The Hype Box

Published on July 9th, 2016 | by Jameelah "Just Jay" Wilkerson


Video Games and Music: A Retrospective

Video Games and Music: A Retrospective
No matter what kind of music you like, you’ve probably played a video game in your life with a memorable tune. Most of us don’t stop to think about why this is there, how it is made or where it all began. These are some of the things we’ll be examining throughout the course of this piece, starting with the history.


The very first video game to have a sound effect was the good old classic Pong. While it might not seem like it now, that small blip as the ball hit the paddle was the start of a revolution.

Of course, it was a slow progression from a blip to a full on theme and it took about six years for the first theme tune. This came from Space Invaders in 1978 and even saying that name will probably transport you back.

Let’s take a listen:

As you can see from that quick glimpse into the past, the game is hugely reliant on the sound effects. There’s a certain sort of paranoia as the aliens get closer and the game speeds up, which feeds into the gameplay. This was a process that was completed so perfectly that games today are still trying to emulate it, albeit with better technology at their disposal.

New bingo sites are using the technology in great ways to enhance the experience of their users. Fresh online gaming websites understand the importance of the soundtrack to the way players feel during a game of 90 ball bingo. Fun pops and sound effects make these games more versatile and feel light hearted.

Throughout the years, the lines between video game music and chart music are becoming increasingly blurred. Even Fetty Wap is getting on board with his very own bespoke game, which takes users into his life. There’s no Grammy for video games yet, but in years to come there may well be.


The video game hall of fame is the closest thing to an award for a video game soundtrack. To be inducted to this, a game has to be all around brilliant with everything from the gameplay to the theme contributing. These games typically have a grand budget that allows them to score the game in high quality.

Composers like Koji Kondo have made their name in video game music and are celebrities in their own right. So many themes and effects that we take for granted in modern games come from this one man. A theme for dying, loss of power and even jumping came from the mind of this man, which has been replicated across the globe. These are conventions nowadays that were first instated in Super Mario Bros in 1985.


At the start of the 2000s, the punk and rock sound came to games like Tony Hawk Pro Skater and Grand Theft Auto. This was a departure from the usual game music, which had been orchestral and melodic until that point. These games were great for rap stars and rockers alike, as they gave them more exposure from the public. This became as influential as MTV back then, as people would buy the albums from the games that they loved.

While these did things in a different way, they still added to the feeling that the game brought to players. It’s much easier to feel like a gangster in GTA if you’re blasting some sick beats than listening to some orchestral tones. Music has to fit in video games, just the same as it has to fit into a movie genre – which is something that game designers are still getting a handle on. More experimental games mean more music, which is great for those of us that love both.

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