Features Opinion

7 Musicians Who Need to Compose Video Game Music

Koji Kondo, Martin O’Donnell, Junichi Masuda, Harry Gregson Williams, and Nobuo Uematsu. While it would be a stretch to refer to any of these people as household names, we can be confident that just about every single soul in the civilized world has heard at least one song composed by these musical geniuses. Whether it’s O’Donnell’s foreboding theme from Halo, Uematsu’s heart-wrenching theme for Aeris from Final Fantasy VII, or Kondo’s worldwide famous songs from Super Mario Bros. and The Legend of Zelda, the compositions that enter into our ears and hearts through video games can be just as memorable and poignant as any song from any other medium.

There are plenty of amazing songwriters who devote their talents to the realm of gaming, but we think that there are even more musicians who have yet to achieve their true callings as video game composers. Some make music that seems tailor-made for games already, and some write songs that are so epic that it’s a shame they aren’t already composing for games.

Trent Reznor

He’s already done it once with Quake and almost a second time with Doom 3, so why not get him back in the mix with something new? With the new Doom already on its way, its too late to get him doing something familiar, but there’s no doubt that this guy has the stuff to compose video game music.

Instead of a first-person shooter, why not hire him onto a project similar to Rez, Gradius or Einhander where his years of experience with industrial music and the gritty metallic sounds that accompany it can be fully realized? If not that, Reznor clearly has a knack for stirring insidious, dark and ghastly feelings with his music. The horror genre has gained popularity in recent years and is a perfect fit for a man who uses screechy guitars, primal drums and the scariest sounds a computer can muster to evoke a sense of unease or violence in his music. I wouldn’t be surprised if Trent could come up with some ideas for monsters and the sounds they make as well, adding an extra layer of compatibility within said game.

Next thing we know PewDiePie will be screaming like a scared schoolboy to the familiar sounds of Trent Reznor.

Dave Grohl

Here’s another musician who has played in many acts and has spent time creating in other mediums. Dave Grohl might just be one of the most lovable musicians of his time and one of his most endearing qualities might be that every instrument he’s learned has been self-taught. This desire to take on new things mixed with his already impressive musical talents would make for quite the showing whether it succeed or fail.

While he hasn’t made much music that would have people thinking about video games, games themselves are changing in ways that might work to the rocker’s strengths. As titles aren’t simply plumbers beating up turtles or hedgehogs running really fast anymore, a more serious, lyric-driven OST might be viable and that’s certainly something Grohl could deliver. Something akin to Supergiant Games’ Bastion or Transistor might be the best fit for Davey boy where he can aim most of his efforts telling a story through lyrics seeping with mystery and substance. If the Foo Fighters have taught us anything, it’s that Dave Grohl can have us lost in our own head one moment only to be thrashing it about the next. It’s emotional range like this that has the potential to keep players invested from start to finish.

If nothing else maybe we’ll get a chance to see Grohl alongside his good friend Jack Black on the soundtrack for a Brutal Legend 2.

Daft Punk

Can anybody say VR Tron with Daft Punk soundtrack? If this doesn’t excite you then stop reading this article, go to the nearest hospital and ask them to check for a pulse.

Seriously though, these helmeted heroes have been composing from computers long enough for me to believe in just about any game genre they might take on. They have the quick tempo for a futuristic racer or fighter based in outer space and the heart to get tears rolling down our cheeks like rain in a detective game set in Neo Tokyo. Basically, any game company can make a futuristic storyline, meet up with Daft Punk and say “you’re hired.” I can guarantee it won’t disappoint.

Damon Albarn

The Blur frontman and mind behind cartoon band, Gorillaz, Damon Albarn has put in his fair share of time making music. Apart from these bigger projects, Albarn also had songs featured in British cult classic, Trainspotting, and composed film scores for multiple movies. The list doesn’t stop there though as he has created operas, Dr. Dee and Monkey: Journey to the West. It seems after all of this that video games wouldn’t be too big of a creative leap for the musician.

Operas aside though, the work that really gets him a spot on this list is the Gorillaz. With four albums studio albums and more remixes done than you can shake a stick at, Albarn has proven extreme diversity with the Gorillaz. Some songs are serious with heavy bass lines and references to war while others grab you out of your seat and get you dancing. It’s the kind of diversity one would need to flesh out a world or storyline. Songs like El Manana, Slow Country and Empire Ants show just how Albarn has a way to paint a picture and take you far into it, all within the course of three to five minutes. His consistently powerful use of computer-generated sounds mixed with head-bobbing beats would surely equal a great video game OST and one that I would hope appears in a lengthy action-adventure title that spans multiple landscapes or even worlds.

As a bonus, Albarn has worked with British artist Jamie Hewlett who’s behind the artwork of the Gorillaz. Pairing the two again might be possible with Hewlett being a concept artist for the game. The Tank Girl creator and his recognizable style could easily transition to video games and complement the work of Albarn in a mesmerizing way. Or we could get a rhythm-based beat ’em up  Gorillaz game where you switch between playing gigs and fighting demon monkeys on the road. Either way I’ll be picking that game up day one.

Adam Young

Adam Young isn’t the kind of guy to flaunt his fame. In fact, most people won’t know him by his birth name, but by his stage name: Owl City.

Say all you want about Young’s squeaky-clean synth pop. His style and talent would be a tremendous addition to any fun and lighthearted game. In particular, it would work well in a variety of indie games, especially a rhythm-based game like Runner 2, Tale of the Guardians, or 140.

He’s already come close to creating some video game music. In 2012, he composed “When Can I See You Again?”, the theme song for Disney’s Wreck-It Ralph. Using heavy synth riffs and strong beats, Young perfectly captured the retro gaming ambiance that makes up the backbone of the film while still delivering a solid radio hit. He’s clearly a talented singer and songwriter, and his efforts should be recognize.

Ill Niño

One of the most ill-represented cultures in the gaming industry is Mexican tradition. Some games, like DrinkBox’s Guacamelee! do it right. But, for the most part, Mexicans are portrayed as incompetent gang members or drug dealers. But, for the sake of argument, let’s say that a developer decided to make a killer, intense game that takes place in Mexico (or really any other Hispanic country). Ill Niño would be the group to reach out to first to compose the soundtrack.

Taking the hard-rockin’ tunes of Grohl or Reznor, who we mentioned earlier, and combine them with the slick sounds of Mexican percussion and Spanish lyrics, and you’ve got Ill Niño. Hey, maybe Dead Rising 4 will take place in Mexico. Ill Niño would be a perfect fit.


It’s hard to tell if Kavinsky would actually make a good video game composer or if he would just make one of the best OSTs for Hotline Miami 3, but one thing is certain: this guy knows how to bring back the dark ’80s personality we all know and miss. His synthy guitars and “on a dark and gloomy night” feel make us all want to pop on a letterman jacket and avenge the death of our ex-girlfriend Rosie. Even if we are a teen wolf who just got out of a Saturday detention and practices karate with an old Chinese man. Sorry, too much ’80s?

This throwback vibe could be the perfect opportunity to bring back a side-scrolling beat ’em up in the same vain as Double Dragon or Streets of Rage. The same driving force that Kavinsky often implements into songs could be used to propel players forward through wave after wave of buff street fighting bad guys. And again, if nothing else… even though the Hotline Miami series has always incorporated multiple artists into its soundtrack, Kavinsky might be the one reason to change that. Make it happen, Dennaton Games!

You Might Also Like