Video Game Music, at the Atari/Nintendo era, usually characterized as people refer to "beeps-boops". In the 16-bit era (Super Nintendo, Sega Genesis), higher sound quality with synthesized instruments. As it progresses, digitized music was born and rest is history.

Video Game Music created a popular cult. Such titles like the Final Fantasy series, Command and Conquer series, Chrono Trigger, Lunar series, Xenogears, are some of the few that people love the music from. Video Game Music is especially popular in Japan, as you can actually buy CD's of the game soundtracks. The popularity of Video Game Music continues to rise, as it begins to expose in America and even the pop scene (especially Faye Wong's Eyes On Me, from the Final Fantasy 8 soundtrack, which the single successfully sell well in Japan).

Video game music has been around almost since video games were capable of producing sound. The earliest video game music consisted of beeps and boops, limited by the primitive sound technology of the time. The NES offered several titles with highly memorable tunes: The Legend of Zelda, Super Mario Brothers, Final Fantasy, and others. These did consist of the same old beeps and boops, but they were masterful beeps. The SNES offered much more sophisicated sound hardware, with support for various synthesized instruments. It also had the game with what is sometimes considered the finest game soundtrack ever made: Final Fantasy VI (released as number III in the US). Terra's Theme stands as the high point of this soundtrack.

The N64 didn't offer anything monumental in the way of video game music. The Playstation, on the other hand, offers games with both actual, live recordings, and some very fine synthesized pieces. Chrono Cross comes to mind as a good soundtrack of this type: its first and last tracks are actual recordings, but every other track is synthesized. Metal Gear Solid's music was entirely recorded from a live orchestra, though it offers a relatively low quantity of tracks.

PC's have had music as well. One or two of the very earliest PC games (and these are old enough that the term "PC" gets into murky waters) actually modulated the cathode-ray tube itself, such that it broadcasted music on a specific AM frequency that could be picked up on a decent AM radio. Other old games came with a casette tape of music, which was intended to be played in parallel with the game.

Some games used the PC's internal speaker for music, but these soundtracks were almost invariably grating on the ears. To make matters worse, some of these games did not offer the ability to turn off the music (further proving what I always say: the most important part of any feature is the ability to turn it off). Some of the old Sierra text adventures featured music like this. Thankfully, most of them let you turn it off with a press of the F2 key.

Later, with the advent of actual ISA sound cards (and later PCI, of course), PC game music could approach NES music at a technical level. The MIDI standard, too, played an important role in early game music (SimCity 2000 featured a suprisingly decent MIDI soundtrack). The eventual widespread adoption of CD-ROM drives on computers allowed the inclusion of Redbook Audio in games. It's about here that PC game music got many of its greatest soundtracks. Though not all of these games actually used Redbook Audio, they did take advantage of the CD's storage space for some really kickass music:

Some of these games are older than others, and got in earlier on this type of music. The only other type of music that has become prevalent for the PC is compressed audio such as the MP3 format. Warcraft III is the only example of such a game that I can think of off the top of my head, but I'm sure others do exist and will come out in the future.

The idea of having famous musicians compose the music for video games is often considered to have started with Quake, with NIN's Trent Reznor. The idea, which really seems like a good one on the surface, seldom takes root, with several exceptions (such as Ogre from Skinny Puppy doing the soundtrack to Descent 2). Usually, game music is done by composers who just do game music, or sometimes for movies and games, people such as Jeremy Soule (Total Annihilation, Icewind Dale) or Yasunori Mitsuda (Chrono Trigger, Chrono Cross).

Squaresoft deserves special mention, I think. Almost every game they have made since Final Fantasy has boasted a phenomenal soundtrack. Almost all of their major RPG's (most of the Final Fantasy series and the Chrono games) have their soundtracks available for purchase in CD form. I highly recommend (as said above) the Final Fantasy VI OSV, as well as the ones for both Chrono games. In fact, I'd recommend you get the chance to listen to any of the soundtracks I've mentioned in this writeup.

Music in video games has come a long way over the years. The first video games, Willy Higinbotham's Tennis for Two and Steve Rusell's Spacewar, featured no audio components whatsoever. It wasn't until the introduction of the modern arcade cabinet in games like Computer Space and Pong that the audio aspect of video games was even considered.

Of course, this has all changed now. Squaresoft's RPGs routinely showcase full-blown works of art that rival the classic 16th century operas, let alone the mostly forgettable movie scores of today. Konami has turned game music on its ear with the increasingly popular Dance Dance Revolution, where the soundtracks are not only featured in the game, but dictate the rhythm and tempo of play. And in 2000, the NARAS allowed game soundtracks to be eligible for Soundtrack and Instrumental Composition Grammy Awards.

