Friday, April 30, 2010

Video Game Music

I guess the same can be said about music as a whole, but the last 10 years for video game music have been pretty terrible.

I was a big gamer in the 90's and early 00's, so I obviously heard my fair share of video game music. Back then, limited disc/cartridge space meant that the only feasible way to make music was through the use of MIDI, which basically consisted of just a keyboard. And you know what? The music was awesome.

The music was memorable, appropriate to the situation/game genre and most importantly added to the game. Tunes like the Super Mario theme song and the Tetris theme song are what most people will remember, but the 90's was the golden era for video game music in my opinion.

A good example of this was Streets of Rage, a side-scrolling fighting game on Sega Genesis/Megadrive. Not only was the game ridiculously fun, the music was brilliant. Who could forget the evil siren that announced that you were about to get your ass handed to you by the end of the level boss?

Pretty sure this is it

And that is one reason why I don't think modern games are as good as old ones. I know a lot of it is nostalgia, but the lack of music in modern games is a killer for me. I understand that realism is a big factor in games nowadays, which is why I don't like them as much. Why do I want to play realistic game? I find war games for the most part boring, so....

But back to my point, even realistic games could use good actual non-background noise music. Game soundtracks used to be released onto CD. Where are they now?

Rounding it out with a best 5 video games for music:

  • GoldenEye 007 - Nintendo 64 - Shouldn't even need to explain this one. Facility theme
  • Streets of Rage - Sega Genesis/MegaDrive - Great game with a great soundtrack. Moon Beach theme
  • Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time - Nintendo 64 - Probably the best game ever made, and this is its best song. Gerudo Valley theme
  • Chrono Trigger - SNES - Another one of the best games of all time. Hmm, seems to be a link between outstanding games and good soundtracks... Memories of Green theme
  • Sonic and Knuckles - Sega Genesis/MegaDrive - Stands out less then the others, but the music fit the levels so well, and the sound effects were great. Flying Battery Zone theme


  1. Ah, this is a topic I can really relate to! And one that I'll probably talk a bit about at some point later in time. With the older gaming consoles, such as the Nes and the Sega Master System, these were only 8-bit consoles. The 8-bit soundcards in these things are really limited. Like... really limited. You could only have three sounds playing at the same time, so it was poyphonic only up to three channels. All "instruments" were little more than volume and pitch controlled sound waves, of which there were only three types; Sine, square and triangle. The percussion was little more than white noise, the end result of "bitcrushed" drum samples. Considering that 128 bit is around CD quality sound, 8 bit is a huge limitation on sound. The next generation (SNES and Mega Drive) weren't much better, with 16 bit sound, but as you can see in Sonic and Knuckles, Chrono Trigger and Streets of Rage, it's a lot more versatile than the old 8 bit soundcards.

    I've got my own videogame soundtracks, but, definitely, the composition, the very art of the soundtrack craft, it just held so much more flair and finesse in the nineties. Now it's all just grand orchestra this or suspenseful strings that or whatever. I do like the goa/trance music on Tekken 6 though!

    I think the problem lies in too much high-end production. Rather than producing a high quality soundtrack on an average quality sound system, they're producing average quality soundtracks on high quality sound systems.

    Check this song out:
    It's an orchestrated cover of the old Castlevania tunes. In my opinion, this is the sort of quality they should be gunning for.

  2. I can't disagree with anything you said, and I'm sure you'll go into video game music in much more detail when you talk about it. I await!