And weíre back, this time with my top 10 NES original soundtracks! Yeah yeah I know, Iím doing things out of order here, sue me. Awhile back I posted my Top 10 SNES Original Soundtracks (OSTs), because the SNES is the best thing ever and its music was doubly so, but I felt like the good olí classic 8-bit Nintendo Entertainment System deserved its day to shine as well. So here we are.
Iím not going to go into another long spiel about my connection to and appreciation of video game music as a whole, you can read about that in my top 10 SNES original soundtracks list. The quick version is that I have been a musician since my youth, Iím working on my own video game soundtrack, and I love video game music, a lot.
This is where it all began.
I also love the NES, which was really the first time that I began to see the true potential in video games. Sure, I had played many video games before it, from arcade games to Atari games to TI computer games and more, but the NES came along and changed everything, due in no small part to a little plumber named Mario. I may view the Super Nintendo as my favorite system of all-time, but the NES still has a special place in my heart.
Anyway, you didnít come here for this, you came here for music. So letís get to the list!
Like last time, I have a self-imposed rule for this list; I will only choose one soundtrack per franchise. Otherwise a few key franchises (Mega Man) might overrun the entire list, and that would not be fun, would it? Iím also choosing one song to post with each soundtrack, but this is not a best songs list, it is a best soundtracks list. The chosen song is meant only to give a taste of what the soundtrack has to offer.
Iím going to be totally honest here, Iíve never actually played Blaster Master. Well, I might have tried it out once way back in the NES days, but I honestly donít remember playing it, so Iíll just stick with ďI havenít played it.Ē One thing that I do know, however, is the music, because Blaster Masterís soundtrack has transcended the game and become the kind of thing that you stumble upon everywhere (at least, when youíre into classic gaming), in videos, podcasts, etc. In researching this top 10 list I was a bit surprised not just at how many of the songs from the Blaster Master soundtrack that I recognized, but at how excellent they all are. A quality soundtrack through and through.
Even if you are like me and have never played the game, Iíll bet that you have heard the song that I chose. This is one of those classic NES tracks that makes a lot of ďbest ofĒ lists, and for good reason.
Ah, Punch-Out!!, my favorite boxing game about an underdog going up against a bunch of ethnic stereotypes! Sure the characterizations of your opponents were a bit overdone (even more so in the arcade game, Vodka Drunkenski anyone?), but that was half of the fun, and the other half was pretty tight boxing gameplay that just felt right. To be honest, I probably would have put this soundtrack a lot higher up in my list, but it only has a handful of songs. Yet what awesome songs indeed!
This song will probably be pretty familiar to you, doubly so if you ever hung out on YTMND.Com. Itís more cutscene music than gameplay music, but that still counts, right?
Up up down down left right left right b a startÖ BAM! Or in my case, throw a select in there, because I generally played this game the way it was meant to be played; with a partner! Contra was one of the darker, more ďbadassĒ games in the NES library, charging Bill and (in 2 player mode) Lance with stopping the Red Falcon Organization by basically running around shooting everything in sight, and the soundtrack reflected that perfectly.
I had to go with the most banging track in the game. There is a reason that there are so many rock covers of this song, and that is because it is basically guitar lead heaven.
Life Force was a bit of an odd game, essentially a Gradius game that was not a Gradius game, but focused on living, organic enemies and worlds instead. And just like Konamiís Contra mentioned above, it had co-op, which was really the main reason to play through the game. Donít get me wrong, the game itself was pretty sweet either way, but it never hurts to have a friend along for the ride!
It also has a soundtrack where pretty much every song is memorable. It was very tough to choose only one, but that is how it goes, so take a listen and let me know if I made the right choice.
The Legend of Zelda
Oh man, I remember the first time that I played The Legend of Zelda. Having no idea where I was ďsupposedĒ to go. Realizing that this was half of the point of the gameÖ explore! Find things out on your own! And this was before the era of hand-holding helpers in Zelda games too. Sure, there were a few obtuse puzzles that most of us had to find the solution to through Nintendo Power or friends (this was before the Internet, kids), but that was fine by us.
Again, this game would be higher up on my list, but there really arenít that many songs in the soundtrack, so it is tough to justify putting it much higher. On the other hand, with an overworld theme like this, what more do you really need?
While Super Metroid found itself at the #2 spot in my top 10 SNES original soundtracks list, the NES Metroid will have to suffice with a #5 spot. It had some moments of ingenuity, and does a good job of capturing the mood of dreary underground exploration for an NES game, but Metroid had yet to reach the lofty heights of musical excellence. Still, itís pretty darn good nonetheless!
