Welcome folks, to the Azn Badger’s Top 25 NES Tracks!
After weeks of preparation, carefully researching and measuring untold numbers of musical pieces against one another, I’ve finally managed to put together a list that meets my ridiculous standards.
I’ll admit, there’s sure to be an odd pick here and there, but bear in mind:
This is my list, and I honestly couldn’t give 2 shits about what you think of it.
That being said, much of the difficulty I had in crafting this list of music, came in the form of a very specific ground rule I decided to lay out for myself from the get go.
Said rule required that I would be restricted to choose only 1 track per game franchise.
I know what you’re thinking:
“Azn Badger, why on Earth would you place such a horrible restriction on yourself, won’t that just make you all nerd-rage-y n’shit?”
While I did in fact have a hell of a time with this, I decided to abide by this rule because I felt would force me to truly pick the cream of the crop for fear of dishonoring long-standing game franchises with sub-par tracks.
Yeah, believe or not, I actually care that much…
Not only that, said restriction also kept me from making a Top 25 of Best Mega Man music, ’cause to be honest, this list could’ve easily been made up exclusively of Mega Man music had I allowed myself to do so.
Anyway, let’s get to the list, shall we?:
#25. Skate or Die 2: The Search For Double Trouble
“Skate or Die 2 Theme Song”
Skate or Die 2 was one of those games that I remember for all the wrong reasons.
I remember it as a game that my brother rented one time that had shitty controls, shitty graphics, and…
Did I mention it was a shitty game?
Anyway, the one positive memory I have of Skate or Die 2 was of course, the title screen music.
How many NES games can you think of have their own theme song?
With actual digitized lyrics?
Well, Skate or Die 2 had one, a SHITTY ONE, but it was the good kind of shitty.
Y’know, shitty in that Mystery Science Theater 3000 way, where it’s terrible, but in such a way that you can laugh at it.
Anyway, this is the closest this list has a to a “joke” entry, so brace yourself for SERIOUS BUSINESS for the rest of it.
#24. Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!!
Ah, Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!!, how you shat on me in my youth… And continue to do so to this day…
Punch-Out!! is a gaming classic notable for it’s bold-faced racially stereotyped cast of boxers, intuitive gameplay, and out-of-control difficulty level.
Anyway, I loved Punch-Out!! as a kid, but to this day, I suck balls at it.
I was tempted to put the standard “fight music” that plays throughout the game on this list instead of the “Training Theme,“ but after careful consideration I think I made the better choice.
Both tracks are heavily inspired by Bill Conti’s work on the Rocky films, and as such, are FUCKING AWESOME, but in my opinion the “Training Theme” just has that little extra something, a little extra swagger in it’s step, that makes it the flag bearer for Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!!
#23. Fester’s Quest
Fester’s Quest is a shitty game.
Thanks to the Angry Videogame Nerd, everyone is now aware of this.
What most people don’t know however, is that I spent most of childhood thinking it was actually pretty decent.
For whatever reason, my brother and I owned Fester’s Quest back when it was brand new.
I don’t think either of us knew who the Addam’s Family were at the time, (I don’t even think the AWESOME movie had even been made yet) so I can’t explain what compelled my family to possess the ‘ole Quest of Festering, but I digress…
As a kid, I played a lot of Fester’s Quest.
With my poor sense of direction, inability to grasp the control scheme during the “3-D” segments, and acute fear of the green blobs in the sewer levels though, I didn’t really manage to get anywhere in the game.
I just sort of wandered around and died, over and over and over again…
Anyway, on 1 or 2 occasions though, I actually managed to get to the first boss.
I never beat him, however the musical memories of said moments are something I treasure to this day.
That being said, Fester’s Quest was, and is, a truly horrible game, however it had some seriously boppin’ tunes, and the “Boss Theme” was easily the boppin’est of the boppin’.
“Streets of Desolation”
How could I have a list, any list; without Batman?
Obviously, I couldn’t, ’cause Batman’s stage 1 theme “Streets of Desolation” is a wonderful piece of music, wholly deserving of a place in the Top 25.
To be honest, I didn’t actually play Batman until very recently.
As in, within the past few months or so “recently.”
In my youth, I had a cheap-ass bulk strategy guide to NES games that my mom gave me to shut me up during a flight to Hawaii.
It was one of those “hint books” that gave you shitty advice like:
“In Fire Man’s stage in Mega Man, don’t touch the fire!”
“In Bayou Billy, shoot your enemies quickly or they’ll shoot you back!”
Even as a kid, it was pretty fuckin’ lame.
Anyway, Batman was featured in this guide, and from the pictures, I always thought it looked really fuckin’ cool.
Unfortunately, I was too busy renting Snow Bros. every weekend to remember to give Batman a try, so I never really got around to playing it…
Boy am I glad I took the time to seek it out and give it a whirl.
Batman really is a great NES game.
It’s final stage is too hard, and the game is way too short, but for the most part it’s a fun and graphically intense game that deserves all the praise it receives.
That being said, “Streets of Desolation” is a fantastic piece of gaming music that, had I any nostalgia for the game it’s from, would probably be ranked much higher on this list.
