Okay. Ranking video game music because I'm sad and bored and need something to occupy my mind. Narrowing it down to 25 was not an easy task (it was actually hard as hell and maybe I'll post some honorable mentions) but here's my ~definitive~ ranking.
The Ranking ItselfEdit
25. Sad Sun (Paper Mario) - The original Paper Mario is a pretty great game, about on par with Super Paper Mario (which doesn't have any entries on this list, an omission that really pained me), and the soundtrack is a strong suit just like with every Mario game. This track is the clear frontrunner, though. It... well, it caught me by surprise when I first heard it, considering the music just randomly shifted from the cheery Flower Fields track to this, and it only played in one spot in the game. Going up to the Sun's Tower with the bleak landscape and the thorns and the sad Sun mourning how he can't shine his light over the world was kind of a gloomy and upsetting moment, and this amazing music just drove the point even further. I love the Spanish/flamenco flavor, and how carefully constructed it seems. This is a great song that really, really should've been given a bigger purpose in the game, but on the other hand, it also works as a hidden gem.
24. Professor Sycamore’s Theme (Pokémon X/Y) - One of my favorite things about XY was the fact that Kalos was based on France, which I actually went to shortly after I played Y and that made me appreciate the game even more. The music is a major part of that, it just sounds so France-y for the most part, and this is the biggest example. I'm also a big fan of memorable themes playing when fun characters arrive, and this theme embodies Sycamore so well. The slightly flamboyant, showy nature and extravagant accordion/strings fit his personality very well, and I'd say he's my favorite Professor yet. XY are also some of my absolute favorite Pokémon games, and this is not the last time songs from that soundtrack will show up on this list.
23. Comet Observatory (Super Mario Galaxy) - This theme gives me MASSIVE nostalgia, as Super Mario Galaxy was one of the first games I played on the Wii and one of my favorites ever. The Comet Observatory was such a perfect hub world, it was just the right size to be able to explore and roam freely without getting bored too quickly (looking at you, Starship Mario >_>). Having this music playing when I frolicked around the Observatory and talked to Rosalina, the Lumas, and all the other amazing SMG characters was just perfect, and this track will always remind me of how amazing the game really is.
22. Madame Flurrie’s Theme (Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door) - Speaking of memorable themes that play when fun characters arrive, here's Madame Flurrie's Theme. Now, Paper Mario TTYD is my favorite video game of all time by a very large margin, and as much as I'd like to fill this list with nothing but tracks from that game, I feel like I need to be slightly fair. But this is one of the best tracks that the game has to offer, really. It's fairly short and loops pretty quickly, but it fits Flurrie (who's probably the single weirdest character I've ever seen in any video game. I mean, Lucahjin's reaction says it all) SO well. Flurrie is strange, eccentric, theatrical, and weirdly romantic, and her theme is all of those things (and she isn't even one of my favorite characters in the game... imagine how much I'll be writing later on). Amazing theme for a... strange character.
21. Trunk Twister (Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze) - I guess it's about time to finally take out a Donkey Kong track. The Donkey Kong series has some of the greatest soundtracks ever and it's a crime that barely any of the tracks are in Smash Bros, instead it's just a bunch of Jungle Japes remixes (and the DK Rap, which is #0 on this list). Trunk Twister is an awesome track that plays in the first mine cart level of Tropical Freeze, but while mine cart levels are usually frantic and terrifying, this one is (relatively) laid-back and has some great jazz guitar. The star of the track, obviously, is the insane harmonica that just ramps up until it's just completely jamming out at the climax of the song. The tropical, friendly vibe combined with the amazing harmonica made me actually want to keep playing the level over and over, which is rare for mine cart levels since they're usually awful.
20. Wario's Gold Mine (Mario Kart Wii) - In terms of pure creativity, I think Mario Kart Wii has the best course selection out of all the Mario Kart games I've played, and the music is overall amazing too. Wario's Gold Mine is the star of the whole soundtrack, and it's also one of my favorite Mario Kart courses of all time (maybe it's just because I like trolling people, since many seem to hate it more than Rainbow Road). The crazy banjo and thumping bass playing along while you maneuver through the rickety mine and around the bats and mine carts all fit extremely well, and it's always fun to listen to some bluegrass like this. Very fun track.
