Designing a video game requires hundreds of tiny creative and technical decisions that all amount to a finished product. You might think music was a no-brainer in the early days, with limited sound chips and minimal memory, but from the beginning their have been some totally baffling video game songs that make you wonder what the developer or composer were thinking. Here’s a few of those confusing moments that you may or may not have heard before. You might be surprised at how enjoyable some of these pieces are, they just don’t fit in their respective games.
Metroid – Norfair
Metroid has one of the best NES soundtracks out there. It’s memorable, heroic and creepy in all the right places..except for this one. Don’t get me wrong, I think this is a lovely piece of music. In fact I listen to it regularly, but after all this time and so many listens, I have no idea how this song makes me feel! Is it supposed to be scary? Relaxing? I find it rather relaxing until those weird unsettling pauses occur. It sort of makes me picture a lifeless puppet dangling in the wind. Wierdly, it reminds me of a 90’s math-rock/emo band called Ethel Meserve.
Metroid II: Return of Samus – Ancient Chozo Ruins
I love the surface music in RoS but this song is like the theme song for a dopey, indecisive super hero..it’s like the perfect musical expression of an awkward moment that goes on too long, oh but then gets really dangerous and intense…someone wrote on youtube that it’s like something stalking you…I sorta get that, but not the first part of it, which just sounds like a game over jingle. Someone else wrote “This is simultaneously the best and worst song in Gameboy history.” That’s what I mean but baffling!
Magmax – Stage Theme Subterrain
I can barely even write a comment on this one. Here’s the weird part: It sounds kind of good when you slow it down by about 50%. I’m wondering if somebody accidently bumped the tempo up when compiling the code and sent this song into overdrive.
Donkey Kong Country – Jungle Groove
DKC has some of my favorite music for the SNES. Super catchy and appropriate for every level. Jungle Groove is two really great songs in one. The problem is the way they’re juxtaposed together in such a weird way. Could they not decide if they wanted the game to start off somber and epic or silly and fun? Either one would have been great, but why slam them together like this?
Harvest Moon – Town Music
Harvest Moon on the SNES has great music and the town theme is really nice. For such a high quality game, you have to wonder why there seem to be a couple of off notes about 43 seconds into the song. Maybe they were going for a bluesy chord, but it just sounds like someone fat-fingered their keyboard.
Treasure Master – Worlds 3 & 5
Treasure master actually has really good music. And what happens in this song is probably a great showcase of just how powerful the NES sound chip is. But why crossfade in the middle of a song into a completely unrelated song. Just to show that you can make a crossfade on the NES? This is not a cross-faded video, it actually does that on the NES.
EarthBound – The Place (and others)
Testing…is this synth on? Seriously, this sounds like a keyboard sound check. Earthbound has tons of awesome music and probably more songs than any other SNES game out there. But, I guess the composers started to get a little lazy on a few of the songs after making so many killer tunes. The Place, The Cliff that Time Forgot and Mu Training are two others that are so quiet and sparse that they creep you out.
Klonoa 2 – Mad Biscarsh
This plays during a chase scene in the game where a big robot chases you. This is not a bad song, but it is, to my knowledge, the only video game song I’ve ever heard that seems to be trying to imitate the hardcore genre. I keep expecting a hoarse screamed vocals about overthrowing the government to start bust into this track. Judging by the comments on the video, I was not the only one traumatized by this intensity level!