Both of these fascinations started when I was a kid. At home we played Super Mario Bros, Mega Man, Donkey Kong and Street Fighter games a LOT.
Before there were magical nanomachines and photosynthetic plant men, there were deadly poisonous Zanzibar hamsters. “Metal Gear Solid” may have popularized Hideo Kojima’s off-the-wall stealth series, but it all began in 1987 with the original “Metal Gear” on the MSX2, later tweaked and ported to the Nintendo Entertainment System in the following year. Both games had their own unique soundtracks, and while the music of the MSX2 version was popular enough to make appearances in later entries in the franchise, the music of the NES version has largely been forgotten. This is most unfortunate, as its soundtrack is one of its few consistent strengths.
While “Metal Gear’s” soundtrack is dramatically shorter than that of its contemporaries, it starts off strong with “Aerial Insertion” — perfect music to parachute to! “Jungle Infiltration” immediately follows, its echoing percussion and minor key melody calling to mind a stealthy shuffle through enemy-laden flora.
“Base Infiltration” is a more energetic and mysterious take on its predecessor, and no player has ever gone without hearing the largely similar “Intruder Detected” themes. They don’t quite have the same panic-stricken energy of later games’ “Encounter,” but the frantic beat and 8-bit alarms certainly heighten the tension.
More than a decade after its last numbered predecessor, “Mega Man 9” was ushered into the gaming world on a sea of applause and fanboyish glee — and maybe more than a little fanboyish drool. Released for multiple platforms in 2008, MM9 was a loving callback to the 8-bit platformers adored by many a nerd back in the far-off time of the 1980s. The same could certainly be said for its soundtrack, which manages to create an unusual, but no less unique blend of bleeps and bloops old and new that were tailor-made for nostalgia.
The game opens, appropriately enough, with the track “Opening 1,” a soft, almost sweet melody that serves as a peaceful callback to the Mega Man of yesteryear. This immediately (and seamlessly) moves into “Opening 2,” an oddly reflective piece with a funky beat.
Of course, it’s not Mega Man without some memorable robot master themes. Of particular note is “Splash Blue,” a hypnotic accompaniment to the equally hypnotic Splash Woman. The heavy reverb, reminiscent of a surging tide, immediately calls to mind the beauty of the ocean blue. Galaxy Man’s theme, “Galaxy Fantasy,” is among the fastest-paced tracks in the game and always a blast to listen to.
But if I had to pick a favorite, it would be “We are the Robots”, which is the title for the Dr. Wily Stage 2 theme in this game. It has the absolute feeling of a doomy heavy metal track, performed with 8-bit machines. I tried to capture it’s vibe and make the most out of this beautiful composition over here.
“Mega Man 9’s” soundtrack manages to package the nostalgic charm of the NES classics with the hyper-polished presentation of modern triple-A platformers, maintaining its own identity even with sounds lovingly appropriated from another time in gaming history.
“Castlevania” quickly made a name for itself after its 1986 release for the Nintendo Entertainment System, spawning a decades-running series of action-platformers that helped perfect and popularize a hereto unheard of genre. Vampire hunting was certainly nothing new at the time, but “Castlevania” made it original again with the whip-wielding Simon Belmont as he braved Dracula’s castle to put an end to the infernal count’s life.
The music of “Castlevania” was composed by both Kinuyo Yamashita and Satoe Terashima, two veteran musicians who made a name for female video game composers in a time and place when such were rare, though the two worked independently of each other and never fully collaborated on their tracks.
Overall, Castlevania’s soundtrack is surprisingly funky and upbeat for an action game that pits you against the horrors of the undead. From beginning to end, the melodies and percussion will leave you humming even as the unforgiving onslaught of unholy aberrations will make you want to throw your controller in frustration.