#21. Gremlins 2: The New Batch
“Office Stage Theme”
Gremlins 2: The New Batch scared me as a kid.
Not the movie mind you, the movie was hilarious.
No, I’m talking about the game.
Oh yeah, and this one fuckin’ picture book of the movie that had a close-up of Mohawk in his spider form, that was some scary shit…
Basically, every Gremlins 2 related product, except for the movie itself, creeped me out something fierce.
Oddly enough, it wasn’t the (quite good) visuals that bugged me in the Gremlins 2 game, rather it was the music.
“The Office Stage Theme” scared the piss out of me as a kid.
Sure it has a goofy, cutesy note here and there, but the overarching theme of the music is one that struck terror into my soul as a child.
I remember my brother rented this game exactly once.
I liked playing it, as it had good graphics and controls, and I always thought Gizmo was cool, (my brother preferred Mohawk, as he was the badass Gremlin…) but the music just made me too anxious to play it for more than a few minutes.
That and the fear of running into one of the scary looking bosses…
Like a stunning number of games in the #25-21 bracket (Fester’s Quest and Batman) Gremlins 2 is a Sunsoft game, and as such; it’s music has that wonderful Sunsoft flavor to it.
Something about the way they do their bass work is just wonderful to listen to.
Anyway, “The Office Theme” might be a little obscure to some, but it’s on the list for scaring me to death as a child…
#20. Final Fantasy
Haha! That’s right, SUCK IT fanboys!
Final Fantasy has never really held a special place in my heart.
Neither have RPGs for that matter.
I played the original Final Fantasy as a kid, and simply couldn’t get into it.
Similar to my experiences with the Zelda series, I felt I never knew what to do, or where to go, ultimately resulting in me wandering the landscape for a time, only to run into a pack of imps and get my party of green-as-fuck level 1 heroes ass-fucked into oblivion.
Yeah, VI was the shit…
That being said, my lack of appreciation for the Final Fantasy series is what places “The Prelude,” a classic of gaming music history as old as myself; so low on this list.
It’s a beautiful, almost whimsical piece of music, that certainly still endures to this day, but to me; it’s just the title theme of a game I hated as a kid.
Did I mention all the fanboys can suck a big fat Blackanese cock?
#19. River City Ransom
River City Ransom is AWESOMELY FUCKIN’ BADASS.
You take Double FUCKIN’ Dragon, which is already BADASS as is, then throw in some AWESOMELY shitty dialogue and a leveling/shopping system, and you’ve got the AWESOMELY FUCKIN’ BADASS game that is River City Ransom!
Excuse me, I think I just came in my pants…
*Ahem!* Anyway, River City Ransom was, and is, an awesome game that I spent hours upon hours playing in my youth.
That being said, though there are many great pieces of memorable music in the game, most notably the standard street brawling theme and the shopping music, I feel that the track that best represents the game, is “The Boss Theme.”
Full of energy and pulse-pounding drama, “The Boss Theme” invokes all of the emotions that a boss theme should.
The only other track that could possibly eclipse it, is the River City Ransom version of the Double Dragon theme, though that loses out by a hair due to the fact that, well, the Double Dragon theme actually sounds a whole lot better in the Double Dragon series than it does here…
#18. Snow Bros.
“Stage 1 Theme”
You knew they were gonna’ pop on the list somewhere, but did you really think the crack covered snow men would rank so low?
When forming this list, I did what I could to check my ego at the door and really try and place these tracks appropriately.
While I love Snow Bros., and all of it’s music, deep down I knew that, musically speaking; it’s far from a work of art.
As mentioned in my Snow Bros. article, the “Stage 1 Theme” is a piece of music that I hummed throughout my childhood, such that my mother still knows the tune to this day.
It’s a wonderfully light piece of cutesy music that has a “rotundness” to it that really goes well with the chubbiness and slow-footed nature of the title characters.
I love the “Stage 1 Theme,” and it pains me to place it at #18, but sadly I simply can’t justify placing it any higher.
*Sniff!* Fuckin’ principles n’shit, makin’ me shit on Snow Bros…
“The Battletoads Theme”
There are few 8-bit era themes as rockin’ and kick-ass as “The Battletoads Theme,” and by golly, I love every note of it.
In the early 90’s, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were king.
That being said, while very little of it actually came to fruition, the Battletoads were, at one point; in line to get their own cartoon, comic book, and action figures.
Because my brother and I had a subscription to Gamepro (back when it was actually good), we caught word of this very early on, and in fact were treated to a some of the early comics printed in the pages of the magazine.
Needless to say, the Battletoads, despite starring in a series of games that were frustratingly difficult, were pushed on me pretty aggressively as a kid.
Whoever was head of the marketing department for the Battletoads deserves a pat on the back, ’cause despite having little to no positive memories of any Battletoads games, the ‘toads still have a place in my heart.
A lot of my love for the Battletoads though, springs from the awesomeness of their theme music, which is why it sits comfortably on this list at #17.
StarTropics was and is, a tremendously fun, rewarding, and unique game.
