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Sound Check 03 - Filling in the Blanks 1985 to 2009

Inspired by The Hotspot episode 376 where Vinny, Brad, and Alex were playing short clips of numerous video game songs for most of the episode. This is my third Giant Bomb list of making a mixtape of video game songs. For this list, I decided to fill in some other notable video game songs that I recall fondly in from games released from 1985 to 2009. The only stipulation I placed on myself for this list is to not repeat games that I already selected from my first two lists within the years noted, which means I couldn’t use a number of fighting games that would easily be included. I also refrained myself from selecting multiple games within a franchise. There were other games that I would have liked to list but cross off for certain reasons. Nonetheless, here is a curated set of my standout video game songs in rough chronological order of when each game was released in North America.

Link to Youtube playlist.

List items

  • Overworld

    The classic Mario tune. I recall this is the first video game I played when my parents acquired an NES with the Super Mario Brothers/Duck Hunt cartridge. Not much else to say.

    [Nintendo]

  • Stage 3

    My first exposure of the R-Type series was buying the Game Boy Color port and enjoyed it despite the game’s limitation being a port of an arcade game. I never played the original arcade version until R-Type Dimensions was released on the X-Box 360.

    R-Type has an excellent soundtrack to my ears and Stage 3’s song from the first R-Type stands out for how menacing it sounds as your small R-Type approaches the huge battleship from behind.

    [Arcade via X-Box 360]

  • Song A

    Another classic. To see it continually used and remixed in numerous Tetris games afterward easily shows the song’s test of time. Crazy to think an 8-bit variant of a Russian folk song would be one of the best video game songs of all time.

    [Game Boy]

  • Amazon

    I took a detour in selecting a song from this game and chose to spotlight the Amazon stage song instead of the often mentioned (and deserved) Moon stage theme. The main reason I chose Amazon is that it’s the first stage of the game and is still a bop in my book.

    [Nintendo]

  • Athletic

    I’m constantly fascinated on how this song can easily speed up the adrenaline when they are played in certain stages in Super Mario World. It’s all just piano! My favorite stage with this song is a World 4 stage on the bridge where it’s an auto scroller and you have to navigate the stage by jumping on small platforms that see-saw. It’s a perfect example on how all things work together.

    It’s also neat to hear Cuphead use a bit of this song’s melody in one of their stages.

    [Super Nintendo]

  • Flyswatter

    Outside of the robot-esque save theme that Nintendo neatly used in the Super Mario Maker games, this was the only song I remember from this game. This song goes with its deep groovy bass and synth horns at a fast pace as you’re swatting various flying insects in the game.

    [Super Nintendo]

  • Stage 7

    A great thunderous momentum song with the heavy percussion and wavy synths set on an old western speeding train setting. I love the “Hey” thrown into the song. It keeps the adrenaline going as you progress through this classic beat ‘em up.

    [Super Nintendo]

  • Stage 2

    Who knew this funky song would mesh in well in this cross franchise beat ‘em up as the first stage’s song comes flexing its muscles? It’s a nice chill change of pace that just works with its groovy bassline, synths, and steady percussion. What’s not chill, this stage?

    [Super Nintendo]

  • Studio 6

    Another song that’s a bit disjointed in context but the sheer quality of the song reigns supreme here. The song makes sense that it plays like a sped up game show esque song as it plays on a television set. The odd thing about this stage is that it serves as Rat King’s stage and the song is a weird fit against his character. But the game’s story is winning a fighting game tournament for money, so it works out somehow.

    [Super Nintendo]

  • SMB2 Character Select

    I was kicking myself when I forgot to include SMB2’s player select theme on my previous list. For this list, I decided to include the SNES Super Mario All-Stars version as this was my first exposure to playing the other NES Mario Brother games outside of the first one. Simple yet memorable.