19. Popple Battle (Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga) - This theme is probably the best thing I've ever heard come out of the GBA (Teehee Valley from the same game was very close to being on this list, though). Popple is a hilarious character who always had really fun fights thanks to his questionable "Rookies" he was always partnered with, and the fact that he talked like a 1920's mobster and was the "bumbling villain" archetype, an archetype which I adore. I even played him in an RP! But let's actually get to the music, and this music made Popple's already pretty good fights even more enjoyable. It's kind of a dark, sneaky theme, perfect for the "Shadow Thief," and it sounds kind of villainous but not too threatening, also perfect for Popple. It is an absolute CRIME that this wasn't played during the Popple & Wiggler boss fight in Dream Team, but hey, at least he returned because I really never expected it to actually happen.
18. Feather Fiend (Donkey Kong Country Returns) - I think Tropical Freeze is an improvement over Returns in almost every area, but Returns had its strengths as well, one of them being this tune. The villains of the game, the Tikis, were fairly creative, even though they didn't have much personality. Each Tiki was shaped like a musical instrument, and they would play their tunes to hypnotize local creatures and make DK fight them, which was a cool gimmick. What was even cooler was the idea that each Tiki's instrument was incorporated into the boss battle somehow, and it was an idea with so much potential. Sadly, most of the ones early on were percussion like cymbals, maracas, gongs, etc. that didn't do much to the boss music, but then... World 7's boss appeared, and the Accordion Tiki was the hypnotizer. What followed was an amazing, climactic boss fight punctuated with one of the greatest instruments of all time (...well, in my opinion, at least). The accordion riffs in the song, especially the segment starting at 0:54, have such a great tone and I've tried to learn the track on my accordion myself (with varying degrees of success). This is really one of the best DK boss themes I've ever heard, if not the best.
17. Driftveil City (Pokémon Black/White) - So I occasionally see people throwing shade at Unova's towns or said towns' music, and my answer to that is this track. Driftveil City's music is one of the greatest things I've heard in a Pokemon town, and I'm pretty sure I even snuck in a reference back when I was writing fucking Total Drama: Tiki Jungle about how great this track was. It's such a peppy, frantic, Oriental-sounding track, and making your way from the silent drawbridge into this city where this music is just blaring is so effective. Castelia City and Nimbasa City also have near-flawless tracks that fit with them so well (Castelia's is so happy and fits roaming around a massive city, and Nimbasa's is just an amazing jazz/swing number), and the mid-game of Unova is really just so great thanks to these cities and their incredibly awesome music.
16. The Roost (Animal Crossing series) - This track is gorgeous. At this point, we're kind of moving away from just "awesome" tracks and heading into tracks that genuinely make me feel emotions (but there will still be more awesome, jaunty tracks too, don't worry). I'm extremely partial to the Animal Crossing series because the GameCube game is the first video game I ever played, and really I just grew up with Animal Crossing. The Roost, even though it wasn't even in the original game, is one of my favorite locations, and Brewster is my single favorite NPC in the game outside of neighbors. The way that he's so quiet and awkward at first but gradually opens up to the player and becomes kind to them reminds me of... well, how I operate, and this beautiful piano piece that accompanies talking to Brewster fits in so well. The Roost is such a peaceful little area, and getting coffee in Animal Crossing is always so fun just due to being able to talk to Brewster and listen to this emotional music.
15. Buoy Base Galaxy (Super Mario Galaxy) - I don't even know if I need to explain this one, since everyone knows and adores it (I hope). There are so, so many amazing orchestral tracks in Galaxy, many of them were on the shortlist for this ranking (Space Junk, Good Egg, and Battlerock especially) but I think the Buoy Base one just takes the cake. It sounds so genuinely epic, and I really hate that word but it just fits here so well. The mission in this galaxy is pretty intense, with Mario climbing his way up to the top of the massive tower, and this music just makes it seem like such a grand, cinematic adventure. That's really what Galaxy is like in general, though. Amazing music for an amazing game.
14. Snowbelle City (Pokémon X/Y) - In some ways, the Kalos region just felt magical, and this is one of those ways. Everything after defeating the Lumiose Gym and going to the eastern part of the region was just beautiful. The visuals and the routes were amazing and creative, the cities were mysterious and extremely memorable, and the music was super evocative. I'm mostly talking about Snowbelle City here with the statement about the music, this is the last city in the game and the music is so wonderfully fitting for that. It seems kind of wistful, knowing that the adventure is going to come to an end soon, but also just serene and peaceful. There are some songs that just SOUND like wintery themes, and this is one of them. I can imagine like peacefully ice-skating on a lake at twilight to the tune of this song. It also genuinely sounds like something straight out of a Ghibli movie. Really, overall, Snowbelle City is just a great track, and I really want the X/Y sequel to come out (if it does) so I can experience Kalos again.
