VGChartz's Top 50 Video Game Composers (35–21) - ArticleTaneli Palola , posted on 28 November 2019 / 3,634 Views
Welcome to the second part of VGChartz's Top 50 Video Game Composers countdown. Before we continue on with spots 35 through 21, here are a few small facts and details about the composers that people voted for:
A total of 91 different composers received points during voting, with seven composers sharing the last spot with one point each.
Out of all the composers that received points, 52 were Japanese, with the rest coming mostly out of either Europe or North America. 20 non-Japanese composers made it into the top 50.
A total of nine composers missed the top 50 by a single point. I will talk about them in a little more detail in the next couple of articles when I cover the honourable mentions.
If you missed the first part of this countdown you can check it out HERE.
With that out of the way, let's continue on with the next set of composers in this top 50.
#35–34 (Two-Way Tie)
ZUN (Jun'ya Ōta)
I would wager a guess that most people here aren't familiar with ZUN or his work. I certainly wasn't before looking him up for this list, and I can honestly say that doesn't happen very often these days. ZUN is the solo developer behind the Touhou Project series of games, for which he effectively does everything from behind the name Team Shanghai Alice.
Sonic Mayhem (Sascha Dikiciyan)
Dikiciyan got a rather unusual start to his career when he sent his fan-made alternate soundtrack for Quake to id Software. Impressed by his work, John Romero personally asked him to compose the music for Quake 2, which launched Dikiciyan's career. Since then he has worked on numerous high profile titles, including the likes of Unreal Tournament, Prototype, Borderlands, Mass Effect 3, Mortal Kombat 2011, and Injustice: Gods Among Us, just to name a few.
Frank Klepacki began his career at Westwood Studios at the age of 17, just as the developer was about to make it big. His first video game score was for the classic PC RPG Eye of the Beholder II: The Legend of Darkmoon in 1991, after which he composed music for Dune II, the three Legend of Kyrandia games, Disney's The Lion King on the SNES, and Lands of Lore in just the first half of the 90s. Of course, Klepacki would soon after rise to fame with his work on the Command & Conquer series, for which he is most well known. In more recent years he has worked together with Petroglyph Games on a number of the developer's titles.
#32–31 (Two-way tie)
If you've played any Sonic games over the last two decades you've most likely heard at least some of Tomoyo Ohtani's work - he's been serving as the series' sound director since the mid-2000s. Whatever your opinion of the later stage Sonic is, most people can usually agree that the music has been a consistent highpoint in most of the games, and much of the credit for that belongs to Ohtani, both as a composer and sound director. Naturally, he has composed music for a number of other games as well, but his main body of work can be found in the Sonic franchise.
Glenn Stafford is another composer whose name you might not recognize, but whose music you've likely encountered at least once at some point in your life. Stafford has worked at Blizzard Entertainment since 1993, and in that time has provided music for most of the games in the WarCraft, StarCraft and Diablo franchises, as well as various other titles throughout the years. His most recent works can be heard in the World of Warcraft expansion Battle for Azeroth.
#30–29 (Two-way tie)
Kurt Harland was actually a veteran of the music industry and had found success as part of the synthpop band Information Society long before he ever composed music for video games. He began his video game career in 1995, composing music for games like Scooby-Doo Mystery and Nightmare Circus, but he is without question best known for his work in the Legacy of Kain series, starting with Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver in 1999. He last worked on music for Resistance: Burning Skies in 2012, after which he has seemingly left the video game business, though it seems he did work on Just Cause 4 as a dialogue editor, at least according to some sources.
Ed Harrison (0edit)
A relative newcomer as a composer with only a few credits to his name thus far, Ed Harrison (or 0edit) has regardless already established himself as someone to keep an eye out for in the future. His first official video game score was for the 2009 indie multiplayer FPS Neotokyo, but most people likely first heard his work on Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, for which he provided a handful of tracks, and the game's Breach mode, which Harrison composed in its entirety. More recently he co-composed the music for Tsioque, an indie point & click adventure game released in 2018.
Despite beginning his career at Koei back in 1998, Yokota's most popular and well known works have come while working at Nintendo over the past 16 years. At Nintendo his first project was Donkey Kong Jungle Beat, after which he was in charge of the orchestration of the The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess soundtrack. However, his true claim to fame is his work in the Super Mario Bros. series, beginning with Super Mario Galaxy and Super Mario Galaxy 2. Over the last five years Yokota has mostly worked as a sound director and music supervisor with other people actually composing the music, but he still provides the occasional track himself as well.
