Welcome to the seventh part of a brand new CelJaded Top 100 for Best Video Game Music. This post features entries #40 to #31.
Surprised that Sonic isn’t on this list? Then go read the introduction post first as it contains all the house rules that this list follows along with a few other musings that you might find interesting.
If you’re looking for another post in this same series then also consider visiting the associated index which includes a readout of all currently published entries and the posts in which they appear.
As always, please remember that I do not own any of the music samples you see embedded below; they are the property of their respective copyright owners.
#40 – Severnaya Bunker …for Goldeneye 007
Principal Platforms: Nintendo 64 | Composers: Grant Kirkhope | Year: 1997
The existence of several uncompressed music tracks for Goldeneye 007 broke last year and fans have been clamouring to hear more ever since.
Severnaya Bunker is the game’s best piece. Featuring that familiar sound of so many James Bond movies, it’s at once thematic and extremely suitable considering how stealthy the actual level can be in practice.
When ruminating on the production as a whole, veteran composer Grant Kirkhope remarked:
“I knew we had the license to use the original Monty Norman theme so I got started. It was immense fun to write that video game’s music, I don’t know how many times I listened to all the past theme tunes from the movies, probably hundreds. It was the first time I’d had to do any sound design too, finding lots of gun shots and over the top ricochets was obviously my first task!”
#39 – Main Theme …For Tomb Raider
Principal Platforms: PC, PlayStation, Saturn | Composers: Nathan McCree | Year: 1996
Owing to the limitations of mid-nineties console tech, composer Nathan McCree chose to go with a very ambient approach when producing the audio for Tomb Raider.
It was a good move though as this collection of ominous backing tracks are all extremely evocative of that Indiana Jones theme that the game seeks to conjure. Sometimes it sounds as simple as wind in a yawning chasm and other times it’s more whimsical and melodic.
This memorable title theme is a piece that fits in with the latter as its rather soothing quality is very evocative of all those mysterious locations that Lara finds herself exploring.
McCree’s soundtrack has not seen any sort of official release in the twenty years since Tomb Raider came out, but it seems that sticking point is finally about to change.
Announced recently, The Tomb Raider Suite is an all-new production that will see this soundtrack (as well as the soundtracks from Tomb Raider II & III) re-recorded with a full orchestra and released commercially for the very first time. Woah!
I’d say it’s the perfect way to celebrate the 20th anniversary of a video game that I’ve held in very high regard for a very long time.
#38 – Uninhabited Island …For Skies of Arcadia
Principal Platforms: Dreamcast, GameCube | Composers: Tatsuyuki Maeda, Yutaka Minobe | Year: 2000
Accompanying what many would consider to be the best part of Skies of Arcadia, this track perfectly encapsulates the theme of being stuck on a deserted island with nothing but your intuition and a few sticks of firewood to help you survive.
There’s no combat or conversations to take part in during this part of the story, but the downtime is a fun change of pace nonetheless and it gives the supporting cast (whose story branches off on a different path) more room to develop as well.
Despite the shipwreck that leads to this stranded scenario, Uninhabited Island is not a track that highlights despair or remorse, but rather it represents hope and – in the end at least – a very roundabout stroke of good fortune!
#37 – The Woods of Light …For Rayman 2: The Great Escape
Principal Platforms: Nintendo 64, Dreamcast, PlayStation 2 | Composers: Eric Chevalier | Year: 1999
It’s no surprise to see Rayman 2 on a list like this as practically everything about the game is as good as it can be.
The Woods of Light is the game’s opening level (weird how they always seem to be so memorable, isn’t it?) that focuses on teaching the controls and generally preparing you for Rayman’s great journey.
I’ve always liked this music for its mellow feel and catchy guitar riff. At times I would find myself revisiting the Woods just to hear the music playing; it’s that good!
#36 – The Greatest Jubilee …For Bayonetta
Principal Platforms: PlayStation 3, Wii U, Xbox 360 | Composers: Rei Kondoh | Year: 2009
Fans of orchestral music will want to turn their volume up about now.
