An Ode to Video Game Sound Effects

Mario NES Mushroom
You all know the noise.

Many gamers often don’t stop to think about the importance of minor little details in a title, such as the sound effects.

Whilst some are iconic, most slip by the wayside or subtly add to the experience without overwhelming it. As such, we’re here today to celebrate that most humble of momentary jingles.

Sound Effects

Early on, video games music wasn’t really a thing – there were just sound effects. Many of these are now iconic on a global scale.

But even with the arrival and continuing dramatic scope of modern soundtracks, the sound effect also has to do the right job.

Think of Super Mario‘s jump, Sonic’s rings, Pac-Man’s jabbering, or anything from Street Fighter II Turbo.

The sound effect is often inexplicable and fails to represent any kind of reality. For example, why does Mario make that noise when he jumps? Is there something wrong with him?

But these sound effects, as brief as they usually are, act as a gateway for us gamers into the experience. They signal rewards, victory, death, completion, achievements, and anticipation.

Short and sweet – “a Pavlovian response”, says Russell Bower of Blizzard Entertainment. In the repetition of such sounds, you can work out how you’re doing in the game.

It’s a remarkable thing, really, and one many gamers will overlook without a second thought.

The amazing thing about these little ditties is they haven’t really changed much over the decades. They’re short, sharp, and all designed with a purpose.

Graphical capabilities may now be approaching lifelife levels of realism, but you’re still going to need to have a little “beep-boop-boop-beep” to signal the end of a stage.

It’s something of an artform. You need a precise noise at a specific moment to elicit from a gamer some form of acknowledgement. And in total in adds up to make for a rewarding experience.

Thusly, all we can say now is hadouken – thanks very much for decades of memorable sounds quips to mark our various gaming successess and failures.

The sound effect – you are brilliant.

2 comments

  1. Great article. Love the following comment: “why does Mario make that noise when he jumps? Is there something wrong with him?” That made me laugh.

    You can actually make your own 8 bit music on the beepbox website, just type it in google. It’s free and pretty cool. I used it to make the music for my 2D game.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanking you very much! Yeah, I mean Mario physically grows and shrinks upon damage and eating mushrooms. There’s something up with that lad, I’m sure of it.

      I’ve had a look at your site and, yeah, some of the things you mention are cool. I’ve been wanting to try out YouTube videos etc.

      The fun fact I like is that indie game classic Shovel Knight used the exact same NES technology to recreate the soundtrack. A neat little touch from the dev team.

      Like

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