Top 10 Nintendo Game Soundtracks [Best Recommendations]

Interest has reignited in Nintendo’s history these days. Some of that comes from new fans who skipped out on the Wii U but are now proud new Switch owners, but more are jumping in thanks to the NES and SNES Classic systems. Nintendo is no longer walling off access to their old titles by forcing you to purchase a $300 console, but releasing collections of their old titles. As a result, many are immersed in the sounds of their childhoods. Classic soundtracks from Nintendo games that were once forgotten are now fresh in people’s ears again.

To honor this newfound love of Nintendo’s music, we thought we’d countdown the best music Nintendo has to offer! After all, Nintendo is extremely musically inclined, theming many of their classic titles off of instruments or dressing them in musical motifs. Music is, after all, the aspect of games we remember the most; the part we can simply hum to our friends and remind them of the great times we had!

10. Yoshi’s Story

  • System: N64, Wii, Wii U
  • Publisher: Nintendo
  • Developer: Nintendo
  • Release Dates: March 10th, 1998 (NA)

Disney World claims it’s the happiest place on Earth, but that’s simply not true. That title actually belongs to Yoshi’s Island. See, the Yoshis live in harmony with one another because they’ve got the Super Happy Tree spreading sheer joy all throughout their land. You can’t get much happier than that. Baby Bowser, a miserable little turtle-dragon, is jealous of their happiness. He turns the island into a pop-up book via magic and steals the Super Happy Tree. Now the Yoshis are depressed and charge Baby Bowser’s castle to steal it back.

“Adorable” is the best way to describe Yoshi’s Story. Everything from the art style, the theming, and, yes, even the music of Yoshi’s Story is just absolutely precious. Right when you open up the game, you’re hit with that heart-melting chorus of Yoshis warbling over the story. That cues you in that Yoshi’s Story is a game reeking with innocence. It’s like going right back to being 5 years old and getting ready to at story time.

9. Pokemon Red/Blue/Yellow

  • System: Game Boy, 3DS
  • Publisher: Nintendo
  • Developer: Game Freak
  • Release Dates: September 28th, 1998 (NA)

You live in the Kanto region and just turned 10 years old. Naturally, it’s time for you to stop mooching off your parents and live on your own. The local Pokemon expert Professor Oak is willing to give you exactly what you need to survive though. He’s got a choice of 3 Pokemon for you to choose from, but in exchange, he wants a favor. Oak wants you to collect data on every single Pokemon in the world and gives you a Pokedex for your efforts. Of course, you’ll also have to deal with his obnoxious grandson, who’s determined to prove he’s better than you.

Pokemon gets the most it possibly can out of the Game Boy’s 4-bit sound chip. There’s really no room for anything like instrumentation or sound-leveling. Pokemon Red/Blue/Yellow had to rely on pure melody to drive the tone, and it shows! There are so many memorable tracks here, like the various different route themes, the exciting gym battle music, and the purely epic Championship match music. There’s a reason our parents yelled at us to turn down the volume on our Game Boys, after all!

8. Pikmin 2

  • System: GameCube, Wii
  • Publisher: Nintendo
  • Developer: Nintendo
  • Release Dates: August 30th, 2004 (NA)

Olimar must have thought that by the time he made it home to Hocotate, he’d be considered a legend for his survival skills. Unfortunately, though, he’s got bigger problems. His company, Hocotate Freight, lost a ton of money due to some stolen space carrots. They had to take out a debt to keep operating. Instead of bragging around the water cooler about his exploits, Olimar is immediately sent back out to the Pikmin’s planet to hunt for treasure that Hocotate Freight can hawk off for some quick cash.

There’s always been a hint of menace behind Pikmin’s cutesy facade. Pikmin 2, more so than any other Pikmin game, captures this feeling with its music. It’s cute… but at the same time, there’s something a little off about it. The choice of instrumentation and vocals add to this uncanny feeling. For example, when exploring the Submerged Castle, you’re greeted with this clanging noise that pauses for just a beat too long before launching a ghostly hum. You’re never really sure what this planet actually is… and you’re not sure if you want to either.

