Music for Games
Gone are the days when video game music was a simple synthesizer melody: it has become as important as graphics and gameplay in building pace and excitement and in creating a sense of immersion. Modern soundtracks also have the flexibility to change depending on a player’s actions or situation.
So, how do you find and license the best background music for games?
Free-to-Use and Royalty-free music for games
Many people refer to and search for ‘non-copyright’ music, but this is an incorrect term. The correct one is ‘free-to-use music’. Royalty-free music, which people also look for, is, however, not the same thing! Royalty-free means that you pay for a one-off licence to use the music and you don’t have to pay a fee to the copyright owner.
Want to find quality royalty-free music fast? We’ve selected five of the best sources online.
This site connects musicians with game developers and other creators. There’s even a specific search function for finding video game music.
Offering music loops for use in games and films, PlayOnLoop has a number of different download options. The game music section is helpfully organised into 8-bit and 16-bit games music and sample-based music, so you can find the track that fits best.
Looking for something classical? Head to Musopen who ‘provide recordings, sheet music, and textbooks to the public for free, without copyright restrictions.’ You can browse by composer, performer, instrument, period or form. Plus they have dedicated sections such as ‘sound effects’, ‘cinematic music’ and ‘music for videos’. Ideal if you’re looking for instrumental music for games.
PartnersInRhyme offers royalty-free music loops, including ambient loops. They also offer free sound effects.
FreeSoundtrackMusic.com does what it says on the tin, providing royalty-free tracks for use in games, films, YouTube videos, or other multimedia productions. Some of its music does cost money. However, those tracks labelled as ‘FREE’ can be easily downloaded and added to your game.
How to license music for games
If you’re looking to go to the next level with your games music, you’ll find more options in terms of unique tracks, edits and quality if you use a music library. Libraries have different licensing agreements and price points available, depending on what projects you’re using the music for.
Use a Commercial Music Library
If your role as a music supervisor involves using a lot of background music for games, it’s worth subscribing to a music library, rather than paying for individual tracks. As music supervisor, you’ll usually be required to ensure the music is fully licensed.
At Audio Network, we’ve cut out the hassle of finding great music for games. Our catalogue offers a simple and affordable licensing process: tracks are cleared for global use and across multiple platforms, forever.
Audio Network’s search tools enable you to filter based on musical style, mood or emotion, instrumentation, genres such as action or comedy and even by bpm. We hand-pick playlists every month, from over 150,000 tracks in our catalogue, which will help you to find the perfect background music for your game.
The best music for games
Fancy a bit of fun? Check out Rob Landes’ evolution of games music, demonstrated on a violin and with a selection of brilliantly low-fi costumes, props and effects. The Tetris cardboard construction and Pokemon onesie are particular favourites.
On a more serious note, many of the world’s top composers are now writing games soundtracks, especially as the divisions between movies and video games has blurred. And the sale of video game soundtracks has created a symbiotic relationship between the music and games industries. Here’s our selection of the most iconic games soundtracks.
It’s a bona fide classic, but did you know that the theme tune to ‘Tetris’ is based on a 19th century Russian folk song called Korobeiniki?
The franchise is one of the most popular in video games history and the original soundtrack by Martin O’Donnell is still the best-selling video game soundtrack of all time.
God of War
‘God of War’ was one of last year’s most anticipated releases, and the epic soundtrack by Bear McCreary won the 2019 BAFTA for games music. McCreary’s composition includes an Icelandic choir, Nordic instruments such as the nyckelharpa and plenty of orchestral bass to ramp up the atmosphere.
The adventure epic from 2010 has a host of amazing credentials. Written by ‘The Beach’s author Alex Garland, the game stars ‘Lord of the Rings’ Andy Serkis and the soundtrack was composed by Nitin Sawhney, whose score draws on a variety of sources and has a full orchestral arrangement.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare
Harry Gregson-Williams – who has scored ‘Enemy of the State’ and ‘Man on Fire’ – was hired to write the main theme for ‘Call Of Duty’. As the game was referencing films such as ‘Black Hawk Down’, having an expert in action scoring on board was a must.
The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
When you’re discussing the art of writing music for games, Koji Kondo is arguably the most celebrated video game composer in the world, and has been working for Nintendo since 1986. Most agree that the soundtrack for ‘Ocarina of Time’ is his best, capturing a timeless sensation, whilst setting the mood for the whole game and making each place in the game unique.
Kondo’s scores have become so popular that they’ve been expanded and developed into an orchestral symphony called ‘Symphony of the Godesses’.
Making Music for Games
Looking for something specific? Check out our hand-picked playlists for a wealth of expertly-composed and beautifully produced, recorded and mixed tracks with a huge variety of cut-downs to make editing fast and simple.
Ambient music for games
We have thousands of fantastic ambient tracks for you to choose from.
Battle music for games
Showcasing epic emotion and spanning all genres, our Maximum Impact collection is designed to create unrivalled reaction. Recorded with leading orchestras at Abbey Road Studios, the collection of tracks and toolkits offers endless possibilities to create incredible battle soundtracks and effects.
Fast music for games
Need something speedy for your game? Simply click on ‘more filters’ on our search pages and you’ll find exactly what you need.
Instrumental music for games
Download free music for games
Start using high-quality music for your games by testing ten downloads from our world-class catalogue of over 150,000 tracks.