There were a few different options for this track, but I decided to go with the one that retains a sense of optimism and energy, appearing early on in the game before you really get into the dark depths of Zebes.
Hate me if you must, but I have to admit, I have never been the biggest fan of the traditional Kirby platforming games. I love a lot of his other stuff, from alternative platformers like Canvas Curse and Epic Yarn to non-platformers like Avalanche and Dream Course, but most of his traditional platformers have been merely ďokĒ to me. The NES game, however, is definitely one of my favorites. And the music in his games is always phenomenal, with his first NES outing having what may just be the best Kirby soundtrack of all-time.
Again, there were way too many songs to choose from, so I went with what is perhaps one of the most well-known. Even my not-a-hardcore-gamer (but Kirby fan) girlfriend, upon hearing a few intro bars, yelled out ďThatís Kirby!!!Ē (She also told me that Iím not allowed to make it less than number one on my listÖ oops...)
Wizards & Warriors
It wasnít until just a few years back that I found out that the composer of the infamous soundtracks for the Donkey Kong Country series, David Wise, was also the man behind the music of Wizards & Warriors, and everything in the universe suddenly made sense. Wizards & Warriors was a pretty neat action / adventure game, and even at the time (before I got heavily into video game music), I knew that the soundtrack was something special.
Although the actual in-game music is all pretty incredible, I think the title screen song sets the tone for the rest of the soundtrack, and must be heard.
Super Mario Bros. 3
Super Mario Bros. 3 is without a doubt hands-down one of my favorite games of all-time, and it should be one of yours as well, especially all of you weird people who just voted it off in the recent Nintendo All-Time Classics Survivor poll on the forum. Itís pretty much a stunning game on every single level, and the (generally) upbeat and varied soundtrack stands out as one of the premiere musical accomplishments of the 8-bit era.
Oh gosh, there are just way too many to choose from here. Youíll just have to take a listen and see if I made a good choice.
Mega Man 2
I believe that my choice of Mega Man X as the best SNES soundtrack was a bit controversial, but I do not foresee the same opposition here. It is essentially universally agreed upon that the NES Mega Man games had some of the best soundtracks of the era, and both 2 and 3 are singled out as the cream of the crop. However, due to my self-imposed limitations, I could only chose one from the series, and I had to go with 2. Awesome game, awesome music, awesome everything.
Mega Man 2 has a soundtrack with a ton of memorable music, but only one song could possibly be chosen to represent the game for the purpose of this list. You know the song that I speak of. How could I choose another?
@GameDadGrant That reminds me, I should probably note that Lemmings would probably have made this list except that I already put it on my SNES list and I don't want to double dip. Plus I never actually played the NES Lemmings. Although that didn't stop me from choosing Blaster Master.
Before making this list I assumed Castlevania would be on it in some form, and I actually went and listened to all 3 NES Castlevania soundtracks start to finish (I have a lot of time at work...) and I dunno, each one had like one or two great songs and a lot of stuff that didn't stand out much to me. I think 16-bit era and on is when Castlevania music started to get really, really good.
But to actually answer the question, no, I've never heard the Journey To Silius soundtrack. Listening to it now though. Sounds pretty sweet.
@TriforceBun I've played it! I don't remember too much though other than I think you had a dog companion or something?
Yep! There was also a shop in each level run by a girl named Kim, who'd sell you stuff and periodically give you the latest news on what was happening in the kingdom. It's a pretty short game but it's a fun adventure and it gets pretty tough near the end. I think the guys that did it went on to create Ogre Battle, but I'd love to see a sidescrolling sequel someday.
I think this is a pretty good soundtrack list. I'd personally put Contra at the top, but I'm still happy to see Mega Man 2 receive the honor I'm also happy Blaster Master is on here, despite you not having played it It's one of my recent favorite NES games I've played.
@canonj Yeah, the AVGN used it in either the Sega CD or Sega 32X episode, if I recall correctly. I also recognized the Punch-Out theme, despite never having played the game before. I think I heard it in one of the remixes in Super Smash Bros. Brawl's soundtrack.
Green Greens is a good tune, but I don't really care for the screechy Kirby's Adventure version. It may be the worst song in the soundtrack, honestly (and it's still pretty good). Personally I would have gone with Vegetable Valley 1 as the game's representative.
What's the deal with the Mega Man 2 composer, anyway? He works on a few game soundtracks, including one of the most memorable ever, and then just stops? It's the same with Hip Tanaka. Why the hell did these men stop making game soundtracks?
Wizards and Warriors has to be my #1. I remember having its songs stuck in my head for days. Oh GAWD, I still remember the little diddy it would play on a loop when your life was low!!! I still haven't recovered...