Vampire Killer — the theme of the first stage — beautifully illustrates the excitement of the treacherous journey ahead. Another noteworthy track — stage sixteen’s “Out of Time” — managed to cram a lifetime’s worth of thrills into a thirty-second loop. And “Wicked Child” came to be one of the series all-time greatest hits. I hope I’ve honored the Konami Classics on this album. Please listen for yourself and I’d be happy to hear what you think!
The “Pokemon” series has bridged the generational gap since its introduction in the late ’90s, sporting some of the most subtly addictive gameplay this side of modern mobile titans and soundtracks that has resonated with adults and children alike. For the time, few games could contain such a raw sense of exploration or adventure, and we had the soundtracks to thank for building up such a strong atmosphere.
“Pokemon Gold” and “Pokemon Silver,” originally released in Japan for the Nintendo GameBoy in 1999, perfected the template laid out by their predecessors “Red,” “Yellow,” and “Blue.” More Pokémon, more areas to explore, new items to use or discover, and some new gameplay mechanics to smooth out the rough edges of the earlier titles — they had everything a good sequel should, including a phenomenal soundtrack collaboratively composed by Junichi Masuda and Go Ichinose.
Notable tracks include the New Bark Town theme, a soft, peaceful melody only hinting at the grand adventure to come; the Azalea Town theme with it’s soothing atmosphere; and the Goldenrod City theme, a uniquely “urban” track that meshed well with the town’s casino and hidden Team Rocket hideout.
Of course, one cannot mention an early “Pokémon” soundtrack without paying tribute to the Route 27 theme, a booming and triumphant track (by Gameboy standards) that firmly reminds the player they are indeed exploring the famed Kanto region. And with almost two hours of music packed onto one bulky brick cart.
I’ve tried to include the best songs from the game into one tribute album. I hope it will help you to re-live the raw spirit of adventure from Pokémon in the early Game Boy days!
After the record-breaking success of the 1998 Nintendo 64 classic The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, the series was never quite the same. While the introduction of three dimensional graphics breathed new life into an already wildly successful series, a combination of an unpleasable fanbase and intense pressure for sequels to live up to Ocarina of Time led the series in an odd direction. None of the later games were by any means bad — you’ll quickly find that entries such as The Wind Waker and Majora’s Mask each have their own staunch defenders — Nintendo was at a loss when it came to finding a sequel that would please everyone.
The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess hit shelves in late 2006 for both the Wii and the Nintendo Gamecube, and the response was immediately positive. For the first time since Ocarina’s release, fans around the globe were universally pleased with a Zelda game. And this is partially due to its excellent soundtrack.
Composed in a collaborative effort by Toru Minegishi, Asuka Ohta, and series regular Koji Kondo, the Twilight Princess soundtrack features a more complex, mature tone to match its darker themes and subject matter. For the first time, the music here actually rivals that of Ocarina of Time.
Highlights include Ilia’s theme, a soft, mildly bittersweet tune to reflect the personality of Link’s dear childhood friend, and Midna’s Lament, a moody and melancholic piano piece that relays the intensity of Midna’s pain as she struggles to cling to life. The battle themes are also some of the best (and most unique) in the series. Each subsequent theme builds on the last, growing steadily more erratic and nightmarish as Zant slowly succumbs to madness.
The Zelda series may have had its ups and downs, but the music has always been the cream of the crop in terms of quality. It is no different with the multilayered Twilight Princess soundtrack.
Decades before Ellie was fighting off waves of the undead in The Last of Us and Heather Mason was carving her way through her own personal Hell in Silent Hill 3, Samus Aran proved that female playable characters could be just as competent and cool as their male counterparts in the NES classic Metroid. When she wasn’t blasting fist-sized holes through her alien foes or leaping over obstacles without the slightest struggle, everyone’s favorite galactic bounty hunter was taking on the monstrous Mother Brain and revolting Ridley as their unmatched equal.
