8 Bit Beats

Play that funky music NES boys!

Play that funky music NES boys!

In trying to come up with posts that my readers find interesting and entertaining, I find that there are many times I shy away from subjects I’m pretty sure a lot of my visitors don’t care about, but which are quite meaningful to me.  What fun is it to have a blog if you don’t feel like you can post about anything that strikes your fancy?

Possums hit everyone's happy buttons.

Possums hit everyone’s happy buttons.

So for my final Flashback Friday of 2013, since a number of my fellow bloggers are on holiday hiatus anyway, I figured I’d drop one of those topics that means a lot more to me flashback fridaythan it probably means to any of you.  Today, I’m going to present to you my Top 20 favorite 8-bit tunes from games I owned for the classic Nintendo Entertainment System back in the late 80’s and early 90’s.

I find myself killing time on YouTube listening to a lot of my old favorites, and it’s obvious from the comments that there are many people who are just as fond of these old school melodies as I am… I just don’t think many of them also follow squirrel blogs.

Now McDonaldland characters, on the other hand...

Now McDonaldland characters, on the other hand…

So if you don’t think old video game music is your thing, that’s fine.  Come back tomorrow, and I promise I’ll have a Saturday Squirrel you will not want to miss!  But if you choose to continue on into my countdown, here are a few notes I’d like to mention before I begin…

1. The link in each entry is to a YouTube video of the music.  I am not about to embed 20 videos in this post, as even two embedded videos are enough to noticeably slow down the load speed of my blog… twenty would probably make the WordPress server explode like one of Dr. Wily’s robots.

2. I only considered NES games I actually owned.  If something is not here that you really liked, it’s quite possible I didn’t have that game.

3. I did the best I could to minimize the number of entries from the Mega Man series, which is undoubtedly the gold standard in 8 bit music.  But I still wound up with 7 entries from that franchise.

4. There is only one entry from a Mario game here, and amazingly it is not from the uber-popular Super Mario trilogy.  Sorry, but I never found Mario music to be something special.

I just hope I didn't piss Mario off.... uh oh!

I just hope I didn’t piss Mario off…. uh oh!

OK, let us begin, shall we?

#20. Kid Icarus: Intro

Kid Icarus was the sister game of the more popular Metroid, both of which were early NES releases in 1986.  Both games had their musical scores composed by one of my favorite names to ever appear on the credits of a video game, Hip Tanaka.

Although, not quite my all time favorite...

Although, not quite my all time favorite…

The Kid Icarus intro does a fine job of setting the magical tone for the game, which is a mashup of mythology and fucked up humor.

#19. Goonies 2: Restaurant

If I ever do a post on an individual NES game, it will probably be the rather bizarre but popular entry that was The Goonies II, which I played the absolute shit out of back in the day.  No, it wasn’t a sequel to another NES Goonies game, it was called Goonies II because it was supposed to be a sequel to the movie itself!  Here is the first theme you encounter in the game, an 8-bit stylized version of Cyndi Lauper’s masterpiece from the movie soundtrack “The Goonies R Good Enough”.

#18. Mega Man: Elecman

There are a whole bunch of prior rock songs that use the same chord progression as was used in this theme from the original Mega Man game.  The most famous is probably Journey’s “Faithfully”, but I always heard Bon Jovi’s “She Don’t Know Me” when I played this stage.  One of Bon Jovi’s best songs ever, and he’s totally disowned it because it was the only hit he had that wasn’t written by his band…

You give robots a bad name.

You give robots a bad name.

#17. Metroid: Norfair

Not many old NES songs were written in waltz time, but the Norfair theme is one of the best.  And since you usually spend a good deal of time in the bubbly Norfair zone while playing Metroid, you get to hear this tune quite a bit.  It grows on you, and never gets old.

#16. Mega Man 3: Dr. Wily Stages 3&4

Mega Man composers really outdid themselves when it came to the music for the Dr. Wily stages in the series.  This is the best one from the third Mega Man installment.  Very catchy and motivates you to carry on to the goal…

#15. Tetris: Music A

Yes, it’s basically a reworked version of the Nutcracker theme.  But I built a lot of Tetris stacks to this theme back in the day, and I’m sure it was what I was listening to when I hit my all time high of 190 lines cleared…

I do love nutcrackers!

I do love nutcrackers!

#14. Castlevania: Wicked Child

The original Castlevania game had some good but not great music… but this Stage 3 theme was a notable exception!  What a fun theme to listen to while traipsing through Dracula’s castle!

#13. Gauntlet: Music B

Gauntlet had four basic themes which rotated throughout the game depending on which numbered room you were in.  This one was easily my favorite of the four.  Too bad this was a game that was nearly impossible to beat, even if you were that elf who could run faster than the arrows he shot.

#12. Mega Man 4: Drillman

You’d expect a great theme from a robot master who looked like a member of Devo…

Drill it good!

Drill it good!

#11. Kid Icarus: Overworld

The only thing that keep this from being a shoo in for the Top 10, and possibly even Top 5 is that annoying part at the end of the loop.  Other than that, this is a fan-fucking-tastic little 8-bit ditty that even gets in a little of that spirit of ’76 and goes along perfectly with the three Stage 2 screens.

#10. Mega Man 2: Crashman

One of the longest, yet most satisfying of all early Mega Man themes.  Very catchy, and the perfect background music for battling these silly rotating things:

It's just what you would expect a world ruled by Crashman to look like.

It’s just what you would expect a world ruled by Crashman to look like.

