The Man, the Myth, the Musical Legend: Yuzo Koshiro

John Argirovski,

March 1, 2023 3:23 PM

Who exactly is Yuzo Koshiro? Even if you don't know his name, there is a very high probability that you have listened to his music and you didn't even know it!

At least that was the case for me when I learned how many classic gaming soundtracks Yuzo Koshiro composed. I am not exaggerating when I say that his portfolio includes a long, long list of retro gaming classics but here are just a few:

  • Street of Rage 1-4 (1991-2020)

    Some of the best House/Dance music was in Streets of Rage 2
    [Image Source Wikipedia]

  • The Revenge of Shinobi (1989)

    The Revenge of Shinobi Coverart.png
    A nice blend of Japanese inspired "ninja" tunes
    [Image Source Wikipedia]

  • Space Harrier (1985)

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    An upbeat "futuristic" soundtrack straight out of the 80s
    [Image Source Wikipedia]

  • Actraiser (1990)

    Epic classical music in Actraiser
    [Image Source Wikipedia]

  • Beyond Oasis (1994)

    A mysterious soundtrack that sounded like Aladdin
    [Image Source Wikipedia]

    And there are so many more great gaming soundtracks that he composed…

Yuzo Koshiro – The Beginning

Yuzo was born in Tokyo and was surrounded by music at a very young age. His mother, who was a trained pianist, had taught Yuzo how to play the piano by the age of three! By the time Yuzo was ten years old, he was being mentored and trained by legendary composer Joe Hisaishi (real name Mamoru Fujisawa) who is best known for composing over 100 film/anime scores including Voltron and Spirited Away.

It was on this solid foundation of musical training that eventually led Yuzo to be a sound programmer. His first composing job was with video game developer Nihon Falcom who made games such as The Legend of Heroes and the Trails series. 

Back then, Yuzo used a PC-8801 for his music which had many technical limitations.  Luckily for the gaming community, Yuzo found a way to “bring out the music” using this hardware which eventually led him to become a mainstay within the gaming industry.

NEC PC-8801.jpg
The NEC PC-8801 
[Image Source Wikipedia]

Yuzo's Musical Influences

Much like the work of any artist, Yuzo’s work was inspired by other artists. In an interview back in 1992, Yuzo said his favorite bands were Van Halen and Soul II Soul. When asked what his favorite musical genres were he mentioned that he really enjoyed dance music, technopop, hard rock, and classical. It was based on these musical influences that led him to compose some of his best work including:

  • Streets of Rage series which has a dance/house music theme. Perhaps inspired by Soul II Soul? 

  • Actraiser which Yuzo said is based on his early training in classical music (Mozart and Beethoven) and inspired by the work of John Williams (Composer of Star Wars)

The Legend Continues

Although he is not nearly as active as he once was, Yuzo still composes gaming music to this day! He assisted with some music in the release of Streets of Rage 4 (2020) and even composed the menu theme for the Sega Genesis Mini 2 (2022).

He is often credited as being the most influential composer in video game music. Ask anyone what they think of the classic Streets of Rage soundtracks and I think you can validate that claim.

Thank you Yuzo Koshiro for being passionate about your craft and for making video game music cool to listen to.

Are there any games that you can think of that just wouldn’t be the same without the composers who made the music for it? Feel free to share which games have great soundtracks in the comments below!


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