Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Top Ten Nintendo 64 Soundtracks

Continuing the music theme of SPC, the Nintendo 64 was an interesting console. It defied convention by continuing to use cartridges while its competitors used compact discs. Cartridges held sound limitations so the idea of a symphonic orchestra playing a piece against the backdrop of Hyrule was more of a pipe dream than anything. However, the Nintendo 64 brought with it some of the most memorable soundtracks of its time and its future. The following lists my picks for its best soundtracks.

10) Bomberman 64: The Second Attack

We start our musical journey with the bad bomber himself, Bomberman, in arguably one of his best outings. The music was co-composed by veteran Yasunori Mitsuda of Chrono Trigger/Cross fame as well as Yoshitaka Hirota who would go on to compose music for the Shadow Hearts series of video games. Upbeat, melodic, memorable, and fitting to each scenario and planet, Bomberman's second N64 adventure's soundtrack starts our countdown.

9) Diddy Kong Racing

One of Rare's in-house composers, David Wise crafted the happy and perky tunes of Diddy Kong Racing, which some considered to be Mario Kart 64 2 at some point in development. The game features a colorful cast, vibrant tracks, an adventure mode, and some groovy tunes to burn rubber to. DS owners can hear some of Wise's work with the remake, Diddy Kong Racing DS, but the sound isn't as full as what you'd hear from the 64 version. Nonetheless, both soundtracks are fundamentally the same which is nice to hear.

8) Super Mario 64

Koji Kondo shows why he's Nintendo's go-to composer. Mario's explosive and landmark leap into 3-D was met with a colorful, upbeat, and very melodic soundtrack. Each theme covers the levels they are assigned to splendidly. Today the final battle with Bowser still gives me goosebumps by the haunting organ played in the background. Additionally the game's main theme-- played at Bob-Omb's Battlefield and other locations in-game-- keep the Mario-style bounce. A great soundtrack for an awesome game.

7) Mario Kart 64

One of the two racers that appear on this list, Mario Kart 64 features a more jazzy soundtrack than its followers as evidenced by the brilliant Staff Roll, Highway (Toad's Turnpike), Snow (Frappe Snowloand), and Circuit themes along others. Kenta Nagata composed all the music for this game and would go on to write music for The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, Animal Crossing, and MK 64's brother, Double Dash. A catchy soundtrack that I believe is the series' best alongside Double Dash.

6) Mario Party

The ultimate party game for the Nintendo 64 brings with it a catchy soundtrack of remixed Mario classics and new twists alike. Composed by now veteran composer, Yasunori Mitsuda, the game's music is very easily something you can hum along to. My favorites would have to be the mellow Mario's Rainbow Castle and Eternal Star. This would be the only Mario Party entry that Mitsuda would compose. A nice treat for the ears nonetheless.

5) Mario Golf

FOOOOOOOOORE!!! Okay, I think I have the golf lingo out of my system now. Mario and company hit the links with an impressive golf outing. What is additionally impressive is the game's soundtrack. Composed by the man of a million masterpieces, Motoi Sakuraba. He's composed titles ranging from Golden Sun, the Tales series, Baten Kaitos, Star Ocean, and many more. He also composed additional titles in the Mario sports series, but this one I believe is his best. My favorite tunes consist of Boo Valley, Ring Shot Menu, and Mario Star. The music here definitely scores an eagle (and I thought I finished with golf talk).

4) The Legend of Zelda series

Zelda appears near the top of the list as probably expected by most. The Ocarina of Time was composed by Koji Kondo, and Majora's Mask by Kondo and the lesser-known Toru Minegishi. I personally enjoyed Majora's Mask's sounds over Ocarina's, but Ocarina had a brilliant soundtrack regardless. My favorites there include Hyrule Field, Gerudo Valley, and the Fire Temple (the first version). Majora's sounds that I dug were the Song of Healing, Termina Field, and the Ending Theme. Two epic soundtracks for two epic games which stand head and shoulders above the rest to many.

3) Banjo-Kazooie series

Grant Kirkhope, another Rare in-house composer who is sometimes overlooked by David Wise, creates this fun platforming series' sounds. One of the most impressive sound elements in gaming to me is how when you approach different sections of levels the music changes to reflect the area. So if you're inside, the music will play with softer instruments and staccato. When near a fair ground in Witchyworld, the instuments would be played by an organ just like at a carnival. An incredibly impressive job by Mr. Kirkhope.

2) Perfect Dark

The talented trio of David Clynick (Perfect Dark Zero), Grant Kirkhope (Banjo-Kazooie), and Graeme Norgate (Jet Force Gemini) bring a sometimes soothing, sometimes rocking, sometimes adrenaline-pumping soundtrack. This trio of composers is something that people like myself salivate over. Regardless, the game's music has all the stealth movies covered, and when action hits, the soundtrack pumps with it. Just try to keep down all the laptop gun fire so you don't drown out the fantastic music.

1) Jet Force Gemini

The best of the best, composed by the Rare duo of Graeme Norgate and Robin Beanland, is in Jet Force Gemini. Everything from the battles to the planets to the soundtrack screams epic. This soundtrack has just brilliant quality that I almost forgot I was listening to a Nintendo 64 game. Listen to this soundtrack and I assure you, you will be blown away. The compostions are masterful, the instruments sound life-like, the music feels strong then tense then quiet then-- it's just that mind-blowing to me. Great soundtrack, and it doesn't hurt that there's a disco track in there for good measure.

The Nintendo 64 may not have became the champion of its generation, but it did produce some of the most memorable games and music for its time. Games that just missed the cut include Goldeneye, Star Fox 64, and F-Zero X. Even today I cannot get enough of the games listed and their respective soundtracks. Any gamer should play at least some of the titles mentioned if you haven't already. Also, take some time to listen closely to the games you play. More often than not you'll actually like what you'll hear.

Did I not mention one of your favorite Nintendo 64 soundtracks? Let me know in the comments section.


SpinachPuffs said...

No love for F-Zero X? I mean sure, it seems way behind GX nowadays but it still rocks (with a capital R, A, W and K!)

Jebby said...

Good list of games though I haven't really been a huge fan of Nintendo's in house music in quite some time. It's been solid and far above average but I haven't been blown away by there scores since the SNES days. On the N64 I can't argue with the RARE soundtracks at all. Some of the best video game soundtracks of all time. Sure Konami & Capcom have created legendary tunes with Castlevania, Contra, & Megaman but the seamless blending of music & changing based on context or position were just unbeatable.

Unknown said...

I am from Germany and just wanted to say that youre absolutely right. These games have something magic.
BEST games ever

Isfeldt said...

hi, well I am a blind student at the university of tulsa, and years ago, my high school had some N64 games, some of the 10 listed here I have herd of and played, how? with help from a sighted person.. I have an unanswered question and not sure if the school still has wrestlemainia2000, what they said was 007 but the beginning theme was sort of techno, no orcastration if I could get hold of it, I would be greatful! but I only remember the beginning theme and menu music and the golden eye isn't the one at least all the ones I have downloaded the soundtrack to arn't. all they told me was it was 007. thanks for any help! and I always loved mario party 3 music! while not the most spectaculor, it is very very memorable. thanks again for any help and great list!

Anonymous said...

Discernible absence of Tetrisphere, but a lovely list, nonetheless. I'd substitute Mario Party with the second instalment--though not the third, whose composer has regrettably scored most subsequent Mario Party titles--and perhaps Mario Golf with Mario Tennis, yet I'm comfortable with either getting a mention. I'm pleasantly surprised to see Bomberman get the tenth spot, too.