Indeed, it’s tough to beat the spectacle of a good boss battle and this final boss theme fires on all cylinders to sell the climactic threat behind the mighty screen-hogging deity that bookends Bayonetta’s first adventure.
Honestly though, there are so many good tracks in Bayonetta that on a different day I might switch this theme out for another one, but the sheer epic sound here always gets me coming back for another eager listen.
#35 – New Quack City …For Fur Fighters
Principal Platforms: Dreamcast, PlayStation 2 | Composers: Sam Hall | Year: 2000
I just love this.
Fur Fighters itself can go piss up a rope – how it dodged my overrated games list I’ll never know – but I can’t deny that its soundtrack is superb.
Taking the guise of a somewhat dark action-adventure featuring stuffed animals as protagonists, this game wants to be a Nintendo platformer so very badly, but its confusing level design and repetitive gameplay just don’t measure up to the likes of Mario or Banjo. Hell, even Crash Bandicoot has a more of a chance!
New Quack City is a tedious level then, but you wouldn’t know it by listening to this rather catchy music. What’s great about the Fur Fighters soundtrack is the way the music changes depending on the character you currently have selected.
Play as the samurai racoon called Chang and the music takes on a subtle Eastern flavour, whereas running with the French cat Juliette spices things up with a Parisian harpsichord. Like Banjo-Kazooie before it; the dynamic audio here is way ahead of its time and is still extremely impressive.
#34 – New Junk City …For Earthworm Jim (Mega-CD/PC Version)
Principal Platforms: Mega-CD, PC | Composers: Tommy Tallarico | Year: 1994
It is a complete coincidence that New Junk City follows New Quack City on this list. It honestly just fell that way, amazing!
When Gameloft secured the rights to release Earthworm Jim HD in 2009, that deal came at the expense of the original creators’ involvement. I managed to get halfway through the demo’s opening level before the lack of original graphics and Tommy Tallarico’s irreplaceable soundtrack became too much to bear.
Thanks to the rock styling of its composer (whose name we’re seeing a lot of lately!), Earthworm Jim is a big deal in the realm of fine video game music.
This remastered rendition of New Junk City (AKA Junkit) that was composed for the game’s CD-ROM versions is as good as it gets. Similar to Anything But Tangerines that we heard back in part 3, this piece has all the energy it needs to keep up with the fast platforming action.
The game itself may not have aged all that well, but the music, which often makes hilarious use of classical scores by the way, most definitely has.
Now where did I put that Earthworm Jim Anthology album?…
#33 – Rock Solid …For Conker’s Bad Fur Day
Principal Platforms: Nintendo 64 | Composers: Robin Beanland | Year: 2001
Exactly how Robin Beanland managed to squeeze a banger as awesome as this onto an N64 cartridge must be one of gaming’s greatest mysteries. It’s a conspiracy, I’m sure!
Accompanying the remarkably silly nightclub level in Conker’s Bad Fur Day, Rock Solid is one of those video game tracks that really lives up to its name and its presence was very sorely missed in the so-so Xbox remake titled Conker: Live & Reloaded.
#32 – Boss …For Rocket Knight Adventures
Principal Platforms: Mega Drive | Composers: Masanori Oouchi, Aki Hata, Michiru Yamane, Masanori Adachi | Year: 1993
Everything that’s good and effective about boss music is found in this track.
The necessary pace, furious momentum and sheer threat is all here and it’s here in 16-bit force that never fails to sell the difficulty or drama of the encounter you’re about to face. This track represents Konami at the top of their game and the results are just perfect.
As the fittingly-named gigas81 says in the comments to the sample above: “This music made a boss fight against a train awesome. Remember that.”
#31 – Finish The Fight …For Halo 3
Principal Platforms: Xbox 360 | Composers: Martin O’Donnell, Michael Salvatori | Year: 2007
You don’t need me on this one.