Gaming has always been about transporting players to another time and place, with immersion being the general aim. Music plays a crucial role in achieving that, and it has been intertwined with the industry since the early days. Developers now invest heavily in the best composers in the business, as they know that the perfect score can add an incredible amount of depth to any video game. There are some artists who have become so prominent in the industry, that simply having their names attached can help draw in players.
How video game music got to the Grammys
Bear McCreary is one of the world’s most legendary composers in television and games. He first came to the fore with Battlestar Galactica in 2004, but it was his composition for The Walking Dead in 2010 that helped him gain worldwide critical acclaim. The iconic soundtrack was used for 177 episodes of the series, along with the popular casino offering The Walking Dead Online Slot. The title is designed to recapture the atmosphere of the series, and this comes with using the same soundtrack. It can be found among various other television-based slots like Vikings, which also use the same music. It’s clear that music has become a key part of the slots market in helping players escape in the games, and this is noticeable throughout the rest of the gaming industry as well.
McCreary is known for his diversity and ability to create scores that span a range of genres. This comes with fusing a range of styles and makes him one of the most sought-after composers on the planet. His best achievement in game music was arguably his score for God of War in 2018. The title was epic in every way and needed a musical composition that could live up to its grandeur. McCreary used orchestral compositions with Nordic influences to create one of the most unforgettable soundtracks of all time. There’s no doubt that this helped to elevate the player experience and played a part in God of War’s recognition as one of the greatest games ever made. The 44-year-old won numerous awards for his work on the game, including the British Academy Games Award for Music.
God of War at the Game of the Year Awards in 2018.
McCreary followed this up with another incredible offering for God of War Ragnarök in 2022, in which he also voiced the character Ræb. Some other notable works in the world of games from the Florida-born musician include Call of Duty: Vanguard and League of Legends. In television, McCreary most recently worked on The Witcher: Blood Origin and The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power. The great thing for fans of this composer is that he’s young and has a long career ahead of him. He’s likely to continue his rise as one of the greatest-ever composers in the entertainment industry.
Jesper Kyd is another huge name in the gaming sphere and one who some of the biggest development studios turn to a lot. The 51-year-old has worked with esteemed brands in the gaming industry including Ubisoft Montreal, IO Interactive, and Crystal Dynamics. He played a pivotal role in helping to elevate the Assassin’s Creed series to become one of the best game franchises of all time. His work on the legendary stealth series began with the original in 2007, and he wrote the score for various other entries in the series including the latest offering, Assassin’s Creed Valhalla.
Kyd has been writing music for games since the early 1990s, with some of his earliest works coming on Pro Moves Soccer and Sub-Terrania in 1993. His big break came in 2000 when he landed work on Hitman: Codename 47. Working with IO Interactive and Eidos Interactive on the game put the Danish composer on the map, and his career skyrocketed from there.
Kyd has won numerous awards for his work and has also been nominated on various occasions. In 2005, he won the BAFTA Award for Best Original Music for Hitman: Contracts. In 2018, he picked up the highly coveted Nile Rodgers Global Creators Award as well. Kyd is recognized by his peers in the industry as a hugely influential talent, and he has inspired many other composers to create atmospheric and captivating scores.
It would be impossible to discuss the best composers ever without mentioning one of the greatest legends of the industry. Koji Kondo is arguably the man who helped game music reach the status it enjoys today, as an integral part of a game. His most famous work was on the Super Mario and The Legend of Zelda franchises, both of which boomed on Nintendo consoles in the 1990s. The Super Mario Bros.theme, in particular, is one of the most recognizable and iconic themes in the history of gaming.
Part of Kondo’s success has been his close links with Nintendo, and he has been embedded in the company since its early days. He was there when the Japanese company grew to become a giant in the industry and was well-positioned to work on many of its flagship titles. Some of the most lauded soundtracks that Kondo has developed include his works on Super Mario Kart in 1992, Super Mario 64 in 1996, and Super Smash Bros. Brawl in 2008. Part of Kondo’s appeal in this genre is his incredible ability to create catchy and memorable tunes. The style of music he pioneered has become timeless.
Koji Kondo, Jesper Kyd, and Bear McCreary have made significant contributions to the world of video game music and have pushed it forward in a range of genres. Their work has inspired others to enter the industry and push the boundaries of what players have come to expect from games. There’s no doubt that the soundtracks of modern games play a huge part in increasing their immersion levels. It may soon be a case that modern pop artists like Jung will start crossing over into games as well.