If you were a fan of id Software or first-person shooters in the 90s you're most likely very familiar with Bobby Prince's work. He is the composer behind the music of Doom, Doom II: Hell On Earth, Duke Nukem 3D (co-composed with Lee Jackson), a pair of Commander Keen games, and a number of other classic id and Apogee Software games. However, following the release of Axis & Allies in 1998, Prince more or less left the video game industry, having only returned once since then to compose the music for a game called Wrack in 2014.
There are few composers in the video game industry back in the 1980s and 90s who were able to push the hardware they were working with further than Tim Follin. Often working together with his brother Geoff, Tim was responsible for the music in games like Silver Surfer and Solstice on the NES, Spider-Man and the X-Men in Arcade's Revenge and Rock n' Roll Racing on the SNES, as well as Ecco the Dolphin: Defender of the Future on the Dreamcast.
My personal favourite pieces by Follin are 'Stage 1' from Silver Surfer and 'Aquamarine Bay' from Ecco the Dolphin: Defender of the Future, and they perfectly showcase Follin's versatility as a composer.
Tappi Iwase is one of those composers whose careers are practically defined by their work within a single franchise, in his case that franchise being Metal Gear Solid. However, throughout his career Iwase has provided music for a number of other games as well, most notably Suikoden and Suikoden II. Of course, there is still a very good reason why he is best known for his work in the MGS series, as those titles contain most of his best work.
Speaking of Suikoden, the person we have to thank for most of the music in the first two games in the series is Miki Higashino. She began her career in the mid-80s at Konami, composing music for various classic titles including Gradius, Salamander, and Gradius III, followed by the likes of Contra III: The Alien Wars in the 90s. Higashino then created arguably her greatest pieces of video game music for the first two Suikoden games. She left Konami in 2001, and since then she has worked quite sporadically in the video game industry, but by that time she had already done more than enough to establish her legacy as one of the best composers to have ever worked in it.
#23–22 (Two-Way Tie)
One of the many composers who worked at Capcom in the late 80s, Takashi Tateishi established his legacy within the industry over a very short period of time. His first work was a single track for the arcade game 1943 Kai in 1988, followed soon after by a score to the game that is to this day his most famous work - Mega Man 2. He would then work on the music and sound on a handful of other titles before leaving Capcom in 1989, after composing a single track for U.N. Squadron. His only later video game works have been the Stage Clear theme for Mega Man 10 and a track called 'Desolate Highway' for Mighty No. 9.
Despite his very short career as a video game composer, Tateishi created some of the most iconic pieces of video game music of all time, such as 'Dr. Wily Stage 1' from Mega Man 2. Also, check out 'Forest Stronghold ~ Round 3' from U.N. Squadron and the aforementioned 'Desolate Highway' from Mighty No. 9.
Out of all the composers in this top 50, at age 28 Toby Fox is the youngest by a fairly comfortable margin and has only been composing music professionally for video games since 2015. This speaks volumes to the level of talent he has not only as a composer but as a game designer too, as well as about how strongly his work has resonated with people. Fox rose to prominence with Undertale in 2015 and since then he has worked on a number of different projects, including his next game Deltarune, as well as the likes of Hiveswap, Little Town Hero, and even Super Smash Bros. Ultimate and Pokemon Sword and Shield.
For Toby Fox you should naturally check out 'Another Medium' from Undertale, as that game's soundtrack is easily his best known work as a composer. For something outside of that particular sphere take a listen to 'Angard Battle' from Little Town Hero.
Alexander Brandon is arguably among the most talented western video game composers of the last 25 years, having worked on such high profile games as Jazz Jackrabbit 2, Unreal Tournament, Deus Ex, and more recently on Dust: An Elysian Tale, and Aven Colony, among many others. In recent years Brandon has worked more as a sound designer and audio director than as composer, but he does still create music for a variety of different titles, just not as often as he did in the past.
And that's it for the second part of our countdown. Next time we'll start taking much more in-depth looks into these composers' careers and music - and there will be no more ties either, which is nice!