While I never actually beat it, (got close though) I have many fond memories of watching my brother play it day in and day out.
I loved the world map, and how it reminded me of Hawaii.
I loved the goofy noise the submersible made when it dived.
Most of all though, I loved the straightforward nature of the action levels and the “Dungeon Theme” that played over them.
The “Dungeon Theme” was unique in that, while most of environments that the action scenes took place in were scary looking caves, the music was very upbeat.
It had an island, almost calypso feel to it that really got you into the action, while giving everything a colorful and inviting feel to it.
It also did well to set up the drastic change in musical tonality that would occur when the “you’re getting close to the boss” music would transition over it.
Startropics is a game series that I could see myself sitting down and playing through someday.
It’s also a series that I sincerely hope gets a continuation or remake at some point.
Here’s to hoping for a return trip to C-Island someday…
“Main Theme of Shadowgate”
Shadowgate represents one of the very few point-and-click adventures that I ever really got into.
Well, for the most part; that scene was indicative of my experience with adventure games as a child.
In fact, pretty much every graphic adventure game made prior to the revolutionary LucasArts SCUMM interface was simply too cryptic for me to grasp.
While most of my memories of the game were of dieing seemingly unfair, and unwarranted; deaths, I honestly never felt any frustration over this.
Shadowgate was a game that set out to be creepy and moody, and in the eyes of my very young self; it accomplished this in spades.
Playing a huge part in this accomplishment, was of course the haunting soundtrack of the game.
While there actually weren’t that many tracks to be heard throughout the course of the game, the overarching “Main Theme” of Shadowgate was a track that you never got tired of.
Equal parts foreboding, energetic, and mystifying; the “Main Theme” of Shadowgate is a wonderful piece of gaming music that, once heard, will never be forgotten.
Especially when you’ve died to it 40 billion times…
#14. Super Dodge Ball
Super Dodge Ball is yet another SUPREMELY BADASS effort from the folks over at Technos.
Like many games on this list, Super Dodge ball was a game that my brother used to rent quite frequently.
I remember getting my ass pwned by him in Bean Ball games over and over and over again, largely because, like any good older brother; he never taught me how to do the Super Shots.
Anyway, Super Dodge Ball was a crazy-fun game, that while a little bit too easy for it’s own good, played host to one of the coolest final battles in NES history.
Essentially, the final match of the game has your team USA pitted against the COMMUNIST and therefore, EVIL dodge ball team from the USSR.
After a (presumably) epic match, the sky suddenly turns a devilish shade of purple while the court is occupied by dopplegangers of your team!
Despite the game being based around fucking dodge ball, for whatever reason I thought this final battle was just about the coolest thing ever when I first saw my brother get to it.
Maybe it’s just ’cause I was there to see and listen to it with my brother, but this match, and this piece of music will always stick with me as one of my favorite NES boss themes.
#13. Bionic Commando
“Area 1 Theme”
Bionic Commando was a great ass game that I wish I had gotten a chance to have played more of as a kid.
I loved the main character’s design, and his bionic arm, so much so that I used to draw him on my place mat in elementary school.
No, you don’t get a pic for that one…
The problem was, I only ever got to play the game when I was at my neighbors house across the street, however most of the time I’d get kicked off the NES so they could play Sid Meier’s Pirates.
That being said, I never really got much of a chance to get very far in Bionic Commando.
Thankfully, all I had to do was play the first stage to hear the best piece of music in the whole game.
“Area 1” is a very primitive sounding, (even by 8-bit standards) but extremely well composed piece of music.
With a military-ish cadence, and a heroic melody, “Area 1” is a terrific track that is well-deserving of the #13 spot on this list, as well as the honor of being considered the theme music for the entire Bionic Commando franchise.
#12. Adventure Island 2
C’mon now, don’t tell me you thought I’d leave out Master Higgins?
Adventure Island was one of my favorite game series as a kid, and in my opinion, 2 was easily the best in the series.
As previously mentioned, the “Boss Theme” of Adventure Island 2 is fuckin’ badass, so much so that it got my nod as being one of the Best Boss Musics in gaming.
That being said, among purely 8-bit competition, the “Boss Theme” of Adventure Island 2 is definitely deserving of a place on the list of the Top 25 Best NES Tracks.
I love the build up of this track, how it starts out slow, then explodes into a frenetic cacophony of kooky, island-y badassery.
It’s the perfect piece of music for killing giant plants and or crabs to.
#11. The Legend of Zelda
*Ahem!* Fanboys… You may suck it.
That’s right kids, the “Overworld Theme” from The Legend of Zelda didn’t crack the Top 10!
While it may seem blasphemous to some, bear in mind; this is my list, and as such, it caters to my particular tastes.
That being said, I didn’t place Zelda and Final Fantasy where I did for the sake of being cruel, or worse yet; “counter-culture,” I simply did so because there’s a shit ton of other music tracks out there that I genuinely hold in higher esteem.
Now that I got that out of the way, let me say this:
The “Overworld Theme” is a beautiful piece of music.