Metroid introduced several innovations to NES era of gaming, namely the concept of permanent in-game upgrades. Its unique soundtrack, composed by the legendary Hirokazu Tanaka, also left a notable impact on the gaming world. For the first time in the history of gaming, we were presented with a soundtrack that recognized the importance of silence when building tension and atmosphere.
Rather paradoxically, the Metroid soundtrack reached its level of notoriety not because it would leave you whistling the same songs for days, as was the case with then-popular games such as Super Mario Bros. or The Legend of Zelda, but because it was mostly comprised of bouts of expertly placed quiet. That’s not to say it didn’t have its share of catchy and memorable tunes, but nothing relayed the feeling of entering a dark and hostile alien world quite like Tanaka’s sparse soundtrack, and that is certainly worth commemorating.
Of course, we can’t just point at a lack of sound and call it a soundtrack. Tanaka also composed several memorable pieces for Metroid that have since been remixed and reorchestrated by countless people across the globe. Say what you will about his use of silence, but when you hear these tunes, you hear Metroid.
The title theme is an undeniable classic. Punctuated by a series of sharp electronic chimes, the theme evokes feelings of the cold darkness of space. The Game Start theme, though only a few seconds long, has been burned into the memory of every gamer who lived in the 1980s. “Secret Area,” a mysterious piece similar to the title theme, paints a picture of the unexplored reaches of space. And who can forget Brinstar’s theme, a wailing and energetic tune that comes as close to a screaming electric guitar solo as you can get with NES technology?
Let’s face it: Metroid rocked. And this is thanks, in part, to Tanaka’s wonderful work. His ear for silence lent towards a beautifully crafted, oppressive atmosphere, and his ear for energetic music left listeners with a series of songs that made them want to go the edges of the universe, no matter what was hiding in the shadows.
Duck Tales for the NES is one of those legendary gaming sacred cows. No one says anything negative about it, and no one gets hurt — that seems to be the general consensus, at least. For the most part, its reputation is well-deserved. Ducktales had charming visuals, a genuine respect for its source material, and some of the most responsive controls on the system. It was even popular enough to receive an official remake over 20 years after its original release.
Its soundtrack, of course, is another timeless classic. Right from the start, we were treated to one of the catchiest main themes in video game history on the title screen — imported directly from the original cartoon, mind you — that will leave anyone who hears it humming for hours.
Other notable Ducktales (Woo-hoo!) tracks include The Moon, an energetic, slightly shrill theme that nonetheless became one of the most beloved and recognizable tracks from that era of gaming, and The Himalayas, a slower, but slightly more intense track that places more emphasis on percussion and immediately brings to mind the sound of heavy snow crunching underfoot.
DuckTales is proof that even a game about cartoon ducklings can be enjoyed by any age group, and this is thanks in part to its influential and iconic soundtrack.
Nowadays, it’s a bit hard to believe that Sonic the Hedgehog was once a successful and beloved franchise. Between all the terrible spin-offs and flat, unnecessary side characters that have been introduced to the series in the past few years, the appeal of the early Sonic games can easily be lost in the haze.
However, Sonic the Hedgehog 2 is a shining example of everything fans love (or loved) about the franchise. Widely considered to be the greatest Sonic game ever made, Sonic the Hedgehog 2 had everything you could expect from a great sequel. Improved graphics, bigger levels, a revolutionary new save system — you name it, this game probably had it.
The soundtrack, of course, is as good as ever. The Sonic franchise has always been known for its upbeat and incredibly catchy tunes composed by industry legend Masato Nakamura, and Sonic the Hedgehog 2 does not fail to deliver in that department. Compared to the original Sonic the Hedgehog, 2 gives a lot more attention to energetic guitar riffs and fast-paced percussion, but this change was not a poor decision, as it is a perfect match for the slightly more action-heavy sequel.
It’s difficult to choose which tracks were the best, but my vote goes to the Metropolis track. In a soundtrack full of pulse-pounding chiptunes, that one got my heart beating the fastest. Another favorite track is the final boss theme, which features a blaring snare drum and a rather charmingly dated synthesized orchestra.
