Impressive VGM By Year: 1986
If you'd prefer a YT playlist featuring the top 40 OSTs, click here.
Out Run/OutRun (ARC, YM2151 w/ SegaPCM) & X68K* (upload fan stuff) - Latin pop, synth pop, lounge jazz
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) - Electro/chiptune, proto-techno
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.
The main theme here is based in part on Ryuichi Sakamoto's "Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence" from 1983.
Quartet (ARC, YM2151) & Quartet 2 (ARC, YM2151 w/ DAC) - Synth pop, funk
The DAC in the updated version of the game is used only for a few samples in Oki Rap and Rap Test.
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. (1986), Vectrex ver. (2004) - Electro
Rambo: First Blood Part II (C64)
This OST has an epic, well developed main theme (loader) spanning several minutes, a varied spectrum of moods and starting in a unique way with the morse code-style beeps shifting into a melody - it's quite an achievement in itself at the time. That is followed by a cool ambient-like piece (very rare at the time), developing into a varied slide-heavy solo employing arpeggio blasts in key spots for emphasis and building up some appropriate expectations before the game starts. In-game we're treated to a thrilling track first referencing the movie theme, then developing it into a catchy 80s electro hook. It's over two minutes in length, taking interesting turns in its progression and eventually climaxing in a howling solo in its second half.
Yie Ar Kung-Fu (C64)(Jean Michel Jarre - Magnetic Fields 4 cover)
Spellbound (C64), Spellbound (Spectrum, AY-3-8910), Spectrum Remix
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)
Fantasy Zone (ARC, YM2151), SMS ver. (1986)
Nemesis/Gradius (NES), MSX PSG ver.
Terra Cresta (C64) - different?
Warhawk (C64), Atari 8-bit ver.
Metroid (FDS), NES ver. (1987)
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.
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)
Green Beret (C64)(Rush'n Attack port, different)
Kid Icarus/Hikari Shinwa (FDS)(added stereo?), Ending (added reverb & stereo), NES ver. (1987)
Suishou no Ryuu/Suishou no Dragon (FDS)
Jet Set Willy (Atari 8-bit, 1987?)(different)
Storm (Atari 8-bit)
Enigma Force (C64)
Castlevania/Akumajou Dracula (FDS/NES)
Dangar: UFO Robo/UFO Robo Dangar (ARC, OPL) - Synth rock/pop, experimental, marching band
Time Trax (MSX PSG)
Breywood/Brey Wood/Shackled (ARC, OPL)
Breakthru (ARC, OPL w/ OPN)
Romancia/Dragon Slayer Jr.: Romancia (PC-98, OPN)
Mysterious Muramase Castle/Nazo no Murasamejou (FDS)
Dead Zone (FDS)(added reverb & stereo)
WEC Le Mans 24 (ARC, YM2151 w/ K007232), FM Only ver.
BMX Simulator (Atari 8-bit)(Jarre cover/remix), C64 ver. (1987)
Super Mario Bros. 2/SMB: Lost Levels (FDS)
The Legend of Zelda/Zelda no Densetsu: The Hyrule Fantasy (FDS), NES ver. (1987)
Victory Road/Ikari Warriors II (ARC, OPL & Y8950 separately)(no musical samples)
Strangely it only uses the Y8950 chip on its own and only for the credit sfx and for the area 1 music+voice acting
The Goonies (NES)
Gall Force: Eternal Story (FDS)(added stereo effect on the bass)
Soldier Girl Amazon (ARC, OPL) - Proto-drum & bass (Gorgon Head track), synth rock
Starquake (C64, 1986), Atari ST ver. (1988)
Future Knight (C64)
Ninja Emaki (ARC, OPL)(added reverb)
Mighty Guy (ARC, OPL)(added reverb)
Speed Rumbler/Rush & Crush (ARC, 2x OPN)
Ninja (Atari 8-bit)
Bomb Jack (C64)(Jarre - Magnetic Fields 2)
Space Harrier (SMS)
Mind Walker (AMI)
Probably the first Amiga OST worth talking about, and one that remained an oddball throughout the system's history really, being a minimalistic and experimental effort. The overworld theme stands out in its unique sense of uncertainty, with a hint of melancholy seeping into it at times that also brings to mind some dungeon tracks used in the much later Link's Awakening for GB. Technically it's not really anything that couldn't have been done on an early 8-bit system, save for the stereo panning, and it doesn't really make use of the Amiga's then impressive capabilities since they just sampled some square waves. The second track, playing during the top down maze segments, does feature other samples though it's not much of a song. Instead it's a kind of ambient noise made up of a beat and a sustained note, with an interactive element in that it speeds up and climbs in pitch as the player gets closer to reaching the goal of the maze. The third track, playing during the jigsaw puzzle-ish segments does feature sampled instrumentation that's distinctly "not 8-bit" sounding; I'm honestly not sure what was sampled but I guess it fits the atmosphere they were trying to convey.
