Top 10 SNES Game OST [Best Recommendations]

The 16-bit generation is often referred to as the Golden Age of video games. This was just around the time when game developers were just starting to get a handle on the new technology. Artists could draw characters that resembled actual people and not just a shape that was kind of formed like a person. Designers were using the knowledge they acquired from creating NES games. They could experiment with what they could do with the added space that came with bigger cartridges.
And, of course, music in games was more fully realized. No longer were music tracks just catchy background noise to a level, but used instrumentation that could actually convey a song. The 16-bit era is when composers for games began to make a name for themselves. They changed our perception of what video game music could be. So, it’s only natural we count down some of the best that the SNES had to offer, as it’s the system where many of the big names that we know today got their start!

10. The Legend of Zelda: Link to the Past

  • System: SNES, Game Boy Advance, Wii, Wii U, New 3DS
  • Publisher: Nintendo
  • Developer: Nintendo EAD
  • Release Dates: April 13th, 1992 (US)

One stormy night, Link receives a telepathic message from none other than Princess Zelda. She begs him to infiltrate Hyrule Castle and save her from the evil army of the dark wizard Agahnim. For whatever reason, Agahnim is kidnapping maidens across the kingdom and sealing them away in crystals. Princess Zelda is next on his list. If Link wants to stop Agahnim, he’ll need to gather up three magic Pendants that prove his capability to wield the Master Sword!

Right from the beginning of the game, you’re treated with a riff on The Legend of Zelda: Link to the Past’s main theme. It only samples the first few bars of the track, but it so perfectly captures the tension of the moment: rushing out in the middle of a stormy night to fight an unknown foe that you’re not even sure exists. It captures the evolution of Koji Kondo’s composition, moving away from the jingles of his work on the NES to tracks that capture the mood of the scene.

9. Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars

  • System: SNES, Wii, Wii U
  • Publisher: Nintendo
  • Developer: Squaresoft
  • Release Dates: May 13th, 1996 (US)

Bowser’s captured Peach. However, just as Mario shows up to save her, a giant sword called Exor crashes down from the sky and implants itself in Bowser’s castle. Even weirder, Exor can talk! And he doesn’t like Mario! Exor even breaks the bridge leading into Bowser’s Castle. Mario sets out to find an alternate route, but on his journey, he discovers Exor is the vessel for an evil blacksmith named Smithy who’s sending his creation out to conquer the Mushroom Kingdom!

The combination of Mario and Square was and will always be one of the strangest team-ups the video game world has ever seen. However, Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars managed to blend the two companies’ sensibilities successfully thanks to the work of Yoko Shimomura’s soundtrack! It manages to combine both the character-driven tracks you’d find in a Final Fantasy game with the upbeat environmental themes of Mario, giving the OST a unique flair all its own.

8. Super Castlevania IV

  • System: SNES, Wii, Wii U, New 3DS
  • Publisher: Konami
  • Developer: Konami
  • Release Dates: December 4th, 1991 (US)

There’s not too much to the plot of Super Castlevania IV. It’s 1691, and Dracula has been revived once again. It’s up to Simon Belmont to invade Dracula’s Castle with his trusty whip to keep Dracula from possessing the people of Transylvania.

Really, Super Castlevania IV is making this list for one sole reason: it updates the classic Castlevania soundtrack with excellent instrumentation. The OSTs on the NES Castlevanias were always a treat, but Super Castlevania IV updates many of those great chiptune tracks to give them the grandeur they deserve. No longer are they limited to the electronic bleeps of the NES, but the illusion of organ pipes and timpani drums blaring in your ear with a lush orchestral vibe.

7. Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island

  • System: SNES, Game Boy Advance, Wii U
  • Publisher: Nintendo
  • Developer: Nintendo EAD
  • Release Dates: October 4th 1995 (US)

Mario wasn’t always the globe-trotting plumber he is today. He was once a globe-trotting toddler. As the stork was about to deliver him and his brother Luigi to their happy home, the evil magikoopa Kamek knocked the stork clean out of the air. Kamek tried to steal both brothers, and while he got his hands on Baby Luigi, he somehow missed out on snagging Baby Mario. The Yoshis underneath discovered Baby Mario swaddled up in the middle of the jungle and decided to do a good deed by delivering him home!

