Yoko Shimomura’s Music: 7 Greatest Songs From The Video Game Composer


March 17, 2022, 2:58 PM

Composer Yoko Shimomura has written music for Kingdom Hearts and Final Fantasy XV among other popular video games.

Photo: Squaresoft/Sam Osborne


The Japanese composer has set the bar for video game music – from ‘Final Fantasy XV’ to ‘Kingdom Hearts’, here are her best scores.

Born in Hyōgo, composer of over 45 scores, Shimomura has been honing her craft of emitting pixels in close combat situations since graduating from Osaka College of Music in 1988.

Responsible for the music for some of the greatest video games ever made, she started out as a composer for video game developer Capcom, writing scores for final fight and Street Fighter II, among many others.

It was in his next role, in the music department of gaming company Square, that Shimomura wrote his ever-popular music for Kingdom Heartswho was elected No. 86 in the Classic FM Hall of Fame 2021.

She quickly went independent, but continued to create powerful game soundtracks under her own production company, Midiplex. Under Midiplex, Shimomura wrote more in the Kingdom Hearts series, as well as his beloved music for Final Fantasy XV (No. 217 in the Hall of Fame 2021).

Here are some of his best works to date.

Read more: Our guide to the best video game soundtracks

  1. Kingdom Hearts

    Kingdom Hearts is a role-playing adventure game, co-produced by Disney and Squaresoft. Along with sumptuous piano-driven electronic orchestral music by Shimomura, it features a vocal cast that features Haley Joel Osment (The sixth sense) and Hayden Panettiere (Hero).

    The soundtrack features arrangements of melodies derived from previous Disney films, as well as original themes from Shimomura’s game.

  2. Final Fantasy XV

    Final Fantasy XV was one of the biggest video game releases of 2016. While fellow video game composer Nobuo Uematsu was responsible for the music earlier in the franchise, Shimomura made a Wagnerian epic from his score for the fifteenth chapter.

    A highlight of the score is “Somnus,” a somber moment in piano and voice that features striking Latin text over hushed keyboard writing.

    Read more: Film music gains a head start in the world’s largest classical music poll after a year of lockdown >

  3. parasitic eve

    In 1998, Square produced a video game version of Hideaki Sena’s 1995 novel parasitic evewhich explores the power of microscopic cellular mitochondria – and what might have happened in an alternate universe where they split off from cellular life and formed a distinct intelligent sentient life form, dubbed Eve.

    The music call for such a twisty tale demanded a response from someone capable of equal complexity in their work – so we’re glad it was Shimomura.

    And at the beginning of his career no less, but parasitic eve remains one of the composer’s most popular scores. It combines electronics and opera in an “inorganic” score that was later released in a remix album.

  4. legend of mana

    Yoko Shimomura took up the pen to mana in its third installment, with composers Kenji Ito and Hiroki Kikuta, respectively, being its musical predecessors.

    In 2002, she described her work for the game as the best expression of herself, preferring “passionate music that comes from the heart” as shown in her score for that game.

  5. mission before

    From its first installment in 1995, mission beforeShimomura’s music featured his signature blend of orchestral and electronic sounds.

    The composer worked alongside Noriko Matsueda for her part, taking charge of the action moments while Matsueda was responsible for the quieter sequences. Other composers were involved in later chapters and the game’s spinoffs.

  6. Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars

    Super Mario RPG is a video game produced by Square in 1996, designed for Nintendo.

    Shimomura’s music for the game is upbeat and energetic, rooted in old school electronic sounds. Cheerful melodies like “Beware the Forest’s Mushrooms” and “Rose Town” bring distinct scenes to life with dynamism.

  7. Street Fighter II: World Warrior

    street fighter is an iconic fighting game developed by Capcom in 1987, and Shimomura was responsible for the soundtrack of its second installment in 1991, at the start of his career.

    “It was mostly the planner explaining what kind of songs they wanted,” Shimomura explained in a 2017 interview. “He gave me a list [and] there were different scenes from different countries.

    They discussed creating background themes with the feeling of the different locations, rather than scoring themes for separate characters in the game, and the result is a lightweight selection of distinct, high-energy themes.

Click here to listen to our video game music playlist on Global Player.

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