The Importance of Music in Video Games

If you’re a regular gamer, you’ll probably be able to instantly hum the melody of Super Mario Bros. and recall the fantastic soundtracks to games like Halo and Bloodborne. But have you ever stopped to think about how important those soundtracks are to your gaming experience? Quite simply, without scores for video games, the games would not be as engaging and fun to play. Let’s explore the importance of music in video games in more depth.

The Importance of Music in Early Video Games

In many forms of entertainment, music is used to manipulate your emotions so that your experience is enhanced. For example, movies and theatrical plays often use sombre music during sad and emotional moments, whimsical music during comedy routines, and upbeat music during moments of excitement. Early video game designers knew that they needed to use background music for the same purposes.

During the 8-bit era of video games, developers hired composers to score the games. But due to technical limitations, the scores were simple affairs. They were more akin to catchy jingles than epic movie soundtracks. But that doesn’t mean they weren’t popular amongst gamers. Indeed, some of the most-loved 8-bit games had such memorable tunes that they are still fondly remembered today. Catchy tunes still have a place in modern games, but they are generally reserved for puzzle games. They are also used in casino slot games, like those available at Casumo casino.

Advances in Video Game Music

With new technological advances in the 16-bit era, developers were able to use more quality music, such as full orchestral arrangements. Game developers routinely hired composers who were either already well-known or would go on to gain fans throughout the gaming world. They included notable names like Yuzo Koshiro (whose work on Streets of Rage 4 can be found above) and Nobuo Uematsu. And some game soundtracks of this era, like those of Secret of Mana and Actraiser, were published for purchase and became successful in their own right.

During the 32-bit and 64-bit era of video games, soundtracks changed forever. New technological capabilities allowed game designers to be more influenced by the movie industry. Instead of using background music, developers now used music to drive forward the gaming experience and integrate it with each part of a game’s story and play. Gone were the days of hummable melodies. Now, video games began to showcase atmospheric and powerful scores.

At the same time, licensed music began to be used by game developers. That meant they no longer needed to create music from scratch. Although some older games, like Back to the Future and The Goonies II, used lo-fidelity versions of licensed music, games were now able to feature actual licensed songs from a variety of artists. That technique was used for games like Crazy Taxi, Gran Turismo, and Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater. However, licensed music is costly, so it was used sparingly from thereon.

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Licensed music also allowed for more innovation for using songs in video games. The Grand Theft Auto franchise is often regarded as one of the greatest game series of all time. It was innovative in many ways, including its in-game radio stations that enable players to choose the kinds of songs they want to listen to as they drive around. That enabled soundtracks to be presented in a much more real-world scenario. Other games used the same method as Grand Theft Auto and even took it further. For example, in Saints Row 2, there are radio stations to choose from, but you also have the option to create your own mixtapes.

The Importance of Music in Today’s Video Games

Licensed music in video games isn’t as prevalent as it once was, but the use of atmospheric music in games remains to this day. And because games are now designed very differently to older games, the act of scoring games changed with it. Today’s games are much grander and open-ended than in the past. So, the sounds and music had to be reimagined. In many modern games, players can go anywhere they want within the game. Therefore, musical tracks were used in more inventive ways to help build the atmosphere of a game and accordingly accompany the player at every step of the way. Those techniques enable players to feel much more fully immersed in games than ever before.


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