Classical Music in Video Games

Classical music has been borrowed for use in many modern contexts, and video games definitely aren’t left out! From a new arrangement of an existing classical work for the NES console’s sound chip, to brand new recordings of well-known classical piano pieces, classical music is showcased in a variety of ways in video games.

I have spent time for Hideo in adapting video game music from Mega Man, originally for the NES sound chip, to be played live by musicians. Nobuo Uematsu did the reverse when he arranged a piece from Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake, originally for orchestra, for the NES console in Final Fantasy II.

Here is Tchaikovsky’s version:

Here is Uematsu’s Arrangement:

Uematsu’s “Aria di Mezzo Carattere” from Final Fantasy VI, which we Hideo-ites love very much, was arranged for orchestra on the Final Fantasy VI Grand Finale album by Shiro Sagisu and Tsuneyoshi Saito, who chose to borrow the first 20 seconds of the opening of Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2 In C Minor, Op. 18 for their arrangement.


Sagisu and Saito:

Eternal Sonata includes full piano recordings of music by Chopin, and credited to him, at least in the game’s Wikipedia entry. Here is one example, Chopin’s “Raindrop” Prelude:

Taking the trend to its natural conclusion, the developers of Gran Turismo 5 actually hired a concert pianist, Lang Lang, to record many classical works for piano for use in the game. This includes one of my personal favorites by Sergei Prokofiev, “Precipitato” from his Piano Sonata No. 7 in B flat major, Op. 83 (Wikipedia). The game’s soundtrack also features pieces by BachBeethoven, ChopinDebussy, Dvořák, Fauré, Gounod, Liszt, MassenetRavel, Satie, Strauss, and Tchaikovsky.

The work by Prokofiev features prominently in the first few minutes of the opening and is set to some very fitting industrial images.

The use of classical music in these games serves to show how versatile and effective they are as compositions. I am sure I only scratched the surface on this topic, so please leave comments about anything I may have missed!

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