17 𝑨 𝑬 𝑺 𝑻 𝑯 𝑬 𝑻 𝑰 𝑪 Songs in Video Games
By Pad Chennington
What’s cookin’, what’s poppin’ it is ur boi Pad Chennington and today, I want to talk about what are in my opinion the 17 most a e s t h e t i c songs in video game history, and when I say a e s t h e t i c, I am referring to songs from my childhood that will effortlessly and timelessly pump out nostalgic magic and romanticized memories every time I happen to hear them. Furthermore, a e s t h e t i c in the sense that these songs can be easily recognized as having a “Vaporwave” style or touch to them. Some of these tracks I think you’ll know and love just as much as I do, however, a couple of these I think you’ll be discovering for the first time, and I am very, very excited to introduce them to you.
From tunes that are quaint, ambient and atmospherically hazy to songs that are rather upbeat, sunny, or psuedo-futuristic, I will be presenting a wide range of musical styles found in video games from our past. I want to exhibit a diverse selection of tracks that only further enhanced how these adventurous games rubbed off on us as kids, soundtracks with an undeniable ability to absorb us through our television or computer screens into the worlds they generated for us... worlds so hopeful and promising of endless wanderlust.
17) Bomberman 64 [N64, 1997] - Blue Resort
Let’s start off the countdown one of the most beautiful stages i have ever seen, and heard, in a Nintendo 64 video game. I want to take a visit to the floating fortress in the middle of a cerulean colored sea: The Blue Resort.
The constant escalating nature of the upward progression in the track makes me feel like I am afloat a hot air balloon looking down at the boxy shapes and clunky textures of the Blue Resort, this is done by combining a ton of different types of sounds on the track. Whistles, electronic pianos, and a jovial sounding accordion are some of the instrumental inclusions all going against one another to really exaggerate the tightly congested, staircase infested world of this unforgettable Bomberman 64 level. Everything on this track is so airy and expansive, a MIDI battlefield leaving you with nothing but a craving to explore.
Also, any death’s dynamic shroud fan’s in the house? If so, you may recognize this little guy on their behemoth of an album DERELICTメガタワー.
16) Pilotwings [SNES, 1990] - Flight Club
Ahh, the fluffy, cloudy world of Pilotwings.
Next up at no.16 on our list, let’s soar into another sky-inspired tune, a little synth harmony oozing a sense of exploration, adventure, and airtime discovery. Sometimes, all it takes is a little jingle that can trigger the innocent memories of wanting to aimlessly explore the atmosphere as a child. Pilotwings will always remind me of this one friend I had growing up, I never owned a SNES as a kid so whenever I would go to his house I would try and make sure anything we did revolved around playing that damn console… Am I a shitty friend who possibly only hung out to play Nintendo? Maybe. Did I have an unquenchable thirst to glide through a 16-bit world of pixelated gradient color skies? Yes.
P R I O R I T I E S M Y F R I E N D .
15) Marvel Super Heroes [Arcade, 1995] - Iron Man’s Stage
Overly ambitious technology that definitely did not exist at the time, yet we all believed one day would in 20 or so years... a notion of the hopeful past I always love to recognize as a fun and recognizable Vaporwave narrative. At no. 15 on our list, we gonna be chillin’ with Tony Stark and groovin’ out to the music found on his stage in 1995’s Marvel Super Heroes, a fighting game extremely tame compared to the massive rosters we find in later installations like Marvel vs. Capcom 3. Originally made for arcades, I owned the PlayStation port of the game when I was around five or six years old, and to this day, I can still remember this being one of the most memorable tracks on the entire soundtrack. Dramatic synthwork, a subtle electric guitar and clobbering drums all make the inner workings of track perfectly resonate a “complicated computer”-esque vibe.
