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Royalty Free Music > Music News > Royalty Free Music and Video Game Soundtracks: Some of the Best Soundtracks of All Time

April 14th, 2007

Music for video game soundtracks, including background music and production music has had a long and varied history since the introduction of arcade games in the 1970s. The first music for video game soundtracks was stored in cassettes and records, and was used sparingly throughout arcades because it was expensive and heavy. Other video game soundtracks consisted of background music that was stored in digital form, with a computer chip that would work inside arcade cabinets as computer code translated into analog sound waves. Sound effects and production music for video game soundtracks were most commonly created using this computer chip method and had to be simple, monophonic and looped or even used only during certain times of the game and not continuously. Favorite arcade games like Pac Man and Pol Position used this type of music.

By the 1980s, the video game soundtracks used in personal gaming systems such as the popular Atari 2600 developed background music with two tones. As the sophistication of video game soundtracks grew, programmers were no longer responsible for the production music and many video game companies started using original royalty free music or sometimes public domain music to create the backdrop for increasingly complex and involved games. Royalty free music created a unique opportunity to get instrumental and inexpensive music that was already pre-made and ready to implement into systems and required just a one-time low fee for use in many different games and game sequels. Many video game designers still use royalty free music today to fulfill production music needs. By the 1990s composers were starting to compose original music for video game soundtracks that set the stage for many of the most exciting and memorable pieces of background music ever created.

So what are some of the greatest video game soundtracksof all time, and why have they worked so well to create an exciting experience for gamers world-wide? The following represents just a brief list of games that have been successful and have used background music and royalty free music.

  1. Super Mario Bros. (1985) for Super Nintendo has one of the most memorable video game soundtracks every composed. While the background music was not incredibly high tech, it worked well because it was one of the first games that used continuously played background music throughout the game and had memorable melodies and harmonies. The game, which went down in history as the best-selling video game of all time also produced a video game soundtracks compilation in 1993 with original songs created by Koji Kondo, the original composer of the video game's production music performed by the Ambassadors of Funk. Super Mario Bros made a huge impact on the video game industry and visually changed the way video games were created, with smooth transitions between levels. It is credited for ending the two-year drop in video game sales that began in 1983. The theme music is recognized even by those that are not familiar with the game and has become one of the most widely known video game soundtracks of all time.

  2. Parappa the Rapper for Playstation (1996) has incredibly unique music for video game soundtracks because it was one of the premier music-based video games and definitely the first rhythm video games for the Playstation gaming system. The production music in this video game is memorable because it is full of quirky raps that provide a unique backdrop to a strange graphic design concept. The background music for Parappa the Rapper is an integral part of the plot, and takes the gamer through the level progression and allows the opportunity for the player to get creative with spoken vocals and custom-made rhythms.

  3. Grand Theft Auto: Vice City for Playstation 2 (2002) was a pioneer in terms of video game soundtracks, because it was the first video game to use a licensed soundtrack geared towards its own style. The game, set in 1986 featured a car radio within the game that played 80s pop hits by artists such as Michael Jackson, Hall & Oates and Cutting Crew. The production music for this video game soundtrack also produced a series of compact discs that sold millions of copies worldwide. This video game was not the first in the Grand Theft Auto series, but it was the first game that was considered a blockbuster as well as the first to use completely three-dimensional graphics. The background music worked so well with this game because it featured already recognizable songs that helped transport the player back into the time period in which it was set.

  4. Guitar Hero for Playstation 2 (2005) is one of few video game soundtracks dedicated specifically to rock music. The game is about learning favorite rock songs by guitar legends such as Ozzy Osborne and Queen along with current guitarists. The game is played using the Mini Gibson SG controller, a guitar-shaped controller that allows the user to play and learn music. The game presents 47 songs; 30 of the tracks are covers of originals, but there are also 17 bonus songs that can be played. The production music ranges in style from classic rock to modern rock and indie music. This music for video game soundtracks works so well because essentially the background music becomes the game itself; the player, regardless of musical ability gains control over the direction the soundtrack takes, and the soundtrack can be different with every game.

  5. Katamari Damacy for Playstation 2 (2004) presents one of the most bizarre worlds ever envisioned in the video game world, and the quirky tunes used as background music serve to highlight the imaginative realm. The game's plot involves a prince on a mission to rebuild stars, constellations and the moon, all of which have been accidentally eliminated. The gamer travels through the cities and areas of the game's environment by rolling around a giant ball that picks up various objects, including thumbtacks, school children and buildings until the ball is big enough to become a star. The puzzle-based action game features weird and wild, childlike songs with catchy tunes and memorable melodies. This is one of the most interesting music for video game soundtracks collections in the history of video games because it is able to give very Japanese-based musical themes universal appeal and offers music that truly contributes to the eccentricity of the game environment.
Music for video game soundtracks has been as diverse as the games themselves since video games began to take shape in the 1970s. As video game creators continue to enjoy the industry's growth, they figure out new ways to find the right production music to fulfill their gaming needs and highlight the originality of their games. Many that need to build large and diverse instrumental video game soundtracks choose high quality royalty free music because of its flexibility and the selection it offers. offers over 6,000 tracks of royalty free music in every imaginable genre, from classical to hard rock and experimental that can be purchased by video game designers and music supervisors for a one-time, low fee. And the royalty free music can be used for a lifetime in future video games of the same series or as royalty free music to be used with other projects.

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