N64 Month | Cubed3's Top Nintendo 64 Soundtracks: Part 1

By Jorge Ba-oh 05.03.2012 10

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The Nintendo 64 had something distinctive within its sound cores; a robust little engine capable of outputting melodies, jingles and atmospheric masterpieces that set the foundation for remixes and re-arranged songs in contemporary Nintendo. There is just something quite special about the aural pleasures it holds, and developers took much advantage with a multitude of memorable soundtracks being produced.

The era was spoilt for choice, and so were the Cubed3 team. Sitting on beanbags, lava lamps at the ready, Cubed3's merry staff re-entered a world full of bouncing bass, seductive strings and perky piano to pick out twenty essential soundtracks you, the reader, must hear. The first five discs are loaded and ready.


20) Jet Force Gemini

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The often overlooked original IP from GoldenEye 007 and Perfect Dark creators Rare is usually praised for solid gameplay, multiplayer and co-operative features, but its sound direction played a part in helping the title establish a feeling of unknown, the vastness of space and the eerie feeling of visiting another world. Bathed in riveting string sections, intertwining guitar patterns, bellowing trumpets and droning synths, composer Robin Beanland had the recipe for a memorable soundtrack. Not too grand, nor bitty and repetitive, the selection matched the environments you would explore, the pounding drums of Sekhmet to the ambient piano sequences of a torn Water Ruins, the score has left a lasting impression over a decade later. Here are a handful of tracks to enjoy.
Jorge Ba-oh

#20: Jet Force Gemini - Top N64 Soundtracks by Cubed3 on Grooveshark

19) Pokémon Stadium

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It is a tricky one to call, Pokémon Stadium -- nostalgia really plays a strong influence, but there is a certain something with Nintendo's sound chips that brings a unique feeling to classic Pokémon tracks played on the big screen. The plucky midi strings that keep the flow of the battle going, or the deep drums that cry out a sense of war and impending action help bring a greater thrill than the original Game Boy jingles. Amongst the remixes of old are cherry mini-game songs and melodies that go hand-in-hand with memories of eating Pokémon sushi, leaping Ratatta and flailing Magikarp. A key ingredient as to what made Stadium a brilliant and epic masterpiece on a TV. Sequels have come close, but have not yet surpassed the fabulous score in this Nintendo 64 great. Have a listen and enjoy!
Jorge Ba-oh

#19 Pokémon Stadium: Top N64 Soundtracks by Cubed3 on Grooveshark

18) Donkey Kong 64

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The Donkey Kong Country trilogy on Super NES had blessed us with some of the finest music in video games, so it was especially pleasing that the Kong’s first step into the world of 3D polygonal graphics in Donkey Kong 64 came with a terrific soundtrack also. Grant Kirkhope took the role of lead composer for the game, having already established himself with sublime scores for GoldenEye 007 and Banjo Kazooie. Perhaps the most famous track to come out of DK64 is the DK Rap, which the five star Kongs of the game perform to, in what was always intended to be a joke by the team. The song gained massive popularity, with Nintendo famously reusing it for Super Smash Bros. and Donkey Konga games. Kirkhope did a tremendous job of matching each theme to the levels they were played in. With Creepy Castle he successfully portrayed an Addams Family feel, Frantic Factory perfectly gave off a vibe of a toy manufacturing plant gone crazy, and, of course, a remix of the opening level from DK Country brought joy to fans of the 16-bit game in Jungle Japes. More action-packed tunes dominated mine cart, Rambi the Rhino and Enguarde the Swordfish levels, whereas a more chilled and relaxed tone accompanied the island's hub areas and underwater stages. The latter part of the game even hosts an exceptional yet nerve-wracking theme in Hideout Helm, with the player up against the clock to save DK Isles. The Donkey Kong series has been lucky enough to have had very talented composers work on it over the years, and Donkey Kong 64’s soundtrack most definitely ranks highly in that regard, thoroughly deserving of a spot as one of the greatest scores on the Nintendo 64. DK! Donkey Kong!
Az Elias

