I present to you the top 20 video game music tracks to inspire me in my childhood. Just so everyone knows I only chose to include NES, SNES and Sega Genesis music. Anything after that would require too much research. Perhaps another day I will do PS1/N64 on. But for now enjoy the countdown!
20. Pipe Dream – Track 1
Such a simplistic track, but so intoxicating. My number 20 song is one that takes people my age back to another time…a time where life was so much simpler. The repetitiveness of this track I always found soothing as I’d stare at the 17 inch screen in my room with my Dad. Sometimes nostalgia plays a role in my list, and although no one would make a case that this is the greatest music ever composed…there is something fascinating about it. The mystery is intriguing.
19. Spy Hunter – Main Theme
One of the most legendary themes of Nintendo comes in at 19. Who didn’t try to beat the high score of this game at their bowling alley arcade back in the day? Your goal is to basically keep driving up this insanely straight road, and not die. Some may find this “boring” by today’s standards, but when you are standing there transfixed on this theme…nothing can break your focus. So rare does a video game song accompany a stage so well. This was well executed and a legend!
18. Super Mario Bros. – Underworld
Video game theme of the Underworld? Or cheesy porno music? You decide! However a generation of kids found this song so exciting screaming “Oh My God! I made it to the second level!” Now…today people may laugh, thinking that is no achievement at all. However when you are four years old, hearing this music meant you could regroup, catch your breath and look forward to the dark and scary “Underworld!” Everything was different down here, and for some reason...you enjoyed the danger. This theme made you on edge as you sneaked over the blue blocks and took down a few koopa troopers while you were down there.
17. X-men: Mutant Apocalypse – Gambit Theme
Honestly, could a theme for SNES be more accurately made for the Cajun? I think not. It has all the Louisiana influence you could ask for, and this was before most of us knew where Louisiana was. All I know is as you throw pink, charged cards in a warehouse at the baddies, you cannot help but feel some of that smug, Cajun charm building inside you the player. I swear as soon as this music comes on…you just feel unbeatable!
16. Super Mario World – Map 3: Vanilla Dome
No wait; THIS is the quintessential borderline Porno music that is featured in a Mario game. You are probably wondering why this is even on the list at all, considering it is just a World’s theme; you don’t even get to like fight as this music is playing. However I remember entering Vanilla Dome for the first time…and this music was playing and it was dark inside and I couldn’t help but sit there with my head slightly moving to the bass. Something about number 16 just seemed so…engaging. As if “Congratulations, kid. You just made it to Vanilla Dome. Prepare to hate it.”
15. A Link to the Past – Dark World
I have heard friends say “this theme defines their childhood.” I can’t disagree, as this epic theme meant you had entered the dreaded “Dark World.” Hopefully you don’t look like a rabbit! Number 15 is a combination of passion and greatness. When you hear such a magnificent song, you know the odds are stacked against you…but you don’t care! You must trek on and defeat evil and bring back the sanctity of Hyrule! As you wade through the Dark World, your only ally is this music to inspire you on your quest.
14. Tinstar – Out in the West: Main Theme
Yeee Ha! This obscure game actually has a pretty decent and underrated soundtrack. It was certainly ahead of its time! The premise is you are back in the old West, albeit a random world with mechanical cows. Basically you are ‘Tin Star’ and it’s your job to kill off all the bad guys. A fun game for those that love shooters, but it is the soundtrack that really takes off. Every stage, it just seems so appropriate. A fast paced song like this was the exact motivation you needed when sniping off a bunch of train thieves.
13. Sonic the Hedgehog – Marble Zone
Regrettably this is the only track I have listed for Sega Genesis. Now, before you start throwing full wine bottles at the screen, hear me out. I only owned a NES and SNES at my house. My Aunt had a Genesis that I was allowed to play, but not regularly. So my experience as a lad was little with a Sega. However, this theme has ALWAYS stood out and that is why it comes in at number 13. ‘Marble Zone’ was such a great stage. It had broken pillars, bright green grass and…lava. So random, but a fantastic world with this memorable tune to accompany it.
12. A Link to the Past – Church Sanctuary
I think “A Link to the Past” was one of the greatest games of all time. Period. And you cannot have a great game without an outstanding soundtrack. Boy, does this game deliver. The chilling sounds of the Church Sanctuary slither inside your brain and then you realize…this isn’t just running through the forest randomly looking for the Master Sword anymore! There was something so powerful about this song. It is one of the few themes where you are genuinely scared and almost feel like you are in the game. As if the future of Hyrule rests on YOUR shoulders. Will you succeed?!
11. Super Mario Bros. 3 – Map 1: Grassland
I think it’s the fact that all the trees seem to dance in sync with this theme that makes it a winner. Haha! Super Mario Bros. 3 was a very underrated soundtrack, as it seemed every world had appropriate music to accompany its look. ‘Grassland’ just seemed like such a happy place to be, and it was heavily influenced because of this awesome song. The nice part about Ninetendo was they often had these songs playing as you would go from one stage to the next. It was nice to know if you took a juice break, you could just listen to some awesome music and not worry about being “paused.”
