Gaming

The 15 greatest video game theme tunes ever

Posted by
Dave Fawbert
Published

Much like a great TV show, having a memorable theme tune for a game isn't essential, but it doesn't half help when it's a corker.

They were especially important in the old days of having to wait aeons for the game to load - ironically, it was also more difficult to make them, as programmers were restricted to 8-bits of musical power - or, if they were really lucky, a bit of MIDI as well.

Some even ended up being more memorable than the games themselves. Join us in taking a look, and a listen, at 15 of the best.

Sensible Soccer

What. A. Tune. A suitably hi-NRG ditty to get you in the mood for getting physical on the pitch, this could inspire every player to become a 'goalscoringsuperstarhero'. We never could work out what the hell the second line of the chorus was though - 'you let your hair down and play with the band?' Anyway, 'every goal, goal, goal says you're the best in the land' - and we scored a lot of goals. 

Sonic the Hedgehog - Green Hill Zone

This little ditty could easily have been featured on the opening titles of an Eighties buddy cop movie, and there's no higher praise than that. Composed by Masato Nakamura, it was energetic and uplifting, as well as being slightly melancholic with some natty little chords on the final section before it loops back into that initial killer riff.

Xenon 2: Megablast

An early example of an actual music act being brought on board to work on a game, Xenon 2 saw The Bitmap Brothers collaborate with Tim Simenon, aka Bomb the Bass, to use his 1988 track Megablast (Hip Hop on Precinct 13) as the theme music. It was the ultimate soundtrack to many a day spent building up your ship, blasting aliens into space and visiting Colin's shop to buy powerups.

Tetris

Of course it's one of the most famous pieces of music ever, accompanying, as it does, one of the most famous games ever made. But even if it wasn't, it would warrant inclusion for spurring one of the greatest YouTube comments of all time:

Super Mario Bros

Do we really need to explain that this is one of the most iconic theme tunes of all time? Probably not. It's a jaunty bleepcore classic: Koji Kondo, we salute you.

Grand Theft Auto

There's nothing like a kickass breakbeat and a rumbling bassline to get you in the mood for cruisin' around the city kickin' ass and getting up to no good. While the game literature attributed the song to a group called Da Shootaz, the real man behind this anthem was DMA's Craig Conner - bow down to him for this piece of brilliance.

Speedball 2: Brutal Deluxe

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As befitting a dystopian vision of a futuresport, this theme tune was menacing, pacy and not far off something that the Prodigy would do a couple of years later on Experience. It also had a bit which sounded like that noise at the start of Michael Jackson's Black or White, which obviously makes it brilliant.

Duck Tales - The Moon Theme

Composed by Hiroshige Tonomura, this chiptune beauty is the background music for the fifth stage of the game, set on - surprise, surprise, the Moon. You could say it's out of this world...

Mortal Kombat

If you're about to get fighting, you need some banging techno to get you going - that is a fact of life. While it veered dangerously close to 2 Unlimited's classic Tribal Dance, that was no bad thing - and who can resist screaming along with the cry of 'MORTAL KOMBAT'?

A word of warning from YouTube user Sinha Bhakthi though:

ToeJam & Earl: Panic on Funkotron

If George Clinton or Herbie Hancock had written this, it would be hailed as a funk masterpiece. It is a funk masterpiece, and y'all better believe. Get your groove on right now.

Halo 2

Look, it's got guitar god Steve Vai unleashing fury all over it - what more do you really want from a video game theme? Okay, okay, it's got Gregorian chants in it as well. Fine.

Final Fantasy

A game called Final Fantasy requires some suitably grandiose music to accompany it, and boy did they nail it with this main theme. Based on a short piece by Bach, adapted by Nobuo Uematsu, it features in virtually every edition of the game in the main series. Put this on, remember your greatest boss battle achievements and see if you can avoid shedding a tear or two of sheer pride.

Worms

Beginning with that unmistakeable helicopter sound, before some ominous keyboard notes kick in, this soon turns itself into a triumphant, uplifting anthem. If you're not stood to attention, saluting your brave and valiant worms before the end of the track, then you're not doing your duty as a gamer.

The Legend of Zelda - Overworld

Another 8-bit classic, this was composed by Kōji Kondō for use in the original game, becoming so popular that it was retained for all the versions that followed. Oh, the memories...

Sensible Golf

Another classic Sensible effort, this low-slung, easy groovin', slinky little number features some truly amazing lyrics documenting, well, taking a golf shot. Thought golf couldn't be sexy? Think again.

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Dave Fawbert

ShortList.com staff writer Dave’s primary passions are pop, prose, punning and power ballads (and alliteration). A lower division football enthusiast and long-suffering cricket fan, he is one of only 110 people followed on Twitter by Chas Hodges from Chas ‘n’ Dave. Follow Dave on Twitter like Chas: @davefawbert

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