Composers are the unsung heroes of the video game industry. While graphics and gameplay set the foundation, the iconic tunes these artists create are what ultimately breathe life into a truly great game. Video game composers can complete a game’s atmosphere with a moody background track or create a catchy theme that seamlessly loops forever without becoming stale.
But for all these VGM composers are remembered for inside of video games, few are remembered for the music they create outside of the industry. That fact changes today. We’re going to look at a few examples of the interesting, impressive, or perhaps silly tracks our favorite game composers have created for non-game pursuits. If you’re looking for solo albums, side-projects, and media tie-ins, you’ve come to the right place.
Akira Yamaoka is perhaps best known as the composer, sound designer, and sound director of the Silent Hill series. While there are many factors that have contributed to the success of early Silent Hill games, the atmosphere and tone created by Yamaoka’s sound work are arguably the most important. In addition to the long-standing horror series, the composer has also worked on Grasshopper Manufacture games like Shadows of the Damned and Lollipop Chainsaw. Unlike many in the game music business, Yamaoka understands the priority of sound design in creating a game’s atmosphere, which is why he is to be considered one of the most significant game composers in the industry.
Yoko Shimomura has been referred to by some as “the most famous female video game composer in the world.” Beginning with work on early Capcom classics like Final Fight and Street Fighter II, she is responsible for the catchy stage and character themes heard in early fighting games. Shimomura has since moved on to create the timeless scores in some of Square Enix’s longest-running franchises, such as the Mana and Kingdom Hearts series. When I think of the most grandiose game scores in history, Yoko Shimomura’s are some of the first to pop into my head.