#18 Donkey Kong 64: Top N64 Soundtracks by Cubed3 on Grooveshark

17) Yoshi’s Story

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Yoshi’s Story required a cutesy, chirpy and merry soundtrack to complement the game’s picture-book atmosphere, and this is exactly what Kazumi Totaka was able to do. Much like the Super NES' Super Mario World, Yoshi’s Story maintained the same melody throughout most of its levels, with the variation changing in style to suit the theme of the area. There are plenty of standout tracks that can be highlighted, including the very aptly-named Love is in the Air, not least because you cannot help but fall in love with it, using its beautiful guitar and violin combination to whisk you away to the skies. Baby Bowser’s Lullaby, played in the final stage of the game, is very much a sinister and darker variant on Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky's Dance of the Sugarplum Fairy (from famous ballet The Nutcracker), perfectly fitting for the treacherous booby trap-filled dungeon. Games of Happiness is a very catchy take on past Mario games’ fast-paced Athletic tracks, whilst there is even a rap that managed to worm its way into the game, with Yo-Yo-Yoshi’s head-bouncing rhythmic beats playing in underground levels. Despite plenty of levels reusing the same melody, it is extremely easy to forget that this is the case; such is the diversity in each level’s style on the main theme. The composer clearly wasn’t afraid to try some bold ideas, either, with vocals being quite prominent, whether they are singing from the Yoshis themselves or deep-voiced tribe-like shouting as in Jungle Fever. There is no doubt that the soundtrack and its main theme is certainly an addictive one; you may find yourself humming the game’s tunes years down the line!
Az Elias

17# Yoshi's Story: Top N64 Soundtracks by Cubed3 on Grooveshark

16) Conker's Bad Fur Day

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Starting off with the hard beats of Rock Solid and moving onto the operatic tones of Sloprano, known by many as 'The Great Mighty Poo,' Conker's Bad Fur Day is filled with what can only be described as an eclectic mix of music that aims to match the quirky gameplay and general humour of the game on the whole. As for the likes of Windy & Co., this happy-go-lucky theme is the perfect backdrop to the floaty, carefree antics of Conker as he wanders around carrying out the various tasks at hand on his adventure. Rare once again proved its mastery of soundtracks, following on from other great Nintendo 64 musical masterpieces, such as Blast Corps, Jet Force Gemini, and the Banjo duo of releases.

Throughout there were areas that touched upon tunes from previous games, like Banjo Kazooie, yet the musical maestros tried to steer clear of re-treading the same old aural ground in order to give Conker's Bad Fur Day a specific edge over the traditional Rare family-oriented fare. Success was found at every corner, with trance beats, operatic tunes, early 20th Century classic ditties, and plenty of familiar atmospheric orchestrated music pumping through the game's veins. Conker's Bad Fur Day not only thrived on its strong visuals, foul-mouthed content, and dirty humour, but in a large part due to its wide-ranging, high quality soundtrack from the likes of Robin Beanland and the rest of the crew.
Adam Riley

#16 Conker's Bad Fur Day: Top N64 Soundtracks by Cubed3 on Grooveshark

Did you enjoy these soundtracks or were some not your cup of musical tea? What are your favourite songs from Cubed3's selection so far?

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Cubed3's Top 20 Nintendo 64 Soundtracks - Part 4 (5-1)

As the Cubed3 Nintendo 64 month grows to a close, we wrap up our Top 20 Soundtrack selection with the final five. Eager audiophiles and Nintendo fans have embraced the likes of Goldeneye 007, Mario Kart 64, Mario Party 3 and Wave Race 64 in our four-part special, and now it's down to these extra special compositions to reignite those warm retro feelings or act as a sweet introduction to a gorgeous era of sublime music.

What are your favourite Nintendo 64 soundtracks? Be sure to share your thoughts in our comments section below.


5) Super Mario 64

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It’s no debate that Super Mario 64 was a truly revolutionary game. But what of its music? Sure, the soundtrack didn’t have a dramatic effect on the remarkable gameplay, but it most definitely helped weave even more wonderful memories. Having worked on the soundtracks for the Mario series since Super Mario Bros., Koji Kondo was again in the driving seat for Mario's jump to 3D. What better way to introduce everyone to Mario’s new world than with a remix of the classic Mario theme? Remixes didn’t dominate the game’s score though, as there was a heap of terrific original themes that seemed to fit each giant world perfectly.