Despite it’s 8-bit nature, the “Zelda Theme” has gone on to grow well beyond the realm game music and become widely regarded as a classic tune worthy of universal praise.
While all that may be true, it doesn’t change the fact that virtually every memory I have of The Legend of Zelda is a bad one.
Getting lost, killed, and just plain frustrated was the order of the day just about every time I played Zelda, and I’m sorry to say, it’s left me negatively biased in regards to it.
The “Zelda Theme” is a great piece of music, that I listen to on my Ipod every now and again, and enjoy a great deal.
Unfortunately, it’s also an older arrangement of the 8-bit days, and as such, it leaves a little to be desired in terms of the fidelity of the music.
While skillfully composed, the “Zelda Theme” still hasn’t really lived up to it’s potential in my eyes, and has yet to have a proper rendition to capture the full glory of the music.
And that, my friends, is why the “Overworld Theme” gets dumped in the #11 spot on this list.
Oh yeah, that and there’s exactly 10 other pieces of music I think are better.
#10. Golgo 13: Top Secret Episode
“Golgo 13 Theme”
Remember when I said that you’d be familiar with all of the games in the Top 10?
While I could bore you with a detailed description of the backstory of said manga, I find it’s easier to sum things up by saying this:
Golgo 13 is THE SHIT, and could give ROBERT FUCKING MULDOON a run for his money in terms of manliness and overall badassery.
Trust me, he’s seriously that fucking pimp…
Anyway, the NES version of Golgo 13, was neat game that I loved to play in my youth.
It was a serious game, with an involving and suitably “adult” storyline that really made you feel cool to be a part of, especially as a kid.
Basically, it felt good to play a game that had enough confidence in my intelligence to talk to me like a big kid and give me objectives that felt a little more mature than say, saving the goddamn princess.
Half of the fun I had with Golgo 13, came in the form of the game’s theme music, which conveniently enough, could be brought up at any time simply by hitting the pause button!
Being as Golgo 13 is essentially the Japanese equivalent to James Bond, (only 10 times more badass an amoral) it’s only appropriate that his theme music in the game be a rousing and shlocky tune that would be right at home on a Ventures album.
Not only that, the Japanese version of the title screen has lyrics that flash on the screen in time to music, karaoke style!
I can read about 95% of it, maybe I should try and sing the fuckin’ song someday…
I’ve never really been a Castlevania kid.
While I love Konami games, particularly of the 8 and 16-bit eras, Castlevania was perhaps the one flagship title in their library that I never really cared much for.
I never liked how the jumping system was heavily momentum based, so much so that mid-air adjustments were nigh impossible.
I hated the cheap, pitfall deaths that were just a constantly spawning flying medusa head away.
And I suppose it doesn’t help either that I don’t care much for Gothic art and design.
On the NES, the only Castlevania I ever played was the very first.
While I ended up walking away from the game feeling it was alright, but not great, the music was, and is, something that will always stick with me.
The Castlevania games are known throughout gaming circles for their incredible soundtracks, and rightfully so.
While many of the compositions of the early games have since gone on to be remixed, and usually improved, my favorite track from the original NES game was the first stage theme, “Vampire Killer.”
“Vampire Killer” survives to this day as the single most prominent theme in the series.
I love it’s light-hearted yet spooky feel, as right off the bat it cues you in on the fact that:
It’s a wonderful, timeless piece of gaming music history, and though I still don’t care much for Castlevania, any Castlevania; it still deserves it’s spot on this list.
#8. Super Mario Bros.
The Mario theme, placed at #8 on a Top 25 list!?
Yes, I’ll admit it, I’m surprised it’s ranked as low as it is too.
Truth of the matter is, I knew it had to go somewhere on here, but I ended up arbitrarily placing it “somewhere” in the Top 10 to satisfy my conscience, while at once ensuring that my true favorites got the justice they deserved.
The Super Mario Bros. Theme is game music.
Plain and simple.
It’s one of the most memorable and enduring arrangements in all of gaming history, and no force on Earth, no matter how hipster or counter-culture, could keep it from receiving a spot on any gaming music Top 10 list.
Mario games are something that I’d like to think can appeal to anyone.
They’re fun, straightforward, and typically blessed with a difficulty level that is appropriately challenging, but never punishingly so.
While I’ve always liked Mario games, in truth I never really played them that much.
My brother stomped the shit out of pretty much all of them up to Super Mario 64, but despite living in a household that owned most of said games, I spent most of my time playing other stuff.
I suppose I was too into beat ’em ups in my youth to take the time to sit down and work my way through the platforming goodness of Mario.
Anyway, there’s nothing I can say about “World 1-1” that hasn’t been said, so I won’t try.
I can’t say I fully agree with my placement of this particular track, but I’m happy with my Top 5, so I figure it all balances out.
#7. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2: The Arcade Game
“Technodrome Stage Theme”
Okay, so we’re all in agreement that Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was the shit back in the early 90’s, right?
While it lacked the graphical polish of the arcade version, much like in the case of Turtles in Time; I’ve always maintained that the console version was superior.
Aside from including 2 extra stages and unique boss characters, the console version also had better controls and a more manageable and less “quarter-munching” difficulty level.
