Think back to the '80s and '90s and the hours kids spent playing mindless video games on systems that aren now considered less powerful than your cell phone. Whether it was Nintendo, Super Nintendo or Nintendo 64, our generation of gamers were glued to video games like Mario and NBA Jam. While the characters, worlds and gameplay are features often discussed, soundtracks are often pushed to the back and forgotten from nostalgic gamer debates. But when you hear them again for the first time in years, they can bring you back so quickly to a place and time that you'll swear that you have a bowl haircut again and Bill Clinton is still stooping secretaries in the oval office. In the spirit of nostalgia, here is our list of the top five nostalgic video game soundtracks.
Stepping into the time machine, it's impossible to forget putting the Madden '95 cartridge into the console and hearing the opening riffs of the the symphonic orchestration of the NFL on FOX theme. While the theme song has become one of the most heard songs on Sunday beside “Hallelujah,” it was an indelible part of experiencing Madden in all its 16-bit glory. Sometimes, I would hit pause or I would forget to turn the game off, and I would run up stars, listening to the famous score like an early version of the Trans-Siberian Orchestra. The score was written by Scott Schreer, Reed Hays and Phil Garrod. The heavy hitting brass and percussion section created much fanfare for an early and rough version of a classic game.
4. 007: Golden Eye For Nintendo 64
Before Call of Duty and Halo hit the scene, there was Golden Eye — thought of as the original first-person shooter that allowed friends (remember N64 had four controllers) to fight to the virtual death for hours. And the soundtrack, the music pumping and setting up shop in our unconscious, kept us on the edge of our seats — or rugs. Of course, the 1997 game featured the theme music — though remixed with synthesizers — from the original movie, but there were new songs that created a Cold-War atmosphere that made you feel you were actually being chased after by commies in Siberia. Then there was the ambient music in the jungle scenes that made you feel displaced and confused. Sometimes, I remember, sneaking around a corner and the music blaring with such intensity, I jumped out of my seat when a friend snuck up behind to stab me in the back.
3. Mike Tyson's Punch-Out
How can you talk about Nintendo music without Mike Tyson's Punch-Out? Each boxer had an incredible introduction — Glass Joe, King Hippo, Don Flamenco. Then there were the songs from when you lost and won matches, urging you on triumphantly like Rocky running up the stairs. Each one of the 8-bit bleeps and bops made the game feel like a champion. But the composers, Yakio Kaneoka and Kenji Yamamoto, were geniuses, because the music seemed to match up perfectly with the boxers motions.
2. Mario & The Super Mario
These soundtracks is about as emblematic to Nintendo as blowing into a cartridge to make the game work. It's an unforgettable tune that follows Mario's jumps and brick-breaking moves as close as was possible back in the 80s. It was written by Koji Kondo — the genius composer behind many of the Nintendo themes.
1. Zelda — The Ocarina of Time
And the all-time best sound track has to be Zelda's Ocarina of Time. It was also written Koji Kondo. A soundtrack as epic as the narrative journey Zelda embarks upon, the music reflects the changes in graphics, the approaching dangers, and the commotion of a bustling town. And one of the best parts about this game is that Zelda actually needs to use his Ocarina to unlock new parts of the game. It was the closest experience a game came to a movie back then, and it created necessary emotions that video games often lacked. It's a beautiful composition that is performed live all across the country.