i just use paint shop pro and my old favourite paintbrush. started using Adobe Photoshop at work tho and it is supposed to be the industry standard or so i am told- so i ges that must be the best (just like windows is the standard and that is the best ...?.. )
Sound FX: Goldwave
MIDI Music: Noteworthy Composer (I'm bad at it tho)
3D Graphics: Maxon Cinema4D XL 7.3
2d tiles and textures: Maxon Bodypaint plugin for Cinema.
2d spites: JASC Paint Shop Pro 7.2
Game Menus: JASC Paint Shop Pro 7.2, and sometimes Cinema for any 3d parts.
I also use Pyrocluster plugin for Cinema for dust, cloud and explosion effects. I ought some time to upload an explanation of how to make really nice menus with MMF and PSP too...
I do that sometimes. Mostly for building the game itself though, rather than media for it.
Level editors, Array editors (for altering levels and save files saved as arrays quickly), etc.
The few apps I have made for visual/media purposes are:
Treemaker (it helped me draw nice looking trees)
Bonimator (it helped me animate my characters by creating frame-by-frame bitmaps of moving stickmen, who I later fleshed out in my favourite graphics app).
It's not often I get into the nitty gritty, but when I need to i'll use...
- Photoshop 6, Paintshop Pro 7 and Animation shop for graphics
- 3D Studio Max and Solid Edge for 3D stuff
- Nero Wave Editor if wanna record a bit or play around with some sounds...not ideal, but it beats Windows sound recorder...