Saturday, 30 July 2011

Top Five MegaDrive Soundtracks

Video game music is a pretty big deal these days. Since computers and consoles starting using CD's to store their data, composers have been able to do pretty much anything they want, and the result has seen some games having orchestral soundtracks to rival those of top Hollywood blockbusters. Prior to the mid-90's, however, composers were restricted to the abilities of the system's sound chip.

This 'chiptune' music now has a cult following amongst retro gamers like myself, with some talented individuals continuing to make these primitive chips sing like never before! I am regretfully not skilled enough to create my own but I was and remain a big fan. Each major computer and console uses a different chip to produce this music so each has developed its own style.

I suppose which system we enjoy listening to the most now depends on which one we spent most time with growing up. After all, at least part of the appeal of any aspect of retro gaming is nostalgia. For me, that means the music produced on the MegaDrive / Genesis is generally my favourite. There are dozens of games whose music I still enjoy listening to on this great console, so it's been a pretty tough job, but here are the five games that I feel have the best overall soundtracks:

5 - Wiz 'n' Liz by Raising Hell Software

This underrated platformer has a very distinctive musical style... actually, it has a distinctive everything style, but this superb soundtrack by Matt Furniss is certainly among them! It has a lot of tunes including one for the each area. This one for 'Snow Land' is my favourite:

4 - Revenge of Shinobi by Sega

As the first game I played on a 16-bit console, it was the music more than the graphics of this Sega classic which best demonstrated to me the increase in power the MegaDrive held over its predecessor. It was also this soundtrack which brought now-legendary composer, Yuzo Koshiro, to prominence. It comprises over fifteen tracks, all of which are great, but this one still holds the most sway over me:

3 - Sonic the Hedgehog 2 by Sega

The first Sonic game had a great soundtrack itself but this sequel improved on its forebear in every way including musically! Most of its many tunes, by Japanese musician, Masato Nakamura, are fantastic, but I think the 'Chemical Plant' one is my favourite:

2 - Streets of Rage 2 by Sega

Many Mega Drive fans bet for the number one spot I'm sure! It would've been a worthy choice too. Another of Yuzo Koshiro's masterpieces on a console which really seemed to suit his style. I first heard this dance music style soundtrack when a friend played a recording of it on his cassette player and I mistook it for actual nightclub dance music! There can't be much more of a testament to its high quality than that! There are many stand-out tracks but I think this is my favourite:

1 - Thunder Force 3 by Techno Soft

I still regard this amazing soundtrack, by Toshiharu Yamanishi and Tomomi Ohtani as the one of the best I've ever heard, and certainly the best I've heard in a shmup. Few games make me want to play them just to hear their music! Okay, it doesn't hurt that it's a blinding game as well, but still! Every stage's tune is of the highest quality and perfectly suits the equally impressive stages themselves. There's even not one but two ending tunes too, but this track from the fourth stage just wins by a whisker:

Special Note: I didn't record these great tunes myself, I'm just an admirer, so all credit to, firstly the original composers, and secondly, the YouTube users who uploaded them!


  1. Mate, you *need* to listen to Elemental Master. Hold 'A' and press start to access the sound test. Plus, give the first Batman game another go ... totally brilliant.

  2. Hi Dave. I've owned Elemental Master for about 18 years! I agree, it's got great music - it would've made a Top Ten ;)

  3. Then it clearly kicked your butt. There's no way you could play it well and not have it in your top 3 ;)

  4. What has its difficulty got to do with its music? All its tunes can be listened to on the options screen, I don't even need to play it at all if I don't want to :P