Wednesday, May 18, 2011

My Top 10 NES BGMs

I could probably sum up my fondness of classic home console games by saying I built my senior illustration thesis around them.  For all their limitations, they inspired creativity and resourcefulness in designing some pretty timeless and fun video games.  However, most gamers of that era know for every one good game, there were five poorly programmed, thrown together crap games, designed to rip off kids at fifty bucks a pop, before the age of information helped cut back on such hack productions. 

Before the internet, your best way of finding out whether a game was worth buying was picking it up from your local rental place.  The first indication of a games worthiness wasn't always the graphics of the title screen, but the music.  Try to think of a good game with horribly composed, half-assed music.  Can't think of one, can you?  The following, in no particular order, is my top 10 Nintendo Entertainment System background music tunes. 

Mach Rider Course Theme

Mach Rider, a.k.a. Mad Max on a bike; According to Wikipedia, where I do
basically all of my research for blogs, this game was actually the
inspiration for the F-Zero series.  It's slightly different, as you're a
linebacker for the Miami Dolphins on a motorcycle that's equipped with
guns, but the futuristic setting and high speeds are the same.  With the
innovative gear-shift controls, and constant obstacles and enemies
attacking from all directions, this game was a non-stop test of
reflexes.  The music was catchy enough to keep you engaged to see the
later levels, which were just basically level one with more crap to
dodge and a switched-up color scheme.  Eventually I'd just get really
frustrated, and go to the time course to let the song loop play in the
background while I found something else to do.  Legos were never as
difficult, for example.

Saving the Dam - Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

This was a great game, but many who have played it know that the music
is the only redeeming quality for this God damned dam level.  The
whirling bass line soothed my nerves enough to get through that full
screen tangle of seaweed one time without taking any damage...Swear
to God.  I still haven't managed to get through the level without that
heart attack-inducing music that plays when you've only got twenty
seconds left though.

Cabin Theme - Friday the 13th

I jumped every time Jason popped onto the screen unexpectedly while this
eerie music was playing.  I don't care what AVGN says, this was a fun
game.  However, we do agree that infamous "GAME OVER, you and your
friends are dead.  I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your
soul" screen is the best of all time.

Gum Ball Crash - Rad Racer 2

The most remembered music from the Rad Racer games was definitely from
the first game, but Gum Ball crash was my favorite.  It was the perfect
soundtrack for the pace of a car driving game where the most
catastrophic thing that could happen was a spin out or running out of

Title Theme - Metroid

The dark, droning opening was the perfectly eerie introduction to the
space epic that is the original Metroid.  Before you even knew the
protagonist was actually a woman, the opening conjured up thoughts of
acid blood and chest-bursting aliens.  Ironically, most people I knew
never really heard of the awesome intro music, because the title screen was always skipped.

Area 8 Theme - Bionic Commando

I really can't say enough about this game.  It's easily in my top 3
all-time favorite games, and it is so underrated.  The background music
in area 8 seems almost unimpressive when it starts, but then it takes a
hard right turn into awesome.

On a different note, here is an image I made for Cracked's "Undiscovered Video Game Easter Eggs" Photoplasty contest.  Apparently it was too awesome to make it into the batch of final entries...Or maybe it's that not nearly enough people checked out this game to understand the joke.  Seriously, go play Bionic Commando, if you haven't before.

Streets of Desolation - Batman

In 1989, Tim Burton finally set live-action Batman productions straight
by showing that the Dark Knight was supposed to be...well, dark, and a
record-breaking blockbuster movie was the result.  Inevitably, the NES game adaptation
was not far behind, but unlike most of its movie-based contemporaries,
it was actually a really well-designed game.  It was clearly worth renting from the
awesome opening, but when this theme kicked on, you knew this one was a

Airship Theme - SMB3

The Super Mario Brothers series is a gold mine of great game music, but I
had to single this one out.  It actually made the gameplay seem more
difficult.  As an 8-year-old, whenever this music played, I felt like I
was in for the fight of my life.

Wizards and Warriors

I really couldn't pick which one of these tunes I liked the best.  When
you put them together in a collection, the soundtrack sounds kinda all
over the place, but it worked for a game based around a knight in 300
lb. armor jumping from tree branch to tree branch and drinking magic potions.

Brawler Stages - Bayou Billy

Konami was no slouch when it came to releasing kick-ass games.  They had
tons of credibility, and were also as well-known for the degree of
difficulty in their games.  Bayou Billy, alongside Contra, had to be the
reason for the creation of the term "Nintendo hard".  You couldn't
get a more chill soundtrack though.  I had no idea my Nintendo could
bring the funk, until I played Bayou Billy.  It's how I imagine the
cantina band in Mos Eisely would sound, if they hired a funk guitar


That will round out my top 10.  I know I didn't include the Zelda theme or anything from Mega Man, but I assure you, they would've made the list if I had a better work ethic, and wrote a top twenty.

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