10. Jurassic Park 2 – Raptor Attack
Maybe more than any SNES soundtrack, this was before it’s time. It starts out so cool and smooth, but by the middle it was you so pumped for major Dino killing! It is this delicate blend of action, but also fear. Will you be able to zap the raging Dinosaurs before they kill you? I also stand by that the character runs to the beat of this song. I also find some influences dating back to “The Last Crusade” for NES. This was a true breakthrough for all video game music everywhere. A great Co-Op to play as well.
9. Mega Man X – Intro Stage
No matter if you are a hardcore Megaman fanatic or just a fan of Super Nintendo in general, this game was absolute vintage. You are thrown into your first stage and this insane music is blaring as you run through a neo-city and blast everyone away. The soundtrack in total was decent for this game, but nothing compares to the intro stage of Mega Man X.
8. Super Mario Bros. 2 – Overworld
Has there been a sillier or happier song ever made? Seriously, I don’t care if people want to criticize the game, but how great was it to throw large turnips into the air while rocking out to this song. Super Mario 2 was a wild, and at times insane, world and so the music needed to be the same. This is one of the true defining songs of my childhood.
7. F-Zero – Mute City
Very few music tracks can stand the test of time, but this is surely one of them. The build up in the beginning is enough to get the adrenalin running as you prepare to race through Mute City at lightning speed. Honestly, one of the few racing genre music tracks that I would even consider putting on this short list. Like so many games for Super Nintendo, this music was so far ahead of its time. No matter how many times Nintendo decides to redo this music…it will always go back to the original. Classic.
6. The Legend of Zelda – Dungeon
One of, if not the scariest songs for the Nintendo Entertainment System. Who doesn’t remembering standing in front of that black, desolate entrance of a castle…knowing THIS music was about to blare, sealing your fate. It was this music that terrorized many as they played The Legend of Zelda. Looking back on it though, I appreciate Nintendo for making it so real. I mean, should a happy song be playing as you are battling undead skeletons? No. No song was more anticipated than this.
5. Sunset Riders – Stage 1
My favorite game of all time can only muster up to number five on my list. The truth is Sunset Riders probably has the greatest soundtrack of any game on Super Nintendo, but this list is compiling the single greatest songs ever, not soundtracks. Stage 1 certainly is a top 5 song on my list; Konami were geniuses when it came to songs and the intricate pleasures of this melody make it a deserving song. The music makes it an epic accompaniment to you controlling “Cormano” and wielding dual shot guns through the old west. Very appropriate.
4. The Legend of Zelda – Overworld
The definitive song of my childhood, as there is no Video Game series that has influenced my life more than The Legend of Zelda. If you have ever played the original, you know how long it takes to master. So you hear this song…quite a bit. Maybe you are brainwashed to like it, I don’t know…but the epicness of this theme is second to none. It will forever stand the test of time, and although there are prettier versions, nothing can quite equal the original. There is a reason Zelda has so many songs on this list.
3. Friday the 13th – Cabin Song
This hypnotic track of horror comes in at number 3 on my list. Quite possibly the greatest music created for a Nintendo Entertainment System game, this haunting sound keeps you on edge throughout this classic NES title as you enter “empty” cabins searching for kids to rescue…before Jason finds you first. A well done piece by Nintendo that occasionally changes pitch to keep the song fresh. The song is so high on my list because it accompanies and compliments the tension of the game so well; how many of us played this game as a kid and heard this song and wondered “Am I dead?”
2. TMNT: Turtles in Time – Sewer Surfin’
If you were a kid growing up in the early 90’s (like me), you HAD to have this game for your Super Nintendo. First of all, it is one of the greatest Co-Ops of all time, but also has one of the best soundtracks on a SNES game. My number 2 pick is so upbeat that the adrenalin just rushed to your head as you surf in the sewer whilst beating up footsoldiers and eating pizza. In this TMNT game, it’s so important to basically destroy anything that comes near you that you need that extra motivation to be quick, and this song absolutely intensifies the action. It’s just such a fun song you basically are laughing as you shred the footclan! Another Konami win!
1. Spider Man & Venom: Separation Anxiety – Introduction
The greatest video game theme ever created. When I was an emotionally challenged kid in the mid nineties, for whatever reason, this song defined who I was. In fact I had gotten a tape recorder and recorded this theme so I could play it in my ‘Walkman.’ I listed to that recording for probably 13 years before I finally found it on ‘Youtube.’ THAT was how dedicated I was and shows how much I absolutely worship this song. Hell, I even took the tape and Walkman with me on a school trip and listed to this song for probably an hour straight! This song defines mid 90’s game play, music and pop culture. There are moments, songs and attributes we pick up in our lives that make us who we are today. I can’t explain why this song touched my life so much…but it is on a small list of things that I consider to define me as a person.