Zelda, Mario, Toejam & Earl? What’s The Best Video Game Music Ever?

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Whether you like it or not, the vast majority of the world is made up of people who play video games in one way or another. Yet bafflingly, they’re still seen as a lesser cousin to the pop culture’s big three of music, movies and TV.

This surely has to stop?

Anyway, with a lovely orchestral score of the Zelda theme doing the rounds at the moment, we thought we’d have a look at the best music that has featured on video games. There’s a dazzling amount to choose from… so which have we gone for? Over the jump to listen and disagree.

Thanks to the small matter of the fact that there are around 230gazillion games in existence, we couldn’t even get close to remembering all of our favourite themes and pieces of incidental music.

And so, here’s a snapshot of what we can recall, the things suggested to us on twitter and blah blah.

We’ve tried to avoid games that had soundtracks licensed from proper bands, such as the FIFA franchise and the Grand Theft Auto games… but some may have sneaked in, but we’ll explain why later.

And so, here’s our list of the greatest pieces of music committed to video games. Feel free to submit your own in the comments or, if you prefer, throw all your ire at us because we didn’t include your favourite piece of music from Fantasy World Dizzy or Pitfighter.

>insert coin<

ZELDA

Zelda’s theme(s) are insanely iconic for gamers out there and here’s a rather lovely orchestrated version of it to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the game. If you prefer the original, then click here.

TOEJAM & EARL

While Toejam & Earl may be one of the oddest games to hit paydirt, it certainly had one of the funkiest soundtracks EVER. There was something of George Clinton about the skittery swing-funk that soundtracked the game. Here’s just one of many ace pieces of music you’d find.

SONIC THE HEDGEHOG

We’ve included the irritatingly catch Spring Yard Zone from the first Sonic game here, but to be honest, we could’ve included more than a dozen pieces of music from the franchise. Instead of doing that, we’ll direct you to the fine notion that Michael Jackson wrote the music for Sonic 3. More on that here.

OUT RUN

Surely everyone on Earth loves the arcade music from Out Run?

RED DEAD REDEMPTION

Despite being one of the most overrated games in history, there’s no denying that the moment you make it to Mexico, and Jose Gonzalez’s ‘So Far Away’ hits you, it’s a rather special moment in the annals of gaming. Yep, it’s a proper artist licensed to a game, but we just couldn’t avoid including it.

MONKEY ISLAND

There is ALWAYS time for a little cod-reggae in video games. ALWAYS.

STREETS OF RAGE 2

Excellent synth rave accompanied one of the best beat ‘em ups ever programmed. We liked being Eddie ‘Skate’ Hunter best. Yuzo Koshiro programmed the music to this, and we ought to thank him by beating up punks with yellow jackets on by lobbing barrels at their heads.

PORTAL

Jonathan Coulton’s ‘Still Alive’ is one of the finest, oddest pieces of video game music ever, largely because it is performed by the malicious A.I. which messses with your head throughout the playing of Portal. After escaping from the labs, an ASCII-based credits screen runs as the computer croons the lyrics at you. Unsettling, catchier than mumps and downright hilarious.

FINAL FANTASY

You can’t really have a gaming soundtrack without including Final Fantasy legend Nobutsuo Uematsu. Here’s a tear jerker for you.

SUPER MARIO

C’mon. This was always going to make an appearance.

TETRIS

Is Tetris (theme A) the catchiest piece of gaming music ever?

ROAD RASH

Road Rash had insanely irritating music if you got to the latter stages of the game, just by virtue of the fact that the tracks were so fiendishly long. However, before they grated your ears off, they were really brilliant. Abrasive shitkicking 8bit rock never sounded so fine.

BLOOD MONEY

A new one on hecklerspray and offered by Mark Webster, unbelievably, this piece of music is from 1989. Just imagine jaws hitting the floor as that rolled out back then.

KATAMARI DAMACY

Katamari Damacy is one of the strangest games to ever see release. Remember it? It’s that one where you roll a sticky ball around various 3D environments, collecting everything it rolls over, increasing in size as it does. The soundtrack was pretty great too, with J Pop, samba and… well… this absolute corker.

WIZBALL

Wizball almost has a prog quality to it… you can almost imagine a thunderous rock track following it.

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Comments

  1. Gordon says

    The music from Bubba N’ Stix by Nathan McCree, particularly the CD quality versions on the Amiga CD32, is immense. At times funky and pacey, at others chilled yet intricate it matches the game perfectly. I’ve definitely spent longer listening to these tracks than I ever did playing the game.

    Olof Gustafsson’s music for Pinball Dreams & Pinball Fantasies (never got into Pinball Illusions), particularly the title music, Stones & Bones and Nightmare tables still blows me away, drawing as it did from the demo and tracker scene.

    I’ve also got a soft spot for the jazz, ragtime & boogie-woogie soundtrack of Transport Tycoon. Too many hours wasted listening to that!

    God I’m old…

  2. Sarah says

    BUBBLE BOBBLE!!!
    Simultaneously the most irritating and amazing computer game music ever, especially on the C64

  3. JoeMomma says

    Mof, underneath that Lefty-Beatnik-Hipster-Cyberpunk-Sarcastic-WarmFuzzy-Vegan-Anti-Establishment-Alcoholic-Porn-Filled exterior you’re a big geek. Don’t think we haven’t noticed the Warhammer references once in a while, now this?

    Hmmm…..

  4. Arthur ASCii says

    Congratulations on including Blood Money, but it really shouldn’t be the only Bitmap Brothers game on the list. They were famous for pioneering the licensing of artists, back before you could just slap a track onto a CD – Xenon 2 was actually written in collaboration with Bomb the Bass:, who soundtracked the entire game http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2w-tiRnac2k

    …and although Magic Pockets was otherwise devoid of music, the intro was all about a little ditty you might recognise, masterfully recreated on the Amiga’s 4 channels: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hVDfnU6D52g

    But mostly, it’s all about Chaos Engine, which had a full, original score of absolutely blinding techno, and didn’t have a single wrong note in the whole game:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3enImd8QVQ4
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vjlISegZ9NQ

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