Hum the Super Mario Bros theme for me. Now sing your favourite Final Fantasy battle tune. Or whistle Green Hill Zone’s music. I think everyone would be in agreement that music has the ability to catapult a game into greatness. Particularly in the retro era, composers were faced with strict hardware limitations such as limited channels, short loops, or muffled samples. Yet despite these factors, or arguably because of them, Video Game Music (VGM) would thrive and become an integral part of gaming and beyond, leading to rise of “Chiptune” as a genre, or lavish Soundtrack releases to many games.
This thread is designed to celebrate our shared love of VGM. Whether it’s a track that was in our head for years growing up, something we just discovered, a new vinyl release for a classic soundtrack, or discussion around our favourite composers, everything VGM related is welcome here! I hope you’ll all join me in making this one of RGB’s best threads, especially once we fill it with Sega Genesis Robot Farts!
Where/How can I enjoy VGM?
YouTube has been a great resource, with many soundtracks being uploaded and available to stream.
CD Soundtracks have been available for decades, particularly in Japan where they’ve found a lot of success. Amazon Japan is a great way to purchase many of these often lavish sets. I suggest watching this My Life in Gaming video for more information on CD releases.
During the recent Vinyl resurgence, there has been a large rise in VGM vinyl releases from many different labels, covering both new and old games. Some of the more retro focused labels include Data Discs, Mondo, Ship-to-Shore, and Brave Wave.
Live concerts! There are many worldwide tours constantly running, such as Video Games Live (co-founded by VGM composer Tommy Tallarico), and Distant Worlds (Focused on Final Fantasy and related music) to name a few.
Extremely Condensed and Selected Timeline of Notable Firsts and Composers:
1980 – Namco releases Rally-X in arcades, which is generally considered the first game to feature a continuous, melodic background music track. Rally-X Sountrack
1985 – Super Mario Bros releases for the Famicom, with Koji Kondo providing music that would become some of the most recognizable melodies of all time. Super Mario Bros. Soundtrack
1985/86 – Hiroshi Kawaguchi composes music for a trio of Sega’s Super Scaler arcade games: Space Harrier, Hang-On, and OutRun. OutRun Soundtrack
1986/87 – Dragon Quest (Koichi Sugiyama) & Final Fantasy (Nobuo Uematsu) release on Famicom, featuring music that still appears in each franchise 30+ years later. DQ Title Theme / Final Fantasy Main Theme
1988 – The relatively new PC Engine releases a CD-ROM addon, allowing games to utilize CD-quality digital music (Also referred to as Red Book audio) for the first time, allowing gamers to insert the CD into their CD player and enjoy the music without the game. One of the first releases is a home-port of Street Fighter (Fighting Street in North America) featuring an arranged sountrack. Street Fighter Soundtrack
1988 – Sierra On-Line makes a deal with Roland to help distribute the MT-32 as an add-on for computer gamers, offering high quality Midi sound prior to the release of the Sound Blaster (Though after the AdLib). William Goldstein, a film/tv composer, is hired to score King’s Quest IV: The Perils of Rosella, the first video game to utilize the MT-32. King’s Quest IV Sountrack
1989 – Sega releases the Mega Drive/Genesis, featuring a dedicated Yamaha FM synthesizer, the YM2612. Yuzo Koshiro would rise to fame with soundtracks such as the Streets of Rage series and The Revenge of Shinobi. Streets of Rage 2 Soundtrack
1989 – Shadow of the Beast is released for the Amiga, with a score by David Whittaker comprised of high-quality instrument samples. Shadow of the Beast Soundtrack
1990 – Nintendo releases the Super Famicom / SNES, with a custom S-SMP chip built by Sony. The SNES sound capabilities are unique in being fully sample based, rather than being generated through FM synthesis or other similar techniques. The launch title F-Zero not only showed off the increased hardware of the SNES, but what it’s sound capabilities were with a memorable soundtrack by Naoto Ishida and Yumiko Kametani. F-Zero Soundtrack
1996 – As pre-recorded digital files start to become the dominant music-delivery for software, a new genre starts to take form: Rhythm Games. PaRappa the Rapper is released to huge success, with a soundtrack by Masaya Matsuura and Yoshihisa Suzuki. Cheep Cheep the Cooking Chicken’s Rap
1996 – id Software releases Quake with a soundtrack composed by Trent Reznor (Nine Inch Nails), one of the first examples of a high profile musician creating VGM. Quake Main Theme