Top Five Video Game Composers

From the underrated to the acknowledged, this list will go through the top five composers of video game music and why they have been listed.

1. Hitoshi Sakimoto

Hitoshi Sakimoto remains an extremely underrated video game soundtrack composer. His credits include Vagrant Story, Final Fantasy Tactics, Final Fantasy 12 and Gradius V. Many critics, upon the release of Final Fantasy 12, stated that Nobeu’s compositions were better, but one might wonder if they even had the sound on. Vagrant Story still stands as being the best video game soundtrack, with tracks ranging from intense battle themes to melancholic reflections. What makes Sakimoto stand out is the originality of his compositions. He has a clear and unique style involving use of a synthesized harp, which makes his music refreshing and very original.

2. Akira Yamaoka

Very close to being listed as first; Akira Yamaoka’s greatest strength is his ability to make compositions that truly fit the moment. Haunting, emotionally powerful and symbolic, his soundtracks for the Silent Hill series are some of the best compositions ever created for video games. Of particular note is how he manages to say something about the game and characters through his soundtrack. An example of this is the Silent Hill 2 soundtrack featuring machine-like sounds, representing the subconscious mind of the male protagonist. As such, listening to Yamaoka outside of the context of the games can be a mixed experience but in game it is truly an incredible audio experience.

3. Nobuo Uematsu

A lot of people would argue that Uematsu should be higher on the list, however I find his music to be more clearly derivative than Yamaoka’s and Sakimoto’s. That said, he is still an incredible composer and the Final Fantasy series simply would not have been the same without him. He is also known for the soundtrack of Lost Odyssey. What makes him particularly impressive is his ability to compose for nearly any mood, in nearly any style. His compositions range from heavy metal and bluegrass to orchestral and opera.

4. Harry Gregson-Williams

Responsible for the Metal Gear Solid series’ soundtracks, Gregson-Williams has created some great pieces of music that pull players into the moment. This is particularly so during characters’ death scenes, which I believe he is the best at composing for. The prime example of this is the piece that plays upon Meryl’s death in Metal Gear Solid, named Enclosure. He would be higher in the list but his music is somewhat derivative of Hollywood movie soundtracks, such as The Rock’s soundtrack.

5. Jeremy Soule

Soule’s most famous work in the field of video game composition is the soundtrack for Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion. He captures the mood of sword and sorcery adventure near perfectly, with heroic and explorative scores truly fitting the mood of the scene and beauty of the landscapes. The reason he is not higher in the list is because I feel his music is not only derivative of classical composers but also of other video game composers. For example, Terra’s theme from Final Fantasy 6 sounds very distinctly like Oblivion’s main theme and especially similar to Morrowind’s theme.

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