Ninja Turtles 2 was easily one of the most played games in me and my brother’s NES library.
It was fun, it was a Ninja Turtles product, it had “two player simultaneous gameplay,” and did I mention it was the NINJA FUCKING TURTLES!!?
I remember bringing Ninja Turtles 2 over to my friend’s houses, playing it all fuckin’ day, and then sitting down and watching Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2: The Secret of the Ooze over and over again until my mom picked me up.
THAT, my friends, is what childhood was all about.
The “Technodrome Stage Theme” is not only an incredible, and undeniably “Konami” piece of music, it was also something that was quite elusive to me in my youth.
Possessed of a rockin’ and moody quality that really jumps out to you as “last level” music, the “Technodrome Stage Theme” was a track that I didn’t get to hear that often because, well, Ninja Turtles 2 was actually kind of a hard game.
In many ways, me having only had a few opportunities to hear this track in my youth played a huge role in elevating this track to such a high spot on the list.
Oh yeah, that and the fact that it’s a fucking awesome piece of pulse-pounding, pizza-munching, teenage-mutant-ninja action music!
Turtle Power FOREVER.
#6. Blaster Master
“Stage 1 Theme”
After 3 of the bottom 5 of the tracks on this list came from Sunsoft products, did you really think there wouldn’t be at least one more game from them on here?
It’s true, I dig Sunsoft music, and when it comes to Sunsoft’s music library, I can think of no other game to better represent them than Blaster Master.
Blaster Master was a game I used to play at my barber’s house.
No, not the one that gave me a Nintendo Power, a different one.
Like most of the games on this list, I never really got anywhere in Blaster Master, but fuck man, I really wish I had…
I enjoyed every minute I played of the tank-hopping, grenade tossing action of the first stage in Blaster Master, and as always; a lot of my enjoyment came from the background music.
The “Stage 1 Theme” of Blaster Master is a terrific piece of music that really succeeds in capturing the colorful and adventurous spirit of the game and it’s setting.
It really feels like music you’d hear in a weird sci-fi world while patrolling the forests in a giant tank in search of your pet frog.
That last sentence didn’t really make a whole lot of sense, so let me rephrase:
The “Stage 1 Theme” of Blaster Master is awesome, and it makes me smile, so therefore it is #6.
#5. Double Dragon 2: The Revenge
“Roar of the Double Dragons”
That’s right kids, no the “Double Dragon Theme” didn’t make the list.
The truth is, while the Double Dragon Theme music is downright amazing, (in all of it’s iterations) in my opinion the Double Dragon 2 version of “Roar of the Double Dragons” trumps it by inches.
Well, that post, and all of the nostalgic goodness found within it pretty much sum up both why a Double Dragon game is ranked so high on this list, as well as why “Roar of the Double Dragons” in particular is my favorite track from the franchise.
I shit you not, watching my brother start to get the upper hand on the final boss of the game, only to have this adrenaline pumping theme of awesomeness suddenly pop up and put a big fat crescendo on the drama of the situation, was a gaming memory I will treasure forever.
In my opinion, “Roar of the Double Dragons” is easily one the best boss tracks ever.
Not only that, it’s just about the perfect final boss theme for a Double Dragon game, so much so that one could consider it a sort of sub-theme music of the series.
Whether the Double Dragons are fighting Machine Gun Willie, the Shadow Master, or even the fuckin’ Dark Queen alongside the Battletoads; the music I will always hear playing in my head is “Roar of the Double Dragons.”
Wow, I just realized Technos has a lot of games on this list…
For veterans of gaming music, this one was a no-brainer.
Well, call me conformist if you will, but godddamnit; “The Moon” really is that fucking good.
I love the pace of it, how it starts from a slow build, and then explodes into a beautifully electric and catchy tune that never lets up.
Let it be known, this is one piece of music that actually benefits from the tinniness and technical limitations of 8-bit sound quality, as it lends the track a sort of retro space age-y charm.
A huge success of “The Moon,” and indeed most Capcom games of the time, (Ducktales included) was how well the music went with the setting of the stage.
Sure the mine stage had suitably subterranean sounding music, sure the jungle level’s background music was, uh, “jungle-y,” but “The Moon” really fucking sounded like what the 5 year old me thought music on the Moon would sound like.
Yes, I am aware that sound waves don’t propogate in a vacuum.
Fuck you, I WAS 5.
#3. Nekketsu Kakutou Densetsu
Okay, I’ll admit it; I’m cheating a little with this one.
Nekketsu Kakutou Densetsu, (Hot-Blooded Fighting Legend) while technically an 8-bit game compatible with NES hardware, is actually a Japanese exclusive Famicom game.
Personally, I consider them basically the same system, but I see how this one could piss some people off, especially since it’s so high on the list.
Either way, it’s my list, so:
*Ahem!* Kakutou Densetsu is yet another Technos game that stars the companies flagship character, Kunio-kun.
For those that are unaware, Kunio is a high school tough guy that starred in many of Technos’ games, among which were a few entries on this list, namely the Japanese versions of River City Ransom and Super Dodge Ball.