#9. Solomon’s Key: Room Theme

There are not many NES games I owned that I ever gave up on trying to beat.. but this was one of them.  Solomon’s Key was almost hopelessly difficult to finish, because even if you did make it to the end,  if you didn’t find all of the hidden items you were pretty screwed.  This music accompanied you the whole way through the game in every main room… and it totally captures how absolutely impossible some of the rooms are to beat, let alone the game itself.

#8. The Goonies II: Ice World

I am the walrus!

I am the walrus!

The ice caverns in Goonies II were my favorite parts of the game.  The enemies were totally unique (penguins, polar bears, eskimos, and yes, walrii!), the floors were predictably slippery, and the music totally ruled.  This is an awesome theme that captures the desolation of the ice stage very well.

#7. Metroid: Kraid’s Lair

Hip Tanaka at his absolute best… this is a totally creepy, hypnotic, desolate, spine tingling, doom impending masterpiece of a musical score.  And waiting for you at the end of the level is this creature…

Kraid just might be Pigladillo's father.

Kraid just might be Pigladillo’s father.

#6. Mega Man 2: Quickman

If ever there was music that got you going, this is it.  And you’ll need it too, as Quickman’s stage contained the infamous run from the instant death beams!  The absolute finest robot master theme in the Mega Man series…

Faster Mega Man, faster!!!

Faster Mega Man, faster!!!

#5. Contra: Base Levels 2&4

The game Contra is best remembered for popularizing the infamous Konami Code, which for Contra gave you 30 lives, and you pretty much needed all of those to beat this game.  But it contained one musical gem buried within the depths of all that alien warfare… this theme which would guide you through the two enemy base stages, which saw you and your partner shooting at aliens and trying to blow up buttons to remove the electric fence and advance onward.

#4. Dr. Mario: Chill Theme

Dr. Mario was one of the many Tetris inspired puzzle games that Nintendo released in the early 90’s.  You used different colored suppositories pills to kill viruses, trying not to have the pills overflow the jar.  The game had two music scores you could listen to, Fever and Chill.  The latter is a really funky ditty that takes two whole minutes to loop through, practically an eternity for NES themes.

#3. Mega Man 4: Wily Stages 1&2

The most criminally underappreciated 8-bit theme ever composed.  I absolutely love this little 40 second looping ditty, and it seems to get very little love from other video game music enthusiasts.  Very haunting, very catchy, just damn fine synthetic music…

It makes me want to lose my head!

It makes me want to lose my head!

#2. The Adventures of Link: Palace Theme

The Adventures of Link was the first sequel to the very popular original Zelda game, and a game a lot of Zelda enthusiasts like to bury under the carpet for some reason, refusing to acknowledge it ever existed.  I’m not sure what their problem is, but I enjoyed playing this game, and even the most ardent Zelda II haters out there can agree there was one great thing about this game… the palace theme.  Totally kickass and gamer friendly.

And it made battling these armored fuckers a bit more tolerable.

And it made battling these armored fuckers a bit more tolerable.

#1. Mega Man 2: Wily Stages 1&2

This shouldn’t come as much of a surprise to anyone who is into old school NES music… the theme for the first two stages of Dr. Wily’s fortress in Mega Man 2 is pretty universally regarded as the best 8 bit music ever composed.  In a world that can’t agree on much, at least we have this 74 seconds of pure awesomeness.  I guess if there is any theme that needed to be directly embedded, it is this one…

Gotta love any level where you have to battle a robot dragon while only having three blocks to stand on...

Gotta love any level where you have to battle a robot dragon while only having three blocks to stand on…

If you made it through this entire post, thank you for indulging me!  If not, I won’t hold it against you….

skunk bitch!

I can’t promise the others will be so forgiving, though…

About evilsquirrel13

Bored former 30-something who has nothing better to do with his life than draw cartoon squirrels.
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13 Responses to 8 Bit Beats

  1. draliman says:

    I never owned an NES 😦 . There was a great game on the ZX Spectrum though (I remember you hadn’t heard of that computer) back in the 80s called “Manic Miner” – they managed to simulate multi-channel music, I guess by slightly offsetting the notes to form “almost” chords.

    I was actually going to try to track down your last video games post to give you this link but this post is perfect – apparently the “Internet Archive” is putting loads of 70s and 80s classic games online to play on your PC!

  2. goldfish says:

    You’re right. I don’t care about topics that are meaningful in any way, silly rabbit.

  3. pishnguyen says:


    Oh, wait? There was music in here? o.o

    Kidding!! 😀 I listened to all the theme songs. I’ve never heard most of them, as I am not much of a gamer. The exception would be the Tetris theme. I think everyone has probably heard that one. I’m amazed at the range of emotions and different types of atmosphere the composers were able to accomplish using a limited tonal range. Thanks so much for sharing this one. It was fun!!

  4. squirrelmg says:

    Don’t worry dude, I got you. I’m your one audience member who also shares a love of retro videogames and has played all of these! This is a great list.

  5. The Cutter says:

    I played my fair share of Nintendo back in the day, and oddly I didn’t have most of these. Honestly, much of the time I would turn the volume down and listen to the stereo

  6. My son is quite interested in 8 bit game play music and although holidaying in a place without internet, when I told him about your post he requested I read them out to him. There was only 2 he hadn’t heard of. It seems this is a rather special genre of it’s own! :-). He plans to read and listen when he returns. Meanwhile this is my favorite game play music.

    • Hey… I like that! It reminds me a bit of the Cantina song from Star Wars!

      I have heard of Conker, and I believe he is a squirrel, is he not? It looks like his pretty ladyfriend their might be a squirrel girl herself, which would explain why MBRS is looking a tad bit jealous right now…..

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