Fascination 8-Bit Music

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Music and gaming go hand in hand. Quite obviously, music is used in games to create a mood of happiness, relaxation, suspense or even danger. If you want to portray a certain feeling or mood in your game, it’s important that the music and background noise help with that instead of hindering you and the player.

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But, of course, it works the other way around as well! Gaming has a huge influence on music as well. This is partly apparent when you look at the different ambient noise background mixes created that are inspired by video games. But more “mainstream” music has been influenced by gaming as well and this is what we will look at today. More specifically, we will have a look at 8-bit music.


The 8-Bit Music Trend

What Is 8-Bit Music?

8-bit music originates from early games and consoles like the Commodore 64, Atari or NES. Instead of utilizing music that was recorded using real instruments, the music itself was created by the computer chips. This limited composers of music for 8-bit games quite a lot since only a number of tones was available. Even the amount of tones played at the same time was limited.

This put video game music composer in front of quite the task. In order to create something worth listening to and memorable, they had to become very creative and use a lot of tricks. This is remarkable, especially when considering that in the early days, many game programmers were responsible for creating the music for their games as well.


In recent years, 8-bit gaming made a comeback with mainly indie games using the 8-bit graphics as their styles. Shovel Night, Super Meat Boy or Stardew Valley are only some to mention. Likewise, this love for retro has revived 8-bit music as well and catapulted it back into the modern ear. And not only that. The music that was born out of technical limitations inspired a whole new craze: Chiptune music (which shall be explored further in another article).


Some Examples

So, what do the more modern takes on 8-bit music sound like? Here are some examples from around the globe.

The intro sequence of “On Top” from The Killers shows heavy influence by the 8-bit sound of yesteryear. The quite memorable tones can be heard throughout the song.

Beck‘s song “Girl” too starts with a very Atari-sounding sequence, even though the style is dropped for the rest of the song again.

The German dark-electro band Welle:Erdball uses C64 tones as a major component of almost all their songs.



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