Anyway, Kakutou Densetsu was a game I stumbled across through “untraditional means” sometime in high school.
As soon as the “Title Theme” hit my ears, I was In Like mother-fuckin’ Flint.
Being produced in 1992, fairly late in the NES’ lifespan, the fidelity of the music for Kakutou Densetsu was a step above what I was accustomed to hearing from the system.
In short, every piece of music in Kakutou Densetsu was amazingly good, with the “Title Theme” easily being the best of the bunch.
Not only that, the game itself was unbelievably complex, graphically impressive, and good fun all rolled into 1.
While many of my friends took to playing arcade games through “untraditional means” in their high school years, I just couldn’t get enough of Kakutou Densetsu.
I loved the birthday and blood-type based character creation.
I loved the complexity of the fighting system.
And I fuckin’ loved Toraji and Toraichi.
If you haven’t played Kakutou Densetsu, I suggest you give it a try, if not for the amazing music, then for the kick-ass Technos style fighting action!
#2. Ninja Gaiden 2: The Dark Sword of Chaos
“A Long Way to Go”
Ah, Ninja Gaiden, yet another game series that shit on me in my youth.
It’s no mystery that Tecmo’s Ninja Gaiden series is well known for it’s extreme difficulty level, and while Ninja Gaiden 2 on the NES is far from the toughest of the series, I’ll always be proud of myself for beating it back in the day.
Make no mistake, I lost many hours and days of my youth to Ninja Gaiden 2.
While living with the knowledge that I had beat the game was more than reward enough, imagine my surprise when “A Long Way to Go” hit my ears.
“A Long Way to Go” is, in my opinion; one of the finest ending themes for a game ever.
While it doesn’t go the RPG route and revisit all of the major musical motifs of the game over a span of, oh, 10-15 minutes; “A Long Way to Go” is an awe-inspiring piece of music with a title that perfectly captures the emotions it evokes.
Whenever I hear it, images come to mind of a battle worn hero reaching the end of an epic journey, only to set out on another immediately afterwards; the tiniest glimmer of giddy excitement and enthusiasm drawing across his face as he does.
Okay, maybe the real ending just consisted of a slide-show of sorts, but give me a break, I have a wild imagination…
“A Long Way to Go” was a satisfying reward for my time served with Ninja Gaiden 2, and I’ll always treasure it as one of my favorite pieces of music in gaming.
Now that we’ve got the first 24 down, it’s time to move onto the ‘ole numero uno…
The big kahuna…
The big cheese…
The dancing destroyer…
The Count of Monte Fisto…
The BEST Track in NES history…
#1. Mega Man 3
In the realm of 8-bit music, Mega Man is king.
Few could argue that the Mega Man series has yielded some of the finest and most memorable 8-bit tunes in history, if not in terms of sheer quality of product; then at least in terms of sheer volume.
While the debate will forever rage as to which game in the series is best, 2 or 3; (I think 2, but obviously 3 has an edge in terms of music…) for my money the “Title Theme” of Mega Man 3 is the best musical arrangement produced by any entry in the series.
Being as it is also #1 on this list, I suppose that also means I think it’s the best piece of music from any game on the NES.
The “Title Theme” of Mega Man 3 is a musical revelation.
Like Capcom’s own “The Moon” from Ducktales, it begins with a slow build.
I love how it starts out oh so mellow, stringing you along with it’s jazzy and borderline melancholy tune.
From there, the tune rapidly increases in pitch, reaches a crescendo and then…
And then you jizz in your pants because your ears just got raped by the golden cocks of pack of musical Japanese angels.
To attempt to illustrate the majesty of this track any further, is to struggle with the futility of the fact that there simply aren’t any words in the English language awesome enough to describe it.
The “Title Theme” and “Dr. Wily’s Castle #1” tracks from Mega Man 2, while definitely listed among the runner-ups of the top-tier, don’t come anywhere near the majesty of the Mega Man 3 “Title Theme” in my eyes.
I’ve said it before on this blog, but the careful arrangement of this list only serves to reiterate that the Mega Man 3 “Title Theme” is my favorite piece of NES music, and is therefore the Best NES Track of all time.
Before the dust settles on the epic event that was the unveiling of the Azn Badger’s list of the Top 25 NES Tracks, I feel it’s my duty to take a moment to discuss some of the tracks that almost made it on the list.
Yes, ladies and gentleman, today we’re going to be talking about the:
“Top 10 Runner-Ups of The Azn Badger’s Top 25 NES Tracks”
Epic fucking title, am I right?
Anyway, hopefully the following ruminations will help shed some light on my process for selecting the tracks for this list, as well as hopefully uncover a few hidden gems for the less game music savvy among us.
That being said, let’s get to it!:
Zanac is a vertical scrolling shoot ’em up that I received as a gift in my pre-teen years.
You see, despite the Playstation and Nintendo 64 already having risen to prominence by this time, my father; good intentioned thrift store shopper that he is, saw fit to give me NES games up until around my 13th birthday, when I’m pretty sure he gave up giving me gifts altogether.
