Ten Tracks Which Rocked My Gaming World Header Image

This episode was originally released over on our Patreon page, but I thought I’d release it for everyone else too. What brought this on? Well, Arcade Attack released an episode today

like, the day that I’m releasing this one

called Sound Test Vol.1 – Mega Drive (Genesis) Boss Music. It’s a great episode – in an already great podcast, and it reminded me of this episode from May/July of 2017

our production value has gone way up since then, I think

Show Notes

In this episode of the Waffling Taylors podcast, I sat down to talk through a very short list of my favourite songs from video games. I cover a little about the importance of music in video games, and what each of the chosen tracks means to me.

These songs aren’t presented in any kind of favourite or ranked order except to say that I’ve picked ten of my favourites and tried to create a, sort of playlist out of them. I’ve tried to create a beginning, middle and end to them – almost a flow of sorts.

I’ve even included a sneak peek at my own singing skills, so make sure to stick around to the very, VERY end of the episode.

Content Warning

I’m not sure many folks would take issue with the following phrases, but I want to list them here anyway:

  • balls to the wall
  • kicks butt

If the usage of these phrases could cause issues for listeners (or if there are young ones listening) then I’d recommend skipping this episode.

Transcription

We don’t usually do this at Waffling Taylors HQ, but I found the original notes that I used for creating the episode and decided to add them here as a sort of transcription.

Essentially what I did, when I first came up with this episode, was I wrote a mini essay on video game music, read it out loud in the microphone, and adding snippets of songs.

Well here it is:

Intro

Music has been used in video games almost since the first commercially available arcade cabinets. Those early games used simple polyphonic beeps and bloops to create some pretty impressive sound scrapes. Somewhere along the way, the video games companies decided that music would need to be a core part of the experience (probably as a way to differentiate between all of the other cabinets at the video arcade), and thank goodness for whoever that person was.

Intro Music here

Since the late 80s, video game music has had a rapid evolution. As the technology evolved, so did the music that the technology provided. We’ve come a long way since those first Pacman and Space Invaders cabinets

although, I’m not saying that Pacman and Space Invaders were the first

and most of the AAA titles these days have scores written by big name composers, which are performed by full orchestras.

It’s become a serious business, with soundtrack sales making some serious revenue for the video game companies, not to mention royalties for the Royalty of video game music

if you’ll pardon the pun

We live in an age where there are travelling musicians who put on shows where they perform the best that is on offer. We have celebrity YouTubers, the likes of Brentalfloss and MegaRan to name just two, who have made part of their careers writing lyrics for established video games songs.

Video Games Live!, arguably the first of the big live video games music shows, ask those who sign up for their newsletter/email alerts to recommend songs that they should play as part of their shows. And with their latest tour starting to gather steam, as I record this, I thought I’d take a look back on some of my favourite video game songs. This is not an expansive list, if it was then this episode could have easily been hours long

and as much as I love to waffle, I don’t think you’d appreciate me talking at you for that long

These songs aren’t presented in any kind of favourite or ranked order except to say that I’ve picked ten of my favourites and tried to create a, sort of playlist out of them. I’ve tried to create a beginning, middle and end to them – almost a flow of sorts.

Anyway, let’s get on with this.

1 – Angels With Burning Hearts – Burning Rangers

Let’s start with something to get everyone going. Burning Rangers was released in 1998 for the Sega Saturn and used a modified version of the engine created for Nights into Dreams.

The setting of the game was the near future, an elite team of firefighters called the Burning Rangers rush, headlong into danger to save innocent civilians. This game is one of my favourites, hands down. Partly because of the absolutely kick ass anime intro, and storyline; but also because of this song.

Listening to it never fails to make the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end. Whether is the subtle, overdriven guitars

hidden just under the rest of the accompaniment

the scratchy vocals, the lyrics or the brass which seems to punch you in the face. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to put it down to one thing.

This song rocks.

2 – Live and Learn – Sonic Adventure 2

As much as Angels With Burning Hearts rocks, Live and Learn will melt your face.

Continuing on the road of rock we find Senuoe Jun and Johnny Gioeli, collectivity known as Crush40.

Live and Learn is the title screen song from Sonic Adventure 2, and really sets the tone for the much improved sequel to the 1998 original. To be honest, I was this close to choosing Escape From The City as it is THE most fun song in the original Sonic Adventure

and the first video game song that I learnt to play on the bass

but this song won out on just plain grit and airguitar-ability

is that a phrase?

Live and Learn, as with Angels with Burning Hearts, has a fantastically upbeat and positive. There’s no dissection of the music here, because it’s just balls to the wall rock and fun.

3 – Signs of Love – Persona 4

Taking a break from the heavy, fast rock for a moment and stepping over to the dance-meets-jpop arena we find Signs of Love from Persona 4.

This is where things mellow out a little, but only because we have no loud guitars and scratchy vocals. We’ve walked out of the rock club and taken a walk into a trendy, yet low key, bar. The kind of bar where everyone seems to be nodding slightly, while the DJ queues up funky, nu jazz, house music.

