With the fantastic news that the classic Duck Tales game is being given a new lick of paint and released on all the major platforms this year, it put me in mind of the famous background music from The Moon level.
While games today are made to a higher production standard, with fully commissioned sound tracks and orchestral scores for background music, I can’t help but think that the simple jingles of the past, with their ‘Video Game Sound’ were more memorable and relevant to what we were playing.
That’s not to say a proper song can’t work as background music for a game, but they are rarely as defining as some of the old scores from the past and they just don’t have the same level of charm and character.
So in no particular order, here are my top 12 examples of quality Video Game Background Music.
I’ll be interested to see if you agree.
Duck Tales – The Moon
This is BGM I liked after the fact. I can’t say I remember it much from when I played the Game Boy version of Duck Tales back in the early 90s, but so many people have raved about this music being one of the best examples of Video Game Music ever made that I thought I’d give it a shot.
And they are right. It’s a jingle that has depth to it, and awakens memories of a simpler time for gaming.
It even inspired some boy to perform the theme (worryingly well I might add) for his own youtube video
Rick Dangerous Theme
Here’s one I do remember. A classic video game jingle if ever there was one.
But here’s the interesting thing, someone has made a professional sounding orchestral version of it. In terms of musical merit, it’s far better. In terms of being as catchy? Maybe not.
Much like the Rick Dangerous example, this isn’t technically Background Music, as it’s music from the title screen, but it’s still fantastic.
One to jog the memory of any British SNES player from back in the day, it certainly feels appropriate for a football game.
The followup World Cup Striker song is memorable, but not for the right reasons.
The Taito Games
Maybe it’s just me, but I think Taito were the kings of making memorable and effective background music for games.
Here are three examples of that – The New Zealand Story, Puzzle Bobble (Bust-a-Move) and Rainbow Islands.
I actually had the Rainbow Islands theme come onto my mp3 player on shuffle while in the car a few years ago, and the people with me immediately perked up and said “Oh my god, is that the Rainbow Islands theme? Fantastic”.
I’m not quite sure what that says about us, but it certainly shows how memorable the theme is.
New Zealand Story
Super Mario Land
Surely one of the most iconic pieces of Video Game music ever produced, the Super Mario Land theme from the Game Boy is bound to conjure up memories for many people.
If I recall correctly it even got a proper commercial release back in the day.
Banjo Kazooie – Rusty Bucket Bay
The entire Banjo Kazooie Soundtrack is top-notch, but best of the lot for me is the Rusty Bucket Bay level BGM. It’s all about character, and this has it in abundance.
Earthworm Jim – Moonlight Sonata
This is a bit of a cheat one since Moonlight Sonata is one of the most famous and beautiful pieces of Classical Music ever produced, but as a 10 year old boy playing Earthworm Jim I didn’t know that.
An inspired choice of Video Game BGM.
Little King’s Story – The Kingdom Theme
And speaking of beautiful pieces of classical music, the Soundtrack from Little King’s Story (Wii version) is unsurprisingly on my list.
It takes dozens of classical pieces and gives them a relaxing Video game twist.
Best of the lot is The Kingdom theme, a take on 3rd Movement of Beethoven’s 9th Symphony. It’s just spectacular; so much so that I’ve been known to use it while teaching Stretch/Yoga classes. And the people in the class love it too.
A Japanese tune from a Japanese game.
Some of the music from Katamari Damacy is just bizarre and irritating, but the Holiday theme is smashing. At least I think it is; I can imagine it won’t be to everyone’s taste.
Super Tank Run – Free Fall
Rounding off the list is a song that has no real relation to the game it appears in, and only appears because it was free stock music available to the maker. But it’s become somewhat of a legend round my neck of the woods.
Play Super Tank Run with your mates and you’ll understand
There are probably a fair few I’ve forgotten about, so let me know what you think about this list either by leaving a comment here or letting me know on twitter @sgmilne
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