While this was admittedly kind of strange, looking back I think it helped me to better appreciate the older generation of games, not to mention my dad’s yearly efforts to go out and get me something unique and different every birthday.
Thanks dad, for, uh, bein’ my dad, and filling my room with goofy outdated shit that only you and I can appreciate.
Anyway, Zanac is a game I know nothing about, other than the fact that I played it a lot during middle school.
Anyway, the details of Zanac are a mystery to me, but it was tons of fun and “Stage 1” had awesome music that was this close to making the lower-tier of the Top 25.
#9. R.B.I. Baseball
“Game Music 1”
*TUNE TO :23 FOR THE PART OF THE MUSIC THAT MADE THE LIST*
A neighbor of ours owned the Tengen “black cart” version of the game (my dad also gifted it to me at some point…) and most of my memories of the first 5 or 6 years of my life involve watching my brother play it.
In fact, despite being able to play it at our neighbor’s house basically whenever he wanted, I can actually recall several instances where my brother went out and rented it.
Let it be known boys and girls, my brother loves him some baseball.
I never really played R.B.I. Baseball.
Something about robots playing baseball just tickles my fancy…
Anyway, up until Ken Griffey Jr. Presents Major League Baseball on the Super NES, I can recall no other sports game that had my brother so engrossed.
Perhaps the best memory I took away from R.B.I. Baseball, was the music, which would loop constantly throughout every game.
That and the delightfully rotund players, whose husky builds and slow-footed nature fit the music perfectly.
It may not be the most intricate or bombastic of tunes, but nostalgia goes a long way…
Even if your only experience with the game consisted solely of watching it over your older brother’s shoulder.
This one was suggested by a friend of mine.
Honestly, I’ve never actually played Gauntlet on the NES.
I own Gauntlet 2, (another random gift from dad) but I never liked or played it much.
I played a lot of Gauntlet Legends in the arcade, mostly because it was fuckin’ hilarious; but that’s a story for another day…
Anyway, while I was compiling this list, I took the time to look up the Gauntlet “Title Theme,” as I honestly couldn”t recall the melody.
To my surprise, my buddy made a pretty good pick.
It’s a nice little diddy, reminiscent of a medieval minstrel’s tune, making it all-too appropriate for a sword and sorcery game like Gauntlet.
I actually had this one on the Top 25 up until my final revision, where I removed it in favor Super Dodge Ball.
Listening to them side by side, I feel I made the better decision…
Sorry buddy, had to go with my gut on this one.
#7. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III: The Manhattan Project
“Super Shredder’s Theme”
The reason for this particular track being on the Top 10 Runner-Ups list is kind of silly.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III: The Manhattan Project was a game I played exclusively at one of my spoiled friend’s houses, and just happens to be the game with the longest fucking title on this list.
While in many ways superior to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2: The Arcade Game, Turtles III was the unfortunate victim of being released around the time most of us were just starting to jump platforms to the, at the time; brand spankin’ new Super NES.
Like I said though, it’s a great game, actually better than #2, it just didn’t get enough exposure is all.
Anyway, the reasoning behind the selection of this track for the Runner-Ups being silly, is the fact that it’s only on here because it’s the original version of “Super Shredder’s Theme,” which would go on to be remixed for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles IV: Turtles in Time.
“Super Shredder’s Theme” from the Super NES version of Turtles in Time is HANDS DOWN one of my favorite boss themes of all time, making the original 8-bit version, while in fact vastly inferior; still pretty fuckin’ good.
Here’s the Turtles in Time version for reference:
Anyway, it’s not deserving of a spot on the Top 25, but it laid the ground work for what would become one of my favorite pieces of game music EVER, and as such such it gets a nod in the form of a spot among the Runner-Ups.
#6. Little Nemo: The Dream Master
I fuckin’ loved Little Nemo: Adventures in Slumberland back in the day.
The world was colorful and inviting, the songs were pretty decent, and Nightmare Land and all of it’s denizens were suitably creepy and stunningly well-imagined to boot.
Because of my love for the movie, naturally I went out and rented the game at some point.
While the game was not nearly the work of genius that the movie was, it was a pretty solid platformer nonetheless.
The monster costume gimmick was cutesy and fun, and the scepter was very much a thinly veiled Mega Buster, but the thing I remember most; was the music!
The music was, like the movie, whimsical and grand in scale to an extent that few NES games aspired to, let alone movie tie-in platformers.
While the Nightmare world theme and the Final Boss themes were pretty fuckin’ spankin’, like most memorable game tracks, the best piece was from the first stage, the “Mushroom Forest.”
Don’t be surprised if you see a Let’s Play of Little Nemo posted here someday…
#5. Double Dragon 2: The Revenge
“Theme of The Double Dragons”
I’ve loved Double Dragon series ever since I first played the second one with my brother in my early childhood, and it’s a game series that I continue to treasure to this day.
Chief among my reasons for loving the Double Dragon series, is of course the fact that it possessed one of the most memorable and enduring theme musics in gaming history.
It’s a tune that’s been used in nearly every game in the series, with each iteration making slight changes to the table.
