It happens often: You’re walking to class or driving to work and something prompts Crooked I’s “Kill Us All” to start running through your head. You’re getting tired of mowing grass, so your brain decides to make it better by playing Kvelertak for you. You’re turtle-heading and rushing to the bathroom and for some reason you think of Five Finger Death Punch. After a successful date you’re tumbling around the sack, and before you realize it your rhythm is being hijacked by Jackson 5’s “ABC 123.”
This happens to me a lot with video game tunes as well. The music from Turtles in Time pops into my head quite often, second only to, again, Jackson 5’s “ABC 123.” So, I got the idea to put a list of my favorite video game music together. Let us know yours in the comments!
- Parappa the Rapper – Stage 2: You Guys Sit in the Back
“Kick! Punch! Block!” will always be ingrained in my brain, but the second stage has always been my favorite. So no pause in between, come on, let’s jam!
If you’ve played Rocket League, there’s nothing I can say here that you don’t already know about the ridiculously catchy menu music. Frankly, were I shown these songs outside the game by a friend, I probably would have said, “Yeah, that’s good,” and forgot about them. But each song complements Rocket League’s aesthetic so well, creating a theme that makes sitting in a lobby, chatting with a buddy, and editing your car incredibly fun. I may even get bummed for a moment when an online match is found before the current song ends, even though I’ve heard it a hundred times.
- Sonic Adventure 2 – City Escape 1
That’s right, I did it. Out of all the Sonic songs. The same few parts just loop ad nauseum, but it never gets old to me. It’s so lame but so catchy, and I love it.
- WWF No Mercy – Menu Theme
I’m not really sure what to say about this one. It’s hilarious and weird, and managed to leave a lasting imprint on my life…for some reason.
- Mortal Kombat – Techno Syndrome (Mortal Kombat Theme)
While this one wasn’t actually in the game, it was written for it and released in a soundtrack marketed alongside it. It has come to be known simply as the Mortal Kombat Theme, and it was popular enough that people who never played the game knew it. I remember singing it in the hallways in school, and explaining who the referenced characters were to dumb girls who didn’t play video games. I think our high school band even covered the beginning once or twice in a medley. It’s inarguably a classic.
At the time I didn’t fully appreciate how awesome everything about Carmageddon was (I was six). It was super violent, incredibly entertaining, and had the perfect music. Carmageddon features three instrumental versions of songs from Fear Factory’s Demanufacture, an album that remains a favorite of mine to this day. Last year I had the pleasure of reliving the game in all its gory glory on iPhone and let me tell you, it’s still way more fun than a lot of games you can play on your phone.
Fun fact: “Zero Signal” plays during Scorpion and Johnny Cage’s fight in the Mortal Kombat movie as well.
- Hard Corps Uprising – Stage 1 Desert Theme
There’s nothing not to love about this one. It starts off with the original Contra lick, rocks hard the whole way through, and makes you feel all the more badass as you’re mowing down enemies and dodging projectiles.
The Zelda franchise is one of those givens on a video game music list, and for good reason. We didn’t have a Nintendo 64 until a couple years after its release, so the time I got to spend with my uncle’s launch system was precious. I would never make it very far within the time I had to play, so these two early tunes are the most memorable for me. The music in Hyrule Field is perfect in how it captures the sense of awe and adventure you feel the first time you set foot there, the sun shining over the horizon as you run across the green to the distant Hyrule Castle. It’s great, and the tune has stuck with me ever since.
- Super Mario 64 – Slide Theme
Spoiler alert: Mario’s the only one who gets two separate spots on this list. Like Zelda above, Super Mario is a given here, and deserves two spots more than any other game franchise. (Spoiler alert two: the other choice isn’t the original theme.) Also like Zelda, I could only play Mario 64 at my uncle’s from time to time, so when I could play I frequented Cool, Cool Mountain. I loved racing the penguin on the slide, almost as much as I loved finding her babies so that I could pick them up and throw them off of high ledges.
- Super Mario World – Athletic Theme
Like Turtles in Time, this one often pops spontaneously into my head for no apparent reason. I can’t say exactly why it’s my favorite Mario tune over all others, but I know it has to do somewhat with how happy and energetic it is.
Zombies Ate My Neighbors is one of the first games I remember ever playing. Naturally, a lot of the music stuck with me over the years. The songs fit their respective levels perfectly, adding to the experience with their sinister-but-catchy melodies.
- Super Puzzle Fighter 2 Turbo – Ken’s Theme
Ken happens to be my favorite puzzle fighter and has my favorite character theme.
- Pokémon Red/Blue – Opening
I used to play Pokémon for so many hours at a time that I continued to hear the music vividly for many minutes after powering off. If that doesn’t earn a top spot on a video game music list, nothing does.
- Worms – Main Theme
I played the original Worms the least out of the first few, but I never forgot its heroic and triumphant theme music.
- Metal Gear Solid 3 – Snake Eater
This song has that Bond-ish espionage feel to it, and again, like almost everything on the list, it works so well. One of the most memorable moments of the franchise for me was ascending the mile-high ladder while the vocals to “Snake Eater” played, as if being sung by a mysterious woman at the top of the ladder.
These two tunes don’t need any kind of anecdote; they just really, really kick ass. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: man do I love playing a turtle.
- Spider-Man & Venom: Maximum Carnage – Main Theme (Green Jellö)
If you’re not familiar with Green Jellö, the gist for this article’s sake is that they’re a metal band whose members at the time agreed to write a song for Maximum Carnage, and it rocks. The genuine, non-midi version of the song can be heard on Green Jellö’s 333 album, which suxx. But, Carnage rules!
- Halo: Combat Evolved – Halo Theme
The original Halo theme is probably the most epic and appropriate video game menu music of all time. It prefaced countless of my solo and co-op sessions, including hundreds of LAN parties that remain amongst my favorite video game memories and experiences.
My regard for PSO’s music goes beyond nostalgia. It’s often incredibly mysterious and calming, even dreamlike. I can go to sleep to it as easily as I can use my partisan to cut down hordes of Evil Sharks. I don’t think the game would remain a favorite of mine if not in large part for the music that complemented each adventure.
- The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind – Main Theme
Here it is. If I absolutely had to choose my favorite video game music, it’d be Morrowind’s theme. My only real memory of the original PC version is the elf that falls from the sky just outside of the starting town; however, I sunk many, many hours into the Xbox release that included both expansions. It’s one of my favorite RPGs to date, one of my favorite games of all time, and the music always takes me back to the world I was privileged to have lived in for a while.
Fun fact: There’s a friendly merchant scamp in Caldera that pays full price for gear and goods.
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