Video Game Music that Will Blow Your Your Cartridge: “Rare” Edition


A song doesn’t have to be good to be catchy. But good songs that are catchy stay rooted in your mind forever. Funny enough, I’m not always whistling the tune to The Cardigans’ “Lovefool” while getting from place to place. No, a good number of those earworms were planted in my head back when I was a kid playing cartridge based games. Just as catchy as The Andy Griffith Show‘s theme song are some of these video game tunes from the great video game developers, Rare, below.

Banjo Tooie- “Mayahem Temple”:

Banjo Tooie is one of those games I knew should be treasured from the get-go. I mean, first of all, the name in and of itself is a great play on the fact that the game is a sequel. They took a ridiculous title and managed to make it even more ridiculous for the sequel! Rare, you beautiful beasts! I was quickly reminded that Banjo Tooie was a game to be appreciated when I played the first level of the game, “Mayahem Temple” and it’s eccentric music filled my television speakers. The “Mayahem Temple” song established the level’s foreign setting with it’s chanting  tunes while also staying true to the speaking patterns of the characters of the Banjo Kazooie world. They really do all speak in gibberish like that. I promise you, it’s charming.

Donkey Kong Country- “Underwater Music”:

Oh man. This one provokes so many emotions inside of me. If you ever played Donkey Kong Country on the SNES, you can’t help but remember darting through the dark, dancing oceans on your Swordfish buddy, “Enguarde”. Is it possible for a song to both relax, scare, and frighten you at the same time? This song does. Composer David Wise managed to create another song that built upon the strange “conga Jazz” musical theme that was ripe throughout the jungle levels of Donkey Kong Country while mixing the rhythms with the motions of the kelp, fish, and bubbles that surrounded Donkey Kong and Diddy as they navigated the beautiful and sometimes creepy depths of the submerged portions of the great action platformer.

The tune also has shades of George Michael. A mark of any classic song.

Goldeneye – “Silo”:

I feel like I could win a war to this song. If you’ve spent late night’s burning your eyes with the luminescent glow of your CRT TV while mowing down your friend’s blockheaded avatars through pixel smeared corridors, you’re familiar with “Silo”–a song filled with only the best of ’90s-era percussive beats. This song manages to brings out a level of competition in me that few other things do. Alcohol included. Give me a suit, some beer, and a boombox playing “Silo” and I may just win the next presidential election. A true gem of a song. Press play on the video above if you’d like to knock out a term paper in ten minutes flat–or if you’d finally like to write that strongly worded e-mail to your boss. (You should probably just go play Goldeneye 64 instead of doing either of those things)

Donkey Kong Country 2 – “Hot Head Hop”:

Oh, “Hot Head Hop”. Yet again, Rare composer David Wise made another song that set a percussive beat on top of another scene setting tune. In the Hot Head Hop level, Diddy and Dixie Kong travel through treacherous caves, filled with bubbling lava. This, funny enough, involves a lot of hopping. Wise’s song manages to incorporate not only the immersive sounds of viscous bubbles popping, but he also creates a beat that sets the player up for some well timed, and sometimes frantic, jumping. Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy Kong’s Quest didn’t include any underwater levels, so I think Wise selected the next closest liquid-based level before creating a companion song of sorts to his “Underwater Music” track. Wanna chill out to the sounds of rising magma? Give it a listen!

Banjo Kazooie – “Banjo Kazooie Theme”:

I know this is the most predictable song to choose to put on this list, but that won’t stop me. If I had to choose any song to most fully encapsulate the feeling of childish wonder I had while playing my Nintendo 64, it would be this song. The Banjo Kazooie Theme” is, fittingly, the first song you hear when you smash your N64 cartridge in and switch on the power. As you can see just by watching the video above, the song goes well with the slapstick nature of the game–but even more importantly, the song sets the energetic, lighthearted, quirky nature of the game by blasting the high-tempo sounds of the theme through banjo, fiddle, xylophone, and of course, Kazoo noises. What other game can you think of that uses a banjo as the central instrument in its theme? None. Okay.

Banjo Kazooie, you’re one of a kind…



Rap along to the DK RAP!!!

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  • Kevin Williamson

    Great topic for discussion, Pat. Although I have to say that there are quite a few water levels in DKC2 with some snazzy tracks to go with them. Remember racing the water in Slime Climb? How about battling Lockjaw and Pufftups in Arctic Abyss? Oh, those are so classic. I hope we do more of these articles. We are a rare breed, Pat.