Welcome to the second part of a brand new CelJaded Top 100 for Best Video Game Music. This post features entries #90 to #81.
If you haven’t done so already, please read the introduction 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.
#90 – The Battle …For Golden Axe II
Principal Platforms: Mega Drive | Composers: Naofumi Hataya | Year: 1991
Once again I have to be completely honest and admit that I’m not a huge fan of the music from Golden Axe.
Neither am I a huge fan of its first console-exclusive sequel Golden Axe II, as it’s practically the same game as the original aside from a few minor gameplay tweaks and the odd new enemy design.
Golden Axe 1.1 would definitely be a more fitting name…
Weirdly though, this short piece of music (that plays over the game’s title sequence) has more pizzazz than anything else in the game.
As with many examples of Japanese video game music, this one is just so over-the-top melodic and catchy compared to all of those dreary stage tunes and as a result I really like it!
#89 – The Cove …For Puggsy
Principal Platforms: Amiga, Mega Drive, Mega-CD | Composers: Matt Furniss | Year: 1993
Here’s one from the fan-favourite composer Matt Furniss; an individual who is responsible for many great 16-bit soundtracks.
This early stage theme from Psygnosis’ old puzzle-platformer Puggsy is likewise a popular pick with fans because of its many charming melodies.
Although Puggsy received a total soundtrack overhaul as part of its Sega Mega-CD translation, it’s the Mega Drive version of this Amiga original that sounds the best in my opinion.
It’s just a little more upbeat and peppy than the decidedly ambient, but no less pleasant, CD-ROM alternative.
#88 – Lower Seattle and Heron’s Loft …For Deus Ex: Invisible War
Principal Platforms: PC | Composers: Alexander Brandon, Todd Simmons | Year: 2003
Speaking of ambient music…
This sequel to the story-driven FPS Deus Ex may have disappointed many fans of the original, but it’s certainly not the disaster that some people would like to claim it is either.
The music is deeply thematic of the game’s bleak setting and aura of conspiratorial distrust.
It’s restrained to the point that you won’t find any tense battle themes or overly upbeat compositions, except maybe for the odd peppy background song by the game’s fictional pop star called NG Resonance.
Like the Lower Seattle theme featured here, most of the game’s tunes are noticeably slow and developmental, but they do a superb job of immersing you in the effusive cyberpunk world that the Deus Ex franchise calls home.
#87 – Cardinal Dancer …For Wipeout
Principal Platforms: PlayStation, Saturn | Composers: CoLD SToRAGE | Year: 1995
One of the earliest and most instantly recognizable games from the 32-bit era, Wipeout is a venerable series of futuristic racing games that has become almost synonymous with the name PlayStation.
The electronic music that supports this unique series has always been ahead of its time and seeing as the original Wipeout or “wipE’out” is still the only such title I’ve played, I simply had to find room for Cardinal Dancer to take a spot on this Top 100.
I’m may not be an expert on the genre of melodic trance, but I can say with enthusiasm that this track is a real “banger” and helps give the game more of that pulsing sound that defines the franchise.
#86 – Big Boss Blues …For Keio Flying Squadron
Principal Platforms: Mega-CD | Composers: Tsukasa Tawada | Year: 1994
An obscure entry from the Sega Mega-CD’s library of curios.
Much like its 32-bit sequel, Keio Flying Squadron is a real oddity of a game due its pure Japanese theme that wasn’t toned down or adjusted for its Western release back in the mid-nineties.
Considering that the market for such oddball titles was much smaller back then, it’s remarkably strange that the game even saw the light of day in the US, not to mention Europe.
Whilst it may just be a generic shoot ’em up with cutesy undertones, it has to be said that Keio’s CD-ROM soundtrack – which was the cutting edge in 1994 – is quality and now forms a delightful period piece with plenty of appeal.
Most of the tracks here are a variety of upbeat tunes with a thematic Eastern flavour, but my personal favourite pick goes to this menacing boss theme for perfectly nailing that necessary sensation of looming dread.
#85 – Ozar Midrashim …For Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver
Principal Platforms: PC, PlayStation, Dreamcast | Composers: Kurt Harland | Year: 1999
One of gaming’s most Gothic revenge tales, Soul Reaver is the second entry in the now M.I.A. Legacy of Kain series by Crystal Dynamics.
Soul Reaver is a very good game for its time as it features fantastic art design, stellar voice acting and a storyline that really pulls you in.
The confusing level design, re-spawning enemies, and fiendishly unintuitive puzzles let the side down of course, but once again the music is on hand to win back some merit.
Aside from the brooding environment BGM (that is wonderfully unnerving throughout), you have this dramatic composition which acts as a theme to the game’s fallen protagonist Raziel.
This track varies quite a bit in the beginning, but once that baseline kicks in, it’s impossible not to feel the gravity of the dark and mysterious land of Nosgoth assaulting your senses from every angle.
#84 – Main Theme …For Lost Planet: Extreme Condition
Principal Platforms: Xbox 360, PC | Composers: Akihiko Narita, Shuji Uchiyama | Year: 2006
I ran into a situation with a friend years ago that acts as a perfect example of how people value video game music differently from each other.
During a debate on the topic in question, he said:
“I mean, who remembers the music to a game like Lost Planet for instance?”
I answered by humming this main theme!
#83 – The Water Temple …For The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
Principal Platforms: Nintendo 64 | Composers: Koji Kondo | Year: 1999
As good a game as Ocarina of Time is, The Water Temple level stands as one of its most infamous low points.
Widely known as a very demanding area of the game, this underwater maze sees Link navigating murky aquatic chambers whilst wearing heavy iron boots to keep him anchored to the watery floor.
Constantly pausing the game in order to reequip said boots is only half of the frustration though, as finding your way through a dark underwater temple consisting of many look-alike rooms leads to no end of confusion.
Today’s players may scoff at this sentiment after approaching the level in one of its many restored or altered forms, but you have to remember that the Nintendo 64 original was released in a time where high quality AV cables and widescreen televisions were yet to become the norm.
Video Games looked and sounded a great deal grainier back then and when you factor this in with the unwieldy N64 controller too, it’s perhaps easier to appreciate how aggravated these problems are in the original version.
I haven’t revisited Ocarina of Time since completing it back in 1999, but the music – most notably the ocarina melodies – is something that has always stayed with me.
I listened to the soundtrack again recently and upon arriving at a playlist entry for The Water Temple’s background music, I must admit to being bizarrely hesitant. Time doesn’t heal every wound, I guess!
I need not have worried though as this track is actually quite magical.
When divorced of all the frustration and anxiety of the area itself, you can really feel the soothing effect of the beautiful melody and the slow aquatic heartbeat running through it.
#82 – Short Change …for Grand Theft Auto 2
Principal Platforms: PC, PlayStation, Dreamcast | Composers: EZ Rollers | Year: 1998
I’ve decided that the Grand Theft Auto series is just not for me, but this title theme from the all-mighty franchise’s second game is simply brilliant and surely a great song to get high to.
#81 – Anything But Tangerines …for Earthworm Jim 2 (32-bit Version)
Principal Platforms: PC, PlayStation, Saturn | Composers: Tommy Tallarico | Year: 1995
Say what you want about the man’s ego, it can’t be denied that Tommy Tallarico is responsible for a lot of stellar video game music.
For this opening level to Earthworm Jim 2 he recorded a frenetic piece of background music driven by a stunning combo of electric guitar and keyboard.
The 32-bit ports of this gimmick-heavy sequel were pretty unnecessary in the grand scheme of things, but you can’t fault the enhanced soundtrack that it brought us.