The first stage, Bob-Omb Battlefield, held what was named as the Super Mario 64 Main Theme. This would prove to be one of the most memorable tracks in the series, absolutely fitting for the first level of an adventure. Just like that one famous tune from that 1985 NES platformer starring the plumber, you know the one! Kondo proved his mesmerizing talent in one of the most beautiful pieces to come out of video games with another memorable track. Dire, Dire Docks was played during water levels, with variations of the theme creeping in dynamically as the player guided Mario from land, water and into caves. It seemed to meld together with the ocean itself as the player was engrossed into swimming freely though these water environments. Such a piece can often bring out many emotions in players, with fans having produced some gorgeous versions of their own.

King Bowser's treacherous obstacle courses that lead up to a climactic battle hosted some fantastic music that put an extra pressure on the player as they grew closer, whilst the battle themes against the boss himself were easily some of the best music in Super Mario 64. The final fight had an even greater aura about it as an organ-like theme of epic proportions belted in the background; a theme that complemented the king to a tee. Even after the game had ended, the magic didn’t stop. Perhaps finishing one of the greatest gaming experiences ever contributed to the emotional aspect of the Staff Roll, but there was no denying the impact it could have on the player as the credits scrolled. Koji Kondo managed to do Super Mario 64’s amazing gameplay justice in creating a soundtrack just as fantastic.
Az Elias

#5 Super Mario 64 by Cubed3 on Grooveshark

4) F-Zero X

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Nintendo brought out the original F-Zero on the Super Nintendo long before Psygnosis' Wipeout and the Extreme-G games came into existence. It helped set up a fantastic futuristic racing genre that was grueling, unforgiving, and extremely edgy. To fit the tone of this theme, composers Taro Bando and Hajime Wakai had to successfully craft a high-tempo soundtrack that matched the frenetic pacing perfectly...and they did so with great aplomb. This soundtrack is certainly reminiscent of Unirally and even Turtles Tournament Fighters on the SNES in places, with it containing really rousing, rock-themed anthems throughout. Whenever the adrenaline rush starts to subside, the drums and guitar work kick in once more and the race kicks off, getting that heart rate up yet again, with the three stunning pieces: Endless Challenge, Dream Chaser, and Decide in the Eyes being superlative examples of how to engage gamers in the action. Listen and learn!
Adam Riley

#4 F-Zero X by Cubed3 on Grooveshark

3) Lylat Wars

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The soundtrack for Lylat Wars was composed by Koji Kondo, in collaboration with Hajime Wakai. This marked the first time Kondo worked with another composer since his work on Devil World, way back in 1984. This would be Wakai’s first major composition work at Nintendo, as well. It was a collaboration that worked many wonders and between them, they crafted a sublime soundtrack that was fitting for even a high production sci-fi film.

The opening cut-scene thrusts you straight into the action and is accompanied by a powerful piece that captures the heroics of the Star Fox team, and this reverberated throughout the game. Kondo and Wakai composed the soundtrack that had a lot more variety to it than just those heroic compositions though. Stand out tracks included Zoness, which featured a distressful sound; capturing the feeling of struggle - a perfect accompaniment for that stage. There was also Sector X, a mysterious and empty sounding piece and again fitted perfect with the eerie environment of deep and unforgiving space. It was more than just an amazing selection of music; it was one that captured the emotions of the Star Fox team in the environments they explored, alongside their mission objectives and brilliantly paced story.
Ross Marrs

#3 Lylat Wars by Cubed3 on Grooveshark

2) Banjo-Kazooie

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The sound team at Rare is indeed like no other, always attempting to make its tunes as varied as possible, using all manner of instruments that other groups would likely never even dream of touching. Trombones, banjos, whistles, flutes, accordions, Carribbean steel drums, and heavy usage of both the high and low end of the xylophone scale. The menagerie of musical styles makes for a really eclectic approach that surprisingly works amazingly well. As with the other Rare games included in Cubed3's list so far, Banjo-Kazooie is a primary example of how the mish-mash of sounds shows how confident the team was in its talent, and the final outcome is testament to the skills the composers possess. Who can argue with a team that can successfully fuse traditional music with various animal noises to great effect?

If you go down to the woods today you will indeed be in for a big surprise and Gruntilda's Lair (Primary Theme) follows this premise, starting off as a sort of happy-go-lucky children's style melody, except with an extremely dark twist to send chills down spines everywhere, especially as the track continues to its wispy section, filled with high-pitched xylophone beats with a wicked witch laugh in the background. An extremely clever piece of music with a wide range to make it the perfect backdrop for the game's wandering action.

