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To the music folder!

posted on August 28th, 2008 by jay
Now Playing: Etrian Odyssey II

I am a big fan of game music, specifically old chip tunes. Anyone who only hears bleeps and bloops is willfully ignoring melody, harmony and rhythm and stupidly focusing only on timbre. Games with “real” soundtracks don’t excite me the same way old game tunes do. I already have access to real music.

More importantly, I have this theory that old game music is very close to metal (the music, not material that readily loses electrons in order to form positive ions). Game music was predominately a force compelling you onward and thus was often fast, driving and even possibly relentless. And like my favorite metal, my favorite game tunes are often display virtuosity (check out Medusa’s Phantasy Star track).

As games became more complicated and technology improved, we were offered scores with wider variety and this led to less metal influence as well as a loss off something intangible. I may be the only one to think so, but there is no way in hell the overproduced Symphony of the Night soundtrack stands up to 8 bit Castlevania tunes. perhaps the je ne sais quoi is not so mysterious – just as access to ever expanding technology can cloud a game designers head, there is often a lack of focus when the sky is the limit. Working with 64 virtual tracks that can be mixed down indefinitely doesn’t force a composer to focus as tightly as when working with three channels and a noise generator. Plus bleeps and bloops just sound cool.

To celebrate some of my favorites I decided to share the small library I have posted. There are a lot of SMS and Genesis tracks (with a few C64) because that’s what I grew up with. If you haven’t heard the SMS versions of the Ys tracks, please check them out. To my nostalgic ears they beat the originals.

If there’s a positive response maybe I’ll post more – I realize anyone can download all of these and a million more for free at Zophar or what have you. The idea is we can trade hand selected songs here, so please tell me about some awesome game music I’ve never heard.



  1. DeeMer said on August 29, 2008:

    Have you ever heard the Lone Ranger soundtrack for the NES? It’s by Konami and very good.

  2. DeeMer said on August 29, 2008:

    I’m probably going to be popping in here quite often, remembering good, chippy music.

    Crystalis, Dr. Mario, DuckTales (Moon especially), Faxanadu, Legacy of the Wizard (both from Falcom), Gremlins II, The Guardian Legend, Kirby’s Adventure, a good number of tracks from the Wizards & Warriors series, Lifeforce and Gradius series, some of the later-game Little Nemo songs, the NES Metal Gear and Snake’s Revenge, Solstice (the intro is very nice), Super Dodge ball, Metroid and Mega Man 2 are classics, The Immortal NES version has rocking battle music, and I’m quite partial to ZANAC.

  3. jay said on August 29, 2008:

    Thanks! I know some of those – I don’t think they let you play video games if you don’t know Mega Man 2 music :p

    I will check out the rest and let you know what I think. Did you have a chance to go through what I posted? If so, was anything new to you and did it suck?

  4. Christian said on August 29, 2008:

    I think the comparison to metal, in terms of the end goal, is great. But I squirm when you say there was a definite metal influence. I know there are some rock fans now in the game development world, but that statement assumes that anonymous japanese devs of the 80’s were listening to early metal to get their ideas. The Mega Man 2 soundtrack alone would disagree, what with its handful of very poppy tunes.

    Super Mario Bros. sounds best as jazz.

  5. jay said on August 29, 2008:

    I mostly agree that the two share a lot but are not direct influences on each other. The best track in MM2 is pure metal, though, with galloping triplets that could’ve come straight from Maiden.

    Perhaps it is mostly the forcefulness and urgency of much of the old game tunes that makes it almost impossible to hear it as pop. We may find common ground if we call the music “hard rock” influenced.

  6. Christian said on August 29, 2008:

    I def. think so, and it would make sense. I also wonder if game music had a huge influence on future electronica.

    See Idioteque on the album Kid A as a electro-esque song with a hard drive forward.

  7. DeeMer said on August 29, 2008:

    I’m going through your list now. I’ve never heard Golvellius before, and I was surprised how much it sounds like The Guardian Legend. Turns out they’re both from COMPILE. Probably Miyamoto Shant, if I recall correctly.

  8. jay said on August 29, 2008:

    You are correct. Moby games also has him as Masatomo Miyamoto.

    If you recall I tried to get you to play Golvellius almost two years ago.

    *Engage console wars 1987*
    It has a better soundtrack than the Guardian Legend, but partly because the SMS has a better sound chip.

  9. chris said on September 1, 2008:

    DeeMer: you summed up most of my NES MP3 collection. I don’t have all that, but most of it. The Guardian Legend and Legacy of the Wizard are definitely my favorites of the group.

    I’ve got to see if Jay’s willing to host it here – otherwise I’ve got some webspace I can toss it up on.

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