Most Underrated NES/Gameboy Soundtracks

The lists of the best NES and Gameboy soundtracks are filled with familiar hits from Megaman, Zelda and Metroid. But there were a lot of less-than-stellar games for these systems that had some killer music. Here’s some amazing 8-bit songs you might have never heard.

 

Journey To Sillius

 

 

Journey to Sillius was originally going to be a Terminator video game but somehow Sunsoft lost the liscence and slapped a generic Sci-Fi story on this super tough platform run-and-gun game. Sunsoft gets two games on the top of the list for the same reason: Killer bass! While the triangle wave bass sound is one of the defining sounds of the NES, it also lacks character and punch of more modern synthesizer basses. While the DPCM channel on the NES normally plays tiny drum samples, that’s not all it can do.

 

The composers of Journey To Sillius loaded up beefy synth samples and used the noise channel to make drums. That gives these songs a lot more punch than your standard NES song. The added static from these 1-bit crushed samples actually adds to the power of these tunes.

 

To be fair, this soundtrack has gotten some recognition, it breaks the top 100, 300 and even top 20 on some lists, but I think it should be much higher. Check out the mind-blowing echoing part around 2:12 too!

 

Gimmick!

 

Gimmick is another Sunsoft entry to the NES line of games from 1992. Its happy, bouncy tunes are propelled along by awesome slap bass and crunchy samples that set it apart from other NES songs with their subtle bass parts. This game has got to have the busiest DPCM channels of any game out there. If you listen carefully you’ll notice that in some songs drum samples are playing in between bass samples. The resulting full sound never got the recognition it deserverd, probably mostly due to the fact that the game came out so late in the NES’s development cycle.

 

M.C. Kids

 

 

An annoying thing from the 90’s was that there was a video game that game out for every product imaginable. Every Saturday morning cartoon, soda, action figure collection got their own second-rate NES game. McDonalds didn’t want to be left out so they released M.C. Kids. It was basically a Super Mario 3 clone and brought little innovation or excitement. It’s graphics were also pretty weak. All that said though, this track is one of the most catchy things I’ve heard on the NES. The way they use the triangle bass is just great! I am warning you right now, if you listen to this song more than twice, it will be in your head for weeks. You may even awake from a sudden daze sitting in McDonalds with a Big Mac in your hand and have no idea how you got there. True story.

 

Turok

 

The Turok franchise started up around the N64 days around 1997. The Gameboy games had some amazing music. This Asian-infused little groove is really great. It’s hard to imagine this song sounding any better with modern instrumentation.

 

Conquest of the Crystal Palace

Conquest of the Crystal Palace was a hard-as-Blaster-Master platformer filled with weird characters (Dogs wearing Samurai armor) and impossible jumps. It’s one of those games that’s hard even if you use save states to cheat! The first level, however, has some of the most memorable Asian-influenced music you’ll ever hear on the NES. It’s got some great drum work too.

 

 

S-11

Released by Sunsoft and Paragon 5 in 2001, S-11 boasts some of the most amazing music for the Gameboy Color. You’re ears will have a hard time accepting that you’re only listening to 4 simultaneous sounds here.

 

Uncle Fester’s Quest

This super whacky Adams Family game might not have been the best game ever, but it had some killer music. This track uses the sampled bass trick that Sunsoft later perfected. You gotta respect that gritty bass sound and head banging beat. It’s very hard to make anything that truly rocks on the NES but this hits the spot. The interior “3d” areas of the game also have some of the creepiest music you’ll ever hear. I remember being on the edge of my seat exploring dark empty hallways, expecting something to jump out at me.
This is by no means a complete list. Post in the comments the long-lost gems that I might have left out.

BeatScribeFaceBeatscribe is a full time indie composer, musician and writer. By day he creates soundtracks for various mobile gaming companies, by night creates megaman-inspired chiptunes, in the afternoons he drinks tea.  Check out his latest releases, tutorials and retro ruminations at www.beatscribe.com.

2 thoughts on “Most Underrated NES/Gameboy Soundtracks”

  1. S-11 is one of the most amazing soundtracks I’ve ever heard come out of a GameBoy. I downloaded the tracks a while back and play them on my iPod when I’m driving, just awesome. The rest of these are good choices, too.

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