boy playing Nintendo super mario

Is Video Game Music a Genre?

Modern video game music is not a genre according to the standard definition of a musical genre, however video game music from the 90s and before created using video game computer chips (Programmable Sound Generators) can be classified as a musical genre and is known as 8-bit or chiptune music.

video game code

Is Video Game Music a Genre?

Video game music is fast becoming our newest listed music genre, however, it does not fit into the traditional definition of what a music genre is. 

Typically, a music genre is defined as a grouping or classification of musical sounds that are similar or share common characteristics such as similar instruments or similar styles.

Musical experts will argue that modern “video game music” is not a musical genre as the characteristics of music used in video games vary radically. 

Music used in a modern video game could be a variety of styles, for example,  POP, Celtic, Rock, Blues or any other type of music under the sun depending on the game, therefore, video game music cannot be listed as a music genre as it is too broad.  Video game music is a category, not a genre. 

However, video game music from the 90s and before can be classified as a musical genre as it was created using the distinctive sounds of video game computer chips and is known as 8-bit music or chiptune music.  

royalty free music for free

If video game music is not defined as a music genre, what is it? What is video game music called? 

Video game music is the soundtrack of a video game. Many people, (and this is mostly dependent on what decade they were born in), still categorise video game music as mono-tone, electronic 8-bit or chiptune music. For example the classic video game music from the early 90’s games such as Super Mario Brothers.

In the early days of video game development,  the technology did not exist to include elaborate soundtracks. 

The music was kept simple and composed from mono tones which was played using the computer chips themselves or programmable sound generators. (PSG)

The following image is of such a computer chip. This chip is made for the Nintendo Entertainment System. It combines the CPU, audio and controller port.

Chip from Nintendo for Video Game Music

Nintendo 2A03 / 2A07 Computer Chip, via Atkinsoft

These computer chips could generate a limited number of tones and were used to compose simple melodies and music which the early programmers did to amazing effect.

This music is known widely today as 8-bit music or chiptune music. The 8-bit refers to the actual 8-bit sound processor driving the game. 

This type of video game music, 8-bit music or chiptune, could be defined as a musical genre as it has a distinctive sound and common characteristics in common. 

Fast forward to today and  8-bit or chiptune video game music is still widely loved, however not as widely used. Due to technological advancements, video games today can include elaborate orchestral scores and musical loops. 

To learn more about the history of video game music, check out my article about the history of video game music – The Evolution of Video Game Music. 

background music depiction

Is chiptune or 8-bit music still created by video game music composers today?

Yes, chiptune or 8-it music is still created by video game music composers, however, many composers do not have access to the authentic original processors or means to re-create the music so we use modern-day synthesizers to recreate the effect. 

Modern video game music composers face very few constraints today in comparison to the composers of the ’90s and before who just had the limited sound-bank that the computer chip could generate. Most of the very early video game music was not created by music composers at all but by the video game programmers themselves which is remarkable. 

Personally, I love 8-bit and chiptune music and created a whole album called “Retro Game”, taking inspiration from this genre and recreating the retro feel using modern synthesizers.

This music is so unique, I keep it exclusive to my subscribers so if you want to download and use this 8-bit chiptune music in your own video games, films, game streams or content, <click here> to go to the subscribe page to get your free copy with royalty free music license.

You can also check it out on Spotify if you want it to use it as background music in your Twitch streams or just want a modern-day nostalgic listen!

The Benefits of Listening to Video Game Music

Listening to video game music while working or studying has been proven to improve creativity and productivity so it is no wonder that people, gamers and non-gamers alike, have been googling “video game music” in a bid to find the best soundtrack to work or study too.

Video game music is designed to help you get through tasks without losing focus and progress to the next level. Many people find that this makes video game music incredibly efficient to listen to while working or studying. 

Video game music will sit in the background, engage your brain, not distract you and keep you focused to get through the current task – just like the progression of a video game. 

If you are not familiar with the world of gaming or do not have a favourite video game soundtrack, it can be hard to find a great video game soundtrack that works for you.

What types of video game soundtracks are good to listen to while studying or working? 

So many want to listen to video game music, but as they don’t know what “video game music is called” they can’t find something suitable

As mentioned, video game music is not a genre but a category of music and can encapsulate a variety of music styles from POP to electronica to orchestral soundtracks.

If you are looking for video game music to study or work to and increase your work efficiency select video game music that is truly designed to be part of the video game landscape – therefore – music that sits in the background, is non-intrusive, does not have vocals and can allow you to focus on getting through to the “next level”.

Pick A Soundtrack You Already Know

If you are a gamer, it can be really useful to pick a game soundtrack that you already know and love to work or study too. 

Firstly, you already love the music, but secondly, your brain knows this music means – “get tasks done”  and hopefully it will transfer this thinking to your current work task.

Do Not Pick A Video Game Soundtrack with Vocals

Some video game soundtracks have vocals and although this is fun and great to listen too if you just want some video game music to listen to while studying or working this is a big no. 

Musical vocals will distract you as often they tell stories and communicate emotions. 

You don’t need this while working – you just need to get your task done. By sticking to instrumental and background video game music, you keep your emotions steady and thoughts focused. 

Try Orchestral Video Game Music

If you are not a regular gamer but are aware of the powerful concentration powers that video game music can invoke, there are some fantastic video game soundtracks out there that will work well.

Here are some of my personal recommendations:

These are orchestral video game soundtracks that will sit beautifully in the background and help you navigate your mundane task as your brain will shift into “video game mode” and you will stay focused until you level up – or in other words, get your study or work done.

To wrap it up….

Although modern video game music is not defined as a musical genre at present, I believe this type of music is going to become so popular and mainstream, we will see it hit the rankings of all the major streaming services despite traditional musical genre definitions. 

Disclaimer: This blog is intended as a guide only for educational and informational purposes. It is not legal advice. The content contained in this article is not legal advice or a legal opinion on any specific matter or matters.