13. Mother 3 Love Theme (Mother 3/Super Smash Bros. Brawl) - And the slaughter of beautiful/poignant songs continues. ;_; I have not played Mother 3, and that's one of my biggest regrets, but I don't like playing emulated games on the computer so that's probably why. I've heard it's amazing, though, so I really might just have to. Anyway, I was introduced to this theme through Brawl, and it played on one of my favorite stages in New Pork City (don't judge me). I instantly adored this song. The way that it starts out kind of smooth and romantic, fitting for a Love Theme, is great, but then it just gets me when it pauses and makes way for the beautiful piano part. I've sadly listened to the entire 30-minute version of this a few times before, and it doesn't get old just because it makes me feel happy but also pretty emotional.
12. Wing Ding (Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze) - Yay, more Donkey Kong music! And this is nowhere near the last DK track that'll be on this list. So, Wing Ding would probably make this list anyway just because of its name alone (online classes!), but... oh, it's much more than that. Autumn Heights is my favorite world in Tropical Freeze, I thought each stage was extremely creative, and they all had great music and really cool Bavarian-inspired visuals too. Wing Ding, the last stage before the boss, is probably my favorite one of all - the whole level takes place up in the mountains while swinging from ropes and dinging bells, and it's all punctuated by this godly music. There are actually tons of different variations of the track that play in different parts of the level, which is really cool too. The thing I love most about the track is the various moods it captures - it starts out pretty upbeat when the level starts with lush greenery, then when the Kongs move into the mountains, the song becomes more mysterious and ethereal. The tone becomes slower, and then of course some accordion comes in, as if it wasn't amazing enough already. David Wise did more amazing work with this track, and it fits the level so well and made it just so fun to play.
11. Busted Bayou (Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze) - This is definitely my favorite track from Tropical Freeze, which is saying a LOT considering how amazing that soundtrack is as a whole. It's also really one of the biggest showings of how great of a composer David Wise is. So, this track ticks basically every box - it fits very well for the level it plays in, for one. The Busted Bayou level is one of the silhouette levels (which are some of my favorite DKC levels, they're always beautiful and have amazing music) and it's a pretty big level, which is cool because the track is surprisingly long too. It doesn't actually loop until around 4 minutes in, which I think is awesome because that's more than double the length of a usual video game track. The instruments featured are all amazing, from the bass to the steel drums to the guitar to the best one of all, the saxophone that appears as the climax. This is just such a great, laid-back song to jam to and to just listen to for a long time, since it's so varied and relaxing. Perfect for the level it's in, and just a really remarkable composition overall.
10. In the Final (Mario & Luigi: Bowser’s Inside Story) - This right here is the perfect final boss music, how the last fight in every game should be. Bowser's Inside Story was an amazing game and probably my favorite of the M&L series, and being able to control Bowser was such a fun feature. The final fight, with Bowser vs. Dark Bowser, was really just made so much more climactic with this amazing music, and I think the greatest part about In the Final is that it was able to make Bowser seem heroic, fighting against Fawful and the Dark Star. Even when the battle segues into the Mario and Luigi segment in Bowser's body, it fits so well and is just so ridiculously catchy, epic, and perfect for the final battle. Oh, and also, honorable mention to what is probably my second favorite final boss theme ever - The Ultimate Show from Super Paper Mario. The Mario RPGs are really just... magical.
9. Route 10 (Pokémon Black/White) - Sorry Epic :( But this track is wonderful. Unova is one of my favorite regions (yes, yes, I know I said that about Kalos, but really Unova is just as amazing if not even more) and this song, which plays in the final route right before Victory Road, is such an amazing culmination of the adventure. Just basically take everything I said about Snowbelle City's theme and multiply it x10 for my feelings on this track. The fact that there are so many strong Trainers/Pokemon through the route and then the extra obstacle of the Badge Check Gates at the end make it just seem like such an amazing, intense journey that isn't quite over yet. This is the final stretch of Black/White, and it fits so well. And then there's the fact that there's accordion, which is always amazing, and the backing instruments are also wonderfully haunting as well. The remix that's in SSB4 is possibly even better, it's a little bit faster and has some amazing jazz guitar and violin, as if the perfect accordion and melody just weren't enough. Oh, and the remix was composed by Yoko Shimomura, who's responsible for all the great Mario & Luigi soundtracks, which just makes it even better. God, I just love this track.
