Look, taste in music is subjective. I won’t argue that, but you also shouldn’t argue the fact that if you don’t have at least one Super Nintendo game soundtrack on your playlist, you’re objectively wrong.
I don’t want to hear any whining about “oh, video game music is just dumb blips and boops.” Can it, dweeb, and listen up.
Even by the time we hit the SNES, game music was way beyond the crunchy, compressed mess of early console games. This is when real, master-class composers started crafting enchanting, exhilarating, and awe-inspiring compositions that blow any modern pop-star’s “music” out of the water. Don’t believe me? Check out just 10 absolute banger SNES soundtracks that put whatever you have on your playlist to shame.
Mega Man X
Composer(s): Setsuo Yamamoto, Makoto Tomozawa, Yuki Iwai, Yuko Takehara, Toshihiko Horiyama
The NES Mega Man games had banging soundtracks for the time, but with X, the series needed to make a statement. This wasn’t your cute, chibby Mega Man anymore. This was X, and X was hardcore.
Just listen to the opening song, which sets the tone with a shredding guitar before you ever lay eyes on X, and tell me you don’t get hyped. That’s right, you can’t.
Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy’s Kong Quest
Composer(s): David Wise
David Wise is a genius, and anyone who thinks otherwise can choke on a banana. This savant wrote every single track for this game, and not a single one is anything less than a masterpiece.
I’m highlighting Stickerbush Symphony for two reasons. First, because it’s possibly the most chill song I’ve ever heard that I could listen to for hours. Second is for the amazing community this song has gathered on the YouTube upload, where people post about some serious issues they are dealing with and get support and well-wishes from others.
Yeah, this song is so chill it even made YouTube commenters supportive.
Final Fantasy VI
Composer(s): Nobuo Uematsu
Nobuo Uematu composed the music for the majority of the Final Fantasy series, even contributing up through Final Fantasy XIV, and is still creating music to this day. Back on the SNES, though, he set a new bar not only for the JRPG series, but game music as a whole.
This was the biggest game the series had seen yet, with the deepest story, most characters, and biggest world. Naturally, this required a top-tier soundtrack to really sell all those individual components and tie the package together.
Terra’s theme perfectly encapsulates this with its whimsical flute, but slightly uncertain undertones.
Super Mario World
Composer(s): Koji Kondo
I’m going to take off my “shut up, games are art” hat for a moment and just say that sometimes a soundtrack just has to make you smile. Show me someone who doesn’t smile at the sound of this title screen and I’ll show you a liar with a black eye.
Every song in this game is just brimming with joy — even the ghost house song is upbeat and catchy. Mario and his music are inseparable, and that’s all thanks to Koji Kondo’s mastery of jamming a catchy tune into your brain so deep you never forget it.
Composer(s): Kenji Yamamoto, Minako Hamano
Metroid has always been an odd series, especially coming from Nintendo. It’s a sci-fi action adventure game where you’re exploring mysterious, alien worlds all alone. It isn’t meant to be fun and exciting, but mysterious, creepy, and dangerous.
Super Metroid’s title song captures all those elements in one track. You get the sci-fi tones, foreboding background that sounds like breathing, and slow pace that makes you feel just a little bit on edge.
Composer(s): Yasunori Mitsuda, Nobuo Uematsu
Yeah, Uematsu is on this list twice, but are you really going to argue that he doesn’t deserve it? If there was any game that proves we’re in the best possible timeline, it’s Chrono Trigger.
Again, picking the best track is basically impossible, but why not start with the “End of Time” track? This simple, almost lullaby-esque song has hints of sadness, despair, hope, and mystery all wrapped up in one fantastic track.
Secret of Mana
Composer(s): Hiroki Kikuta
A criminally overlooked SNES JRPG, Secret of Mana isn’t just an awesome game with a great story, but a soundtrack on par with the other great JRPGs on the system. This game needed a soundtrack that matched the unique tone and visual style of the game, and boy did it get it.
Even if you’ve never played or seen the game, “Fear of the Heavens” manages to evoke all the emotions of the game and paint a portrait in your mind of the type of adventure that awaits.
Composer(s): Keiichi Suziki, Hirokazu Tanaka
Earthbound, or Mother if you’re a snob, is a quirky and oddly ahead of its time game that breaks tons of JRPG traditions before they were even really established. I can’t even imagine how hard making a soundtrack to a game like this would’ve been, so hats off to the composers for not phoning it in.
I mean, what other JRPG has an opening credits song like this? Don’t look now, but you’re snapping your fingers and tapping your foot like an old jazz musician.
Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars
Composer(s): Yoko Shimomura
Is this on the list because it was my first real JRPG? Maybe. Is it also on my list because I love Yoko Shomomura? Maybe. Does any of that matter when the soundtrack is so good my bias doesn’t matter? Nope.
What other song could I possibly highlight than the famous “Fores Maze” song? Catchy? Check. Mysterious? Check. Intriguing? Check. Goddamn amazing? Double check.
Super Castlevania IV
Composer(s): Masanori Adachi, Taro Kudo
Just like the Mega Man X soundtrack perfectly primes you for blasting robots, the Super Castlevania IV soundtrack will pump you up for some vampire-whipping action.
“Simon’s Theme” is everything Castlevania wrapped into one. It uses all the classic gothic instruments, most notably the organ, but in a heroic, almost rock style that makes you feel like you can take on an army of the undead with nothing but a long leather rope.