Impressive VGM By Year: 1980-1983
If you'd prefer a YT playlist featuring the top 30 OSTs, click here.
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!
Kingdom (Atari 800, Dual Track Tape)(loading theme)
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).
Blasto (TI-99/4A, TI TMS9919 (early SN76489 variation))
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.
New Rally X (ARC, Namco 3-channel WSG), 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)
Sammy the Sea Serpent (Atari 8-bit, Dual Track Tape)
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)
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)(YMO - Rydeen cover)
Pengo (ARC, Namco 3-channel WSG at 96 Khz)(Gershon Kingsley - Popcorn cover)
Jungle King (ARC, 4x AY8910)
Dig Dug (ARC, Namco 3-channel WSG)(added reverb), C64 ver. (1983, in-game) - Music plays only while moving your avatar
Mr. Do's Castle (ARC, SN76496)
Moon Patrol (ARC, 2x AY8910 at 894.9 KHz)(added reverb)
Burnin' Rubber/Bump 'n Jump (ARC, 2x AY8910)(in-game)
Popeye (ARC, AY-3-8910), NES ver. (1983)
Mr. Do! (ARC, 2xSN76496)
Journey Escape (Atari 2600)(Journey - Don't Stop Believin')
Necromancer (Atari 8-bit, Pokey), C64 ver. (1983)
Pole Position (Namco 6-channel stereo WSG)
Although it consists of jingles and short loops only, this is possibly the first stereo OST in a game.
Interstellar Laser Fantasy (ARC, Laserdisc)
The longest and most varied OST up to this point and the Laserdisc format allowed a giant leap forward in terms of production and instrument quality. Stylistically it's also quite forward thinking for its time, featuring a number of ambient tracks (sometimes pure ambient noise), sweeping atmospheric synth parts and some semi-orchestral fanfares, while also having a distinctly game-like feel by incorporating "laser" sfx and playful staccato notes into some tracks. Good stuff.
Dragon's Lair (ARC, Laserdisc)(in-game), Intro
Galaxy Ranger (ARC, Laserdisc)(in-game)
Cliff Hanger (ARC, Laserdisc)(in-game)
Astron Belt (ARC, Laserdisc)(in-game)
Cube Quest (ARC, Laserdisc)(in-game)
Esh's Aurunmilla (ARC, Laserdisc)(in-game) - 1984?
M.A.C.H. 3 (ARC, Laserdisc & AY8910 at 2 Mhz)(in-game)
Gyruss (ARC, 5x AY-8910 at 1.789 Mhz w/ DAC & 6x RC)(Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D minor), Medley ver.
Probably the first chiptune soundtrack with sampled percussion and stereo mixing. While it is a remix of a classical piece split into three parts it is rather detailed and seems to make pretty good use of all the 5 AY chips used, featuring echo and chorus effects as well as noise accompaniment to the sampled drums.
Spy Hunter (ARC, 2x AY-8910 & AD7533 DAC (Cheap Squeak Deluxe board))(Peter Gunn theme)
Mr. Robot and His Robot Factory (Atari 8-bit, Pokey)
Ultima III (AII, Mockingboard AY-3-8910, 1985?), C64 ver. (1984), AMI ver. (1986)(Lord British=Rule, Britannia!)
Probably the first game soundtrack where the player can manually trigger most of its songs by moving back and forth between areas in-game, and its length and variety was unmatched at the time in terms of original chiptune-based VGM. The style is mostly appropriate to a medieval fantasy setting, featuring old european folk song pastiches (possibly covers since the Lord British track is one and it was pretty common at this point in game history). Technically, it's pretty barebones and there's no percussion but we do get some effective use of echo in the mysterious Dungeons track.
The Tail of Beta Lyrae (Atari 800 XL, Pokey)(Gary Gilbertson - Passionately), Intro
Mappy (ARC, Namco 8-channel WSG)
Albegas/Cybernaut (ARC, Laserdisc)(unreleased, in-game)
Libble Rabble (ARC, Namco 8-channel WSG)
Journey (ARC, 2x AY8910 at 2 Mhz)(Journey - Don't Stop Believin'), Tape part (Separate Ways (Worlds Apart) recording)
MULE (C64), Atari 8-bit ver.
Aztec Challenge (C64)(added reverb & stereo)
Jammin' (C64)(in-game) - Partially interactive (the music changes depending on which instrument you are carrying)
Forbidden Forest (C64)
Frogger (C64)(Medley of covers?)
Turtles (Odyssey 2, Voice)
Frantic Freddie (C64)(All covers)(in-game)
Donkey Kong (NES)
Spy Hunter (C64)
Dragon's Den (C64)(Edvard Grieg etc.)
Moondust (C64) - User generated?
Mad Planets (ARC, DAC)(in-game), Protector 2 (C64)(Classical), Killerwatt (C64)(Bach), Super Pipeline (C64), Digger (PC, PC Speaker PWM)(Popcorn cover, Overture to Wilhelm Tell cover), Mario Bros. (NES), Trooper Truck (C64)(YMO or Terminator cover?)(in-game), Up 'n Down (ARC, 2x SN76496 at different clocks speeds), Elevator Action (ARC, 4x AY8910), Rise Out from Dungeons (MSX PSG), Donkey Kong Jr. & Donkey Kong Jr. Math (NES), 10-Yard Fight (ARC, AY-3-8910), Baseball (NES), Pac & Pal (ARC, Namco 8-channel WSG), Gulkave (SG-1000, SN76489)
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