Persona 4 was released in 2008 as the 4th game in the Shin Megami Tensei Persona series of JRPGs. I’ll be honest

and will probably be shot for heresy here

I’ve only ever played one Persona game, and 4 was it. It is precisely what I look for in a JRPG these days.

Signs of Love was used as a, sort of, over world theme for Persona 4. It’s the main theme which plays as you explore Inaba and fits really well with the aesthetic of the game. Plus it scratches a House, Jazz Fusion itch that I have.

4 – Attack the Barbarian – Streets of Rage

You somehow thought that I wouldn’t include a piece by the legendary Koshiro Yuzo in this short list? Well you were sadly mistaken.

Where Signs of Love has its dreamy, House-like, funkiness, Attack the Barbarian punches you in the face with its 90s techo-punk vibe and keeps punching until you submit to its will. And THAT’s what makes this song so amazing.

Streets of Rage (or Bare Knuckle as it was known in Japan) was released for the Mega Drive/Genesis in 1990. It was Sega’s attempt

and bloody good, it was

at making a side scrolling brawler for the Mega Drive. Sure, they’d released an arcade conversion of Golden Axe on year earlier

and a lot of people see it the home release as the better version of the game

but it never really competed with titles like Final Fight – perhaps because Golden Axe is, by it’s very nature, all about fantasy.

Anyway, this song wants to beat you up, steal your lunch money and spend 5 minutes laughing at you. It’s only fitting that it was used as Boss music, because it really does set up a sense of urgency. But you don’t need me to tell you that.

5 – BoSIM Nova – The Sims

Now that we’ve had our teeth kicked in by Streets of Rage, we need another chill session and that’s what BoSIM Nova will provide for us.

The Sims was a game changing

if you’ll pardon the pun

simulation game, released in 2000 for Windows. This piece will always be my favourite from that genre defining (and destroying) game.

I’ll always remember making my sims set the same radio station playing, whichever was playing this song. Sure there ways of putting your virtual person through hell without playing this song over and over

constructing a wall around them when they needed the toilet, or depriving them of social interactions and watching them literally lose their virtual minds

but none of them were as chilled out and laid back as listening to this music over and over again.

6 – Everybody Jump Around – Jet Set Radio

The first in this list by Richard Jacques and the first to have a sample of the Beatles in it – go listen to the full version and let us know if you spot it, it’s used (in full) twice during this song.

Everyone has that one game which made their controllers shudder with fear, and Sega’s Jet Set Radio

originally released in 2000 for the Dreamcast

was that game for me. The controls were both perfect and ultimately baffling at the same time. By that, I mean that the controls were perfect… Right up until the camera angle changed, at which point all bets were off.

But with this track

and others by the equally legendary Nagamura Hideki

blended almost seamlessly with the hip hop and electronica by “real”

and by that I mean, non-video game composer

artists which made up this soundtrack.

7 – Big Apple – Tokyo Extreme Racer

We’ve had our fun dalliances with hiphop, electronica, and even a little jazz infused pop. But now it’s time to get back to the topic of winning at something.

The guitar riff at the centre of this track, from Crave/Genki’s 1999 Dreamcast title kicks butt. It’s the song that starts when you’re challenged to a race by the boss of some rival gang, and it plays, repeatedly, throughout your race against them.

I can’t tell you how many times I gunned the accelerator in my over powered car as the opening notes hit, watching it pull off into the middle distance – which is something this arcade racer did to make you feel like your car was going at 200km/h…and it bloody worked – knowing that I was leaving the boss to eat my dust…. Right up until I’d hit the bottom right corner and have to drift around it.

This song perfectly captures the feeling of slamming the accelerator home and feeling the Gs pile up, even though you were sat in your favourite chair and not going anyplace. I could swear that I’ve been flung back in my chair as this song hit and I’ve slammed on the accelerator.

8 – It Doesn’t Really Matter – Metropolis Street Racer

And we’re back with my man Richard Jacques, for the Dreamcast title: Metropolis Street Racer from Bizarre Creations

who are more famous these days for the Lego games

Released in 2000, this simulation racer was a completely different breed of racer. Instead of earning money by achieving first place, you earned Kudos – the in game currency – by performing well, avoiding crashing, and performing as many crowd pleasing tricks (like drifting, drafting and 360 burnouts) as possible. You could trade in your cache for better, faster cars.

It was the first racer that I knew of which had an online mode, with a realistic date time system. It would use the Dreamcast’s internal clock to figure out the local time for the race venue

available venues were London, San Fran, and Tokyo

and would present the location as it would be at the time. If you were playing at 2am UK time at a venue in Tokyo, it would be beaming, midday, sunshine.

It Doesn’t Really Matter sounds like it could have been a UK chart topper at the time. It has elements of Spice Girls pop and some Latin infusions. It made a perfect soundtrack to those early morning, due covered, San Fran drift-a-thons.