    [Super Nintendo]

  • Jungle Groove

    I love how this song just BUILDS from the start of the first stage. It starts off quietly with a simple heavy percussion beat, then more instruments and the volume starts to build as you play through the stage and then eventually climaxes into a full fledged song. Perfectly composed and performed as a song and executed to match the increasing challenges as you progress through the stage.

    [Super Nintendo]

  • Hell March

    The few games I played on the PC back in the 90’s, this song is flatout THE song in Red Alert. The guitars that punch through a wall and rip for the majority of the song’s length is all you need to know how quickly this was the go to song. It fits so well with the stages where you are building a massive base to produce a massive army to overwhelm the enemy base to victory. It’s the juice that makes you feel like a general with power on your hands in this game.

    [PC]

  • Koopa's Road

    A left field choice, but I chose this song because it really set the tone well that you’re coming up against Bowser and that it wasn’t going to be easy to get to him in these stages leading up to the battle. I recall being so tense and frustrated at my first foray into the first set of these stages and the song added to my tension so well.

    [Nintendo 64]

  • Glacier Coast

    I tend to love tracks that are light yet groovy, and this course’s theme fits that bill perfectly. The high pitched synths with the flute carried but a steady bass and percussion make it a joy to race at courses featuring this song.

    [Nintendo 64]

  • Military Intelligence Archives

    This was my favorite stage to play in local multiplayer back in the day because I loved the song attached with the stage. It’s such a great up-tempo take on the James Bond theme and the volume dynamics between melodies at play made it great backup over the numerous times I played this with my family and few friends back then.

    [Nintendo 64]

  • Red Canyon

    Though I was initially set back on how different the soundtrack was for this one against the cool jazz synths of F-Zero, I eventually grew to love the pedal to the metal soundtrack Nintendo decided to take with this game. I picked Red Canyon as I think it’s the cleanest and most thrilling theme to me from the entire soundtrack.

    [Nintendo 64]

  • Return

    One of those themes to let the player know that you’re going straight into the thick of action immediately. I love the bells that are played throughout the song to stress on the incoming difficulty players will encounter in this Treasure shoot ‘em up classic. I learned earlier this year that there were two versions of this song, one for the arcade and one for consoles. I believe this is the console version which is the version I played first.

    [Saturn via X-Box 360]

  • Bonus Game

    I love how jaunty this theme is as you figure out the fastest way to board all the platforms and hit the targets. It has that game show jingle esque quality that makes you want to come back and either finally complete a character’s bonus stages or back to beat your own personal record.

    [Nintendo 64]

  • Jingle Town

    Another one of those songs that does it job well in capturing the frenzy of racing down a mountain against three others with the use of wacky items to win the race. While this track doesn’t have a lot going for it visually, the theme more than makes up for it to have a song that grooves to match the intensity of the race through the course.

    [Nintendo 64]

  • Boo Valley

    There are songs where you can’t quite explain you like it so much. This song is my favorite off the N64 version as it rocks in a lighthearted kind of way. The flutes and guitar like notes on top of a steady drum pattern makes it fun to play a round of virtual golf. The challenging hole design and weather challenges tied with this course makes it a personal favorite of mine to play with the theme contributing to my enjoyment.

    [Nintendo 64]

  • Police Truck by Dead Kennedys

    THPS 1 has a hell of a soundtrack, it’s hard to pick a favorite. While Goldfinger’s “Superman” looks to be the clear-cut favorite for many, my personal favorite is “Police Truck.” This was my song that gave me that “power up” to really do well during that particular session that the others, while still great, didn’t get as much out of compared to this song.

    [Nintendo 64]

  • Western Land

    This board’s theme stands out to me for two reasons: it’s my favorite to play and it was played the most often as I thought the other boards weren’t as fun to play compared to this one. The song is nice with its lighthearted take in an old western setting.

    [Nintendo 64]

  • Tomb Stage

    This is orchestral action music taken TO THE MAX. It helps that there’s so much going on in this stage, where it goes through three phases with the middle emulating the Indiana Jones rock chasing human bit. The stage is crazy, the music is crazy, and Power Stone 2’s gameplay is crazy.

