Video game music has come a long way, baby. Today we're counting down our Top 10 Greatest Video Game Composers of all time, so sit your pixels down and read along, because we're gonna' honor the best of the best.
A venerable force in the world of video game music and composing, Hiroki Kikuta is best known for the lavish soundtrack of the seminal action RPG classic Secret of Mana, which remains one of the greatest video games of all time. A graduate of Kansai University, Kikuta worked as a manga illustrator before joining Square, where he composed music for several games in the Seiken Densetsu (Secret of Mana) series, as well as Shining Hearts and Soul Calibur V. He now owns his very own record label called Norstrilia, and has performed internationally as a renowned composer. His work in Secret of Mana resulted in a deeply emotional and riveting soundtrack that crossed multiple styles and broke new ground for 16-Bit chiptune music.
Harry Gregson Williams started his path to musical greatness at the age of seven, when he won a scholarship to St. John's College at the Universty of Cambridge. The bulk of his work lies in TV and movies, most notably the Chronicles Of Narnia, X-Men and Shrek franchises. In the world of gaming, Williams is best known for his work on the Metal Gear Solid and Call Of Duty game franchises, both of which have sold a staggering amount of copies worldwide. Williams remains a prime example of how interchangeable the worlds of movie and video game music composition truly are.
A Japanese musician with a wide body of work and the skills to match, Masato Nakamura originally started as a session musician before moving on to form his own record company DCT Records, which remains to this day. In 1990, Sega hired Nakamura to work on the soundtrack for the original Sonic the Hedgehog, which has gone on to become a staple of video game pop culture. He would reprise composing duties again for the equally popular Sonic 2, but did not return for the third entry in the series. He has also worked on music for films such as Sleepless In Seattle, The Swan Princess and Atlantis: The Lost Empire.
Martin O'Donnell is responsible for work on some of the most marketable video game IPs in the world, and the proof lies in his background. He received his Masters of Music Degree from the University of Southern California, then moved head-first into film and TV. He would later make the leap from mainstream media to the video game industry, starting with work on the landmark PC title Myth: The Fallen Lords, by now-famous Bungie Studios. This collaboration would continue with work on the video game Oni, before O'Donnell made the leap to the Halo franchise, which sold 5.5 million units on the original X-Box alone. O'Donnell then moved onto Bungie's spirtual follow-up franchise Destiny, and is now composing the music to Golem for the PlayStation 4.
Any composer credited with crafting the soundtrack to the original Mega Man is surely a force to be reckoned with. Manami Matsumae enjoyed great success during her tenure with Capcom, having worked on several other of the company's franchises such as Dynasty Wars, Final Fight, Mercs, and Carrier Air Wing, before leaving the studio in 1991 to go freelance. She has gone on to compose music for such games as Daffy Duck: The Marvin Missions, Jade Cocoon 2, Dragon Quest Swords and Mighty No. 9, but nothing can top her iconic status as the queen of Mega Man music. How cool is that?
Few video game composers have such an honorable pedigree of work as Michiru Yamane. During her tenure with Konami, she was responsible for crafting some of the most memorable music for IPs such as Contra, Rocket Knight Adventures and Suikoden, but the hallmark of her career lies in her work for the Castlevania game series, most notably Castlevania: Symphony Of The Night for the original PlayStation. Widely regarded as one of the best games ever made, Symphony Of The Night sports an eclectic mix of gothic classical, heavy metal, new-age and jazz music that has become instantly recognizable to gamers all around the world. Michiru currently works as a freelance composer.
Jeremy Soule is a force to be reckoned with. His body of work traverses over 60 video games and a wide variety of immensely popular franchises. Jeremy started his career in video games by working on the soundtrack to Secret Of Evermore in 1995, before moving onto Total Annihilation. After forming his own music production company, Jeremy began tackling some of the biggest properties in the business, including Icewind Dale, the Harry Potter games, Baldur's Gate, Neverwinter Nights, Star Wars: Knights Of The Old Republic, Unreal II, Company Of Heroes, Guild Wars, Supreme Commander and Dead Rising 3. However, his most recognizable musical accomplishments lie in his work on Bethesda's Elder Scrolls game series, particularly the fifth chapter in the franchise, the world-renowned Skyrim.
Koji Kondo started his path to musical greatness at the age of five when he began taking lessons on how to play the electronic organ. During his senior year at the Osaka University of Arts, he came across a recruiting call by Nintendo, who were interested in hiring fledgling video game composers and sound programmers. Kondo was immediately hired in 1984, but had actually began working for Nintendo a year earlier when he crafted music for the arcade version of Punch-Out! Since then, Kondo's list of achievements requires no explanation. He has worked on the biggest and best of Nintendo's franchises including Super Mario Brothers, The Legend Of Zelda, Pilotwings, Starfox, Mario Party, Wii Sports, and so many more. Kondo is an iconic pillar of Nintendo's vast success, and one of the most accomplished and talented video game composers who has ever lived.
Fans of Yuzo Koshiro know that he needs no introduction. Koshiro has solidified himself as one of the most iconic video game composers in the world, with a list of accomplishments to match. Koshiro was taught how to play piano by his mother at the age of three, and at the age of eight, he was taking lessons by Japanese film composer Joe Hisaishi, before becoming a self-taught artist. Koshiro's legendary status was derived from his uncanny ability to circumvent the perceived limitations of 16-Bit chiptune music to create compositions far beyond what was thought possible. He has composed music for such iconic titles as Ys, Space Harrier, The Revenge Of Shinobi, Actraiser, Beyond Oasis, Shenmue and many more. However, Koshiro is most fondly remembered for his work on Sega's Street Of Rage fighting game series, where he transcended the limitations of the Sega Genesis sound chips to create sprawling soundtracks that fused breakbeat, house music, jungle, techno, hip hop and jazz music into definitive masterpieces that have stood the test of time. Koshiro's interest in the underground dance scene of the early 1990s was a huge influence on these soundtracks, and his compositions stand alongside their musical contemporaries as some of the best video game music ever written.
It's a tough call, but we have to give the top spot on this list to the amazing Nobuo Uematsu. A self-taught musician, Uematsu began learning piano at a young age without the aid of lessons, and later went on to compose music for commercials before joining forces with Square to compose music for their early IPs. A series of misfires prompted Uematsu to reconsider his long-term collaboration with the company, but he struck gold on what was to be his last project: Final Fantasy. The success of the seminal RPG classic kicked Uematsu's career into high gear, allowing him to work on such titles as Rad Racer II, Romancing SaGa, the legendary Chrono Trigger, and nearly every main Final Fantasy game to date. His work on Final Fantasy VI and VII remain two of the most sought-after and beloved video game soundtracks ever written, with an emotional depth rarely glimpsed in any major media production. Uematsu has won international acclaim and worldwide praise for his work, and has had the honor of performing at numerous Final Fantasy concerts around the world. Gamers frequently point to "Aerith's Theme" from Final Fantasy VII as the most well-known example of video game music evoking the most powerful of emotions in an audience. Uematsu stands tall on the list as our #1 pick for the greatest video game composer of all time.
We hope you enjoyed our countdown of the Top 10 Greatest Video Game Composers of all time. Whether you agree or disagree, it's impossible to argue the merit of these great composers, and the high standards they have set for a medium whose music started out as blips and beeps, only to evolve into some of the most recognized music ever written. Don't forget to sign up for free at Klickjam.com! We want you to join us in our goal of uniting the world of music.