Back when videogame music was still bleeps and bloops, it was hard to really make a song that sounded, well, like a familiar genre. Some managed to attempt certain genres (like what we’ll cover today), but overall many just focused on making memorable melodies with the tools they had available. Then as the generations progress and improved, so too did the sound capabilities. Familiar genres could be heard as early as the SNES (and some NES). With Nintendo themselves, they stuck with what they did best: memorable melodies and happy tunes. Of course, they would venture off into some Space Opera-like themes with Star Fox. But a majority of the music made by Nintendo consisted of Jazz arrangements (PilotWings), easy listening (Sim City), or pop-y (most Mario games). With this light-hearted reputation, it’s sometimes a surprise to hear Nintendo come out of nowhere with a rock song in a game, and it freakin’ awesome every time. So sit back and get ready to bang your head, it’s Top 10 Hard Rockin’ Nintendo Themes.
Before we begin, we gotta set some ground rules.
- The game in question has to be made and/or published by Nintendo or its subsidiaries.
- The composer doesn’t have to be in-house, but had to work on a game made by Nintendo and second parties (like Yoko Shimomura)
- The music must be a form of rock, whether its punk rock, hard rock, heavy metal, etc.
Okay then. Let’s begin.Advance Wars Dual Strike – Jake’s Theme Composed by Yoshito Hirano
Even though Advance Wars was still a bright game, some changes were made to aim for a more serious tone. Take Jake’s Theme here from Advance Wars DS. It’s a far cry from the happy war vibe prevalent in Andy’ or Sami’s theme. This guy meant business. The riffs here are hard with the bass groove and main guitar playing off each other’s melodies. The guitars play their melodies, then meet up for a second, then diverge again.Yoshi’s Island – Final Battle Composed by Koji Kondo
So here we have a very cheerful looking game, rife with bright sugary visuals and a very childlike atmosphere. Then we get music like this! There’s actually two songs in this game that are straight up metal. But of the two, this one took the prize of being placed. Unlike the Castle Boss theme, Baby Bowser’s theme is not so repetitive. And that solo! My god listen to those licks. It’s cool that the main melody also acts as the solo for the song. We also get some sweet organ action, bringing back vibes from the 80s rock era. The drumline is fast paced and very consistent, and plays together with the bass.F-ZERO X – Climb Up And Get The Last Chance Composed by Taro Bando and Hajime Wakai
When one thinks Nintendo and rock music, F-ZERO is mostly likely the first thing that comes to mind. The F-ZERO series, particularly X, is full of awesome rock compositions. There were many contenders for placement. But from X, Climb Up took the prize. Yes there’s Devil’s Call in Your Heart, but like the Castle Boss theme in Yoshi’s island, the repetition ultimately became its flaw. With Climb Up, you have a very beautiful, very clean, and very heroic melody carried by the guitar. It also plays out like a sort of Gods-Among-Men theme with the gospel-like organ playing together with the main guitar. Makes sense since F-ZERO is a very deadly race and only the most brave would dare compete in this race.Advance Wars: Days of Ruin – Hope Never Dies Composed by Yoshito Hirano
I sometimes like to think that if it wasn’t for Jake’s theme in Advance Wars DS, we wouldn’t have the delightfully rockin’ soundtrack to Days of Ruin. Like F-ZERO, there were many to choose from, but I had to go with Brenner’s Theme. I mean, you can’t help but just bang your head to the guitar riffs at the beginning. In the world of Days of Ruin, it can be easy to forget that you’re in an army. The characters of the game realize this. The music is like this, with the crunch of the guitar being the chaotic feel of the wasteland and the brass coming in to remind you that you’re in the military. Finally the riffs coming back together with the brass as a sign of these two worlds, with these two sets of morals and standards, colliding with one another.Super Smash Bros. Brawl – Gourmet Race (Originally from Kirby Super Star) Arranged by Motoi Sakuraba
I feel like I’m cheating here by putting a song from a Smash Bros. game since practically whole soundtrack is a remix of other songs. But It’s just hard to ignore how metal this song is, especially since it’s a remix of a song from a game about a pink puff ball prancing and flying around. Hearing this, suddenly Kirby eating enemies doesn’t sound very kosher. Let’s also remember the fact the the previous version of this song was a beautifully composed remix of Gourmet Race that took on a life of its own in Fountain of Dreams. It may sound like I hate this song. I actually love this song! I mean, we got cool ass riffs, fast drum beats, and an audible melody.