10 great video game composers

Michael Giacchino

Notable scores: Call of Duty, Medal of Honor: Allied Assault, Mickey Mania

Another Hollywood composer who crossed the virtual waters to make sweet music for games. If he's not making us cry when the theme of a certain slaphead hunter kicks in during Lost, Giacchino is usually getting the hairs on our arms to stand to attention in Call of Duty. Having scored nearly every game in the Medal of Honor series, his sweeping orchestral tracks accompany the cinematic bloodshed masterfully.

For us, his work on the original COD is yet to be bettered in an FPS. A towering score that forces your goose bumps to drop and give your ears twenty, it's probably the closest games has come to matching a big budget film soundtrack. Want proof of its power? During the suicidal charge on Red Square during the Russian campaign, a certain word monkey (who may or may not go by the moniker of Meikleham) physically screamed at his monitor, tears in his eyes, as the onscreen soldiers ran to their death. And yes, clearly I'm mental.

Michiru Ōshima

Notable scores: Ico, The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess

The only person on the list representing the XX chromosome, it's not the breadth of Oshima's work that gets her on the list, rather the sheer quality of it. The main reason we're plagued with the constant urge to have sex with our Ico discs is partly down to her amazing work on the game. The piece that probably bests sums up the title's gentle, otherworldly charms is Ico's save music.

A surprisingly simply, elegant tune, it never fails to give our stiff upper lips a stroke every time we sit on one of those magical couches with Yorda. Each time you listen to it, you know you're completely safe from the harsh dangers of the game's castle (namely those shadowy kidnapping monsters who're begging for a good twatting with a 2 X 4). Her work on the PS2 adventure was so celebrated, it earned Oshima a gig on Twilight Princess.

Takenobu Mitsuyoshi

Notable scores: Shenmue, Sega Rally, Virtua Fighter
The man's whose music rocks almost as hard as that totally stylish little pendant Mitsuyoshi's rocking around his neck. Responsible for some of the most iconic Sega tunes in history, Takenobu goes back over twenty years with the Japanese giant. Aside from scoring the company's definitive fighting and driving series, he also composed Shenmue's soundtrack.

And by Ryo Hazuki's manly yet sensitive cheek plaster, if the game's music wasn't epic. The scale and quality of the orchestral melodies were pretty much peerless back in 1998, easily matching most films of the time. It's just a damn shame we're unlikely to hear him score another Shenmue, seeing as the series has had the permanent kibosh put on it for nearly a decade. Ah well, we'll always have the memories. The 'slightly emotionally crippling, what could have been' memories.

Any other game composers you think warrant a mention? Want to share memories about what any of the above musical magicians' work has meant to you? Give us a shout in the comments below.

June 7, 2010



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

    I say Chris Hülsbeck just for the Turrican games on Amiga alone!
  • 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: 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)
  • 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)
  • 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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