Games have evolved greatly in the last few decades. Starting as single screen hunts for a high score, they now span from adventures through fantastic lands to even the remote corners of galaxies millions of light years away. Enough cannot be said about the contribution of sound design and music in turning games into experiences and environments into atmospheres.
5. Mick Gordon
He began his composing work with Nickelodeon shovel-ware for the Wii and DS and then moved on to compose for a couple of the more forgettable Need for Speed games. After doing the soundtrack for the first season of the Killer Instinct reboot, Mick landed the gig doing the soundtrack for the surprising Wolfenstien: The New Order. Along with Meshuggah’s Fredrik Thordendal, he composed one of best soundtracks of that year. Bethesda must have liked what he did as they pegged him for the game’s Old Blood DLC, Doom 2016 (my pick for best soundtrack this year), and the upcoming Prey. He uses a style not tied to any single genre and does an excellent job of driving the action with music that makes you want to rip and tear the servants of hell or mow down an army of moon-Nazis.
4. Stuart Chatwood
Most who know the name Stuart Chatwood know him from his time as the bassist for Canadian “Moroccan roll” band The Tea Party. While his contribution to video games is much smaller than others on this list, the man has never released a bad soundtrack. Responsible for the music of the first three 3D Prince of Persia games along mobile spinoffs and the 2008 reboot, he is on this list mostly for what I consider his magnum opus: the Darkest Dungeon OST. I cannot think of many soundtracks that fit a game’s themes perfectly. Yes, most are damn close, but the oppressive dread that Chatwood manages to create with straining strings and low drums enhances the game in every way. I hope to hear more from him in the future.
3. Jesper Kyd
Jesper has been doing soundtracks since I measured my age with single digits. Responsible for the soundtracks of various Hitman, Assassin’s Creed, and Borderlands games, you have likely stabbed, strangled, and shot a thousand navels, necks, and noggins to the sounds of Mr. Kyd. His more recent work includes the L4D-esque Warhammer: End Times-Vermintide and the State of Decay game and DLCs. His strengths lay in the use of strings to build tension, which lends itself to stealth and horror games. I’ve often used his soundtracks when GMing tabletop.
2. Chris Velasco
The man behind the soundtrack of Blizzard’s latest darling, Overwatch, Chris has been wholly or partly responsible for the music of the God of War series, Starcraft 2 and DLCs, the Mass Effect 2 DLCs and Mass Effect 3. His work also includes a long list of single games both great (Darksiders, with the aforementioned Jesper Kyd taking the reigns for its sequel), and not so great (Haze). Chris excels at mixing elements of electronic music with orchestral music often teaming with long-time collaborator Sascha Dikiciyan, with Chris focusing on the orchestral and Sascha providing the electronic elements. A particular favourite of mine is the OST for 2011’s Space Marine.
1. Jeremy Soule
Have you played an RPG in the last fifteen years? Then you’ve probably heard Soule’s work. Getting his start on the SNES classic Secret of Evermore, Soule’s music can be found on cult classics like Giants: Citizen Kabuto and Total Annihilation and on mainstream hits like the first SOCOM and the last four Elder Scrolls games, including the MMO. While the bulk of his most popular work is orchestral in nature, he is comfortable in many styles. He is also a supporter of fledgling composers and has encouraged and contributed to the video game music remix community.
~~S. W. Jackson~~