Impressive VGM By Year: 1986
If you'd prefer a YT playlist featuring the top 30 OSTs, click here.
Out Run/OutRun (ARC, YM2151 w/ SegaPCM) & X68K* (upload fan stuff)
Sega's Outrun, After Burner, Super Hang-On, etc. from the mid-late 80s were among the best sounding games of their time and any praise they receive is probably well deserved, although I think they're more a case of skilled use of great hardware than pushing limited tech to surprising new limits, and stylistically they're generally "of their time" sounding. Outrun and Fantasy Zone in particular had a pretty unusual latin flavor to their music, which helped give Sega an upbeat and lighthearted image.
Comic Bakery (C64), NES Remix (Jurassic Park, 1993)
The main attraction here is the title theme (the loader tune was used in several other games so I don't count it). The chorused saw bass and arpeggiated chords became iconic for chiptunes and aspects like the rhythm of the chords and how the bridge and breakdown are done have possibly even inspired some non-game electronic music that came much later. On top of that there's a varied melody with some subtle effects to give it more character and it's pretty easy to forget that there's just three channels and no drums when it's all playing. I've actually had a remix of the track with basically just an added 4/4 beat go over alright at a party once back in the 00s shortly after I first heard it, heh. Of course, it doesn't play during the game nor would it have fit well, but it's almost negligible in this case. The in-game tracks are few, old fashioned and with somewhat annoying lead instruments. There's also no drums, despite there being no sfx, but they're still solid for the time and fit pretty well.
International Karate (C64), Atari 8-bit ver.
Quartet (ARC, YM2151)
Spellbound (C64), Spellbound (Spectrum, AY-3-8910), Spectrum Remix
Starglider (ST, sampled music w/ vocals)
I believe this game is using the system's RAM memory here to play a (pretty short) recording of a track with sung vocals. Is it any good? Not really, but considering the system sounds more like a Master System otherwise, it's pretty cool for the time. In-game you get no music at all though, which is lame.
Thrust (Atari ST (AY-3-8910), 1988?), C64 ver., Vectrex ver. (2004)
Rambo: First Blood Part II (C64)
Nemesis/Gradius (NES), MSX PSG ver.
Miami Vice (C64), In-game
A pretty innovative main theme which can be seen as an ambient electronic piece, possibly drawing inspiration from either Pink Floyd's On The Run or Kraftwerk's Trans-Europe Express, except this is based on a short note pattern from Jan Hammer's Evan (1985, from the show's OST itself). Progression is created mainly via the use of slowly changing effects on the timbre of the instruments and the occasional transposing of notes rather than introducing new chords, rhythm changes or melody. I wouldn't say it fits the game or what it's based on, it's more reflective and soothing in tone, but it is an enjoyable ride nonetheless. The in-game track is a bit more in line with what you'd expect, featuring a guitar-like and somewhat bluesy solo and more of a pop arrangement. The sound design is mostly on par with the best C64 OSTs of the time, but I question why there's no percussion in it besides a few tom fills using square waves.
Knuckle Buster/Knuckle Busters (C64)
The Sacred Armour of Antiriad (C64)
Warhawk (C64), Atari 8-bit ver.
Fantasy Zone (ARC, YM2151), SMS ver.
Terra Cresta (C64) - different?
Metroid (FDS), NES ver.
A great early example of space orchestra minimalism (and while it eschews fitting into that description, the fullblown euphoria of the ending theme is also quite impressive for the time) which fits the game like hand in glove. The FDS ver. is a somewhat rare, early example of successful use of the single channel wavetable audio expansion of the FDS, which in more cases than not doesn't quite blend with the rest of the RP2A03 soundscape.
Technically speaking, besides the string-like instruments by the FDS we have some nice echo effects, a variety of timbres (different duty cycles), slow buildups in the intro and ending themes, some cases where two channels appear combined for a different sounding lead, and some average noise percussion. That percussion probably could've been better considering Tanaka's previous soundtracks. There's no single channel echo, no sampled instruments, no duty cycle modulation (DCM) and as my last piece of criticism, the extra channel isn't used for the in-game tracks; not sure why that is. This can all be overlooked considering the time of release though.
Fire Hawk: Thexder the Second Contact (MSX FM/YM2413 w/ AY-3-8910)
Bubble Bobble (ARC, YM3526/OPL & YM2203/OPN)
Pretty solid use of the OPL chip here and the bell-driven pop of the main theme, which FM synth sounds like it was made for, might have become more popular perhaps as a result of this game's popularity. The other thing of note sound design-wise is the chorus effect on the bass as well as the low strings which gave them a fuller sound. Still, only 7 channels are used and there's no percussion. The OPN chip is apparently used only for the track "Super Drunk" here, and on its own - strange but I guess it was used for sfx otherwise.
