VGChartz's Top 50 Video Game Composers (50 - 36) - ArticleTaneli Palola , posted on 18 November 2019 / 2,855 Views
Welcome to VGChartz's top 50 video game composers countdown, as voted on by the community. Before we get started with the first part of the list, here are a few things to note. The list will be separated into six parts, with the first two covering the first 30 spots, and the four subsequent articles covering five each. Naturally, this means I will be talking about the top 20 composers in much greater detail than the bottom 30.
I decided to separate the list in this manner because there were a lot of ties in the bottom half of the top 50, to the extent that you might notice there are actually a total of 54 composers that are going to be featured in this countdown. The #50 spot alone has seven different composers sharing the exact shame point and vote total, and there are several two-, three-, and four-way ties coming up later on in the list. Fortunately, the top 25 contains no ties whatsoever, which makes things much easier.
Let's get started with the first part of this countdown.
#54 – 48 (Seven-Way Tie)
Beginning her career in 1995 with the Game Gear version of Sega's classic mascot platformer Ristar, Chikayo Fukuda has since become one of the most prolific female composers working in the video game industry today. She is perhaps best known for her work in the .hack and Naruto video games, as well as for having composed the music in Capcom's Asura's Wrath. She has composed music for over 20 different titles during her career, with her two most recent works being Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 4 in 2016 and .hack / /G.U. Last Recode in 2017.
Here are a few great examples of Fukuda's work: 'Shadow Vegalta' from .hack / / G.U. Last Recode, 'When Wills Diverge' from Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 3, and 'A Place to Return To' from Asura's Wrath.
James Dooley is likely better known for his film scores rather than any of his video game work, but that doesn't mean he hasn't quietly developed a rather impressive portfolio of video game soundtracks as well. The first game he worked on was the 2004 third-person action title Dead to Rights II, and since then Dooley has worked on a number of quite high profile series including the likes of SOCOM U.S. Navy SEALs, Epic Mickey and even Jak and Daxter. However, it's his work in the first two Infamous games that he's probably most well known for.
Hiroshi Yamaguchi got his start in the video game industry working at Clover Studios as one of the main composers for Okami, instantly showcasing his immense talent as a composer. Following the studio's closure he followed many of his coworkers to Platinum Games, where he is still working today. At Platinum he has worked as lead composer on Bayonetta and Wonderful 101, as well as provided some of the music for Bayonetta 2 and Star Fox Zero. Most recently, he was one of the myriad of composers who arranged music on the Super Smash Bros. Ultimate soundtrack.
Satoshi Okubo hasn't yet had the most prolific career as a video game composer, having only composed music for a handful of games thus far. Previously he worked as a sound designer on a number of projects, but in recent years his focus has shifted. You may be most familiar with his work in the Mario Party series, as he composed some of the music in three of the recent releases in the franchise, including Super Mario Party for the Nintendo Switch. Besides those, he was also responsible for the score in games like Hotel Dusk: Room 215 and Last Window: The Secret of Cape West.
I'm guessing many of you are quite familiar with Eveline Novakocic's work as a composer, though you may know her better as Eveline Fischer. She was one of the composers who worked at Rare in the 90s, and though her career was very brief she still created some timeless pieces of music for some of the SNES's best games. Novakovic was one of the three composers who worked on the music for Donkey Kong Country, and then later served as the main composer on Donkey Kong Country 3, writing the vast majority of the game's soundtrack. Her last work as a video game composer was the score for Donkey Kong Land III for the Gameboy in 1997.
Another one of the many Capcom composers to find their way onto this list, Setsuo Yamamoto began his career at the company in 1992, and has since composed music for many of the developer's most famous franchises. His early work include the scores for Mega Man X, the SNES version of Aladdin, Street Fighter Alpha and Strider 2. In more recent years he has worked mostly in other roles at Capcom, whether as a sound director or studio manager. However, most people will likely always remember him most for his music in numerous classic video games from the 90s.
Satoshi Igarashi is one of PlatinumGames' in-house composers, having begun his career composing music for Bayonetta 2 back in 2014. As such, he hasn't yet built up the most extensive resumé, but he has certainly begun to establish himself as one of the most talented new composers working in the industry. In 2015 he worked as the lead composer on Transformers: Devastation, and most recently he was the main composer on Astral Chain for the Nintendo Switch.
Danny Baranowsky is one of the younger generation of video game composers who have risen to prominence in just the last few years. He first came to most people's attention with his music in 2010 with the release of Super Meat Boy, for which he received plenty of praise, but he truly broke through with the score for Crypt of the Necrodancer in 2015, and then earlier this year cemented his reputation when Cadence of Hyrule came out on the Nintendo Switch and received critical acclaim for, among other things, its music.