8. Stickerbush Symphony/Bramble Blast (Donkey Kong Country 2) - Speaking of amazing Donkey Kong music, great Latin guitar, and even better remixes of existing songs for Super Smash Bros, here's one of the best Donkey Kong pieces ever. This one gives me a lot of nostalgia, since it reminds me of playing the Subspace Emissary in 5th grade (this may be an unpopular opinion, not entirely sure, but I loved that and was extremely sad that there wasn't anything of that level in SSB4). The Donkey Kong Country 2 original is also amazing, of course, and just one of the many great songs on that soundtrack. Seriously, there are tons of iconic Donkey Kong themes on there, and this is just the pinnacle of that whole list. It's all so ambient, and really relaxing at the same time, but it also fits the circumstances that it plays in, aka a giant field of brambles in the sky. It just sounds peaceful, but intense, which is basically what the level is exactly like. Such a great song and I think everyone knows how great it is, since I see many circlejerks about it online, but that doesn't take away from its amazingness.
7. Mr. K.K. (Animal Crossing series) - Yep, so here's finally another Animal Crossing song, and it's not even the last. I'll delve into it more when I get to the final entry, but Animal Crossing was the first video game I ever played so it had an extremely lasting effect on my childhood, and so almost everything from the series gives me tons of nostalgia. Mr. K.K. isn't actually up here entirely for nostalgic reasons, since I didn't discover how great it truly was until around Wild World or City Folk, but I just think it's such a great little song. K.K. Slider has some surprisingly sad songs, such as K.K. Lament, K.K. Ballad, and Only Me, but Mr. K.K. takes the cake. I think it's the fact that it sounds slightly happy at the same time that it sounds sad, which just makes it all the more powerful for me. I think bittersweet is the right word for it. The kiddie flute music combined with the chords in the background really just strike a tone with me, and Mr. K.K. is one of the songs most commonly playing in my house in every Animal Crossing game I own.
6. Rogueport (Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door) / Glitzville (Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door) - It's probably cheating to have two songs in this spot, but they both make me feel the same way and are both so amazing. So obviously, nostalgia is a huge part of why these two songs are up this high. Rogueport, the hub of TTYD, is one of the greatest hub worlds I've ever seen if not the greatest - it's huge, there are so many things to do and so many places to roam around, and it has character. No, Rogueport isn't like a generic, sunny town or anything, it's a pretty intense place with pirates, criminals, that sort of jazz. And this music fits it perfectly, it's an adventurous-sounding song that's long enough that it doesn't sound repetitive at all when roaming through the town. Listening to Rogueport's theme just brings me back to the years when I would sit and play the game and continuously get excited when all the awesome worlds and characters popped up. And then there's Glitzville, which is just such a fucking fun track that I don't even know if I need to explain it. The chapter that takes place in Glitzville, Chapter 3, is the greatest chapter in any Paper Mario game, and getting to spend most of it roaming around to THIS amazing, happy, accordion-y music makes it even more fun. I love this game so much.
5. Boss - Doopliss (Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door) - And the last TTYD track falls, but... wow, is this a great one. This was my favorite song from any video game for a very long time until #1-3 overtook it, but that doesn't make it any less amazing. If anyone followed the Paper Mario boss ranking I did over on Sucks back in 2013 or so, I had Doopliss as #1, and that's mostly because of his hilarious character, but the music is also a huge reason as to why. So, Doopliss is a "scary" character who fits the spooky theme of Chapter 4, but is actually just a bedsheet ghost who's sitting in an easy chair watching TV when you first meet him, and only turns the townspeople into pigs for the hell of it. This theme seems to capture him very well. I love the fact that there's a bell incorporated into the song, because the bell ringing is a huge part of the chapter, so that's a cool little bonus. Though it starts out great, the transition into the organ part is the best part of the song because that's when it just gets spooky, Halloweeny, and... well, awesome. I don't know how to capture why I love this song so much except for that it reminds me of a great character from a great chapter from a great game from my childhood, and it's really, really well-composed too. Oh, and another thing that it reminds me of is Vivian, who's pretty much my favorite character from any video game ever. So that's another plus. But really, the sheer amount of remixes of this theme on YouTube are pretty telling. It's amazing.
