02.04.19

Words by: Felicity Martin

The 10 Best Female Video Game Composers, according to Lena Raine

The Seattle game composer names the artists whose work has inspired her the most...

Having worked on video game soundtrack composition for the past 12 years, Seattle’s Lena Raine is an authority on the art form. Best known for her music for platforming indie game of 2018, Celeste, the BAFTA-nominee won big at The Game Awards last year, performing live with Hans Zimmer at its opening.

Her debut artist album, ‘Oneknowing’, has just arrived on Local Action – a ten-track record of ambient pop that embraces highly personal themes such as dreams and significant places through the media of Rhodes piano, zither, as well as various hardware synthesisers. A beautifully-arranged work of gentle electronics and shimmering melodies, the tracks are weaved together using Raine’s own vocals, creating something that transcends game music altogether.

Shining a light on the other women who have been and are instrumental to the composition world, below Raine shares the ten female artists who have inspired her the most.

1. Emi Evans

“Most famously known for her vocal work on the amazing NieR game series, Emi’s work has inspired my own in so many ways, including her made-up languages and ethereal singing. While she wasn’t the composer on the soundtrack itself, the game’s music has her influence everywhere, and wouldn’t be the same without her involvement.”

2. Michiru Yamane

“No composer would have as much influence over my extremely goth teenage years as Michiru Yamane and her work on the Castlevania series from Symphony of the Night onwards. Her music always feels rooted in the past, but brought inexplicably into the future and I love it for that.”

3. Saori Kobayashi

“While I’ve never been a huge player of the Panzer Dragoon series, I’ve always had a fascination with their soundtracks. The way they blend the organic and technological in unique and interesting ways continually inspires me. In this excerpt, the ending theme from Panzer Dragoon Saga, she employs those beautiful ethereal voices that I always love, plus some wonderfully driving rhythms.”

4. Sachiko Miyano

“This name might not ring a bell, even if you’re a huge game music nerd like me. I actually had to trace her influence in the orchestral soundtracks that I’ve loved, but she’s almost everywhere, working as one of the most talented orchestrators and arrangers in the industry. Her work, especially on Final Fantasy XIII-2 and Valkyria Azure Revolution, catches my attention every time and has gotten me to know and seek out her name.”

5. Sarah Schachner

“Sarah has been exploding in the AAA games scene for a number of years now, and she continues to release things that totally blow my mind while still holding their own in that music space. Her work on Anthem took me by surprise as she debuted the title theme at the Game Awards last year, and I was so glad to have met her in person so I could pick her brain about the super cool vocoder ‘choir’.”

6. Yuka Kitamura

“Responsible for taking over the Dark Souls franchise and really elevating the third entry with her beautiful orchestral and choral writing, Yuka Kitamura continues to show that she knows how to wrench emotions out of wildly chaotic and devastating themes.”

7. Origa

“It’s such a tragic loss that Origa still isn’t with us today continuing to bless us with her beautiful voice. What she has been involved in, in anime and games, has been nothing short of remarkable. I’ll forever cherish the songs she’s released.”

8. Yuki Kajiura

“While she primarily works in anime, Yuki Kajiura’s work on the Xenosaga series (after original composer Yasunori Mitsuda left to do other projects) still stands out to me as some of her strongest compositions. She’s always worked in collaboration with wonderful vocalists, and that focus on melody really shines through in all of her writing.”

9. Yoko Shimomura

“She’s absolutely the composer I’ve had accidentally had the longest following of, thanks to an unexpected title from my past. When I was six or so, one of the first games I ever played was Adventures in the Magic Kingdom, an NES game that Yoko Shimomura did the soundtrack for. Twenty-nine years later, I’m still listening to her work as it continues to grow over her long and wonderful career.”

10. Yoko Kanno

“It’s so hard to choose just one piece that Yoko Kanno has written to sum up what she means to me as a composer. Her style is wild and varied, influenced by every genre under the sun. But it’s always when she collaborates with some of the most amazing vocalists (herself included, as Gabriela Robin) that it seems like she has the most fun. A beautiful soul writing beautiful music.”

Stream Lena Raine’s ‘Oneknowing’:

Purchase the record here.

Related: The 10 Best 32-Bit and 64-Bit Era Video Game Soundtracks, according to Etch