12 Things You Didn't Know About Video Game Soundtracks

3. The Influence Of The Yellow Magic Orchestra

Nascent video game soundtracks and the burgeoning electronic music scene of the late '70s and early '80s came practically hand in hand. One influenced the other and vice-versa, as their development was inextricable. For better or worse, Jean Michel Jarre's Oxygene influenced a generation of European video game composers, whilst the emerging house and techno scene of the mid-'80s established the basis for Yuzo Koshiro's distinctive, metallic sound - most notable in the breakbeat heavy Streets of Rage.

But of all the influences on video game music, and electronic music in general, none are quite so profound as Japan's Yellow Magic Orchestra. One of the greatest innovators in the genre, YMO became indelibly linked to video game music even before it existed in any real form, taking samples from the sounds of popular arcade hits of the late '70s such as Space Invaders and Gun Fight for use in their eponymous first LP.

As game music began to develop in the eighties, composers from the east and west both cited Tokyo-based YMO as their biggest inspirations. The ubiquitousness of their reach was made apparent by the diversity of games scrambling to cover the band's popular breakout hit Rydeen: from Sega's train-simulator Super Locomotive and British athletics jaunt Daley Thompson's Decathalon, to the BBC Micro's colourful tale of deliverance Stryker's Run and Ocean Software's reusable Commodore 64 loading splash-screen.

Video game music evolved dramatically from its early electronic roots, diverging in every possible direction to classical, pop, hip-hip - any genre you can think of. Yet it all started with YMO. Though they originally took their cue from the sounds of the arcade, it was eventually video game music that was largely determined by the band and not the reverse.

YMO influenced a whole generation of console composers, from those within the electronic scene like Koshiro and Martin Galway, to more traditional musicians such as the high-fantasy Hitoshi Sakimoto and the Celticallly-inclined Yasunori Mitsuda, and there's little question that group are part of gaming's DNA.

Editorial Team
Editorial Team

Benjamin was born in 1987, and is still not dead. He variously enjoys classical music, old-school adventure games (they're not dead), and walks on the beach (albeit short - asthma, you know). He's currently trying to compile a comprehensive history of video game music, yet denies accusations that he purposefully targets niche audiences. He's often wrong about these things.