10 Awesome Video Game Chiptune Soundtracks of Awesomeness
Video games have made impressive technological leaps since the time I first got behind a controller in the mid-’80s. And while “grown up stuff” has seen to it that I’m not quite as free to enjoy them as I once did, I consider it a most propitious matter that I am alive and well to experience their continued evolution. One thing, however, that still impressed me about the earlier offerings of the gaming world is just how much developers were able to do with the comparatively primitive sound chips available at the time. Chiptunes, as these tracks have come to be known in modern vernacular, are among some of the most memorable aspects of yesteryear’s beloved (and not so beloved) games.
Join me now, as I take you and the rest of TuffGnarl.com’s beloved readership on a journey of discovery as we explore 10 Awesome Video Game Chiptune Soundtracks of er, Awesomeness!
1.) Batman (NES)
While anyone would be hard-pressed to diminish the quality of Rocksteady’s recent and insanely popular Arkham series, I will never forget my first outing with a digitized version of Batman. This is due, in part, to the incredibly inviting control scheme (that wall jump was the tits) and equally engaging soundtrack.
Standout Track – Streets of Desolation [Stage 1]
2.) M.U.S.H.A. Aleste (Genesis)
M.U.S.H.A came to me at a time when my love of giant robot action was steadily growing beyond the limited offerings of my local video rental store. A bodacious scrolling shooter in its own right, I remember falling in love with the soundtrack almost as deeply as I did the subject matter. The sound test screen got almost as much attention from me as the full game, in fact.
Standout Track: Theme of M.U.S.H.A. Aleste
3.) Phantasy Star 4: The End of the Millennium (Genesis)
Ah, Phantasy Star 4 – it was the end of the milliennium, but the beginning of a deep and moving love affair with JRPGs. Having just finished Lunar the Silver Star on the Sega CD, I was convinced I would never love a cast of ragtag heroes quite as much as I did the inhabitants of that magnificent game (which boasted an impressive soundtrack in its own right, but does not qualify for this list). How wrong I was; not only did PS4 rock my world story-wise, it completely captivated me with its stunning soundtrack.
Standout Track: Phantasy Star 4: The End of the Millennium (Title Theme)
4.) Chrono Trigger (SNES)
In what I predict will be the subject of an article for another day, my love of JRPGs continued to propel me in the direction of stunning soundtracks. A title that is ubiquitous on all manner of internet list, Chrono Trigger provided one of the most beautiful soundtracks ever created for a video game. To this day, I still mindlessly hum the tunes that accompanied Chrono and friends on their adventures across time.
Standout Track: Yearnings of the Wind (600 AD)
5.) Final Fantasy III/VI (SNES)
While the series and the company that produced it have fallen from the lofty heights they once called home, there is no denying that some of the era’s very best chiptune music was given to us by this seminal series. The sixth entry in the juggernaut that is Final Fantasy, originally released as the third stateside, is especially beloved for precisely this reason.
Fun fact: Longtime series composer Nobuo Uematsu has claimed the soundtrack to Final Fantasy 6 was his favorite to work on.
Standout Track: Phantom Forrest
6.) Mega Man 2 (NES)
The Mega Man series has always been a stalwart for quality platforming action. It has also been, without question, one of the most innovative and pulse pounding progenitors of chiptune soundtracks across the board. Mega Man 2, however, was an especially exceptional entry in this respect.
Standout Track: Dr. Wily’s Stage 1/2
7.) Mega Man X (SNES)
Punishing by design and heroic by default, Mega Man X holds the distinction of being the very first Mega Man entry to showcase the series in the 16-bit era. This brought with it improved graphics, tighter controls and a whole mess of other neat upgrades. Along for the ride was a bombastic and upgrade-appropriate soundtrack that continues to impress fans across the globe.
Standout Track: Spark Mandrill Stage
8.) Castlevania Rondo of Blood/Dracula X (SNES)
Vampire Hunting never sounded so good! Like Mega Man X before it, Rondo of Blood/Dracula X was the series’ first foray into the brave new world of 16-bit gaming. It features an adequately grandiose soundtrack which even includes a few throwbacks to tracks from earlier entries in the series.
Standout Track: Bloodlines
9.) Ninja Gaiden (NES)
Thumb blisteringly difficult, but cooler than that kid who owned every single Dinobot, this game bore witness to more than a few spectacular kickings of my ass. Still, it featured one hell of a soundtrack, so it was hard to stay away most of the time. (Full disclosure: as a kid, I was always kinda bummed it didn’t look like the arcade version.)
Standout Track: Unbreakable Determination
10.) Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past (SNES)
I am positive you are humming the main theme to this series right now. It’s okay, go ahead. It’s on the list for a reason.
Standout Track: The Overworld Theme/Main Theme of The Legend of Zelda
Zillion (Sega Master System)
Based on a series by the same name, Zillion may not have reached the same level of fame as its distant cousin, Metroid (NES), but it was still a pretty decent adventure game for its time. The music, however, more so than the gameplay itself, still captures the imagination and is certainly a standout on a system that did not seem to get a great deal of love in the US.
Standout Track: Main Theme of Zillion