Six Modern Video Games With Epic Synthesizer Soundtracks

Post date:

Fri, 04/06/2018 - 09:08


Naomi Bolton

Most people associate synthesizers with the eighties when it was hard to find a chart topping hit or television show that didn't make  use of these instruments. However, synthesizers have also played an important role in the history of video games. From early frequency modulation synthesis in arcade machines to digital FM synch boards for home consoles and the multiple FM synthesis chips of the 16-bit era, gamers have been enjoying synth music for years. It also resulted in a number of FM synth composers, such as Yuzo Koshiro and Ryu Umemoto gaining quite a reputation for the stellar music they were able to create for games. While there are many examples of classic games with synthesizer soundtracks, there are also a few modern titles that make use of these instruments. Often this is done to match the retro visual style and mood of the games. Here are just a few video games with synthesizer soundtracks that might be worth a listen even if you are not a gamer.

The Wolf Among Us Soundtrack

by Jared Emerson-Johnson

Jared Emerson-Johnson has worked on a number of video game soundtracks or Telltale Games, but his work on The Wolf Among Us is definitely some of his best. The game is an episodic graphic adventure that uses the Fables comic book series by Bill Willingham for its characters and world. Since the game is set in the neon soaked streets of the eighties, it made sense for Jared to go with an epic synth-based soundtrack.

Mass Effect

by Jack Wall and Sam Hulick

Having already proven themselves with a number of fantasy based role-playing games, such as Dragon Age: Origins, Canadian video game developer Bioware turned their attention to the future with Mass Effect. For the soundscape to this space opera, Bioware used the talents of Jack Wall and Sam Hulick, two veterans of the video game music industry. The two were instructed to create an overall sound that would be a cross between the stuff Vangelis did for Blade Runner as well as work by Tangerine Dream and judging by the end results, they definitely nailed it.


by Christian Gabel

Krater is a 2012 role-playing video game by Swedish studio Fatshark. It is set in a post-apoclyptic Sweden and features a brilliant soundtrack by Christian Gabel. Gabel actually found some illustrations of his hometown Karlstad that was in ruins, which appeared to be concept art that was meant for a film production that never happened. Since the artwork was dated 1982, it inspired him to possibly write an eighties sounding film score. However, after meeting with Fatshark, he discovered that they wanted to make a post-apocalyptic RPG set in Sweden and Christian ended up writing the music based on the film score he had planned.

Hotline Miami Series

by Multiple Artists

The Hotline Miami series of top down shooters are set in Miami of the eighties and take their inspiration from neo-noir films such as Drive, so it only made sense that it would feature a synth laden soundtrack. The game went on to receive numerous award nominations and wins, including a few for the soundtrack. The developers had a clear vision that they wanted the soundtrack to sound like a movie soundtrack and not video game music, which is why they ended up enlisting a number of artists, such as M.O.O.N. who made use of instruments like the Waldorf Blofeld synthesiser for the audio.

Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon and Trials of The Blood Dragon

by Power Glove

When Ubisoft released a stand-alone expansion to their 2012 hit, Far Cry 3, they decided on it being a parody of everything eighties and set it in a retro-futiristic island. Once again, synths were a natural match for the neon tinted graphical style and for the soundtrack Ubisoft made use of Power Glove, an Australian synthwave duo. This formula proved popular enough that Ubisoft created another spin-off, this time based on their "Trials" license, titled Trials of the Blood Dragon. They also made use of Power Glove again to create a synth-heavy soundtrack for the game.

Neon Drive

by Pengus

The developers of Neon Drive describe it as a slick retro-futuristic, eighties inspired arcade game, which means it just would not have been the same without a synth soundtrack to complement the action. The soundtrack was handled by Syntwave band, Pengus, who did a marvelous job capturing the distinctive sound of the eighties. Like all of the soundtracks on this list, it is also good enough to turn up even when you are not playing the game.

The Rest

Aside from the seven games mentioned here, there are a number of other titles available with epic synth based soundtracks. From Desync and Furi to Nex Machina and many others, synths are definitely a favorite amongst indie developers. Let us know on the forum or in the comments below what video game soundtracks you particularly enjoyed listening to.