Video Games

Ever since they were invented, video games – whether as a group or solo activity – have been a popular hobby for teenagers of all generations. Songs and melodies associated with these games have made a lasting imprint on our collective minds. Who, nowadays, does not recognize the Super Mario Bros theme song from the very first Nintendo console?

Sometimes, music discreetly accompanies a quest; in other instances, like a race, it is more nervy and energetic. Either way, music gives a tempo to the game and guides the player through its levels. A video game’s soundtrack, be it an original score or a popular hit, makes it unique and easily recognizable.

Music at the Service of the Video Game

The history of video games begins in 1962 with the creation of Spacewar by Steve Russell. Supported on the first mini-computer, Spacewar is a revolutionary game concept. In 1971, Nolan Bushnell, founder of Atari, devised the first arcade machine, Computer Space. He then marketed the Pong tennis game, which was the first true commercial success of the video game industry. At the end of the decade, other epic titles were created such as Space Invaders or Pacman (1980). The Nintendo Company came into play around this time.

The first arcade games of the 1970s only contain a small range of sounds. The available technology, limited to “beeps” and “blops”, allowed little musical prowess. Nevertheless, these simple sounds created the musical themes that became trademarks of the first games. In the 1980s, Nintendo joined forces with composers instead of programmers to create original scores. Super Mario Bros brought about a revolution to video game music with its five pieces that complement the moustached plumber’s world. It was considered a great innovation in the field.

In spite of all the improvements brought forth in the 1980s, technology still hindered composers. Even with more efficient computers taking on the audio portion, they had to program sounds into the game without using real instruments. The Super Nintendo game console, launched in the early 1990s, prompted another leap forward in the sound quality of video games. Then came along game consoles that used the CD format (Saturn and PlayStation), allowing for a greater musical variety and the use of actual music instruments.

Since the beginning of the new millennium, the evolution of video game technology has centred on graphic design, setting aside the refining of audio techniques. Nevertheless, video game music has continued its progress towards a more artistic and creative dimension. Composers of video game music are inspired in their work by original film scores. More and more often, rap, rock or pop artists step in to compose original music or allow the use of their greatest hits by video game platforms.


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Noise from the Pac-Man game.

Source: Free sound bank

  • Atari game console with its controller.
  • On the left, the Nintendo 64 and its controller. On the right, the NES, the first Nintendo game console.