's done a shit-tonne of game scores, and his work on Morrowind and Oblivion is amazing.
  • philipshaw - June 8, 2010 12:03 p.m.

    You are with me in that SOTC is your favourite game soundtrack. Every time I think of that game I can hear that sweeping orchestral music in my head, it’s epic. Also the Ico soundtrack is subtle but when music is used, it's used to great effect. Great article Meiks
  • EdDeRs1 - June 8, 2010 11:30 a.m.

    where is steve vai? he should be on the list for his version of the halo 2 theme (cut from final game) http://www.goear.com/listen/680ca65/halo-2-theme-steve-vai
  • EdDeRs1 - June 8, 2010 11:28 a.m.

    where is steve vai? he should be on there for his version of the halo 2 theme (cut from the final game) http://www.goear.com/listen/680ca65/halo-2-theme-steve-vai
  • YodaUnleashed - June 8, 2010 11:11 a.m.

    Marty O'Donnell was left out because all he's done that's noteworthy is Halo music. But that of course doesn't stop the writer including the Shadow of Colossus composer whose only good or noteworthy work was the score for that said single game whereas Marty O'Donnell has scored 4 great soundtracks to date. Typically predictable of course. Sigh.

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