Skip to Main Content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

Researching Video Game Music: Home

A guide to databases, recordings, and scholarship on video game music, intended for music scholars.

Introduction

Welcome!

This guide to video game music is intended for music scholars of all types at any institution--the resources contained within are generally freely available to all online. While you do not need a background in music to navigate this guide, it mainly covers the eccentricities of game music sources in a way that will be valuable to experienced music scholars; see the box below for more details.

After reading this guide, you will be able to select sources that will aid your particular research goals, navigate and use these often oblique online resources, and distinguish trustworthy from untrustworthy information available within them.

Though the history of video game music extends back only about fifty years, thoughtful research brings into focus a rich and fascinating story of rapid technological and stylistic development, and a cohort of under-recognized, pioneering musicians. I hope this guide helps you develop your own story!

In this guide:

Why use this guide?

The need for a guide like this became clear to me when I was working on a college paper about motivic development in the soundtrack of the 1992 Game Boy game "For the Frog the Bell Tolls". My research was continuously held up by the lack of answers to remarkably basic questions like:

  • Where can I find accurate recordings of all the music or footage of the game to review and analyze?
  • Who composed each piece of music? What real names are represented by the initials and aliases listed in the credits?
  • What other works were created by those composers?
  • What are the titles of the pieces? Are there authoritative English translations?
  • Was there a CD or digital soundtrack release with the same audio heard in the game?
  • Where can I find commentary by the composer or other primary sources?
  • Where can I find existing scholarship on these topics to reference?
  • Why am I finding conflicting information? Is any of it really reliable?

As it turns out, video game music lacks much of the formal/academic documentation that is abundant for other areas of musical study. Many of these questions can only be answered by consulting the work of pseudonymous enthusiasts published and republished across various free internet sources, often ephemeral and unreliable. In this guide, I aim to collect the best sources available to help you piece together a full and accurate picture that can serve as a foundation for your research or analysis.

Diggin' in the Carts documentary

A cool documentary on this subject, for a taste of the many fascinating histories worth exploring in greater depth. Enable YouTube's built-in closed captioning for English subtitling of Japanese segments.

Librarian