14) Diddy Kong Racing [N64, 1997] - Darkmoon Caverns
Featuring a selection of colorful Rare licensed characters, Diddy Kong Racing was undoubtedly electric, bright and sunny with all different types of worlds you can race in. While many remember Mario Kart 64 as their go-to, party-starting racer from the mid-90’s, Diddy Kong Racing always seemed more inviting and sensational to me. One reason this came to be was for the incredibly infectious soundtrack featured within the game. I can really pick a handful of levels that blast me with some serious nostalgic joy but one level in particular that I have to give as having hands down the most a e s t h e t i c music in the game is the level “Darkmoon Caverns”. This is what Daft Punk would sound like if they made a track for the N64: a dancy 2-minutes of cosmic jingles combined with this synth that is ABSOLUTELY infectious! Every second of this track oozes an intergalactic personality that seamlessly connects you with the rainbow-colored terrain you find yourself driving in. I can totally see someone turning this into a Future Funk banger… Someone get on that!
13) Freddi Fish and The Case of The Missing Kelp Seeds [PC, 1994] - Lighting The Room
There was a time long, long ago where I would wake up everyday before school a little extra early to sneak into my basement, boot up our Compaq desktop computer and play whichever Humongous Entertainment my 1st grade heart desired on that specific morning. When exploring my past and knowing how much time I dedicated to the Humungous Entertainment series, I knew I hadda pick something from here and why not go with my boi Freddi Fish, specifically the entry “Freddi Fish and The Case of The Missing Kelp Seeds”. No. 13 on this list is given to a track called “Lighting The Way” that plays when dwelling the Skull Caves area of the game. A faint little underwater-inspired harp number, a bit eerie as well, combined with a little steal drum action that really showcased the beauty in exploring your surroundings, whether they were unknown or not. The dreadful visions of an underwater void, endless dark blue color flooding any possible escape from this oceanic world, ironically present in a cute little game about a bright yellow fish.
12) Wii Shop Channel Music [Wii, 2006]
Oh baby, how could I not include the Wii Shop Channel Music on this list? Your convenient gateway to virtual shopping in the mid 2000’s, the funky elevator-style music that played in the background of the Wii Shop Channel was the perfect instigator to wanting to own anything Nintendo put up for sale. I personally can’t remember a time I actually bought anything on there, I was pretty young and did not own a credit card at the time, but there was definitely something about browsing the Wii Shop Channel back in the day with the music behind it that made the whole concept so fun and relaxing to just see what they had to offer. The Nintendo Wii, to me at least, blew my mind back in the mid 2000’s as it was the first console I ever owned that allowed me to connect to the internet. That clean, white design interface with a savory little tune behind it was all I needed to get lost in the world of virtual window shopping.
Go type in “Wii Shop Channel Music” on YouTube and change the playback speed to 0.75... talk about Vaporwave.... Now, if only YouTube had a reverb button as well.
11) Roll Away [PS, 1998] - Mist (World 6)
Also known as KulaQuest in Japan, the soundtrack of soft tones and tranquil ambiance found in this cheeky puzzle game was super soothing, yet motivating, when trying to complete each stage. Roll Away for the PlayStation was another one of those games where we are presented with this floating area stranded in what seemed to be a world of empty surroundings, just the player on some level high in the sky. You control a ball and collect a bunch of shiny gems and coins that trigger these cool, shiny sound effects every time you pick one up. Roll Away is a fun hidden gem of a collectathon-puzzle game and is further advanced by it’s wonderful soundtrack. My favorite song on here is the quirky, futuristic sounding background music that plays in the 6th world of the game titled “MIST”, it has this cool little hip hop drum beat behind it as well that I can really see someone like Vaporwave artist Haircuts For Men sample easily. The track has a lot going on, just like the amount of thinking one might have to do when completing a level in this intelligently laid out puzzle platformer.
10) Super Mario 64 [N64, 1996] - Jolly Roger Bay
Someone tell me, seriously, what is more a e s t h e t i c than water levels from 3D platforming adventure games in the 90’s?
