The SNES Turns 20: An A-Z Musical Tribute

Supre Nes

August 23rd, 1991 was a monumental day in gaming history. Nintendo launched the Super Nintendo Entertainment System, the follow-up to their first immensely popular game system, aptly named the Nintendo Entertainment System.  The Super Nintendo is widely considered one of the greatest gaming systems of all time  (ok, I think it’s the best gaming system of all time, but there are others!), and the library of games to play is bursting with classics. Many of my favorite songs come from games that originated on the SNES, enough to do a full A-Z list. There’s one letter missing, yes, but if someone wants to volunteer a song name that begins with Q from the SNES, feel free, because I couldn’t find one. 

To the list!

Andy Asteriods (Earthworm Jim)

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Earthworm Jim is a classicly odd game featuring an earthworm in a space suit. There aren’t many words that can properly describe it, but I highly suggest you play it if you can. This particular song is heard in the levels where Earthworm Jim races Psycrow, a maniacal flying space crow (See? Hard to explain!). I love the hoedown sound in this track, and I remember racing that damn crow with this song fueling my drive. Great stuff.

Big Football Game (Tiny Toon Adventures: Buster Busts Loose)

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The SNES ushered in an era where licensed games were actually quality experiences. Games like Disney’s Aladdin and The Lion King proved that games based on movies and TV shows can actually be fun. Tiny Toon Adventures: Buster Busts Loose is an excellent 2D platformer with tons of things to collect and secrets to unlock. The music is also some of the best on the SNES, as evidenced with "Big Football Game" here. This one particularly sticks out in my mind, because I HATED THAT FREAKIN’ LEVEL. It’s essentially a football mini game where you try to score a touchdown, but it was rather difficult.

Chrono Trigger (Chrono Trigger)

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When anyone mentions the Super NES, there are a handful of games that will immediately come to mind. Chrono Trigger is absolutely one of them. This game paved the way for all future RPGs, a perfect blend of storytelling and gameplay. The music, of course, isn’t half bad either, as is evident from how many times it’s on this list. This song is the main adventure theme of the game, and man if I didn’t want to kick some Lavos ass every time I heard it. 

Donut Plains (Super Mario Kart)

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Ah, Super Mario Kart. I couldn’t tell you how many hours I spent racing along your many awesome tracks, collecting your cups, and popping balloons in your battle mode with friends. Each track had an excellent song to go along with it, but I was always partial to the Donut Plains theme. Maybe it’s because of the lilting song itself, or maybe it’s because Donut Plains 3 in the Special Cup still haunts me to this day. Either way, it’s a cool track.

Energy Mine Ruins – Armored Armadillo Stage (Mega Man X)

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While the Mega Man series blossomed on the NES, the X series took the Blue Bomber to a whole new level. New storylines, new characters, and new abilities made Mega Man better than ever. The music is enhanced as well, and while no MM soundtrack will ever beat Mega Man 2, Mega Man X has a quality soundtrack. Take this track, Energy Mine Ruins, for example: the stage has you running through an old abandoned mine shaft, battling bats and robots with pickaxes along the way. The action is fast and frenzied, just like this track.

Frog’s Theme (Chrono Trigger)

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Being a video game hero carries some requirements: battle strength, a cool backstory, and an awesome theme song that plays every time it’s your turn to shine. Frog from Chrono Trigger fits the bill. He’s one of the strongest characters in the game in terms of non-magic attacks, he has an intriguing tale involving his lost brother, Cyrus, and his theme is AWESOME. I kept Frog in my party at all times in the hopes that I’d hear his theme as much as possible. 

Guile’s Theme (Street Fighter II)

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It truly goes with everything, including A-Z lists. Not a whole lot more can be said about Guile’s theme, except that it may be the most popular fighting game song ever created. My personal favorite mix is the SNES version heard here, if only because Street Fighter II might have spent more time in my SNES than any other game.

Hot-Head Bop (Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy Kong’s Quest)

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Another fantastic SNES series, Donkey Kong Country took platforming to a whole new dimension: 3D. Easily among the best-looking games on the SNES, all three DKC games proved that the SNES could stand up to the newer, more powerful systems hitting the market. All three games had incredible soundtracks, but DKC2 to me is worlds above the other two games. This song, heard in the volcano levels, is a catchy jazz beat that follows Diddy and Dixie through the treacherous lava-filled terrain. If you listen to it now, I bet you’ll be humming it later on. 

