Welcome to what we hope will be a unique take on the top 10 list genre that surrounds music from the Nintendo Entertainment System era. TechnoBuffalo’s own Mike Perlman and Joey Davidson decided to pool their favorites together for this list, parse them down, debate their merits and present them to you in an ordered fashion worth arguing over.
Before you fly off the deep end in a rage over our missing Mario theme song, please recognize that this is a list of obscure games. As we decided in the creation of this theme, gamers may have heard of or remember playing through these titles, but they’ll be hard-pressed to find someone making linen sets to sell on eBay or Etsy based on the properties below.
Without further ado, here are our Top 10 Obscure NES Theme Songs…
10. Adventure Island – Forest Theme
Adventure Island was one of the most creative and unique platformers for the NES. The franchise went on to perform very well for Hudson, the company behind the project, only to fall into relative obscurity as 2D platformers fell behind the world of 3D games. Those that played Adventure Island surely remember the tune above very well, as it was the first level in the first game that boasted the track. It’s like, it’s fun and it is a great mold for NES music.
9. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles – Underwater Bombs
While the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles game may have been loathed by a lot of older gamers, the music within the experience was outstanding. Underwater Bombs is one of the best themes within the entire game and stands as a cool and weird piece in the game.
8. Little Nemo: The Dream Master – Mushroom Forest
Little Nemo is one of the NES era’s hidden joys. The title was part platformer, part action, part puzzle in nature as players could assume control of animals throughout the adventure. This was a licensed game, something a lot of gamers didn’t realize at the time, but it was fun and different enough to work on its own merit. The theme here is one of the best in the title, and it’s certainly one we remember every time we think of the game. Much like a lot of the best NES theme songs, this music has a way of getting stuck in your head.
7. River City Ransom – Stage 1
One of the most underrated fighting games of all time was River City Ransom. You play as the Dragon brothers who kick, punch, and special-move their way through town and eventually into River City High where one of the brothers’ girlfriend is being held hostage. River City Ransom is a fantastic game, and its soundtrack will kick and punch you with excitement. This main track gives us a rockabilly feel with attitude, and it serves as the main theme throughout the game.
6. Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers – Casino
Who would have thought the popular cartoon Chip and Dale’s Rescue Rangers would make such a fantastic Nintendo game rife with a stellar soundtrack? All you have to is look at the company that produced the game and it all makes sense. Yup, this Capcom game is not only a blast to play, but each level offers well composed musical accompaniment. We picked the Casino theme for its ability to transport us into Fatcat’s downtown Las Vegas joint, racking slots and playing the river in front of a crowd of cheering woodland animals.
5. Blades of Steel – Game Start
Out of the full list here, the Blades of Steel theme is probably the most recognizable to the masses. This was a game a lot of gamers knew and loved, but somehow fell into a level of obscurity that put it well behind the Marios and Zeldas of the age. We’d argue that this music is no less iconic than those, but we don’t understand why only the most hardcore of retro gamers remember it note for note. That’s probably because they’re the only ones that spent time perfecting the play of Blades of Steel while yelling at the best of friends.
4. Duck Tales – The Himalayas
As we get towards the top of our selection list, we’re proud to be able to include a song from one of the best games in the NES period. Duck Tales was fun because of the brand, the mechanics, the levels, the characters and, most importantly for this list, the tunes. The Himalayas track above is one of our favorites because it’s so well made.
3. Silver Surfer – Level 1
Widely regarded as one of the most difficult NES games of our time, Silver Surfer was a doozy. Quoting the Angry Video Game Nerd, “It’s &^%$ing horrible! The difficulty is legendary and I dare you to play it.” So, if you’re up for the challenge of your life, give Silver Surfer a whirl. At least the game has a supersonically awesome soundtrack that will keep you surfing all the way until you die in the first level. Even Norin Radd would fail at this game.
2. Bee 52 – Title Theme
What the heck is a Bee 52? Moreover, how many of you even knew there was an NES game called Bee 52? This exceedingly obscure Camerica game does not offer much for gameplay. You’re a bee flying around gardens, avoiding spiders, pollinating flowers and collecting honey in a jar. I’m pretty sure the concept was far greater than the execution, but nevertheless, Bee 52’s only redeeming quality is its jamming intro theme. It’s one of the best NES tracks never heard, and is sure to have you buzzing about with rhythm doing the sprinkler. Just don’t water the Bee 52 or he’ll die. Really, he gets stunned if he touches water in the game.
1. Maniac Mansion – Opening Theme
One of the most rocking soundtracks ever produced for an NES game was the compilation of killer tracks made for Maniac Mansion. The intro to the game is infused with metal and thundering bass, while the rest of the game’s tracks are tailored to specific characters. For instance, Bernard’s theme is super technical because he’s a nerd. Wendy’s theme is classical because she’s a writer. And Razor’s theme is a punk rock song because she’s…a punk rocker. Maniac Mansion is also filled with other audible delights like the tentacle’s theme and various tracks that can be played via radios, tape machines and record players throughout the house. If you’ve never had the chance to experience this spooky Lucasfilm adventure game, you’ve been missing out majorly in life.
That’s it for this list. Mike and Joey will reunite sometime in the near future to create a top 10 list for the best and most iconic songs from the NES era.