Video games and music have been working in unison forever. Who would Mario be without his signature theme tune? Where would Sonic be without the iconic Green Hills Theme? Would Halo be the same without that excellent score? Games and music are linked together there is no denying that. However, music is not just used as part of a theme song. Music in modern games is much more complicated. It sets the tone of a scene. It drives home the sad parts and makes the exciting sections even more thrilling. Music in video games has come a long way.
Back when video games were still in their infancy, video game music was held back by the current technology. Game developers couldn’t have complicated songs and were instead required to use 8 or 16 bit music. Developers made the most of this however and have created some of the most well known tunes in the world like the Super Mario Bros theme.
As technology developed and new games consoles were released music was able to progress as well. Enter midi music. This is the bridge between old school music and modern tracks. It was able to confer more emotion and guide players much more than music could in the SNES and Megadrive days. The music in Golden Eye for example was designed to amp up the action sequences. However, a slot machine like Immortal Romance by Lucky Nugget Casino has music that transports you to the world filled with Halloween mystery making the whole game extremely entertaining.
Fighting games have always had individual tracks for each fighter. The Guile theme for Street Fighter 2 is very well known and with the recent release of the modern Street Fighter 5 players have been treated to new music for the different fighters. Thee ways that music is used in video games hasn’t changed, but instead evolved. It can now take advantage of full orchestral music if it wants to and is no longer held back by technological limitations.
The music in Uncharted 4 though is used very differently. In this story driven game our hero, Nathan Drake, undergoes all kinds of challenges and the music is a key part of how the player engages with the story. During the set piece moments the music ramps up like it would in a film and during the emotional parts it slows down and draws out all the feeling in the scene. Uncharted 4 marks a big change in how cinematic a game can be and how the music in an individual scene can affect a player.
Now that technology has advanced games can put entire songs into a game and get them the same treatment a film or TV series gets. Music in video games has come a long way, but so have video games. VR introduces a new way that music can be used as it allows for surround sound and for music to come from a specific direction. We are only going to see both video games and the music within them continue to develop.