Updated: Jan 10
1. Korg: M1
When the 2020 lock down started, I had to move back home and all I had with me to make music was a 2006 Mac Mini, but I was getting asked to write music for indie games and this instrument saved my butt back then. Not only is it low on its system requirements, it's the perfect plugin for making tracks that sound like mid 90's video games. Even when I got back my more powerful computer and access to my modern plugins, so many clients liked the sound of this instrument that I still use it today for many projects when it's appropriate.
For those who don't know, this is a faithful emulation of the Korg M1 hardware synthesiser from the late 80's. Not only does it include all the sounds from its original release, but all the expansion sounds too! There are so many sounds here that cover nearly every one you could want, just don't expect them to sound very real, as they don't! This is, however, perfect for games with a more retro 16/32 bit era feel and that is why I love this one.
2. Audio Imperia: Jaeger
Now I could list all of Audio Imperia's libraries here, but if I had to pick just one then it would be Jaeger. For making epic cinematic orchestra music it sounds amazing and is a pretty much complete library for that purpose. It does not however, feature a full orchestra, as there are no wood wind instruments here. I think this ommission is completely acceptable though, as you rarely hear an oboe or clarinet in trailers or epic scenes in a movie or video game.
What it does have though, is an incredible sounding string and brass section, massive percussion, tonnes of pads, effects and pulses, and one of the most expressive solo vocalist's I have ever heard using software. You can easily get lost in all it has to offer and I would recommend making several pieces of music just using this so you can learn the sounds inside out.
If you want a complete orchestra then Jaeger won't quite fit the bill (that's what Nucleus is for), but as an extensive set of epic sounding instruments, this one's hard to beat.
3. Lethal Audio: Lethal
This plugin is often considered as the cheap alternative to REFX's Nexus virtual instrument and to some extent this is true. Essentially it is the same thing, a rompler that has lots of pre-made sounds with little editing of the source samples. The reason why I use this so much though, is because of it's excellent chiptune expansion pack that is ideal for getting excellent retro sounds that are cleverly processed and effected so that it sounds like an 80's arcade on steroids. It is often on offer for $149 or less with all the expansions and I do use some of the other sound sets in my music, such as the bells and hip hop packs, but even just for the chiptune sounds, it has easily earned its place in my staple of sounds.
4. Inphonik: RYM2612
Want totally authentic Megadrive (or Sega Genesis as it's known in some countries) sounds? Not only can you create what ever sounds you want within its interface, you can literally get the exact sound from a game you love with just a few clicks. Here is a video I made showing exactly how to do it:
If you love the sound of this classic console then, in my opinion, there is no better plugin to get those authentic sounds!!
5. Naughty Seal: Perfect Drums
There are many acoustic drum libraries on the market and most of them are amazing these days. For video game music though, I generally want ultra processed drums that cut through a mix and doesn't require me to spend hours tweaking each part of the kit individually. Perfect Drums fits this purpose, well, perfectly; not only does the kit sound, to my taste, straight out of the box, you can quickly add electronic samples to layer with the acoustic drums within the interface. Yes, it's not the most versatile of kits, but 9 times out of 10 this is what I reach for when I want acoustic drums in my mix.
Other stuff I Often Use
I own the Komplete 13 bundle by Native instruments so this is often my first port of call when I need a specific sound and Kontakt is the main plugin I go to when I need something specific. I do use their synths too, like Massive, Reactor and Super 8. I really like the Logic Pro X sound libraries too and will often pull up a sound from what comes built in. Honestly, if you are just starting out, you can probably get away with just using these sounds for your early client work and add to it when you are asked for something specific that does not come with the software.
I will start a series soon on the YouTube channel that goes in-depth into all these plugins and more, so stay tuned and if you have any questions, get in contact.