One of my most favorite aspects of any video game is its soundtrack, both the musical score and all of the noises developers craft to bring their games to life. Without a memorable soundtrack many games fail to leave a lasting mark on your experience with them, which ultimately can lead to the game being entirely forgettable itself. Great music doesn’t always make for a great game, but a great game will always have great music.
Being a child of the ’80s I have a special place in my heart for classic 8-bit video game chiptune music, so much so that I decided to rank 20 of the best NES video game soundtracks according to my childhood experiences with them. While doing the research it was clear to me that I still fondly remember all of these games, not only because of their excellent soundtracks, but because many also shaped the gamer that I’d become in my adult years. This is probably one reason why I’ve fallen in love with the indie movement, which has unleashed a boatload of retro style video games both in terms of their soundtracks, as well as visuals.
Below you’ll find the 20 best 8-bit video game soundtracks, all of which were available on the NES. Sit back, relax, and take a listen to some of gaming’s most iconic musical themes of all-time, and when you’re done leave a comment down below to tell me how dumb or wrong my choices are! Quite frankly this list could well have reached into the 50s, but for the sake of time I kept it at 20.
Note: If you click on the videos you can bounce around to the various tracks for each game.
20) T&C Surf Designs: Wood & Water Rage
The surfing aspect of T&C is nearly impossible to master, but one thing is for sure and that’s the fact that the main theme for skating and surfing is radical, and very hard to ever forget.
Gauntlet’s use of muffled voices was magical for a game back in the ’80s, but its somewhat classical harpsichord sounding soundtrack is also highly memorable, and one that may remind you of stealing your friend’s loot when he/she died like the punk that you are.
18) Rad Racer
Not only did Rad Racer offer 3D support, but it also had some kick-ass music that helped to amp up your stress levels, or your radness factor as you raced towards each checkpoint hoping to extend your race before the clock runs out. The little diddy that plays if you fail is also a haunting reminder that you didn’t have what it takes to get the job done.
17) Donkey Kong
Donkey Kong’s diminutive offering of musical themes is also the reason its score is so memorable. There’s just something undeniably catchy about the repeating beeps that accompany each stage you play, as well as the hammer time music that kicks off a frenzy of faster beeps to amp up the excitement.
Battletoads may feature some of the most grueling video game challenges on the planet, but the pain could always be eased with its hard hitting chiptune soundtrack. It’s hard hitting, fast, and memorable, even if the memories it brings back to your mind are bad ones.