In The Earthen Womb (Illusion of Gaia)

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Illusion of Gaia is a Zelda-style action RPG, the second game in what’s known as the Soul Blazer trilogy. The games don’t really make a whole lot of sense (at one point, you poke bats with your flute to kill them), but the music is quite good. As a matter of fact, music might be the best part of it. This song in particular is one of the best, as its soothing melody will bring back fond memories for anyone who played through the game. Since it wasn’t a trailblazer, I guarantee that a lot of you reading this missed out on Illusion of Gaia. When you’re done reading, go and remedy that. You’ll be glad you did.

Junk Man (Mega Man 7)

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Mega Man 7 catches a lot of flak as being one of the low points in Mega Man history. I, however, felt it was a fun MM game, though I do agree it certainly is not the best MM ever made. I like the Junk Man theme a lot, as it was the one song in the game that reminded me most of previous MM games. Nothing like a little nostalgia while you’re playing, right? 

King Bowser Boss Battle (Super Mario World)

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One of the first games I’ve ever finished had one of the most epic boss fights I’ve ever fought, even to this day. Bowser and his stupid Koopa Clown Car really tested my gaming mettle back in the day, making me toss those Mecha-Koopas in the air hoping they’d land on his head. The song really added to the tension too, as I knew this would be the final glorious battle of the game. I still remember holding the controller over my head as if I’d just won the lottery when I finally beat it. Ah, those were the days…they just don’t make boss fights like they used to.

Locke’s Theme (Final Fantasy III/VI)

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When gamers today think of Final Fantasy, the names that pop to mind are Cloud, Tidus, Squall, Lightning, and other main figures from the PS1-era on. A few fondly remember the adventures of Terra, Locke, and the rest of the Final Fantasy III gang (FFVI in Japan). This is the Final Fantasy that long-time fans consider to be the pinnacle of the franchise, and I can’t say I blame them. The game has everything: a terrific story, a great battle system, and beautiful music. Locke’s Theme isn’t even the best song in the game (that comes later), but MAN is it a terrific piece. 

Merry Marry Bell Rings (Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars)

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Collaborations in video games are often highly successful (see: Capcom vs. Marvel/SNK/Namco), but Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars, a joint project from Nintendo and Square, may have been the best of them all. An original story set in the Mario universe, SMRPG showed fans that Mario is about more than just running and jumping. One of my favorite parts of the game was Marrymore, a town where couples go to get married and start their lives together. Mario must save the Princess from Booster, a weirdo who’s looking to make Peach his bride. The main battle in Marrymore, I kid you not, is a giant living cake. Hey, no one said it had to make sense. The song is a wonderful tune, setting a perfect mood for a town made specifically for marriage. Maybe I’ll use it soon…

New-Type Airport – Storm Eagle Stage (Mega Man X)

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Another piece from the excellent Mega Man X soundtrack, Storm Eagle’s music might be the best song in the whole game. Any song I can imagine being set to heavy metal is a winner in my book. Imagine those riffs with a electric guitar, a double-bass drum hammering out the beats in the background…man, that’d be AWESOME. This is yet another example of a song that gets me completely pumped every time I hear it. Makes me want to go play the stage right now!

Overworld (Legend of Zelda: Link to the Past)

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I don’t think I have to say anything in defense of this song. If you don’t know this melody by now, then you’re either not a gamer or you just started playing. Either way, get used to this melody. That is all.

Prehistoric Turtlesaurus (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles In Time)

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Perhaps the greatest stage name ever, Prehistoric Turtlesaurus was where TMNT: Turtles in Time really separated itself from other TMNT games. Up to this point, the game had been standard fare: the Turtles would fight through the streets, sewers, and the Technodrome to save the day. However, the game throws a monkey wrench into your expectations and sends you back in time through six more stages, beginning with this one. The music reminds me of those damn running dinosaurs that come at you every so often, as well as the rock soldiers that were ridiculously hard to beat. Still, it’s one of the coolest tracks in a game that had many more awesome songs to listen to. 