The glory days of everyone’s favorite blue hedgehog may be over, but that doesn’t mean we can’t celebrate what we already have. Sonic the Hedgehog 2 was an instant classic. It had great action, timeless gameplay, and a wonderful soundtrack. If you’re a fan of 8-bit music and you have yet to give a listen to this little gem, take your chance now! 🙂
What could be said about it that hasn’t already been said a thousand times before? Every character, every plot point, every pixel of the game that almost single-handedly popularized the JRPG genre in the West has been scoured over by fans and detractors alike since the game’s original release almost 20 years ago.
If you’ve played a game in the past 15, 10, or even five years, you probably know everything there is to know about Final Fantasy VII. Square Enix has been doing everything in its power to make sure we never forget what is widely regarded as their magnum opus for the past several years. With this in mind, you may be wondering why I would even bother talking about the Final Fantasy 7 music in the first place. What’s the point of talking about a game that everyone and their mother has already covered? Simply put, refusing to cover what may very well be the most beloved RPG of all time would be like compiling a list of history’s greatest artists and purposefully leaving out Leonardo da Vinci.
Though not everyone believes that Final Fantasy VII is one of the greatest games of all time, I believe we can all agree that it had a fantastic soundtrack. Series composer and all-around swell guy Nobuo Uematsu really outdid himself with the Final Fantasy VII soundtrack. From the booming electronica of the Shinra Headquarters to the sweeping overworld theme, every track is gold. And we all teared up just a little when we heard Aerith’s sad, soothing theme, right?
We shivered with equal parts uneasiness and excitement when we heard the strange, alien battle theme of the equally alien JENOVA, and who hasn’t bobbed their head to the incredibly infectious main battle theme at least once? One Winged Angel, the main theme of one of the most iconic villains of all time, still holds up amazingly well today with its booming orchestra and sinister Latin lyrics, the latter of which whose mere presence in the game was quite the technological feat at the time.
Love it or hate it, Final Fantasy VII had an undeniable impact on the gaming market in the late 90s. If not for Final Fantasy VII, JRPGs may never have caught on in the West. This is due in part to its timeless soundtrack. I tried to give this iconical video game soundtrack a special treatment. To give it a more “pop/rock band” kind of feel. A friend of mine referred to it as “Nobuo Uematsu meets Coldplay” and I think I can agree to that. I tried to preserve the epicness of the FF7 OST and give it a personal twist. I also added in some 8-bit chiptune elements as well. I can’t help it, it’s my signature touch on everything I do I guess 🙂 Please give it a listen and let me know what you think! The full album is on Spotify, iTunes, Google Music, Amazon MP3, Deezer and a lot of other digital music services.
The early Mega Man games were fun and slightly goofy adventures built around themed stages and strategic boss fights. Mega Man X, however, reinvented the formula for the 16-bit generation with bigger levels, better graphics, and a more serious storyline and cast. Though more “mature” reimaginings of beloved family-friendly classics more often than not end in disaster, Mega Man X was an example of this trope done right. The game struck a chord with the fanbase, and remains a fan-favorite despite its contrasting nature with its NES-based brothers.
Mega Man X still has the insanely catchy and energetic music of the earlier games, but here, the fast-paced beats and reverberating bass line feel far more appropriate. Right from the get-go, players are treated to the track “Awake Road”, which features a nice futuristic beat to establish the setting. “Stage Start” should be familiar to any classic Mega Man fan, as those who listen closely will discover that is is actually a remix of the boss introduction theme from earlier games. Another notable track is “Spark Mandrill“, which perfectly suits the high-speed action found in the stage’s brightly lit corridors with it adrenaline-pumping baseline and classic chiptune percussion.
Mega Man X showed us that it was perfectly okay to be serious once in a while. It still has that timeless Mega Man charm, and the soundtrack, as always, delivers spectacularly.