games / Columns

The 8 Ball: Top 8 Super Nintendo Soundtracks – Super Mario RPG, Donkey Kong Country, More

October 2, 2018 | Posted by Marc Morrison
Super Mario RPG

Welcome all to another edition of The 8 Ball! With the excitement of the PlayStation Classic passed, I’m here to talk about the Super Nintendo this week, specifically soundtracks. Now, I don’t purport to have played every SNES game in the world, and my list is missing a few big games like Chrono Trigger, Earthbound, Final Fantasy III, etc, mainly because I haven’t played them. If anyone wants to send me a copy of Earthbound or Chrono Trigger, I’ll play them. Also, I’m only picking American games, despite my friend Jens heavily campaigning for a Japanese game called “Live A Live”, which I never even heard of before. Anyway, let’s begin:

#8: Super Castlevania IV

It wasn’t until Castlevania: SOTN that I *really* got into the Castlevania gameplay and soundtrack. Still, I do remember this game having an amazing second stage song as you can tell from the Youtube video. Later songs in the soundtrack, like Submerged City or Clockwork Mansion 2 are decent but they don’t compare to Simon’s theme in the game.

#7: Killer Instinct

This is a weird partial cheat since copies of Killer Instinct came with an audio CD soundtrack that was vastly better than the in-game music. Specifically, Orchid’s and Sabrewulf’s themes are barely recognizable in the translation from Audio CD to SNES, but the actual melodies are pretty close. Obviously, for characters like Orchid or Combo’s stage they didn’t retain vocal work, but the tune is generally the same. This was changed when Killer Instinct Gold came around for the N64 since the arcade hardware was a N64 in a box, so the home and arcade soundtracks were the same.

#6: Super Mario World

This is comparatively low on this list but that’s only because other games have slightly more memorable soundtracks. Super Mario World’s music could best be described as “jaunty”. It is largely playful and cheerful, doubly so if you are riding Yoshi because then some drumbeats are added to the songs as well. As such, a lot of songs have two versions, one with drums and one without and the switch happens the instance you get on or off a Yoshi. This may not be the most memorable Mario soundtrack but some of the songs are definitely seared into my memory.

#5: Mega Man X

The Mega Man X series generally took the music from earlier Mega Man games into a more industrial motif. Spark Mandrill’s stage, or the song when a boss shows up are really good examples of this. Other music, like the one for Storm Eagle does have an industrial tinge but almost sounds like a march. For me, the best soundtrack of the X games is with Mega Man X4 but that’s no doubt helped by it being on a CD. Still, the soundtrack of Mega Man X is quite good and holds up to this day.

#4: Donkey Kong Country

Donkey Kong Country’s soundtrack breaks down into two parts for me. First, is the “Aquatic Ambience” song which saves any/all of the garbage underwater levels in the game into being halfway playable. Without this song, I never would have made it through those levels, it had a sense of exploration that other songs didn’t have. The second parts are the ice level songs, specifically Northern Hemispheres and to a lesser extent Ice Cave Chant. Northern Hemispheres is a great, moody song that is very appropriate to the desolate climate and levels that you are playing in.

#3: Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars

Composed by Yoko Shimomura, Mario RPG’s soundtrack echoes very closely what Koji Kondo I used to the word jaunty to describe Mario World and it applies here also, just with a slightly more calypso beat to it. There are epic and grand sounding tracks like “Got a Star Piece” or “Geno Awakens” but most of it is more fun stuff like “Still, the Road is Full of Dangers” or “The Axem Rangers Drop In”, with Axem Rangers literally taking some of the same notes from earlier Mario games. Also, the “Fight Against Culex” is straight ripped out of a Final Fantasy game, and I don’t mean figuratively. There are three tracks by Nobuo Uematsu in the game, and that is one of them. Mario RPG has shades of being almost a compilation soundtrack but it has enough great original music to make it a different beast entirely.

#2: The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past

A lot of LTTP’s soundtrack is reused from the original Legend of Zelda. That’s not a slight toward LTTP, just a fact. However, the instrumentation is *vastly* better. Try comparing the Overworld theme from Legend of Zelda (NES) to Legend of Zelda (SNES) and you can hear how fuller and richer the actual song is. Much like Mario World, this soundtrack has two of the same sets of certain songs, like the light and dark Overworld themes or the different Kakariko Village themes. It’s a solid soundtrack done better when a live orchestra is performing the tracks.

#1: Super Metroid

No other soundtrack sets a mood like the soundtrack for Super Metroid does. It sounds weird and alien, somewhat disharmonious in spots but comes together. I love the “Theme of Super Metroid”, how it goes from a suspenseful tune to an almost victory march, alternating between the two parts as the song plays out. Other tracks like Planet Zebes or Crateria help enforce the alien-like nature of the world you are now on. The discordant stuff comes with a song like most of the boss themes, especially the mini-boss theme. It’s not bad, but it is very unique and takes some getting used to. I have a few songs from each game on my iPod, but Super Metroid is the only game where the entire score is on there. It’s just that good.

For comments, list which SNES soundtracks you like and why.

Next Issue
Top 8 Sega Genesis Soundtracks

article topics :

The 8 Ball (Games), Marc Morrison