In honor of Music Editor Martin Cizmar's look at video game-inspired music this week, we've taken the time to assemble this list of video games you should be listening to. That's right, listening. Play them all you want, but we're betting that your memories of laying waste to the final boss will fade over time while the melodies from these adventures will keep playing in your head forever.
10: Super Smash Bros. Brawl
How many composers does it take to create a fighting game soundtrack? When you're talking about Nintendo's premier fighter, the answer is how many have you got?
Featuring just about every video game music you can think of including Mr. Final Fantasy himself Nobuo Uematsu, the Super Smash Bros. Brawl soundtrack keeps the hits coming with reworked versions of classic gaming tracks. Every stage has multiple soundtracks as well giving players the ability to choose their own battle music. Laying the smack down never sounded so good.
9: Super Metroid
Before zombie dogs jumping through windows made us shriek like little girls while playing Resident Evil we got seriously creeped out playing Super Metroid on Super Nintendo. Sure, the graphics were frightening and the dead scientists in the game's abandoned research station are the first pixilated images of death we can remember, but it was the atmospheric music of Super Metroid that had us looking over our shoulders the whole time we played.
8: Sky Shark
Ah, the NES. This 8-bit colossus had us playing with power all while listening to what would become the most important melodies in video game music history.
For the time, no background track had us more impressed than the tour de rock that was Sky Shark. At a time when video game music consisted of monotonous loops, Sky Shark's background music seemed to keep going. It practically had movements. If Sky Shark's background music were ever to be played by a live rock band it would surely prove to be the most epic concert ever.
7: Dance Dance Revolution (series)
Admit it. You went through a phase of dancing so hot it was like sun shine on a cloudy day. We all did and for one good reason: there's no getting around liking the various soundtracks from Dance Dance Revolution. Whether it was the bubble gum cuteness of "Pink Dinosaur" or the in your face bass of "Max 300" the music kept bringing us back to the arcade or scouring the internet for deals on metal dance mats for the console version.
We don't know what "Dam Dariram" means, but we know hearing it makes us want to shake our booties. Show me your moves!
Rez has been all about the music since it's debut on Sega Dreamcast in 2001. Rather than covering up the background music with monotonous sound effects, Rez' unique system incorporates the explosions and shots created by the player into as notes and samples in its electro-dance compositions. The result is addicting gameplay that motivates the player to grab power ups to see how their evolved state will effect the music rather than how many bullets they can pump out.
For making us feel like part of the music, we're placing Rez at number six on the list.
5: God Hand
Clover Studio's final game had buckets of action, crazy villains and a wicked sense of humor. Luckily for us, it also had a kickin' soundtrack. We love listening to these zany tracks while taking out gorilla suit-wearing thugs and blood-thirsty demons.
From surf rock guitar to over-sexed club tracks complete with cat noises, this soundtrack has it all.
For us, the highlight of the soundtrack is the song played during the ending credits. Taking a page from the '70s guide to anime ending themes, this track references every super move from the game while dropping in lyrics like "God power keeps my pimp hand strong."
4: Mega Man 2
We find nothing surprising about the fact that In Japan, Mega Man is known as "Rock Man." Nothing had us more pumped about taking out Dr. Wiley's eight robot masters more than this game's soundtrack. Every inch of this game is accompanied by riffs so catchy that we don't even care that they're permanently lodged in our brains.
There have been a lot of Mega Man games over the years ranging from the original series on NES to an alternate universe series called "Mega Man X" on the SNES and PlayStation and countless "Mega Man Battle Network" games on GBA and Nintendo DS, and while many of them have great songs, nothing beats Mega Man 2's memorable melodies.
Mega Man 2 made it to the list simply for featuring a solid soundtrack, but it made it to position number four by inspiring a Japanese group called Neko-Can to write the song "I Can't Beat Airman." There's nothing better than robot guitar solos.
3: Katamari Damacy
Pretty colors and cartoony graphics had us pushing our apocalyptic magnet of death all over the world when we first sat down with Katamari Damacy on PlayStation 2. And when we weren't rolling things up and turning them into stars, we were listening to this game's soundtrack almost non-stop.
Yeah, we know all the songs are about katamari (Japanese for clump) but the sheer variety in styles of music made the fact that warbling Japanese lounge singers on the soundtrack were talking about the same thing over and over again irrelevant.
Every iteration of Katamari Damacy has a great soundtrack, but we prefer to pick up the original. If you haven't heard it yet, get rolling.
2: Final Fantasy (series)
Maybe you're not down with power-leveling a group of androgynous freedom fighters with over-sized swords and ridiculous hair cuts for seventy hours, but you have to admit that Final Fantasy games give you some great soundtracks to listen to while you do. Famously composed by Nobuo Uematsu these soundtracks have proven so popular that they've made the jump to live concert performances and orchestrated soundtracks in addition to multi-disc releases of the in-game music.
Set all that aside and there's still one major reason the music of Final Fantasy deserves to be on this list: The Black Mages. No other game that we know of has it's own hard rock band doing covers of its music featuring the composer on keyboard. The Black Mages prove Final Fantasy music doesn't go just to eleven, it rocks all the way to level 99.
1: Castlevania (series)
It was the late '90s when for one of the first times most gamers remember, we put a copy of Castlevania: Symphony of the Night into an ordinary cd player and heard the game's protagonist Alucard talking to us. "As you can see, this is a Playstation black disc. Cut number one contains computer data, so please don't play it. But you probably won't listen to me, will you?" What came next was a hidden music track stored directly on the game's disc. It was one of the biggest secrets in gaming industry and just icing on the cake that was an amazing soundtrack.
Castlevania has always had an impressive musical backing even on the original days on NES. Pulse-pounding music with harpsichords (or at least halfway decent midi imitations of harpsichords) kept us up all night brandishing our flame whips at Dracula's unstoppable hoard of monsters despite the series sometimes stiff controls and impossible fetch quests.
As the series has continued to be upgraded to take advantage of higher resolution graphics and new forms of game play, so to has the music. Songs like "Vampire Killer" have made the jump from early iterations to fully orchestrated pieces giving a nod to the long time fans while invigorating the newest adventure. Search YouTube for "Castlevania Music" and we guarantee you will find countless pages of epic ballads perfect for hunting vampires.