7. Metroid Prime

  • System: GameCube, Wii
  • Publisher: Nintendo
  • Developer: Retro Studios
  • Release Dates: November 17th, 2002 (NA)

A distress call from an isolated space station that’s performing questionable studies on dangerous bioforms? Samus may not realize it, but this is actually a recurring issue she’ll need to deal with. For her first distress call though, she heads to Frigate Orpheon. Unfortunately, Frigate Orpheon is still quite infested with the Space Pirates’ own Parasite Queen. But when Samus exterminates the critter, she’s shocked to find Ridley there, who ends up blowing up the Orpheon. Afterward, Samus determines that the wreckage of the Orpheon is located on Tallon IV. There, Samus sets out to investigate what exactly what's happening on the Orpheon once and for all.

Metroid Prime was known for its absorbing, expansive, and atmospheric world. While many accredited this achievement to Metroid Prime’s unreal graphical prowess for the time period, more aurally-sensitive players were drawn in by the soundtrack. It’s got this strange mix of earthy hums and techno beats that drive home the feeling that you’re really on an alien world, both somewhat familiar and completely foreign to our sensibilities. It’s an incredible, haunting soundtrack that defined what fans came to expect out of the Metroid series.

6. Donkey Kong Country: Diddy’s Kong Quest

  • System: SNES,
  • Publisher: Nintendo
  • Developer: Rare
  • Release Dates: November 20th, 1995 (NA)

Shortly after the defeat of K. Rool, Donkey Kong disappeared. Confused, Diddy Kong checks out K. Rool’s pirate ship only to discover that the big ape himself has been captured by K. Rool and the Kremlings! Diddy, unsure if he can handle this on his own, asks his girlfriend Dixie for help. She obliges, and the duo set out across DK Island to find the home of the Kremlings in order to stop K. Rool once and for all!

Donkey Kong’s Saturday morning cartoon stylings have always hidden a much richer soundtrack than you’d expect. While Mario always went for the more upbeat, happy tone, there’s a hint of a reverence for nature in David Wise’s compositions for Donkey Kong Country. Diddy’s Kong Quest’s Stickerbrush Symphony (its most famous track), for example, captures the same sort of feel that a mid 90’s jungle noise CD might in its relaxing melody with just a hint of an awed hush regarding the ocean’s splendor. It’s a fantastic overall soundtrack and is the best showcase for David Wise’s talents out there.

5. Splatoon

  • System: Wii U
  • Publisher: Nintendo
  • Developer: Nintendo
  • Release Dates: May 29th, 2015 (NA)

Don’t let the marketing fool you: it is both possible to be both squid AND kid. Those who manage to balance both of these seemingly incompatible states of being live in the sprawling city of Inkopolis peacefully. Well, actually, “peacefully” is a relative term, as they do engage in turf warfare with one another for fun. But it’s all in good fun, as they use their own ink to claim territory. This playful form of combat is interrupted when the Octolings invade Inkopolis and steal the Great Zapfish, who powers Inkopolis!

When Nintendo introduced the world to Splatoon, people were flabbergasted. This wasn’t our usual fantasy or sci-fi oriented Nintendo. This was a more contemporary Nintendo that we were seeing… and hearing! Splatoon’s soundtrack was dragged straight from an early 2000s’ Dreamcast game, infusing its slick urban setting with some hip pop-rap beats that were just oozing with style. Heck, to drive the music theme home, the heart of the game lies in Callie and Marie: two pop princesses that are the top of the music industry in Inkopolis!

4. Super Mario Galaxy

  • System: Wii, Wii U
  • Publisher: Nintendo
  • Developer: Nintendo
  • Release Dates: November 12th, 2007 (NA)

It’s that time of year again! It’s time for the Star Festival in the Mushroom Kingdom! To celebrate, Peach invites Mario to the castle to watch some falling stars. However, while Mario is traveling, Bowser scoops up Peach’s Castle from underground and takes her into the sky. Mario tries to stop him, but it’s no use. Mario is blasted away but is discovered in the depths of space by the celestial princess Rosalina. She tells him that he’ll need to collect Power Stars so she can power her Grand Observatory to chase down Bowser deep in the galaxy.

We didn’t realize it at the time, but the Super Mario Galaxy series was Mario’s last brush with grandeur for another decade. This was the Mario game we believed was the future of the franchise, with sweeping orchestral tracks that managed to avoid the tracks blending together and sounding all the same like other games with live orchestras tend to. It combines the simple, catchy melodies of classic 2D Mario with the showmanship we crave so desperately, making it a truly unbelievable OST.

