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Top Ten Tuesdays | Catchy Video Game Themes

Matt Gardner
Catchy Video Game Themes, Top Ten, Top Ten Tuesdays, Video Game Music

Top Ten Tuesdays | Catchy Video Game Themes

Every morning for the last month I've woken up and listened to the Skyrim take on the Elder Scrolls theme. It's ridiculous, I can't get enough of it. Of course, this isn't the first time something like this has happened with a video game. My formative years were accompanied by the gentle trilling of Nintendo and SEGA's finest, chiptunes and hook-filled riffs that reverberate around inside your skull, driving you insane even as you hum them again for the umpteenth time.

This Tuesday's top ten, in recognition of Jeremy Soule's corruption of my sanity with his audio banquet of delights, is dedicated to the catchiest video game themes. These might not be the very best examples of video game music, but they are certainly some of the most memorable. Of course, this list is wholly subjective, so let us know in the comments if you've got a tune stuck in your head that we missed.

Honourable mentions: Metal Gear Solid Theme (especially MGS3), Portal - Still Alive, Duke Nukem 3D, Castlevania, One Winged Angel.

10. Final Fantasy Victory Fanfare (Nobuo Uematsu)

Probably the shortest piece of music on the list, it's nonetheless one of the most memorable collections of notes you'll ever find in a video game. Who hasn't, in a moment of triumph, hummed those few notes to themselves? It also makes for an excellent text message tone, meaning all incoming correspondence sounds like victory.

No, that's not sad at all.

9. Pokemon Centre Theme (Junichi Masuda)

It's the sound of safety. Your Snorlax is still asleep, Blastoise has run out of juice, Pikachu's been brought down to earth with a bang, but this tune heralds sanctuary. You know as soon as you hear these notes that everything's going to be alright.

8. Mortal Kombat (The Immortals)

Everybody dance now. It's essentially a giant personnel list for a fighting tournament put to some electronic beats. But what electronic beats they are! I defy you to listen to it and not at least tap your foot.

7. Chrono Trigger - Frog's Theme (Yasunori Mitsuda)

If you're ever faced with a seemingly insurmountable problem, this is the tune to get you through. As anyone who has played Chrono Trigger will tell you, Frog's Theme equals beat-downs for the bad guys. Whenever you hear it you can be sure that justice is being dispensed...or mountains are being sliced in half. MOUNTAINS!

I used to hum it during exams.

6. The Elder Scrolls: Call of Magic/Reign of the Septims/Sons of Skyrim (Jeremy Soule)

I remember humming Call of Magic incessantly when Morrowind came out and again when that melody formed the structure around which Oblivion's theme was built. But Reign of the Septims diluted it somewhat, using it instead as a template for a vast orchestral exploration. I thought I was free, but then not only did Mr. Soule bring back the old refrain in Sons of Skyrim, but he went and added vocals so I could sing it as well as hum it.

Every day, Jeremy. EVERY DAY!!

5. Sonic - Green Hill Zone (Yuzo Koshiro)

This track defines the Nineties for half of the gamers that lived and played through that decade. It's one of the most iconic video game levels of all time, with one of the most iconic themes. It's a tune stuffed with nostalgia, dripping with promise and potential. It ushered in a game of vital importance to SEGA's survival. and in doing so got lodged in the minds of anyone who owned a Mega Drive.

4. Halo 2 Theme (Marty O'Donnell)

Choral harmonies, pounding drums, kickass guitar riffage, the Halo theme has it all. It snaps the hair on the back of your neck to attention, it gives you an adrenaline rush as soon as it hits your ears. It's a powerful, pulsating slice of epic music, instantly recognisable, relentless in its urgency. It's one of those pieces of music that should never be listened to in the car because it turns your milk run into the Most Epically Significant And Important Journey Ever and leads to occasional speeding.

Hum it to yourself as you walk around town. Suddenly everybody else seems smaller.

3. Tetris - Type A (arranged by Hirokazu Tanaka)

An instrumental arrangement of a Russian folk tune called "Korobeiniki", Tanaka's frenzied presentation of chiptune folk gets more frenzied as the speed increases and the levels increase. There's nothing like a dash of stirring MIDI to focus the mind. Trouble is, after a couple of hours of Tetris, it just doesn't stop.

2. The Legend of Zelda Theme (Koji Kondo)

Just thinking the words 'epic fantasy' summons up this theme. It very nearly made the top spot, just pipped to the post by another Kondo classic. This, though, is arguably the better piece of music. It's more evocative, it puts you right in Link's well-worn boots, locates you firmly in Hyrule and sets you up for some epic adventuring. This is the sound of quality.

It's worth mentioning that I could have built this whole list out of Zelda tunes. Ocarina of Time is stuffed with obscenely catchy music, like series favourite Zelda's Lullaby or the goddamn Song of Storms.

1. Super Mario Bros. (Koji Kondo)

Is this the most ridiculously catchy video game tune in history? Quite possibly. It's arguably the most recognisable pixellated ditty out there, a party favourite. No video game tune has been replicated, remixed, or rapped-over more than this one. It is one of Kondo's earliest and finest achievements in the field and it's been in my head for decades!

Add a comment6 comments
DivideByZero  Dec. 6, 2011 at 13:09

No Bubble Bobble? Denied!

Also, number 10 is clearly some bloke whisteling that.

JonLester  Dec. 6, 2011 at 13:14

I'd like to give a personal shout out to Rocket Riot and Marathon 2: Durandal!

DivideByZero  Dec. 6, 2011 at 13:23
stevenjameshyde  Dec. 6, 2011 at 14:18

I'd like to nominate Xenon 2, and Cannon Fodder's "War Has Never Been So Much Fun", both of which have been on the rotating 'stuck in my head' playlist since childhood. I also would have liked to have seen an ironic nod towards any PES game's cringe-inducingly terrible menu music

MattGardner  Dec. 6, 2011 at 15:21

I'd like to give a personal shout out to Rocket Riot and Marathon 2: Durandal!

I cannot believe I missed out Rocket Riot. Mind you, it wouldn't have been fair seeing as we've already run a whole piece on just how awesome that tune is!

Last edited by MattGardner, Dec. 6, 2011 at 15:22
MattyPlant  Dec. 7, 2011 at 11:15

As if there is no Streets of Rage 2 tracks, or Daytona's infamous "Rolling Start" anthem?

Seriously I could go on for Days, Marble Zone out of Sonic is a filthy catchy tune, Star Fox Corneria level, Super Mario Land Birabuto Kingdom, Super Puzzle Fighter Sakura's stage, any of the Styreet Fighter Tunes, Ken, Guile, Ryu, and Balrog to name a few, and also Jet Set Radio i could go on, and on!

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