    [Dreamcast]

  • Ideal (Stage 1)

    Unlike Radiant Silvergun, I love the use of the theme in this game where the intro aligns with you boosting into the stage and then it goes into main thrust of action shortly thereafter. It’s movie-like in its execution of all parts. The rest of the song does well to maintain the frenzy of playing a shoot ‘em up of shooting hordes of enemies while dodging their attacks and mindful of the shifting playfield.

    [Arcade via X-Box 360]

  • Rock is Sponge

    My favorite song out of the game because it’s also my favorite stage to play. The crazy setting and shooting lasers against a gigantic giant made out of blocks with this banging song behind it… *chef’s kiss*.

    [PlayStation 2]

  • Slayboarder

    The obvious choice would be to pick the game’s remix of RUN DMC’s “It’s Tricky” and call it there. This was tough for me to choose because I recall loving the game’s soundtrack but not knowing much of it nowadays. I settled on this one as this is one of the standout songs that I liked while recalling playing through this game, one of the first games I got for the PS2.

    [PlayStation 2]

  • Decent Days and Nights by The Futureheads

    I always thought this was the best song in the game as it meshed in racing at incredible speeds and taking down other racers to me. I think it’s the vocals and the guitar riffs that just worked with me the most here. It also made me purchase the band’s album after finding out who the band was.

    [PlayStation 2]

  • Mass Destruction

    Probably the obvious song pick for this game, but it sticks out for many reasons. First, it’s such a departure from the rest of the game’s soundtrack and story. Second, it’s actually a really good song with a great introduction, great rapping in the veses, and a fun chorus. Third, it’s probably drilled into many players' heads as it’s played at every common enemy battle.

    [PlayStation 2]

  • Queen

    One instrument can steal the show in a song, and in this personal pick the violins win out on how it works with and against the other instruments in the song. It’s like a guitarist going out of his own way to play whatever he wants and the other members doing what they can to work with it and making it work somehow. It’s still a standout song to fight as one of two games in the KOF franchise where it’s active tags in teams and not the traditional KOF style where it’s one-on-one and first to defeat all members.

    [PlayStation 2]

  • Highway Star by Deep Purple

    This song blew me away as Rock Band was my first listen to this kick ass song. Just as the song title implies, it plays out like you were driving fast as hell down a lonely stretch of straight road. The build up to the frenetic guitar solo immediately sold me on this song. I loved the song so much I purchased a used vinyl record of the album where this song is featured.

    [X-Box 360]

  • Puzzle

    Like a couple of other examples in this list, this song makes it onto this list by sheer amount of exposure to toiling around the numerous puzzles featured in the game. At first it seems nice and quaint, but then becomes a nightmare with this song continually playing as you’re stuck trying to figure out what the hell the puzzle is asking you to solve.

    [Nintendo DS]

  • Girlfriend by Avril Lavinge

    HEY HEY YOU YOU… lyrics! Pop punk rock plus racing at high speeds with wreckage equals the only song that counts in Burnout Paradise.

    [X-Box 360]

  • I'll Face Myself

    There were a lot of songs to choose from in this incredible JRPG. I chose this one as it nails the song’s title of having to verse your biggest fear head on, though in the game you’re battling with a party of four against the shadow. It definitely screams hey it’s the thing you fear/hate the most, but you have no choice now but to confront and take care of it for good. Love the guitars and drums played here.

    [PlayStation 2 via PS Vita]

  • 21st Century Schizoid Man by King Crimson

    I know a little about King Crimson and this song and was shocked to see this song featured in GH5. It deepened my enjoyment of the song seeing how challenging the charts are for the instruments, even the bass goes places which the instrument I played the most at that time. It was also crazy to see the developers chart the saxophone solo in the guitar chart here, though it makes sense when it happens during the song.

    [PlayStation 3]