Dragon Quest composer & controversial ultranationalist Koichi Sugiyama dies at 90

Sugiyama is best known for his contributions to the beloved Dragon Quest soundtracks, as well as his outspoken ultranationalist and anti-LGBTQ stances.


The gaming world lost a legendary figure today. Koichi Sugiyama, composer of Dragon Quest soundtracks throughout the entire franchise, passed away at the age of 90 today. His contributions to the music of Dragon Quest since 1986 made for one of the franchise’s most iconic elements. At the same time, Sugiyama held a number of outspoken controversial stances throughout his life, including misogynistic, anti-LGBTQ, and ultranationalist views, that often mired his otherwise stellar career.

Square Enix released a statement on the passing of Koichi Sugiyama in the early AM hours of October 7, 2021. According to the statement, Sugiyama’s cause of death was septic shock.

Koichi Sugiyama started at Square Enix (formerly Enix, one half of the then unmerged company) in 1985, but he had some fame already as a known composer of TV commercials, musicals, shows, and animated movies. His major work in TV ads guided him to a philosophy that any composer hoping to make something that hung around had five seconds to catch the listener. This philosophy was present in his work throughout the entire Dragon Quest series. He was even working on the upcoming Dragon Quest 12's soundtrack at the time of his passing.

While Sugiyama’s musical work is iconic and beloved the world around, he also held a number of stances that mired admiration of him as a person. He was a denier of the Nanjing Massacre, an incident that took place in the late 1930s in which Japanese troops killed thousands of Chinese soldiers and civilians in the city of Nanjing during the Second Sino-Japanese War, an incident considered by many to be a war crime.

Sugiyama also held noted anti-LGBTQ beliefs, going on record several times to state that he didn’t believe children should learn about homosexuality and that LGBTQ individuals should not receive government support because they can’t bear children. He would later reverse some of his stances on LGBTQ topics on his website, admitting that LGBTQ communities have existed throughout history and supporting government aid for them.

Several major leads in the video game community expressed feelings at the loss of Sugiyama. Fellow prolific composer Yuzo Koshiro (Streets of Rage, ActRaiser) shared shock at the news of Sugiyama’s passing. Meanwhile, famed Dragon Quest and Dragon Ball illustrator Akira Toriyama expressed honor at having worked with Sugiyama, ending on the statement, “I pray for your soul from the bottom of my heart.”

The world will likely remember Koichi Sugiyama for his stellar contributions to music inside and outside of video games for decades to come. His final official contributions will be found in the upcoming Dragon Quest 12.

Senior News Editor

TJ Denzer is a player and writer with a passion for games that has dominated a lifetime. He found his way to the Shacknews roster in late 2019 and has worked his way to Senior News Editor since. Between news coverage, he also aides notably in livestream projects like the indie game-focused Indie-licious, the Shacknews Stimulus Games, and the Shacknews Dump. You can reach him at tj.denzer@shacknews.com and also find him on Twitter @JohnnyChugs.

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