Impressive VGM By Year: 1980-1982
If you'd prefer a YT playlist featuring the top 40 OSTs, click here. Note that these lists are all based on original release dates.
Carnival (ARC, AY8910 at 1.193 Mhz)(Juventino Rosas - Sobre las Olas (Over the Waves))
Probably the first chip generated soundtrack which plays during gameplay while also featuring more than one harmony at the same time and being longer than 30 seconds, which is why I chose 1980 as the starting off point for this project. There's really not much more to say about this one!
Blasto (TI-99/4A, TI TMS9919 (early SN76489 variation))(When Johnny Comes Marching Home)
Features one of the first three harmony tracks of decent length on the title screen, however in-game the music is one harmony only.
Rally-X/Rally X (ARC, Namco 3-channel WSG)
Short single channel bassline/piano loop in-game, polyphonic jingle before races. Both had been done before though the sound chip used is fairly advanced for its time.
Pac-Man (ARC, Namco 3-channel WSG)(in-game)
Radar Scope (ARC, "Discrete circuitry")
Features a single channel bassline loop which changes as you progress in a level.
New Rally X (ARC, Namco 3-channel WSG)(added stereo+reverb), In-game
Notable for featuring several tracks with more than one harmony, multiple waveforms (three I believe) and a relatively lengthy in-game track which also seems to be an original composition. The third channel of the chip appears to be reserved entirely for in-game sfx.
Vanguard (ARC, 2x SN76477 at 930 Khz & custom synth/discrete logic)(includes Star Trek: TMP theme & Flash Gordon theme covers)(in-game)
Alpine Ski (ARC, 2-4x AY8910)(in-game) - 1982?
Notable for featuring more than one multi-channel in-game tracks of decent length.
Frogger (ARC, AY8910)
Galaga (ARC, Namco 3-channel WSG)
Also featured several multiple harmony (polyphonic) tracks although they play outside of gameplay and the longest one is still more of a jingle.
Fantasy (ARC, Custom or SN76477?)(in-game)
Amidar (ARC, 2x AY8910?)(in-game)
Mouse Trap (ARC, Custom or HC55516?)(in-game, music stops sometimes?)
Venture (ARC, Custom)(in-game, "outdoors" area and some rooms/buildings)
Satan's Hollow (ARC, 2x AY8910)(in-game) - jingles only
Bosconian (ARC, Namco 3-channel WSG) - jingles only
Reactor (ARC, Votrax SC-01)
While I don't know much about the full capabilities of this custom sound chip, the track used here during the instructions demo is something pretty special. A thick kick drum (probably made with a quick downward sweep of a pulse wave) and a gritty, saw-like bassline are combined to make a short and intense electro track which, while the intention was possibly to make it sound like Queen's We Will Rock You or something, ends up being reminiscent of much later bands such as Justice, MSTRKRFT and Daft Punk. Sadly, that's the one track in the game and David Thiel didn't really make anything like it afterwards (his work for M.A.C.H. 3 (ARC), Winter Games (A2GS etc.) and Duck Tales (AMI) is mainly orchestral and rock/pop-based, while the simple jingle from Mad Planets (ARC) might've been inspired by Pink Floyd's On The Run).
Super Locomotive (ARC, 2x SN76496 at different clock speeds)(Yellow Magic Orchestra - Rydeen cover)
A nice rendition of the new wave/synth-pop hit song using two of the chip later used in the Master System. This allowed for more advanced drums, though the second noise channel is actually just playing a hihat hit in-between beats here. What does more for the drums is the low square wave accompanying the bassdrum to beef it up a bit. For the lead, two channels playing the same thing one octave apart were combined and this roughly simulates the 12.5% square wave that the NES could play on a single channel. Also notable for the unusual "fast tremolo" effect on one instrument during the break, which remained rarely used later on.
Pengo (ARC, Namco 3-channel WSG at 96 Khz)(Gershon Kingsley - Popcorn cover)
Jungle King/Jungle Hunt (ARC, 4x AY8910)
Dig Dug (ARC, Namco 3-channel WSG)(added reverb), C64 ver. (1983, in-game) - Music plays only while moving your avatar
Moon Patrol (ARC, 2x AY8910 at 894.9 KHz)(added reverb)
Burnin' Rubber/Bump 'n Jump (ARC, 2x AY8910)(in-game)
Pole Position (ARC, Namco 6-channel stereo WSG)
Although it consists of jingles and short loops only, this is possibly the first stereo OST in a game.
Popeye (ARC, AY-3-8910), NES ver. (1983)
Journey Escape (Atari 2600)(Journey - Don't Stop Believin')(in-game)
Necromancer (Atari 8-bit, Pokey), C64 ver. (1983)
Mr. Do! (ARC, 2x SN76496)
Wild Western (ARC, 4x AY-3-8910?)(in-game, one cover/pastiche of Ghost Riders in the Sky)
Smurf: Rescue in Gargamel's Castle (Colecovision, SN76489)
Multiple polyphonic in-game tracks
Pooyan (ARC, 2x AY8910)(in-game)
Monster Bash (ARC, TMS36XX & DAC)(in-game)
Radical Radial (ARC, AY8910)(in-game)
Burger Time (ARC, 2x AY8910?)(in-game)
Alpiner (TI-99/4A)(in-game, all covers?)
This is an early example of polyphonic in-game music on a home computer but more notably it also features some rather clear speech synthesis!
Xevious (ARC, Namco 3-channel WSG) - jingles only
Ms. Pac-Man (ARC, Namco 3-channel WSG) - jingle only
Tape Audio 1980-1982:
Kingdom (Atari 800, Dual Track Tape)(loading theme) - 1980
Several Atari games used tapes played along with the game to add relatively high quality music, instructions or narration, though it would play between gameplay segments rather than during them. This cheesy pop track was used as a loader tune for several games by the same company, a practice that would later be emulated by Ocean for their C64 games (with the main differences being that those were chiptune tracks and ended up becoming a lot more famous).
Sammy the Sea Serpent (Atari 8-bit, Dual Track Tape) - 1981
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