In stark contrast to this is Click Clock Wood (Spring) - a perfect example of the way animal noises can be incorporated into a soundtrack without it sounding cheesy or completely out of place. This extremely light-hearted flute-led theme conveys a beautiful bright and breezy feel, with bird tweets, cricket chattering, and cockerel crows mixed in to add to the ambience and general feel of trundling through a busy forest landscape. In fact, this particular track is remade three more times to fit the remaining seasons of Summer, Autumn and Winter, taking the core theme and revamping it with different instruments and, yes you guessed it, more animal noises - bees buzzing and birds squawking in summer, owls hooting, frogs croaking and woodpeckers hammering away in Autumn, truly delightful! The winter iteration is of worthy of mention as well, thanks to its chill-to-the-bone icy tone, with winds blowing away in the background as plenty of light-toned xylophone plays over the top, with even some gentle bells ringing in places.

Moving on, how can Banjo-Kazooie be mentioned without its fantastic, tremendously upbeat Intro not being mentioned? Other than Rare's DK Rap for Donkey Kong 64, this song is one of the most inspired creations harmonica, violins, more banjos, xylophones, whistles, and accordions than you can shake a stick at. 'Song' may seem an odd label for a track in a videogame score, but considering the input from Banjo and Kazooie themselves, whilst not speaking in human tongue per se they certainly do add a vocal quality to the otherwise instrumental piece that simply cannot be overlooked.

Highlighting the range found within Banjo-Kazooie's soundtrack, Storage Locker takes on a murky slant. With its undulating theme running throughout, traipsing up and down the full range of the lower end of the xylophone, makes for a very toe-tapping tune, showing how simple is sometimes best. With the odd wooden tap and the haunting vibe that sneaks in from time-to-time, this understated track is yet another example of the ideal backing music for long stretches of exploration; enough substance to prevent it growing stale during the journey.

Finally, there is Attack of the Snippet Mutants, a highly invigorating track that is simply bursting with energy from start to finish, with lots of drips and drops littered over the lively piece. It seems to constantly change key to increase the tension before stripping away the running beat mid-way through to great effect, before bringing it back in full force to end this rollercoaster-ride of a track. Masterful execution.

Other tracks that did not quite make the final cut for this list, but are still impressive nonetheless, include the brilliant way one of the game's main themes, Spiral Mountain, was reworked as Spiral Mountain (Underwater) to give a watery feel, as well as the pastiche of quiz show themes for Grunty's Furnace Fun Quiz that appears towards the latter stages of Banjo and Kazooie's adventure, the maritime Outside the Salty Hippo, and the haunting Mad Monster Mansion (Interior). As for Down the Loggo Toilet, this faeces-filled piece, with its burping noises, dripping and bubbling sounds, definitely smells like a precursor to Conker's Bad Fur Day's Sloprano, which was mentioned in another of Cubed3's Top Soundtracks articles.

#2 Banjo-Kazooie by Cubed3 on Grooveshark

1) The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time

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If there is one area that Nintendo never lets gamers down in, it has to be that of video game soundtracks. Sometimes titles may not have as much content as expected, or visuals that could have been tweaked slightly to make better use of the hardware, yet with the likes of Koji Kondo steering the aural ship through the musical waves, the journey to the final destination of gamers' ears is never a turbulent one. The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time is one particular game that epitomises the sterling work conducted by Kondo-san and his composing troupe, including Yoshiko Kawamoto. In fact, so impressive is the soundtrack that choosing specific examples proves to be quite the daunting task.

Setting the tone of an adventure is always important, and delivering the perfect piece of music for the title screen can play a large part in creating a strong ambience from the get-go. Ocarina of Time's Title Theme does that and more, not being a mere brief ditty on loop that grows tiresome very quickly, but one that is so serene and beautiful, complementing the rolling demo of Link riding around lush fields on Epona that, giving the feel of exploration during the early hours, and sending a shiver down your spine the first time it is heard.

Once into the main adventure itself, variety is imperative for ensuring the soundtrack is packed with enough substance to endure the long quest ahead, and tracks like the Temple of Time are sublime examples. The echoing nature of the track takes a subtle theme and puts an ecclesiastical twist on it that gives off a gracious feel, and a true sense of wonderment at what is about to be discovered next. On the flipside to something so serious, there is the mesmeric Windmill Hut, with its accordion-esque main beat running throughout, and intriguing overtones to engage the imagination of the gamer as its plays to its conclusion. A true delight to listen to!