Yoshi’s Island’s OST was so advanced for the times that it wasn’t until recently that Nintendo was able to recapture it in the SNES Classic release. The GBA version of Yoshi’s Island is perfectly playable, but if you never had the chance to check out the SNES original, you really owe it to yourself to look into that version of Yoshi’s Island if only for the soundtrack. The instrumentation simply couldn’t be replicated on the weak GBA soundchip with its deep bongo beats and pleasant lazy afternoon harmonica tunes.

6. Super Ghouls ‘N’ Ghosts

  • System: SNES, Playstation, Sega Saturn, Playstation 2, Xbox, Game Boy Advance, Wii, Wii U
  • Publisher: Capcom
  • Developer: Capcom
  • Release Dates: November 28th, 1991 (US)

Only the Princess knows where to find the Goddess’ Bracelet. Why is that important? It’s the only piece of equipment that can actually defeat demon lord extraordinaire Emperor Sardius. However, that also made her an obvious target, and now she’s found herself captured. The good sir Arthur is going to have to throw on his old plate armor to rescue her from the evil clutches of Emperor Sardius and save the land once again!

“Thrilling” is probably the best word to describe the OST of Super Ghouls ‘N’ Ghosts. It’s the music that would play in a really kickass haunted house. It’s spooky enough to get you in the mood, yet energetic enough to help you realize that you’re not in any REAL danger… which would almost work if Super Ghouls ‘N’ Ghosts weren’t one of the most notoriously difficult platformers of the SNES era. It’s a wonderful OST, but you’d be hard pressed to find many people who would recognize any track beyond the opening level. Most players can’t even make it past there!

5. Star Fox

  • System: SNES, Wii, Wii U
  • Publisher: Nintendo
  • Developer: Argonauts Software, Nintendo EAD
  • Release Dates: March 26th, 1993 (US)

The mad scientist Andross has declared war on the entire Lylat system! Worse yet, he’s got his own military backing him up. It’ll take an elite flight team to stand up to some of Andross’ top commanders. Fortunately, General Pepper of the Cornerian military knows just the rag tag team of hotshots to call! It’ll be up to Star Fox to end the Lylat Wars once and for all!

While many fans argue to this day about their preference towards the original game or Star Fox 64, you can’t deny how hype you get once you hear that thumping opening riff to the SNES game’s Corneria theme. But, believe it or not, there’s even more to the soundtrack of Star Fox than just Corneria. The entire OST is filled to the brim with a wide range of stellar tracks that often get overlooked, which is a shame, because Hajime Hirasawa has been widely overlooked as a game composer over the years. It’s time he received his due.

4. Secret of Mana

  • System: SNES, Wii
  • Publisher: Squaresoft
  • Developer: Squaresoft
  • Release Dates: October 3rd, 1993 (US)

Long ago, the power of Mana was sealed away. Humanity was drunk with power and built the Mana Fortress to suck the very essence of life out of the planet, only to use it to destroy anything they desired. The gods were angered and created the Mana Beasts as a counter, causing an age of terrible strife. It only ended when one brave hero wielded the Mana Sword to lay waste to the Mana Fortress. Now, peace has returned and humanity is on the verge of recovery. However, they’re also about to make the very same mistakes as their ancestors…

As soon as you boot up Secret of Mana, you are treated to one of the most ambient and beautiful piano tracks that the SNES sound chip could muster. You think you’re in for a very soft, gentle experience until you get to your first boss fight and are greeted with a track that was once famously described as being the theme for when you’re stuck in traffic and have to pee. The sheer diversity of music while somehow also staying consistent in tone is what makes Secret of Mana’s OST so legendary.

