This Generation’s Best Retro-Flavored Soundtracks

We can think of a million different reasons to love video games, but one core element that goes overlooked by far too many is a game’s soundtrack. Many talented individuals toil away to make sure that even the calmest parts of a game won’t leave a player bored, and we appreciate that, dammit.

But we’re also old-school. Growing up with catchy MIDI tunes pumping out of our TVs makes us love the fancy-pants orchestral stuff we hear today, but those old NES and SNES soundtracks are still fun to listen to. It’s a huge reason why the sudden retro-revolution this generation has been such a treat.

So great, in fact, that we think that there are a few throwback soundtracks worth sharing, whether they’re MIDI-based or remixes of the stuff we loved back in the day. Grab some headphones and follow along.

Mega Man 9 & 10

Mega Man games are some of the most beloved retro games, and it’s not hard to see why: a combination of platforming, using weapons and power-ups taken from fallen foes, and an always-fantastic soundtrack make for a memorable experience. Personally, it’s hard to top Dr. Wily’s stage from Mega Man 2.

In 2008 Capcom threw us into a time capsule by bringing the series back to its NES look and feel with Mega Man 9, then again with Mega Man 10 earlier this year. While the games were harder than what preceded them in the series, what endured was the high-adrenaline music fans had grown to love. MM9 had some standout tracks in the Galaxy Man and Magma Man stages, and MM10 had some great tunes in Solar Man.

If you want more, you can buy the Mega Man 9 soundtrack, but Mega Man 10’s score is inexplicably not sold in the States. For shame, Capcom.

Scott Pilgrim vs. The World: The Game

While Scott Pilgrim had a rough time at the box office this summer, the downloadable game was a runaway success. The art is based on the popular comics rather than the movie, and that’s perfectly fine as the series lends itself perfectly to the brawler genre. Of course, Ubisoft took an old-school approach, recruiting renowned pixel artist Paul Robertson and chiptune magicians Anamanaguchi to handle the look and music of the game.

If you’ve heard Anamanaguchi’s studio releases, you already knew to expect music that combined the bleeps of old with real-world guitars and drums. They knocked it out of the park for Scott Pilgrim – from the title theme and first level on, it’s 8-bit magic all the way through. Other notable tracks include Rock Club, Maki Ya, and Party Down. Hell, even the shop music was great:

Overall, it’s 24 tracks of top-shelf stuff. Feel free to grab the soundtrack for a paltry $7.99 right here.

Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode 1

After reviewing Sonic 4, we came away thinking that the game was fine, but not necessarily for everyone. Where the game was most consistent was in the audio department, where Sega made the smart decision of bringing in Jun Senoue, who had done such a wonderful job with Sonic 3 and Sonic & Knuckles.

Using drum samples from the earlier games and lower fidelity synthesizers, Senoue made the game sound instantly familiar, while also making the game sound new and exciting. We pointed them out in the review, but that they’re worth mentioning again – the top tracks are the title screen, Splash Hill Act 1, and Lost Labyrinth Act 2:

Unfortunately, Sega hasn’t officially released the soundtrack to the game. Maybe they’re just waiting until they’ve finished the entirety of Sonic 4, but we’ll just have to live with YouTube until then.

Super Street Fighter II Turbo HD Remix

The story behind this soundtrack is easily the best on this list. Capcom pulled out all of the stops when it came to the exhaustively-named remake of their classic fighter, contracting UDON to draw the HD sprites, and the fine folks at OverClocked ReMix.

For those unaware, OverClocked ReMix is a massive tribute to the world of video game music, where artists have posted thousands of remixes to classic game tracks, and all of them are available to download for free. Scoring a Street Fighter game was a dream come true for those who worked on it, and it definitely showed in the finished work. Hearing tracks we loved back in the day remade with modern instruments dragon-punched us back to the 90s in the best way possible. Just compare the old opening theme to HD Remix and see for yourself. Probably the best track is Fei Long’s stage, but there’s not a bad track amongst the whopping 66.

And the absolute best part? Like everything else on OCR, the entire thing is available free of charge.

So VGM lovers – what are some of your retro-flavored favorites? Let us know in the comments below!

Readers Comments (6)

  1. Already named the only two I could think of. Scott Pilgrim’s soundtrack is simply amazing and Mega Man 9, which I think is more memorable than 10 overall (10 has some great ones though!), had me addicted to Flash in the Dark for a while.

    By the way, any fan of Mega Man 9’s music HAS to check this out:

  2. There are two retro soundtracks I can think of.

    The first is the retro-version of Super Stardust’s soundtrack.

    The second is the awesome retro-styled soundtrack CoLDSToRAGE did for Gravity Crash, especially the Scarface Six Five Eight One Remix.

  3. @VofE: Awesome link! I could kiss you.

  4. Eh 3D Dot Game Heroes’ soundtrack should be on this list.

  5. @Sir Rickard

    I can’t believe I forgot that… I actually had to hunt down a few of the songs on Youtube. Particurlarly this one, which I LOVE:

    Love the mix of old 8bit sounds with more modern stuff in this one.

  6. @Sir Rickard — I hang my head in shame.

Comments are closed.