A fourth one to keep an ear out for is the rousing Hyrule Field Main Theme that draws from past The Legend of Zelda outings, especially The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, mixing a horse-trotting-esque rhythmic drum beat with inspiring strings and a whole host of dark edged synth that is reminiscent of the murkier depths of the Lylat system, giving visions of players navigating Fox and company through space. The juxtaposition of light and dark effects makes this complicated track a real masterpiece that acts as the perfect centrepiece for travelling across the land of Hyrule, giving a definite feel of importance to the mission and motivating players onwards and upwards. Finally, there is the sleepy, lullaby-like Lon Lon Ranch with its 'woo-ooh woo-ooh' sounds over the top of what sounds like a banjo or ukelele gently strumming in the background, portraying the feel of relaxing in the middle of farm land, taking a break from the hectic world around.

As for other key tracks that all add to the general make-up of the game, the standard Battle theme works wonders at upping the tempo, adding a certain edge to encounters, and getting the adrenaline pumping. Fairy Flying is a prime example of how music can be used to convey a message without even seeing any visual aids, as the tune leads listeners by the ear deeper and deeper into the unknown. House simply cannot be overlooked either, since it is one of those snippets that is replayed almost to death as Link enters numerous residences on his travels, along with Shop, both coming with a catchy looping nature that offers sufficient hook to avoid repetition driving gamers to the point of no return.
Adam Riley

#1 The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time by Cubed3 on Grooveshark

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Comments

Yo, I'm loving all these recent N64 articles. You guys should consider continuing it in some form after the month is over.

( Edited 11.10.2012 11:24 by Guest )

Good to see positive feedback, thanks Smilie Maybe readers could come up with ideas for anniversaries of other Nintendo games/products and we'll see what we can manage Smilie

( Edited 11.10.2012 11:24 by Guest )

Adam Riley [ Operations Director :: Senior Editor :: Cubed3 Limited ]
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Jet Force Gemini deserved to be higher IMHO Smilie. But all good, still plenty of great soundtracks to go Smilie.

( Edited 11.10.2012 11:24 by Guest )

Cubed3 Limited Staff :: Review and Feature Writer
Storm (guest) 05.03.2012#4

JFG should easily be on anyone's top 5 N64 soundtracks. On a related note, that's pretty cool that you can build a widget using Grooveshark.

( Edited 11.10.2012 11:24 by Guest )

Damn, just recently I watched Hugo (which is an excellent movie if you have a good knowledge of the history of cinema), and at one point there was some recurring riff. This 5ish second part reminded me of a tune in some video game. And it was harboring on me for a while. Then, I listened to Baby Bowser's Lullaby from Yoshi's Story on this list and that was it!

bornforthis43 said:
Damn, just recently I watched Hugo (which is an excellent movie if you have a good knowledge of the history of cinema), and at one point there was some recurring riff. This 5ish second part reminded me of a tune in some video game. And it was harboring on me for a while. Then, I listened to Baby Bowser's Lullaby from Yoshi's Story on this list and that was it!

Nice! I'm a big fan of Yoshi's Story's soundtrack, and Baby Bowser's Lullaby is a real highlight. Was the actual track in the movie Dance of the Sugarplum Fairy, or just something else?

It wasn't Dance of the Sugarplum Fairy, as it didn't have the bounciness of the backing instruments with it. The main melody in all three were similar, the difference with the part in Hugo was that the background had a very mysterious feel to it. I tried skimming through the soundtrack on youtube and unfortunately I couldn't find it Smilie

Conkers BFD deserves to be higher, although i will reserve judgement until i see the rest of the Top 15, but Rock Solid is a great tune! I can just seeing that being played in some Ibiza club!



( Edited 05.03.2012 22:08 by Flynnie )

James (guest) 05.03.2012#9

I hope to Banjo-Kazooie on this list. OOT had amazing music too!

Razer (guest) 09.03.2012#10

Rare made some of the best soundtracks in this entire generation- and I'd imagine a few more are to come. But JFG's is one of the best, easily.
If they ever get an HD port on XBLA, I would die if they remastered the soundtrack. Hell yes.

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