In light of our recent Tell GR about videogame soundtracks, I felt the topic could use some expounding upon. We all come in contact with the music accompanying major releases year in and year out, but what about the unsung composers who may not have the proper name-association with the brands for which they compose? Or worse, those who are just unsung altogether?
There are too many to name here, but I’ve compiled a list of five composers whose work should definitely be on your radar. There are undoubtedly countless indie composers who deserve recognition as well, but such a compilation would be miles long. For now, enjoy the below.
Eveline Fischer (Donkey Kong Country)
The Donkey Kong Country series is known for both its moody compositions as well as jazzy upbeat tunes, and most of the credit for these seminal games’ scores generally goes to David Wise. He deserves all the praise he gets, but several of Donkey Kong Country’s standout tracks, as well as nearly the entire soundtrack to the third game Dixie Kong’s Double Trouble, were composed by someone else entirely: Eveline Fischer.
An employee at Rare at the time, Fischer also did sound effects and voice work, even providing the voice of Joanna Dark in Perfect Dark. The old Rare Q&A logs are fun to dig through if you have the time and mention Fischer on numerous occasions; it’s nice that somebody archived them.
Standout tracks: Candy’s Love Song, Forest Frenzy, Treetop Rock
Shinji Hosoe (Zero Escape, Xenosaga, many others)
Shinji Hosoe has been in the game music game (an odd phrase, that) for a long while, dating all the way back to his 1987 debut Dragon Spirit in the Atari St and Commodore 64 days. These days he’s known more for JRPGs, visual novels, and anime, with work that spans Dragon Ball Z, Xenosaga, and most recently Zero Escape.
Hosoe is the kind of composer whose ability to craft both head-bumping techno and also gorgeous, filmscore-esque arrangement, often in the same soundtrack, truly boggles the mind. He should also get credit for appearing as a Masahiro Sakurai look-alike in this very old image.
Standout tracks: Too many to choose from, but below are some Zero Escape tracks. His discography is here.
Zero Escape tracks: Interminable Dilemma, Placidity, Lounge, Extreme Extrication, Main Theme
Ryo Nagamatsu (Zelda, Mario, Wii Sports)
When you think The Legend of Zelda, you think Koji Kondo, at least when it comes to the series' iconic music. Kondo is hardly responsible for everything Zelda, though, and one of the finest Zelda soundtracks of come across is largely thanks to the brilliant orchestration and arrangement of classic compositions by Ryo Nagamatsu in A Link Between Worlds. Not to mention a smattering of original tunes as well.
With Link Between Worlds Nintendo’s VST and sampled instruments finally got with the 21st century, and Nagamatsu wielded them beautifully. PReviously he’s worked on other Nintendo titles, including the Wii Sports series, Mario Kart, and Super Mario Galaxy 2.
Standout tracks: Lorule Field 2, Ravio’s Theme, Hilda Meets Zelda, Safety in the Sanctuary
Hiroki Morishita (Fire Emblem)
Meanwhile, when it comes to Fire Emblem the household (or at least, more commonly known), go-to name has traditionally been Rei Kondoh. Though still involved with recent games, composition heavy lifting has shifted to Hiroki Morishita, specifically for Awakening, Fates, and Heroes on mobile.
Fire Emblem Awakening’s soundtrack is one of my favorites of all time, so there’s little surprise I’m including Hiroki Morishita on the list. In addition to being responsible for the epic Id (Purpose), he also possesses an uncanny ability to infiltrate other musical styles, like heavy metal, and merge them with strings or choir chants to superb results. He also gets bonus points for his hilarious DLC reimaginings of the series' main theme.
Standout Tracks: Id (Purpose), Monstrosity, Conquest
2 Mello/Matthew Hopkins (Read Only Memories)
This list is short on indie composers, so I’ll include one. 2 Mello is known most recently for his work on 2064: Read Only Memories, affectionately known as ROM to its many fans. I found the soundtrack when it shuffled by chance to my I’m Feeling Lucky radio on Google Play Music, and though I’d never even heard of the game at the time, I instantly loved the music.
Regardless of your thoughts on the political tweeting of ROM’s creators, the game is a unique one and 2 Mello’s soundtrack definitely deserves a listen. You can also peruse his Bandcamp page for his other soundtracks and albums.
Standout Tracks: Main Theme, Both Sides of the Law, Stardust Hybrid Night, Troublemakers