5 Video Game Soundtracks Inspired by Electronic Music
Part 1: A Brief History of Video Game Music
Video game music started out as little more than simple jingles and scratchy percussion, which was all that early arcade games and home consoles could support. Pretty much everyone nowadays is familiar with that ultra-retro sound – the theme songs of classics like Space Invaders, Pac-Man and Tetris have become staples of modern pop culture. I bet you can even play them all in your head right now.
Each generation of gaming systems allowed games to store more information, which gave composers more room to create more robust and diverse tracks. And believe it or not, as the style continued to evolve, not only did it receive praise from gamers, it actually influenced the creation of electronic music itself!
One of the earliest examples of this influence was Yellow Magic Orchestra, a Japanese electronic band that began using video game sounds in the late 70s and early 80s. They created some of the first pop music made with synthesizers and drum machines, and are considered pioneers of various genres like electro, ambient and even techno.
So in other words, in just a handful of years, those primitive beeps and bloops ignited one of the biggest explosions in music history!
Today we refer to classic video game music as “chiptune,” and although it seems somewhat outdated compared to modern game soundtracks, many contemporary producers and bands use the chiptune sound as a primary component of their own styles. A good example is the NYC band Anamanaguchi, who created the music for the film and video game adaptations of Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. Another is Maxo, an excellent composer, also from NYC.
As chiptune evolved beyond the simple sounds that inspired its name, something very interesting started happening: new game soundtracks began to echo the very styles of music that chiptune had helped to cultivate, incorporating the techno, big beat and electro sounds that were gaining popularity around the world. The creative inspiration came full circle!
This article examines 5 video game soundtracks that demonstrate the heavy influence of electronic music. It’s not a ranking, however; just a list of my personal favorite notable examples. Be sure to mention some of your favorite game soundtracks in the comments below!