As a kid, I played my favorite games incessantly, which meant I listened to certain tracks over and over again. Just the thought of the Bubble Bobble theme makes me cringe.
But while I’ve heard some video game music far too much, there are also some amazing songs I’ve barely heard at all. Sometimes, tracks are buried so far within games that it’s impossible to find them unless you know where to look. Some of them are catchy and others are just weird, but all of them are worth listening to.
1. Akumajou Dracula X68000: “Load BGM”
In 1993, Konami created a Castlevania game for the The Sharp X68000, a Japan-only home computer system that required you to load games from floppy discs. It was a time-consuming process, but players had a pretty great song to listen to while they waited.
Unfortunately, The Sharp X68000 never really caught on. The game was re-released for the PlayStation as Castlevania Chronicles, but this snappy bit of loading music wasn’t included. The track has appeared in a few Castlevania games since, but it’s still far more obscure than it deserves to be.
2. The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening: “The Moyse Song”
When you start a new file in Link’s Awakening, you’re asked to choose a name. If you happen to choose the name Zelda, the music will suddenly change. It’s a neat little Easter Egg that plenty of fans have managed to discover.
But the game’s German translator, Claude M. Moyse, added in another secret. If you identify yourself as “Moyse,” the music will change again, and a weird little techno tune will play. This trick only works on German versions of Link’s Awakening, and without the magic of the Internet, it may never have been discovered.
3. Tetris: “Minuet”
The original Tetris theme, “Korobeiniki,” has a fascinating and unusual history. It’s a re-arrangement of a classic Russian folk song, and it pre-dates the Game Boy by more than a century.
But while Tetris made the song famous, it was very nearly absent from the Game Boy version of the game. The original Japanese cartridge replaced the iconic tune with a song called “Minuet.” While it’s a perfectly serviceable song, it’s no “Korobeiniki,” and it was wisely replaced as the A-track in future versions of the game.
4. Mario Kart 64: “Hidden Music”
Video games are fully of rewards for the easily distracted. If you put down your controller long enough, you’ll discover idle animations, extra bits of dialogue, and countless other secrets.
But Mario 64 has a different kind of surprise. If you let the results screen music loop 64 times, it will be replaced with a brand new song. It takes almost an hour for the tune to surface, and few players can put down their N64 controllers that long.
5. Final Fantasy VIII: “Irish Jig”
There’s a great scene in Final Fantasy VIII in which you have to prepare for a concert. At the rehearsal session, you assign each of your party members an instrument, and get ready for the big event. The song and the dialogue changes based on the music that you’ve selected.
If you choose the right combination of instruments, you’ll hear a terrific little Irish jig. Sadly, most players just hear “Eyes on Me” for the umpteenth time. It may make the scene more romantic, but it isn’t nearly as fun as the alternative.
6. Mother 3: “Adolescence”
Mother 3 is already far too obscure for its own good. The game has never been released outside of Japan, and there’s a good chance it never will be. To make matters worse, one of its best tracks is hidden in away in a place where few players will ever hear it.
In the corner of an optional café tucked away in the middle of nowhere lies a jukebox. On that jukebox, you’ll find five brand new tunes, none of which can be heard anywhere else in the game. All of the tracks are pretty fantastic, and “Adolescence” is one of my personal favorites.
7. Totaka’s Song
No list of hidden video game music would be complete without a mention of “Totaka’s Song.” Composer Kazumi Totaka has managed to sneak this tune into nearly every Nintendo game he’s worked on, from Yoshi’s Story to Animal Crossing.
Many incarnations of “Totaka’s Song” are impossible to find, but on some occasions, it’s hidden in plain sight. Most players who have managed to discover the song found it in Mario Paint, where it plays after clicking the “O” in the title screen.