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10 great video game composers

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Kenji Yamamoto

Notable scores: Metroid Prime trilogy, Advance Wars: Dual Strike, Mike Tyson's Punch-Out!

While his work gets overshadowed by a fellow Nintendo man who we’ll shortly be typing words about, Yamamoto is still an incredible musician. Hell, his work on Metroid Prime is so visceral and compelling, we can barely imagine wiping out alien life in a skin tight bounty suit without it.

The music on the original Prime is absolutely drowned in the sauce of awesome. Understated but constantly filling you with a sense of curiosity and slight dread; it captured the sense of exploring a hostile, barren world perfectly. Listen to the score from Tallon Overworld below if you want to give your ears some of that good aural lovin’.



Kō Ōtani

Notable scores: Shadow of the Colossus, Sky Odyssey

Shit. Pull it together, son. Pull it together. Excuse us for a second here. Right, sorry about that. It’s just we go all wrong in the ear canal when we think of Otani’s mesmerising music in Shadow of Colossus. We love it so much in fact, it’s the guy who’s done typed these fancy word thingies favourite gaming score ever.

While his work outside of Team Ico’s enchanting adventure isn’t much to sing home about, we frankly couldn’t give a deep-fried shit. Colossus’ music is simply too good for the man not to warrant a mention. Equal parts haunting, exhilarating and mournful, each of the game’s titanic boss battles is given a wonderful sense of pacing by the context sensitve musi.. f*ck, we’re going wrong again, Just play the damn tune…



Koji Kondo

Notable scores: The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, Super Mario Bros., Super Mario 64, Super Mario Galaxy 2, Star Fox 64

What the Shigster is to Nintendo's legacy of incredible game design, Kondo is to the company's history of stupidly hummable tunes. Make no mistake: Koji is the absolutely daddy of game composers. He's scored nearly every megaton Nintendo game over the last two decades, including every proper Mario and Zelda title.

His work on the original Super Mario Bros. is still his most iconic. Created with the mantra of composing short melodies that could be repeated over and over again without getting boring, it's safe to say, as we sit here humming Mario's the main theme 25 years on, that he succeeded.  Our personal favourite piece of his, though, has to be the Temple of Time theme from Ocarina. Seriously, when we hear that, we might as well be sat in front of a TV on Christmas Day 1998, passing on Xmas dinner and human contact to play the shit out of Link's landmark quest.


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90 comments

  • 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.
  • Yazin_al-Dayni - June 8, 2010 9:57 a.m.

    No Nobuo Uematsu??? that is actually embarrassing...
  • jmcgrotty - June 8, 2010 6:46 a.m.

    Add me in the category of poeple who think Tommy Tallarico should have been included. Unless the list given is just current composers.
  • SandroTheMaster - June 8, 2010 4:41 a.m.

    These subjective lists are worthless in sites. They're for blogs and facebook. The "Top 7" works better because its about obscure trivia. But that won't stop me from coming with my 2 cents of commentary. First off: I don't care about Nobuo much, nice but there are better in my opinion. Jeremy Soule (Morrowind) was already mentioned, so I won't dwell at him. The duo Paul Romero and Rob King (Heroes of Might and Magic II) are my personal favorites. To put it simply: Their composition at Heroes II was a contributing factor to make that game turn me into a Gamer, as opposed to "someone who plays at occasion", and I had already experimented Doom! So I have a soft spot for these two. Then there's Pierre Esteve. Sure, the only game he composed to, in my knowledge, is Black Moon Chronicles, a game that's a particularly obscure cult at best and a forgotten RTS bugfest at worst. But the fact that his score is easily available in the Internet while the game itself is absolutely nowhere says something about it.

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