How the Weirdest (and Best) Video Game Soundtrack of the Century Came to Be

20 years later, these songs still hold up.

Inverse Recommends

The early 2000s was a time of wild experimentation for video games. Fresh off the release of a new console generation with the GameCube, PlayStation 2, and the original Xbox, studios offered up wacky and weird titles like Billy Hatcher and the Giant Egg and Chibi Robo to God Hand and even the Def Jam series. It felt like the industry was at its most experimental and zany era ever, but in a world of the odd, how does one become the king of the outlandish? Series creator Keita Takahashi cracked the code when he joined Namco as a visual artist.

Sometimes all you want to do in a game is roll a ball around and listen to some jams. That experience is exactly what the Katamari series has done since its first entry, Katamari Damacy, released 20 years ago on March 18, 2004. This Namco classic has stood the test of time with its artsy presentation, charming comedy, addictive gameplay, and groundbreaking soundtrack.

Takahashi wanted to create a unique experience that people could only witness through a game and mixed his weird yet colorful art style with fresh gameplay and musical ideas to reach that point. That surreal nature also seeped into the music of Katamari with Takahashi giving sound director Yuu Miyake little guidance. Miyake would create the strange, cheerful, quirky, and catchy cherry atop an underrated masterpiece that helped make it the cult classic it is today.

The Katamari series places players in control of an adorable little character named The Prince who is tasked with helping his planet-sized father, The King of All Cosmos, create new planets and stars. To do this, The Prince must take his Katamari ball and use its unexplainable sticky properties to go to different locations on Earth and roll up whatever he comes across. This means catching things ranging from dogs and old ladies crossing the street to skyscrapers and boats.

The cover art for Katamari Damacy is gloriously absurd.


Such a concept was unheard of at the time. It was the most nonsensical smorgasbord ever to bless consoles and deserved a great soundtrack to add that extra flavor to side-dish the art and gameplay of the title. Thus, Yuu Miyake adopted a similar philosophy to his sound as Takahashi did with the entire project: Creating something you would only find in Katamari.

For this reason, Miyake decided the music of Katamari Damacy would consist of 10 accompanying famous Japanese vocalists. The vocal talent includes singers like Ado Mizumori (the voice behind Akira Toriyama’s Dr. Slump intro) and J-pop singer and idol Yui Asaka. With the help of a larger composition team including Hideki Tobeta, Yoshihito Yano, Asuka Sakai, and more, Miyake led the effort to make something completely original, yet familiar all at once with a lot of silly fun mixed in.

Behold, the King of All Cosmos.


These composers would create the music and then find vocalists who fit each track’s vibe. But with a mission so unique, a new issue reared its head: Who exactly was the target audience of Katamari Damacy, and who would the music be directed toward?

In a 2015 interview at MAGFest, Miyake revealed that his solution was to make a sound that mixes multiple genres to reach as wide an audience as possible. “Our target audience was very difficult for us to establish when we were making the game,” Miyake states. “Because we didn’t know who exactly wanted to play the game, we wanted to reach as many people as possible. So we incorporated as many genres, that’s why it’s all ENKA and the like, so it could be played by as many people as possible.”

In another interview with 1UP, he also shared that he wished to find a balance between familiar and trendy to keep the tracks forever revisitable. “There's often talk that people remember the music of old school classic games but not the music from recent games,” Miyake says. “In all honesty that's something that kind of pisses me off a little bit but I can't offer any rebuttal there. I don't know if this is merely the nostalgia of the users or the fault of us game developers. So, this time around, I experimented in order to figure out whose responsibility this is… We wanted people to listen to it (The soundtrack) for a long time, so we thought it best to avoid those things that were trendy or in vogue.”

Yes, you can also add the giant octopus to your snowball of chaos.


The result is the video game soundtrack equivalent of an all-you-can-eat buffet. While rolling your ball throughout the world of Katamari Damacy, your ears are assaulted by the most bizarre mixes of instruments, techno sounds, samba, jazz, pop, and nonsensical lyrics imaginable. The entire experience is amazing.

Katamari Damacy would go on to be praised not only for its original gameplay but its soundtrack as well. IGN and Gamespot both awarded the game the title of, “2004’s soundtrack of the year.” It also received a nomination for “Outstanding Achievement in Original Musical Composition” in the 8th annual Interactive Achievement Awards. To this day, the game’s album is lauded as one of the greatest in the medium.

Starting in 2018, Katamari Damacy Reroll was released for Windows and Nintendo Switch, before making the leap to PlayStation 4 and Xbox One in 2020.


Damacy has since been re-released for Windows, Switch, Xbox One, and PlayStation 4 in 2018-2020. Its amazing soundtrack has been printed to vinyl and CD, giving fans even more ways to experience it.

To this day, Katamari Damacy’s mix of bizarre art, unique gameplay, and amazing music has stood as a grand testament in the “video game art” conversation. With the series being continuously brought to modern consoles, it seems that that legacy and the spread of the Katamari music earworm will continue.

Related Tags