Like most aspects of modern videogames, the ultimate source for the revolution of video game music was Pong. Before Pong, no video game had ever used sound, not even the Odyssey (the first home console system). The immortal bleep-bleep bloop of Pong was the first time sound had ben incorporated into a videogame. And while games such as Taito's Gunfight began to use microprocessors for digitized sound, no game had yet hit upon the idea of background music.

The first appearance of what might be called music came with the breakout of Space Invaders and Asteroids in 1978. While neither game had a tuneful theme song per se, they featured pounding backbeats which accelerated in tempo as the action quickened. If not the first use of music, this was certainly the first use of sound design to enhance the experience of a video game.

Without a doubt though, the first game theme to truly penetrate into pop culture was the Pac-Man ditty. While primitive in that it used only cheap synthesizer beeps, it nevertheless enhanced the feel of the game by smoothly fading into the defeat or victory music as levels were cleared. Another notable use of sound in early videogames was Atari's Tempest. Atari created a chip (name: POKEY) specifically to generate state-of-the-art digital sound for the game. The chip could produce of to eight "voices," each with adjustable variables such as pitch and distortion. The Tempest soundtrack also holds the honor of being the first commercially released video-game album. The POKEY chip later made it's way into Atari's failed 5200 system.

In 1983, Spy Hunter was released, featuring the loudest arcade cabinet to date. It was also one of the first games (along with Dragon's Lair, which of course was laserdisc-based) to incorporate stereo sound to blast its famous Peter Gunn.

The NES was the first home console to regularly utilise background music. Nintendo's composer supreme Koji Kondo wrote the now-famous themes to both Super Mario Bros. and Legend of Zelda. To this day, Zelda's theme is considered one of the greatest pieces in game music, and is actually a staple of Japanese orchestras in concert. Hot on the heels of Kondo, another legend emerged from the 8-bit era. Nobuo Uematsu, who would soon acheive global renown as the music composer for Squaresoft's Final Fantasy games.

However, up until that point, sound in games was still limited to unrealistic beeps and generally weak console synthesizers. The most that could be hoped for was that those beeps would be in stereo (still found today in the Game Boy). The "big leap" for video game music came with the introduction of the TurboGrafx-16.

While an afterthought in America and also-ran in Japan, the TG-16 revolutionized music by offering a CD player attachment. While overpriced and rare, the musical quality available far outshone it's contemporaries, the Genesis and SNES. The first truly symphonic, epic score for a videogame came in the form of the underrated RPG Ys. Nihon-Falcolm's in-house team created a driving rock-orchestra score that, in retrospect, was at least 5 years ahead of its time. Despite floundering in obscurity on a failing system, Ys is recognized by video game geeks/experts as the turning point in modern video game music.

However, this is not to say that Sega and Nintendo rested on their laurels. The Genesis' sound chip was quite advanced, relying heavily on drum samples, stereo effects, and advanced brass synthesis to create hard-edged, fast soundtracks. The defining Genesis soundtrack is indisputably Streets of Rage, which was arguably the first game to feature a full-blown, high-fidelity techno soundtrack.

The SNES's chip was more like a traditional MIDI chip, and since its specialty was realistic instrumental arrangements, Nobuo Uematsu continued his incredible work on it. The Squaresoft RPGs of the SNES, notably Final Fantasy VI and Chrono Trigger, featured audacious, full-length movements and dozens of recurring character themes.

However, the future clearly lay with the compact disc. When the Sony PlayStation established it's near-monopoly after clearing out it's unsucessful competitors (3DO/Jaguar/Saturn), the optical storage format allowed movie-quality background music to become a matter of course. In addition to in-house music, games such as Wipeout and Tony Hawk's Pro Skater began to license pop music from artists for use in their games. Other games such as PaRappa the Rapper and the aforementioned Dance Dance Revolution took the concept one step further and used their music to drive the gameplay. And companies such as Konami, Squaresoft, and Capcom still churned out high-quality soundtracks to their franchise games.

The latest trend is video game music is actually returning to the roots of Space Invaders, with dynamic soundtracks that shift and fade with different levels of action on screen. This can be seen in such PlayStation2 games as Rez, and to a lesser extent, in Capcom's Devil May Cry. This makes music another free-adapting facet with videogames, finally putting it on a par with graphics and gameplay.

With the latest generation of systems fully embracing DVD and optical technology, and video game music slowly but surely taking hold in the general consciousness, it is important to recognize the rich history of music in video games. Be it the guitar riffs of a fighting game, the techno of DDR, or the swelling chorus in Metal Gear Solid 2, video game music is slowly but surely becoming an increasingly profound extension of this burgeoning art form.

Sources:'s "A Brief Timeline of Video Game Music," Steven Kent's "The First Quarter: A 25-Year History Of Video Games," and

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