While Double Dragon 2 is definitely my favorite game in the series, I feel I should go on record and say that my selection of it’s version of theme for this list added no bias to my decision.
Believe me when I say this, I went out of my way to listen to all of the NES versions of the Double Dragon Theme back to back just to come to this conclusion.
The original version was too uppity for my tastes, feeling more appropriate as the background music for the 2 player game mode than a theme music for a pair of characters.
The version used in Double Dragon III: The Sacred Stones was extremely well-composed, with the most intricate instrumentation of the 3 NES versions of the theme, but honestly I felt that this resulted in it having a somewhat cluttered and “loud” sound to it that was a little bit too overbearing.
The version featured in Double Dragon 2: The Revenge, the slowest and most laid back version of the Double Dragon Theme on the NES, and yet it feels most right.
Unlike the original version that feels too fast, the Double Dragon 2 version of the theme has a more subtle instrumentation to it, but as a result it sounds the most like a theme music for Billy and Jimmy Lee as opposed to a single scene in the game.
Anyway, those are my thoughts, hopefully they make sense…
#4. Journey To Silius
More specifically, it’s a Sunsoft game I’ve never played.
In fact, the first time I ever heard of Journey To Silius was less than a year ago, when I stumbled across a video about produced by LordkaT for his Until We Win series.
Speaking exclusively from what I saw in that video, I thought the game looked pretty fun.
The jumping mechanic, as described by Lordkat, sounded somewhat Castlevania-ish to me though, so chances are I’d probably hate it if I played it…
Anyway, while watching that video of the game, I happened to notice some of the background music playing over Lordkat’s narration.
While he is known to sometimes use music tracks from other games in his videos, I obviously didn’t recognize the music, resulting in me Youtube-ing the Journey To Silius soundtrack to find out what it was.
Sure enough, it was the “Stage 1” theme.
While this is indeed an amazing piece of NES music, I felt it inappropriate to list among the Top 25 due to my lack of history with the game.
Even so, making the Top 5 of the Runner-Ups despite me never having played the game is still quite an accomplishment.
#3. Mega Man 2
“Dr. Wily’s Castle 1”
Among Mega Man music, this one is my #2.
#1 was my pick for the Best NES Track EVER, as well as part of one of my favorite game series ever, so I feel it goes without saying that being my #2 of the Mega Man series is not far from being #2 in all of 8-bit music.
This track was, in many ways, the reason why I instigated the “1 track per franchise” for this list.
Even so, though I like both tracks just about equally; deep down I knew which is one was better, and therefore most appropriate to represent Mega Man on the Top 25.
That being said, “Dr. Wily’s Castle” is an exhilarating piece of game music that was incredibly complex it’s time, and still holds up to this day as one of the better gaming compositions throughout history.
#2. Castlevania 2: Simon’s Quest
Castlevania 2: Simon’s Quest, like Journey To Silius, is another game on this list that I have never played.
That’s actually kind of interesting to note, as back in the day Simon’s Quest was regarded as one of the finest games on the NES.
Despite actually wanting to play Castlevania 2 in my youth, like many great games back in the day; I ended up passing it over in favor of repeatedly renting Snow Bros. every weekend…
Regardless, sometime in high school I took the time to check out the soundtrack of Simon’s Quest, and lo and behold, there was gold in them there hills!
While the game might have a bit too much of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles sound to it, (understandable, seeing as Konami was cranking out those games like crazy back in the day) like any Castlevania, it truly has an awesome soundtrack.
“Bloody Tears” was my favorite track I ran across in the soundtrack for Castlevania 2.
I have no idea what point of the game it’s used for, but it’s a simultaneously energetic and haunting tune that was this close to usurping the original “Vampire Killer’s” position on the Top 25.
Like Journey To Silius though, I simply couldn’t justify placing it on the list without ever having actually experienced the track in-game.
#1. Ninja Gaiden
Is it just me or do the Ninja Gaiden games on the NES all have fuckin’ brilliant ending themes?
Ninja Gaiden 3 had a pretty decent ending theme, which was appropriate given that it was a “pretty decent” game.
Ninja Gaiden 2’s ending has the distinction of holding the #2 spot on my Top 25 NES Tracks list.
And the original Ninja Gaiden’s “Ending Theme” gets the #1 spot among the Top 10 Runner-Ups!
The composers over at Tecmo deserve a pat on the back, ’cause damn they did a great job.
The “Ending Theme” of the original Ninja Gaiden was a fantastic piece of music that I only recently rediscovered.
I heard it when I was very young, and I remember liking it, but for whatever reason I simply didn’t remember it.
Boy am I glad I did, ’cause it is one hell of a roller coaster ride of 8-bit goodness.
As much an action piece as it is an ending track, the “The Ending Theme” of Ninja Gaiden is a terrific composition that really gets your blood pumping.
Honestly, if not for Ninja Gaiden 2 having a slightly better ending track, this tune would’ve made the Top 25 in a heartbeat.
Damn sequels… Bein’ all better n’shit…
Well folks, thus concludes the Azn Badger’s list(s) of the Best NES Tracks!