Enduro Racer (ARC, YM2151 w/ SegaPCM)
Kid Icarus/Hikari Shinwa (FDS), Ending (added reverb & stereo)
Green Beret (C64)
Suishou no Ryuu/Suishou no Dragon (FDS)
Jet Set Willy (Atari 8-bit, 1987?)
Storm (Atari 8-bit)
Enigma Force (C64)
Dangar: Ufo Robo (ARC, OPL)
Time Trax (MSX PSG)
Breakthru (ARC, OPL w/ OPN)
Breywood/Brey Wood/Shackled (ARC, OPL)
Romancia (PC-98, OPN)
Castlevania/Akumajou Dracula (FDS/NES)
Mysterious Muramase Castle/Nazo no Murasamejou (FDS)
Dead Zone (FDS)(added reverb & stereo)
BMX Simulator (Atari 8-bit)(Jarre cover/remix)
Super Mario Bros. 2/SMB: Lost Levels (FDS)
Victory Road/Ikari Warriors II (ARC, OPL)
Soldier Girl Amazon (ARC, OPL)
WEC Le Mans 24 (ARC, YM2151 w/ K007232), FM Only ver.
The Legend of Zelda (NES), FDS ver.
Future Knight (C64)
The Goonies (NES)
Gall Force: Eternal Story (FDS)(added stereo effect on the bass)
Starquake (C64, 1986), Atari ST ver. (1988)
Ninja Emaki (ARC, OPL)(added reverb)
Ninja (Atari 8-bit)
Mighty Guy (ARC, OPL)(added reverb)
Speed Rumbler/Rush & Crush (ARC, 2x OPN)
Space Harrier (SMS), Mind Walker (AMI), Castlevania/Vampire Killer (MSX PSG), Last Mission (ARC, OPL w/ OPN), Panther (C64), Secret Command/Rambo: First Blood Pt. 2 (SMS)(YM2151 Cover), Xanadu: Scenario II (PC-88, OPN), The Pawn (AMI), Genpei Toumaden (ARC, YM2151), Black Belt (SMS), Renegade (ARC, OPL),
King Kong 2 (MSX PSG), NES ver. (different), Salamander (ARC, YM2151) & X68K ver., L'Affaire (MSX PSG), Darwin 4078 (ARC, YM3526/OPL), Les Passagers du Vent (MSX PSG), Action Fighter (ARC, YM2151), Mania Challenge (ARC, YM3526), Elevator Action (Amstrad CPC, 1987?), Twinbee (NES), Garyo Retsuden (ARC, YM3526/OPL),
Athena (ARC, YM3526/OPL), Rock'n Rage (ARC, YM2151), Glider Rider (Spectrum), Fire Trap (ARC, YM3526/OPL), 720º (ARC, YM2151), Gulkave (SG-1000) - Find non in-game example, Lock-On: Tatsumi Air Force (ARC, OPN), Gradius (X1 PSG), Battle Lane! (ARC, YM3526/OPL), Alcon/Slap Fight (ARC, 2x AY38910), Legendary Wings (ARC, 2x OPN), Wonder Boy (ARC, SN76496)(same as SMS), Express Raider (ARC, YM3526/OPL w/ OPN), Side Pocket (ARC, YM3526/OPL), The Goonies (PC-88, OPNA), Top Gun (CPC, AY-3-8910), Halley's Comet (2x AY-3-8910), Ginga Denshou: Galaxy Odyssey (FDS), Marble Madness (AMI), Commando (NES), Ikari Warriors (ARC, YM3526/OPL), Majou Densetsu/Knightmare (MSX), Legend of Kage (X1 PSG), Rolling Thunder (ARC, YM2151), Darius (ARC, 2x OPN), Gauntlet II (ARC, YM2151)(added reverb), Gumshoe (NES), Adventure Island (NES), Solomon's Key (ARC, 3x AY8910), Iron Horse (ARC, OPN), Hopping Mappy (ARC, Namco 8-channel WSG), Toy Pop (ARC, Namco 8-channel WSG), Karate Champ (NES), Ninja Hattori-kun (NES), Ninja Kid (NES), Legend of Kage (NES), Atlantis no Nazo (NES), Mighty Bomb Jack (NES), Thunder Ceptor (ARC, YM2151) & 3-D Thunder Ceptor II (ARC, YM2151), Circus Charlie (NES), Tag Team Wrestling (NES), Hydlide (NES), SonSon/Son Son (NES), Baltron (NES), Argus (NES), Dig Dug II (NES), MagMax (NES), Jackal (ARC, YM2151), Slalom (NES), The Return of Ishtar (ARC, YM2151), Defender of the Crown (AMI), R.B.I. Baseball (NES), The Bard's Tale II (AMI),