9 – The Underwater Level – TMNT

TMNT for the NES will always have a special place in my heart. It is one of the first video games that I remember playing during my first summer of video games, and I played it at a time when I was turtle mad.

… who am I kidding, I’m still turtle mad now.

I’ve written about TMNT before

and here’s a link to that article

and just how amazing and Earth shattering this game was to me.

The Underwater Level was one which took place in a dam. This was the second level in the game, and it was quite a tense one. It seems that Shredder and his henchmen had set a bomb at one of the dams around New York City

the game never specified exactly which one

and the turtles had only a small amount of time to disarm each bomb.

This wouldn’t be a problem if it weren’t for the bloody seaweed. Touching the seaweed

whilst not hard to avoid, but difficult to get out of once in it

causes harm to your chosen turtle, and if he dies then you have to start the stage again with one less turtle.

This song perfectly sets up a sense of tension and, to this day, still makes me rush a little when I hear it. Especially if the turtles are hurting and you get a chorus of biddle-deebeeps telling you that they are in danger of dying; and that you have one seconds remaining until the final bomb goes off, and you realise that you’re lost in this underwater cavern.

10 – That’s Death – Discworld 2: Missing Presumed…?

It’s only fitting that I end this list with a song about death, right? Not death as in the affliction though. Death as in the hooded fella with the pale complexion. Does a lot of reaping, and talking in all caps – that Death.

And yes, I used the UK title for the game because the American title only works as a pun when written down

its Mortality Bytes… with a y

Discworld 2 was the 1996 sequel to the 1995 point and click Discworld game

which wasn’t the first Discworld game, 1986’s The Colour Of Magic was the first Discworld game

but it was the first in the series which was animated by the Hanna-Barbera folks.

That’s Death was the game opener, and provided folks who were new the to series with a perfect introduction to the sideways logic and frankly wonderful humour that was Terry Pratchett. It’s a Python-esque

not just because it was written and performed by Eric Idle

take on a big band number, complete with dancing skeletons. In my opinion it remains the single greatest intro song in the history of everything. Simply nothing has beaten it for its style and panache.

Outro

As I said at the start of this episode, this wasn’t an extensive list of songs. A full list would take hours to talk my way through

and I’m sure that I would have said “punch you in the face” about a thousand times more

and I would probably never be able to complete the planning stages let alone the full list – because I have far too many favourites. I had to leave out Fisherman’s Horizon from Final Fantasy VIII, for instance; which is one of the most chilled out songs I have ever heard in a video game.

Music in video games has come a very long way from the beeps and bloops of yesteryear, there are even licensed songs which appear in video games, and have done since the late 90s.

Although this leaves me wondering when the first removal of a song, from a game which is already out, due to some licensing dispute will happen, because it’s a case of when, rather than if

just like when amazon removed copies 1984 from customers Kindles because the license had changed

There are people who make a portion of their living by recording covers and remixes of video game songs, and there is a massive market for putting on live video game music shows. The likes of Video Games Live

which has been a world touring show for over 12 years, is preparing to release a 6th album, and one of it’s concerts was even shown on PBS in the states

and similar shows, like Distant Worlds, have really raised the bar of what was once just a way to keep the attention of the players in the hopes that they’d keep putting money into an arcade cabinet.

And it isn’t just the live shows which get all of the attention. I listen to full soundtracks from my favourite games, every now and then. I also know a fair few developers who swear by listening to video game soundtracks as a way of maintaining focus – the idea here is that the music is meant to help you focus when you’re playing the game, so it should help you focus when doing high concentration tasks.

Let us know what your favourite songs from video games music are in the comments section of the shows notes

which can be found at wafflingtaylors.rocks

send us a tweet or tell us over on Facebook.

Also, don’t forget to let us know if you spot the repeated sample of The Beatles in Everybody Jump Around. I’ll give you a big clue, it’s included in both excerpts of the song in this episode.

Outro Music Here

Even fools like me can have a go at recording video game music. Just like when I recorded a tribute to Sabotender

the giant cactus enemy found in most Final Fantasy game

set to the backing of “I Surrender” by Rainbow.

I’ll warn you now that I’m a pretty terrible singer, but you’re about to her a snippet of it.

Games Mentioned

  • Burning Rangers
  • Sonic Adventure (series)
  • Persona 4
  • Final Fantasy (series)
  • Streets of Rage
  • The Sims
  • Jet Set Radio
  • Tokyo Xtreme Racer
  • Metropolis Street Racer
  • Sonic R
  • TMNT
  • Discworld 2: Missing Presumed…?

Music

Links to the music used in the podcast can be found below. Definitely check them out, because they’re amazing tracks by awesome musicians.

Comments

Leave a comment in the section on this page (or by heading to our patreon if you’re listening in a podcatcher) and let us know what you liked, what you didn’t like and which games you’d like to hear us waffle on about next time.

Until then,
Waffle on!

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Jamie is one of the Waffling Taylors. He spends a lot of time blogging about things sometimes related to programming and sometimes not.