1. Sonic The Hedgehog
Sonic the Hedgehog was for a lot of gamers of a certain age, the very first videogame they ever played. The opening synth beats accompany the first level, Green Hill Zone in the original game has gone down as an instantly recognisable piece of music in pop culture while other sounds, such as midi riff that plays when Sonic is in danger of drowning are still capable of eliciting a reaction out of gamers to this day. (Seriously, play this song to a gamer in his twenties and watch them lose their shit)
There’s a long standing urban legend that the King Of Pop himself, Michael Jackson wrote music for Sonic The Hedgehog 3. If you ask me, the ending music for that game is far too similar to Stranger In Moscow for it not to be true.
2. The Super Mario Games
Where there is Sonic, there is Mario. Gaming's most popular icon and now apparently, best mates with Penelope Cruz and her sister, has popped up in over 200 games over the years. I could easily turn this into a list about the 10 best songs from Mario games ("Hey Ed, I got a new article to pitch you!") but sometimes the older and original tunes are the best. I remember once hearing it while clubbing in Kavos one regretful lads holiday. Seems all the boys remember Mario tunes.
3. Street Fighter II
At one point in the early 90s, Street Fighter II was THE game. It was the undisputed king of the arcades (there was a story of a London black cab office having a machine where the best gamers in the UK duked it out) and had entranced the world like no other game had. Kids mimed the attacks (in school I remember throwing many a dragon punch to get me out of tight spots), gamers shouted them and tournament players memorised perfect combos to throw (SF II INVENTED fighting game combos, that’s how significant it is as a game). The soundtrack helped a long way in helping it become the fighting game of choice to the gamer public – to this day Street Fighter II professional tournaments are still held over the world.
Each individual fighter had their own theme and brilliantly, some bright sparks “guilesthemefitsall” YouTube have discovered that Guile’s theme (the American soldier played by Jean Claude Van Damme in the so-bad-it’s-good Street Fighter movie) pretty much fits anything. Check it out.
Back in 1986 SEGA R&D creative genius Yu Suzuki demanded a studio-quality soundtrack to accompany his groundbreaking arcade racer. From Splash Wave to Passing Breeze, the little midi synth beats that made up the Outrun tracks helped it become one of the most memorable driving games of all time. Driving an imitation Ferrari with a blonde in the passenger seat, blue skies and Magical Sound Shower blaring; men of a certain age are reliving this game in real life right now and I am jealous.
5. Final Fantasy
Chief Final Fantasy composer Nobuo Uematsu now plays sellout concert tours where he the score of the legendary Japanese RPG series. Hipsters remark of how he should go down as one of the greatest composers in history. Whilst I wouldn’t go that far, there is no doubt that Uematsu is one of, if not the greatest videogame composer of all time. I racked up over 250 hours playing Final Fantasy X, the first iteration of the series on the Playstation 2 and the blast of trumpets that make up the game’s victory fanfare make my phone’s ringtone.
Tetris goes without needing introduction. I’m yet to meet a person who hasn’t played it before and the theme song is equally iconic. Job done. Next game on the list.
7. The Legend Of Zelda
My text message tone is the “Secret Unlocked” jingle from The Legend Of Zelda games. The Legend Of Zelda series is a... well legendary series of games made my Nintendo starring hero Link as he looks to rescue Princess Zelda from the evil Ganondorf and save the realm of Hyrule. N64 game Ocarina of Time is often regarded as the Best Game Of All Time and the Triforce symbol is one of the most prominent images of gaming culture and is many a gamers tattoo of choice. I’ve been listening to the series main theme for well over 15 years and it always brings a smile to my face.
8. Metal Gear Solid
I may as well go all out geek and say my text message tone previous to the “Secret” Legend of Zelda noise was the CODEC incoming call from Metal Gear Solid. Metal Gear Solid was for many one of the first games that was truly cinematic in its sensibilities, you believed you were playing out an action film on the level of Stallone, Willis and Schwarzenegger. Famously the boxart from the first Metal Gear game was a tracejob of Michael Biehn, Kyle Reese from the original Terminator film and main character Solid Snake is based on Snake Plissken from Escape From New York. The music and the cutscenes in the Metal Gear Solid films were of a Hollywood standard, so much so that by Metal Gear Solid 4 the talky bits and seriously began to outweigh the playing ones. Oops.
9. Silent Hill
Music for a survivial horror game is perhaps more integral to the gaming experience than other genres. The calming music of the typewriter save room in the Resident Evil series let me know that I was safe from any potential trouser browning scares in this room. Silent Hill series composer Akira Yamaoka created dozens of moody ethereal tunes for the game series and playing the Silent Hill games introduced me to J-Rock and pop - emotional Silent Hill 2 is often regarded as one of the greatest horror games of all time due to it's masterful pyschological plot (You receive a letter from your dead wife to meet you in the titular town) and its grim, head shaking "eff this crazy evil nonsense, I just want to go home" tone. The music goes a long way to establish what kind of place Silent Hill is, a town where your deepest darkest fears and hangups are brought to torment you in the most perverted, draining ways possible. The town of Silent Hill doesn't want you there, and will mess with your head until you perish. Way better than the so-so film adaptation.
For 90s children, when they Pokemon they think of long nights defying their mothers with the light on trying to defeat one of the gym leaders or simply just training up my Squirtle to become Blastoise. The little MIDI beats that blasted out of your Gameboy as kids wasted their school days captivated a generation.
The song I’ve linked is one that plays at the end of Pokemon Silver/Gold. Gamers reached the top of the mountain and yet there was still a trainer there waiting for me. "I have defeated the Elite Four and gained 16 Pokemon badges, what could you possibly do to me?" Little did we know that that trainer was you. Well, the protagonist from the last game. The almighty Red, hardest trainer in the whole of the Pokemon series. SchooIkids approached and pressed A and heard a familiar piece of music, a remixed version of the opening battle music of the previous Pokemon game. This was it, a gaming rite of passage were we turn full circle.
11. Freedom Fighters
Ok, it’s not a list of 10, but I’m being biased here because Freedom Fighters is my favourite game of all time. A squad based shooter on the PS2, PC and Xbox, Freedom Fighters had an alternate Cold War setting where the Russians ended World War 2 by dropping the bomb on Berlin and conquered Europe before invading the United States. What added Red Dawn aping plot was its timely 2003 release. The game ran a fake news channel during its cutscenes that constant referred to you as head of the American insurgency, giving it a sharp satirical edge on the Iraq invasion.
But that’s enough about the game itself. The soundtrack, composed by gaming music legend Jasper Kyd is nothing short of stellar. Haunting and powerful, it’s soundtrack is one reason why I am willing to give you all of my money and pay your children through University if you gave me a Freedom Fighter sequel.
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