Out of all the aquatic-themed levels from this brilliant time in gaming, none comes even close to the angelic beauty splashed right into your eardrums upon entering the Jolly Roger Bay level of Super Mario 64. A track that introduces more and more layers as it goes on, we start off with some of the most divine and heavenly synths I have ever heard. Eventually, some strings come in to accompany the synth, evolving the track into an even grander landscape. And then, to top it all off, this groovy drum beat slowly fades its way into the track and consists of this really fun, off-beat ride cymbal flow that I absolutely love. Beloved Nintendo composer Koji Kondo created a track that perfectly replicates the visual elements found within the level—an uncanny ability to warp your soul deep under the depths of the ocean… just make sure you climb to the surface before your blue health meter runs out.
9) Pokemon Ruby & Sapphire [GBA, 2002] - Boat Cruise
Sunny days at sea and an adventure at every corner, at song no. 9 on this list, I wanna set sail with you and travel through the exciting waters of the Hoenn region. The music that plays when boarding Mr. Briney’s tiny little boat is one of the most uplifting and feel good compositions I have ever heard for a hand-held video game. I remember I used to straight up ride the boat back and forth just to hear the music a couple of times, it was so damn good! Where Jolly Roger Bay was murky, lurking, and atmospheric, the music that plays in this game presents an aquatic adventure way more celebratory, cheerful and optimistic.
What I would do to ride this boat with a couple coronas and soak in some sun, I’m itchin’ to roast like a rotisserie chicken.
8) Elebits [Wii, 2006] - A Spaceship Fantasy
Elebits, a lesser known game that came out in the early stages of the Nintendo Wii that takes on a very cool twist to the first person shooter genre, is a beautiful game full of color and wonderful music to go with it. The game involves you going from level to level capturing little creatures known as “Elebits” to extract the energy they emit. I always remembered loving the soundtrack for this game, and not being able to specifically pick out any level I loved more than the other, I decided to go back online and revisit the entire soundtrack all these years later to see if one of them really stuck out to me… and let me tell ya, the track “A Spaceship Fantasy” is fantastic. If Blank Banshee decided to do Drum and Bass, combined with a musical flow structured around a Jazz, this is what you would get.
7) Mall Tycoon [PC, 2002] - "Society Bash" (by Alain Leroux)
I was obsessed, OBSESSED, with tycoon games when I was a kid… I mean, who wasn’t? And the fact that I had a chance at runnin’ my own mall…mind blowing.
Mall Tycoon involved you creating and maintaining your own mall, and looking back at this game all these years later, you really begin to miss the hustle and bustle of hectic shopping malls from the 80’s, 90’s, and early 2000’s. This entire game has a wonderful tracklist to help you create the mall of your dreams, but one track in particular titled "Society Bash" by Alain Leroux really invigorates my weird passion for hyperconsumerism and mall-shopping bliss of buying things you do not really need. Luxurious saxophones, Jazz drumming, and the perfectly placed xylophone makes this piece an open door to a world now replaced by online shopping.
6) LSD Dream Emulator [PS, 1998] - Pit and Temple: Ambient E
One of the most wackiest and experimental games was undoubtedly going to find it’s way onto this list… say hola to LSD Dream Emulator.
A game that constantly generates bizarre and fever-dreamish worlds, LSD Dream Emulator contained a wide variety of backgrounds tracks that stuffed you into the bizarre fashion of the levels the game contained. One track in particular that really echoed this chaotic nature is definitely this one track titled in the game’s soundtrack as “Pit and Temple: Ambient E”.
This sounds like some New Deluxe Life kinda ish. The track has a constant loop of erroneous stutter chops and random notes, all perfectly encapsulating the psychedelic dangers this shocking visual experience of a game brings to the player. Oh, and also, WHO THE HELL TITLED THIS AS AN “AMBIENT” TRACK?!
5) Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards [N64, 2000] - File Select
Leaving behind the world of LSD Dream Emulator, let’s enter another colorful world that is instead way more joyful and comfy—WHAT’S COOKIN’ KIRBS?!
I love menu music, I think we all do; a little sample of sound that is calm and dormant to allow the player to choose what he or she would like to do next in the game, and the file select music in this game fits that bill perfectly. These echoing, freezing cold synth notes that sound like some rainbow-colored icicles falling in synchronized form are so mystical and I can really listen to this thing on repeat for quite a while.
4) Yu-Gi-Oh! Forbidden Memories [PS, 1999] - Library Menu Theme
No joke, this is Vaporwave before Vaporwave was even a thought. Go listen to this RIGHT NOW. You’re welcome. That is all.
3) Donkey Kong Country [SNES, 1994] - Aquatic Ambiance
The last 3 entries on this list are some of the most a e s t h e t i c songs of all time so buckle up... Actually, before you buckle up, go get some scuba equipment first because we gon’ get a little wet.
Donkey Kong Country is a game many of us spent hours upon hours playing, a game holding incredible 3D graphics unparalleled at it’s time with a soundtrack equally as excellently crafted. The music that plays in the very first aquatic level is an exceptional piece of ambient beauty that features some wonderful harps poking in and out of the song at varying times. We also hear a harmonica melody on top of a delightful, tranquil stretching of background synths as well as a subtle slice of percussion to blend it all into a delicate, yet adventurous, marine-inspired piece of gaming music.
One comment I found when browsing the comments of this song on YouTube perfectly described the aura of it all:
“I remember when I was a kid and this came out, I used to pause it on this level so that the music played and the blue light would shine off of the tv screen and make my room gleam in blue. I used to lay in my bed and fall asleep and my Dad would come in and turn the game and tv off.” - Mark Taniguchi
2) Wave Race 64 [N64, 1996] - Milky Lake
Neon-plastered jetskis racing through the ocean waves, does it get more a e s t h e t i c than that?
Dude, let me tell you about the music that plays in Milky Lake. This was another game that I never owned as a kid, but had a friend who’s house I would frequent to play it (Pad, you are such a bad friend).
The most rewarding sounding flute I have ever heard in my life, the music that plays at the Milky Lake is another one of those adventure-bound sounding stages that really brought to life my eagerness to explore these virtual worlds. Some fun shakers constantly going on in the background to really boost that racing-vibe, Wave Race 64 is a goldmine for a e s t h e t i c seeking folks, and I highly recommend getting lost in the soundtrack it provides.
1) Lego Island [PC, 1997] - The Information Center
Lego Island… you will always have my heart. And I gladly give you this no.1 spot.
The amount of time I must have spent exploring this city (that somehow functions with only like 10 different stores/amenities) has to be ridiculous. With a soundtrack blending MIDI deliciousness that has a yacht-rock sensation at its core, the music of Lego Island is what would happen if PrismCorp Virtual Enterprises and S U R F I N G collaborated on making music for a video game.
One track in particular that I have to give as the most a e s t h e t i c track I have ever heard in a video game is the music that plays when you are in The Information Center; a sunbaked track featuring all kinds of bongos, shakers, and other rattling and animated jolts of sound. Hearing this music brings me right back to that lego-brick filled world, cruising the island and what this world had to offer. It could have be snowing outside in the dead of winter, but it was tunes like this one that made me feel like I was chillin’ in some tropical, lego-filled paradise all-year-round.Stay a e s t h e t i c my friends.
Much love, ur boi, Pad Chennington.
"Also known as "Youtube's Vaporwave Valedictorian", Pad Chennington is a content creator who has created a substantial following on YouTube for his videos discussing all things Vaporwave. Starting in the Fall of 2017, Pad's videos range from reviews to breakdowns, interviews to unboxings, and much more, always revolving around odd and interesting music genres found throughout the internet. Pad has also recently released an album in February titled "CONTRAST" that is available as a free download via the My Pet Flamingo label."
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