Ridley’s Theme (Super Metroid)

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I remember the first time I reached Ridley during my Super Metroid run. It was bad enough that I never knew what was coming next, but then to see this friggin’ behemoth in front of me? Bad news, man. I remember losing the first time I got there because I had low health and I dropped the controller out of shock. This song brings me right back to that moment. The entire fight is heightened by what would become Ridley’s theme for the rest of the Metroid saga. I can’t help but love it, even though it scared the crap out of me the first time.

Stickerbrush Symphony (Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy Kong’s Quest)

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When I first heard this track, it surprised me. Here I was, playing through Donkey Kong Country 2, which up to now had nothing but upbeat, driving music. Now, I’m in a maze of stickerbrush, and all I want to do is pass out from the soothing music I’m hearing. I suppose this tune is DKC2‘s version of "Aquatic Ambience" from the underwater levels of the original DKC, a soothing melody juxtaposed by the madness going on in the level. What an excellent change of pace and an excellent tune.

Terra’s Theme (Final Fantasy III/VI)

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Some call this the best song in SNES history. Others call it the best track in Final Fantasy history. No matter what you call it, you can’t deny the excellence of this piece. It’s one of the first songs you hear in FFIII (opening credits actually), and it sets the table for what the player is about to experience magnificently. This song will make any long-time gamer immediately go into nostalgia mode. It embodies excellence in gaming music through all of the industry’s history.

Underground (Super Mario World)

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I’ve always liked the underground music in Super Mario World. There’s not a whole lot to it, just a tiny beat and the melody from the overworld slowed down. Maybe that’s why I like it so much, because there’s not a whole lot to it. Every other track in the game is loud and vibrant, but this is slow and steady. Not only that, but I always go back to the stages with the lava dinosaurs when I hear this. I hated those things.

Venom Base Level 1 and 3 (Star Fox)

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This is a song I wasn’t really turned on to when I was younger, but Super Smash Brothers Melee made me go back and experience it again. Star Fox is a great game made even better by its soundtrack, and this track is no different. You knew you were getting close to Andross (the white-face jerk that he was back then) when this song played. It was time for some serious butt-kicking. 

Welcome to Yo’Ster Isle (Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars)

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Yo’Ster Isle was awesome. Yoshi racing, Boshi, and Yoshi Cookies galore…man, what a great place to take a load off while playing Super Mario RPG. Boshi was a jerk at first, but beating him in a race was immensely gratifying. I feel like I should play this song if I’m ever down in a tropical resort, I’m sure it’d fit right in. 

X, Mega Man – Fortress Tower (Boomer Kuwanger Stage)

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Yes, yes, this was a bit of a cop-out, but I say the same about the letter X that I say about Q: find a song that begins with X, and I’ll gladly accept it. Boomer Kuwanger’s song completes the trio of my favorite songs from Mega Man X. It sounds like something you’d hear out at a club with some buddies. When you hear it, you can’t help but get down with yo’ bad self… or tap your toe, whichever you prefer. 

Yoshi Overworld (Super Mario World)

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The Super Mario World Overworld theme is great on its own, but I like it so much more when you’re riding Yoshi. Those bongo-sounding beats give the song a whole new life. I prefer this version so much, I would make it a point to save Yoshi whenever I got hit just so the bongos didn’t stop. How many songs make you adjust the way you play the game? Not many, I say. 

Zeal Palace (Chrono Trigger)

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Earlier, I showed how Chrono Trigger portrayed heroics through its music with Frog’s Theme and the self-titled track Chrono Trigger. Here with Zeal Palace, the game shows how it can set a serious scene as well. Players knew that Zeal Palace would be trouble anyhow, but this unsettling music didn’t exactly help the environment. Going through this stage was made even more tense with this music playing, and I’m sure I’m not the only one who feels that way.


There you have it, 25 songs from the now 20-year-old Super Nintendo. There are a boatload of songs I couldn’t fit in here, and I’m sure those who read the list will be able to think of five off-hand that I didn’t mention. That’s a testament to the Super NES; while the library of games was full of high-quality titles, the soundtracks were just as filled with high-quality music.

Happy birthday, SNES. One more year and you can go out drinking. 


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Author: Jason Fanelli View all posts by
Jason lives and breathes gaming. Legend tells that he taught himself to read using Wheel of Fortune Family Edition on the NES. He's been covering this industry for three years, all with the Node, and you can see his ugly mug once a week on Hot Off The Grill.

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