3. Xenoblade Chronicles

  • System: Wii, Wii U, 3DS
  • Publisher: Nintendo
  • Developer: Monolith Soft
  • Release Dates: April 6th, 2012 (NA)

Life couldn’t be any more peaceful on Colony 9. While the rest of the Bionis lives in fear of the Machina, Colony 9 for whatever reason has been spared from invasion. Shulk contently lives a quiet existence with his best friends Reyn and Fiora, running errands for local townspeople. This is all put to a halt when the Machina finally find their way to Colony 9 and nearly leave it in ruins. Now Shulk wants revenge. He and Reyn set out an adventure across the entire Bionis to destroy every last Machina.

No one had ever heard of ACE+ before Xenoblade came out. ACE+ was a newly formed group of gaming composers who didn’t have many credits to their name outside of a few fairly obscure Japanese games. But they absolutely blew up after people heard their work in Xenoblade. It’s hard to pinpoint what made Xenoblade stand out among its peers, but perhaps it was how it felt unburdened by sticking to a specific genre of music for the sake of setting the tone. Gaur Plains and You Will Know Our Names do not sound like they should come from the same game, but somehow they fit because each track plays at the same high level of emotional intensity. It’s a soundtrack that never lets up.

2. Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time

  • System: N64, GameCube, Wii, 3DS, Wii U
  • Publisher: Nintendo
  • Developer: Nintendo EAD
  • Release Dates: November 23rd, 1998 (NA)

The Kokiri are a peaceful race of forest-dwelling children. They live under the care of the Great Deku Tree, who grants each of the Kokiri a fairy to guide them. However, one boy has yet to be blessed with a fairy. This is Link, the poor outcast of the Kokiri. This changes when the Great Deku Tree gets infected with a nasty case of monsters and needs Link clear them out. Why was Link chosen though? Well as it turns out, Link is a fated child who’s destined for much greater things than he realized.

There’s more to the music of Ocarina of Time than just being highly memorable. The soundtrack is also highly incorporated into the game. In order to progress through the story, you have to learn and memorize very simple melodies to play on your ocarina. These melodies are so simple that it’s baffling that, if anyone thought them up before, they somehow never caught on until Ocarina of Time. But forcing us to learn these tunes simultaneously gave a hook to the gameplay while also connecting so much of the identity of Ocarina of Time to the music.

1. Super Smash Bros. for Wii U

  • System: Wii U
  • Publisher: Nintendo
  • Developer: Sora Ltd, Bandai Namco Studios
  • Release Dates: November 21st, 2014

Who could ever resist the lure of a good crossover? Mario vs Sonic! Link vs. Cloud! Pikachu vs. Kirby! Every household name of gaming is here in Super Smash Bros for Wii U, with an unbelievable amount of content to back it up. Complete events and challenges in solo mode, get together 7 of your closest friends for an incredible 8-player slugfest, go online to test your skills, or kill time in any one of Smash Bros’ numerous mini-games!
There’s so much good Nintendo music out there that we didn’t feel like picking up one game. Instead, we picked them all! Super Smash Bros for the Wii U boasts over 400 different tracks from all your favorite Nintendo games. Some are straight rips from their original game, but many are wonderfully remixed! We’ll never see a game with as impressive a collection of music as Smash Bros for Wii U again… at least until Super Smash Bros Ultimate!

Final Thoughts

We know we left out a lot. We didn’t even mention anything from the Kirby or Fire Emblem franchises! Nor did we mention anything from Nintendo’s modern library like their smash hit Jump Up! Super Star from Super Mario Odyssey. These are the games that we feel best represent Nintendo’s musical legacy, however. They’re the ones that capture each of Nintendo’s history with music and the ones that we feel shaped their own direction or even the direction of the industry!

Of course, with so much great Nintendo music out there, we know missed something. Jamming out to Star Fox’s Corneria theme right now? Do you relax to The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild OST while studying? Well, please, let us know in the comments below and recommend us some more great Nintendo music! We’d love to hear what you like!

Super-Mario-Galaxy-Wallpaper Top 10 Nintendo Game Soundtracks [Best Recommendations]


Author: Matt Knodle

I come from Indiana, where I grew up near a video rental shop that proudly stated “The widest selection of anime in the state”, setting me on a course to enjoy as much anime as possible. I’ve devoted myself to over-analyzing various sports anime and video games probably more than they were ever intended. I currently co-host a weekly sports anime fan podcast called KoshienCast with my good friend, Matt.

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