4. Humoresque of a Little Dog (EarthBound series/Super Smash Bros. Brawl) - If the rest of the tracks in the EarthBound series are as good as this and Mother 3 Love Theme, I might just have to play them. But Humoresque of a Little Dog is so great because it's one of my favorite styles of music - ragtime or bluegrass or whatever you want to call it. Super crazy, upbeat, fun ragtime, and there are some amazing piano covers to be found on YouTube of this song. I love how it starts out with the banjo and nothing else, and then the drums kick in, and it becomes amazing. This is such a hilarious song to play Smash to, because it's so cheerful and upbeat and bumbling and it plays while you're mercifully beating up your opponents, it's amazing contrast and I just don't know what else to say about this one, since it should be pretty evident why I like it if you know what my music taste is like. Also, it was apparently inspired by a track in the background of an Our Gang/Little Rascals short as well as When I'm Sixty-Four by the Beatles, which is maybe the greatest combination of two things ever.
3. K.K. Ragtime (Animal Crossing series) - When I was a wee lad and first got Animal Crossing, I used to get excited every Saturday night because K.K. Slider was about to perform, and for a good year or two I watched him "sing" with my parents and my sister. It's such a great memory of mine, and of course it helped me find my favorite Animal Crossing song of all - K.K. Ragtime. This song was actually weirdly influential in my life. I loved it from the second I first heard it due to K.K. playing a random song, and it actually convinced me to take piano lessons for a while because I got really into ragtime and the works of Scott Joplin and other similar composers. So, I took piano lessons for a good 3-4 years, which ignited my love of music and instruments, and then I also feel like K.K. Ragtime was what first got me into Postmodern Jukebox and the works of another Scott (Bradlee), thanks to the huge appreciation of ragtime that I had gained just from hearing this little video game song. And as for the song itself, it's just so amazingly crafted. It sounds like a cute, cheery little rag that would be played at a bar in the late 1800s, and I think I actually learned it on the piano at one point. Oh, and that's not all. The cherry on top is that K.K. Ragtime also reminds me of some of the best villagers I've ever had in any of my AC games in Bob, Moe, Bones, and especially Anchovy, since they all play it in their houses. Anchovy was amazing, moved away from my City Folk town, and this song will always remind me of him. :( K.K. Ragtime is one of the most fun, catchy songs I've ever heard from any sort of media and it also had such an impact on just me and my love of music, so I feel like I have to put it this high.
2. Gear Getaway/Rocket Barrel Theme (Donkey Kong Country Returns) - This one should be pretty obvious, if you know of my love for big band/swing music. This theme is so fucking great that I don't know where to begin, but let's see if I can form any coherent thoughts on it. The rocket barrel levels in Returns and Tropical Freeze are interesting because they're ridiculously hard and I die frequently on them (mostly the Returns ones, like the one with the bats oh god), but they're also REALLY fun. And the biggest reason that they're as fun as they are is this music. I'd frequently replay these levels even after I beat them just so I could jam out to the music. The fact that it's an entire big band with all sorts of instruments, from the tons of different kinds of brass to the subtle percussion in the background, playing mid-1900s swing music is my dream come true. There's not much more to say about the original Rocket Barrel 1 track from Returns other than the fact that it's one of the catchiest things I've ever heard... but then we get to the remixes. So, first there's the fact that the track is in Smash, and ever since I heard it in one of the Smash directs I was fucking ECSTATIC. I feel like the remix is even more big-band-y than the original, because of the presence of extra instruments like the bass, and it's ridiculously fun to brawl to (I pick Jungle Hijinxs 50% of the time I even play solely because of this music, and I made it so Gear Getaway plays 100% of the time on the stage <3). And... then there's the Tropical Freeze remixes. They're all amazing in different ways - Rodent Ruckus (my favorite) has some amazing accordion (but when is accordion not amazing?) and saxophone, Twilight Terror has a great panflute, Reckless Ride is really fun to listen to because of the great, jungle/mechanical-y sounding beat, and Blurry Flurry is just completely epic thanks to the fact that it happens to be played by, like, a full-blown orchestra and it sounds intense and sweeping and everything. Really, the versatility of the Gear Getaway theme is one of the main reasons I like it - I could listen to all the different versions of the song and not even get tired of it because despite having the same melody, there are so many different components that it always stays fresh and great. Combine that with the extreme catchiness of it all, and you have what's my second favorite video game piece. But what could possibly be better than a piece that inspired my Tumblr URL?! :O
1. The Final Antasma Battle (Mario & Luigi: Dream Team) - Come on, seriously, what else could you expect