Who doesn’t love a solid game OST? In previous articles, we here at SwitchRPG have shared some of our favorites RPG tunes across a broad spectrum of platforms based on specific categories. In this new series, I’ll be sharing a handful of memorable tracks of games from a specific platform. I’ll be starting with the NES, as that served as my legal (and safe) gateway drug into a lifetime love for not only RPGs, but gaming as a whole.
If you’d rather skip over my commentary, you can find a complete, pre-compiled playlist at the very bottom of this article.
Zelda II: The Adventure of Link – Palace
While a certain, world-renowned gaming journalist may disagree, some Zelda games do fit the RPG mold nicely. Even though all of them have varying trace elements of the genre, Zelda II is arguably one of the more RPG-heavy installments of the series. It is by no means my favorite Zelda, but it has some great music no doubt. The Palace track is probably the most iconic of the entire game, and recognizable even to those not super familiar with the game in its entirety.
The Magic of Scheherazade – Overworld
This is likely the most obscure title on the list, but deserves a spot from both a sound and gameplay perspective. The Magic of Scheherazade is an Arabian-themed action RPG in the same vein as the early Zelda titles, but leaving it at that would be a huge disservice. This game, in my ways, was an example of games that were before their time due to their new and interesting takes on familiar mechanics.
The music is no exception either, and this particular track is one of my favorites in the entire game. Although the starting melody is slightly grating in hindsight, it really opens up in the second half of the song. There also exists an orchestral remix of this track which I absolutely adore, but will only link here in order to remain pure to the objective of this article.
Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest – The Silence of Daylight (Town Theme)
I would consider it a stretch to identify Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest as an RPG, but for the sake of being politically correct, I will humor it. I don’t have particularly fond memories of playing this game, but I’ve always remembered its soundtrack. It was a tough choice between this and Bloody Tears, but I had to choose the town theme in the end. I’ll leave your personal favorite to deliberate on your own, seeing as it’s getting late and it’s a horrible night to have a curse.
River City Ransom – Sherman Park
As I’ve alluded to before, River City Ransom played a major role in my childhood. I couldn’t even begin to guess how many hours I put into this game during my summer breaks alone. It has a fantastic soundtrack overall, but Sherman Park is amongst my most favorite pieces.
Little Ninja Brothers – Overworld
If you are starting to see a pattern of me selecting overworld and action RPG games, I apologize! There are a surprising amount of action RPGs on the NES, more so than I could remember before compiling this article. Little Ninja Brothers is one of them, and I distinctly recall renting it many times from my local Kroger. I was into this game around the same time as I binge watched the original Three Ninjas movie (note: it is a terrible movie), further fueling my ninjutsu obsession. I mean, ninjas and RPG elements: what else could a child of the early 90s ask for?
Even though I found it enjoyable at the time, I don’t necessarily remember Little Ninja Brothers for its gameplay. But the soundtrack has stuck with me for years, especially the overworld theme.
Final Fantasy – Main Theme
What list would be complete without Final Fantasy? While you may wonder where Dragon Quest is, I never played much of the series growing up and, as a result, have little attachment emotionally to those pieces (though they have great music, of course). I almost feel like Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest are like Star Wars and Star Trek to an extent. Some people swear by one or the other, while others embrace both equally. I hope to tip the scale in favor of Dragon Quest when 11 comes out in September on PC.
Back to Final Fantasy, Uematsu is nothing short of a legend. With so many memorable tracks across the entire franchise, it can be difficult to single out a track when necessary. But the main theme is so infamous at this point that picking anything else would just be wrong. This is the one that kickstarted the entire franchise, and remains one of my most fondly remembered tracks because of that.
Playlist – Great RPG Music On: NES
What are some of your favorite RPG tracks from the NES era? Stay tuned in the coming weeks for new installments in this series!