3. Mega Man X

  • System: SNES, Sega Saturn, PC, GameCube, Playstation 2, Wii, Wii U, New 3DS
  • Publisher: Capcom
  • Developer: Capcom
  • Release Dates: January 1994 (US)

X was a robot created by the famed Dr. Light with free will. However, uncertain about his own creation, Dr. Light sealed away X out of fear of what could happen to humanity. He left a warning with X for anyone who might find him to take caution experimenting with such technology. Unfortunately, Dr. Cain, the scientist who ended up discovering X, disregarded Dr. Light’s words and replicated X’s free will into more robots. Now, Reploids (Dr. Cain’s models) have swarmed the planet and threaten humanity’s existence. It’s up to X and other Maverick Hunters to stop them!

Even with modern technology, you’re never going to convince us that there’s a more rockin’ soundtrack than Mega Man X. From Central Highway, to Spark Mandrill, to Storm Eagle, to more than we can even list here, the shredding guitar riffs in each of the level themes are some of the most pulse-pounding game tracks we’ve ever had the pleasure of listening to. If you’ve never played it for yourself, you’re in luck, as the upcoming Mega Man X Collection preserves the legacy of Mega Man X’s OST!

2. Super Metroid

  • System: SNES, Wii, Wii U, New 3DS
  • Publisher: Nintendo
  • Developer: Nintendo R&D1, Intelligent Systems
  • Release Dates: April 18th, 1994 (US)

Metroids are by all accounts extinct. There’s just one baby left, and bounty hunter Samus Aran leaves it with the Ceres Space Colony for further research. However, the nefarious Space Pirates catch wind of this. They immediately attack Ceres to steal the baby Metroid, an assault by none other than Ridley who was presumed dead. Now, Samus has to infiltrate the Space Pirate homebase on planet Zebes and keep the Space Pirates from reviving Metroids.

Few games are quite as atmospheric as Super Metroid. There’s something almost organic about the OST that somehow has worked its way into our subconscious. The sheer variety here is worth commendation, with the earthly angelic tones of the Upper Brinstar, the more grounded ominous tones of the Norfair, to the eventual near-operatic pump-up track leading up to the fight with Ridley. It’s an OST that really pushes the boundaries of what music can do for a game beyond just being catchy and memorable.

1. Chrono Trigger

  • System: SNES, DS, Playstation 1, Playstation 3, Wii, iOS, Android, PC
  • Publisher: Square-Enix
  • Developer: Square-Enix
  • Release Dates: August 11th, 1995 (US)

It’s the year 1000 AD, and it’s time for the Millennial Fair! Crono’s friend Lucca actually has a stall set up to showcase hers and her father’s teleporter. Crono goes to check it out, but on his way, he runs into a mysterious but bubbly girl who calls herself Marle. The two explore the fair together and eventually wind up at Lucca’s stall. During the demonstration, Marle’s pendant reacts with the teleporter and launches her 400 years into the past, forcing Crono to jump into the dimensional rift and save her! But there’s more going on than what they realize, as the world could actually be coming to an end sooner than they think…

What puts Chrono Trigger on top is the theming. In Squaresoft tradition, each character gets their own track to define them, and it goes further than having music that plays when they’re on screen. Each theme conveys the sheer personality of each character in the game, from Frog’s pained nobility to Ayla’s bubbly toughness. It’s this sort of use of a soundtrack that’s not just used for background noise, but actual character building, that really pushes Chrono Trigger’s OST to a new level. It’s not the first game to do it, but it’s the one that did it the best.

Final Thoughts

Remember, these are just some suggestions if you want to look into the very best the SNES had to offer in OSTs. Please, if you know of more fantastic SNES OSTs, just let us know in the comments below! We know we’ve missed a ton. Heck, we barely even touched on Nobuo Uematsu’s work in this list!

Super-Ghouls-N-Ghosts-game-Wallpaper-1 Top 10 SNES Game OST [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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