#46 – 42 (Five-Way Tie)
Norio Hanzawa is likely among the least well known composers in this entire list, not because he isn't excellent at what he does, which he is, but because almost all the games he has worked on during his career have been quite niche. This is largely due to him spending his entire career at Treasure, an excellent but fairly low-profile Japanese developer. Hanzawa's best known works in the west are likely the music in Gunstar Heroes, Bucky O'hare, and more recently Sin & Punishment: Star Successor.
Live concerts of video game music have become fairly commonplace over the last 20 years, and one of the first to popularize them around the world was Tommy Tallarico. However, long before he began running a series of live video game music concerts he worked as a video game composer on games like Earthworm Jim and its sequels, The Bard's Tale, and Maximo vs. Army of Zin.
Masakazu Sugimori is another Capcom composer to make his way into the top 50. He made his name in the early 2000s with his work on Viewtiful Joe and Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney. Later on, he composed music for PlatinumGames' Vanquish and Capcom's Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective. His list of credits is still fairly short, and in recent years Sugimori hasn't worked on much, but even with so few soundtracks to his name he has already more than proved his talent as a composer.
Best known for his work at British developer Core Design in the 90s, Nathan McCree is probably a name you're not especially familiar with. However, you have more than likely heard at least some of his work, as he was responsible for the music in the first three Tomb Raider games, along with a large number of other Core Design games. After leaving the developer he worked freelance on a number of different games, most recently working on the sound effects in Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3.
Yuu Miyake is another composer whose name you might not be familiar with, but whose work you've almost certainly come across at least once over the last 20 years, especially if you've played games made by Namco. Miyake began his career as a composer on Tekken 3 back in 1998, and has since composed music for almost every entry in the series. In addition, he has worked on a number of games in the Ridge Racer series, as well as on Katamari Damacy and five of its sequels. More recently he has also provided remixes to the Persona 4 and Persona 3 rhythm games released in 2015 and 2018 respectively.
Miyake has a long career filled with excellent music already behind him, with no end in sight. Check out 'Katamari on the Rocks ~ Main Theme' from Katamari Damacy and 'Metallic Experience 1st' from Tekken 7 for some of his work.
Matt Uelmen is quite a curious case as far as video game composers are concerned. He's been working in the industry for almost 25 years, but only has nine different credits to his name by this point. Of course, most of those games are among the biggest games of all time, so that somewhat balances it out. He is still likely best known for his time at Blizzard Entertainment between 1996 and 2007, during which Uelmen composed at least some of the music for Diablo, Diablo II and World of Warcraft: Burning Crusade. After leaving the company he worked at Runic Games, composing the soundtracks for Torchlight and its sequel, as well Hob.
#40 – 38 (Three-Way Tie)
One of the most prolific western video game composers in recent years, especially on the indie side of things, has been Austin Wintory. His first major score was for ThatGameCompany's Flow in 2006, but he didn't really hit it big until the release of Journey in 2012. Since then he has worked on at least two new video game projects every year, from big AAA titles like Assassin's Creed Syndicate and The Order 1886 to smaller indie releases such as The Banner Saga trilogy, Absolver, and Abzû, among many others.
When it comes to the Final Fantasy series and its music, the shadow of Nobuo Uematsu looms large over whoever is put in the position of composing music for any entry in the long-running franchise. Among them was Masayoshi Soken, who began his career working on fairly low-profile projects like Front Mission 5 and Drakengard 2, before landing the difficult position of lead composer for Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn. Fortunately, Soken did an exceptional job with the soundtrack, and has since composed most of the music for each of the game's major expansions.
Many video game composers work for decades without ever getting the recognition they would rightfully deserve, and Hayato Matsuo certainly falls into this group. He has been working in the video game industry since 1991, composing music for games like Front Mission 3, Final Fantasy XII and Ogre Battle 64: Person of Lordly Caliber; and arranging music for numerous titles, including Dragon Quest IV, V and VI, as well as El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron. In recent years he has worked more on various anime series, but his video game work also deserves to be acknowledged for its high quality.
#37 – 36 (Two-way Tie)
Ken Nakagawa is another composer who probably isn't very well known outside of a very specific niche audience due to the games he has composed music for. He began working in the video game industry around 15 years ago and has since worked almost exclusively on the Atelier series of JRPGs and its various spin-offs. Basically, if you have played one or more games in the series since the release of Atelier Iris: Eternal Mana in 2004 you have likely heard some of Nakagawa's work.
Among my favourite pieces from him I discovered while writing this article were 'Hallucinate Bell' from Mana Khemia: Alchemists of Al-Revis and 'Traveling Thoughts' from Atelier Totori: The Adventurer of Arland.
There are a handful of composers who more or less do everything possible relating to music and sound development in video games. Sasaki Masayoshi is one of these multitalented people. Having spent his whole career at Koei/Koei Tecmo, he has not only composed music for nearly every Dynasty Warriors game and most of its spin-offs, as well as a number of other games, Masayoshi has also acted as a sound director, arranger, audio designer, and even programmer on various projects.
That's it for the first part of this countdown. Next time we'll cover numbers 35 through 21, so join me then for another long list of composers.