Castlevania/Vampire Killer (MSX PSG)
Last Mission (ARC, OPL w/ OPN)
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)
Gerry the Germ Goes Body Poppin' (C64)
Action Fighter (ARC, YM2151), SMS ver. (different)
Alex Kidd: The Lost Stars (ARC, YM2151)
Salamander (ARC, YM2151) & X68K ver.
King Kong 2 (MSX PSG), NES ver. (different)
Solomon's Key (NES)
Renegade (ARC, OPL)
L'Affaire (MSX PSG)
Darwin 4078 (ARC, YM3526/OPL)
Les Passagers du Vent (MSX PSG)
Ghosts 'n Goblins (C64)(different)
Spy vs Spy (NES)
Elevator Action (Amstrad CPC, 1987?)
Rock'n Rage (ARC, YM2151)
Glider Rider (Spectrum)
720º (ARC, YM2151)
N.Y. Captor (ARC, 2x AY8910 w/ MSM5232)
Formula 1 Simulator (C64)
Legendary Wings (ARC, 2x OPN)
Fire Trap (ARC, YM3526/OPL)(in-game)
Lock-On: Tatsumi Air Force (ARC, OPN)
Battle Lane! Vol. 5 (ARC, YM3526/OPL)(in-game)
Alcon/Slap Fight (ARC, 2x AY-3-8910)
Power Drive (ARC, DAC)
Cycle Shooting/Violent Shooting (ARC, 2x AY8910 w/ MSM5232)
Dragon Quest (NES)
Cauldron II (C64)
Gradius (X1 PSG)
Solomon's Key (ARC, 3x AY8910/AY-3-8910)
Mania Challenge (ARC, OPL/YM3526)(in-game)
Wonder Boy (ARC, SN76496)(same as SMS)
Super Sprint (ARC, YM2151)
Hopping Mappy (ARC, Namco 8-channel WSG w/ YM2151)
Aliens: The Computer Game/Aliens (C64)
Ikari Warriors (ARC, YM3526/OPL)(no musical samples), NES ver. (1986)
Doesn't use the Y8950 chip besides for the coin sfx
Big Event Golf (ARC, AY8910 w/ MSM5232) - find full rip
Penguin Adventure (MSX)
Chiller (ARC, Custom sample-based chip) - find rip
The Detective Game (C64)
Adventure Island (NES)
Ark Pandora (C64)
Alex Kidd in Miracle World (SMS)
Noboranka/Zippy Bug (ARC, 2x SN76489)(in-game)
Garyo Retsuden (ARC, YM3526/OPL)
Halley's Comet (ARC, 2x AY-3-8910), Gardia (ARC, 2x SN76489), Super Cycle (C64), Gridiron (ST, samples only title track), Xtron (ST, samples only title track and jingles), Jack the Nipper (C64), Gulkave (SG-1000) - Find non in-game example, Ginga Denshou: Galaxy Odyssey (FDS), Express Raider (ARC, YM3526/OPL w/ OPN)(in-game), Top Gun (CPC, AY-3-8910), Sanxion (C64), Athena (ARC, YM3526/OPL), Brain (ARC, 2x SN76496), Rafflesia (ARC, 2x SN76489), The Goonies (PC-88, OPNA), Rolling Thunder (ARC, YM2151), Side Pocket (ARC, YM3526/OPL), Marble Madness (AMI), Majou Densetsu/Knightmare (MSX), Astro Warrior (SMS), Legend of Kage (X1 PSG), Darius (ARC, 2x OPN), Mugen Senshi Valis/Valis: The Fantasm Soldier (PC-88, OPN), Gauntlet II (ARC, YM2151)(added reverb), Rampage (ARC, DAC)(in-game) - two short jingles only? find rip, 1942 (C64)(different), B-Wings (NES), Rygar (ARC, OPL2), Body Slam (ARC, YM2151), Ghost House (SMS), Gumshoe (NES), Star Soldier (NES), Iron Horse (ARC, OPN), Ganbare Goemon! Karakuri Douchuu (NES), Hyper Dyne Side Arms (ARC, 2x OPN), Toy Pop (ARC, Namco 8-channel WSG), Mappy-Land (NES), Arkanoid (ARC, AY-3-8910/YM2149), Seicross (NES), Super Stingray (ARC, 3x OPN), Kidou Senshi Z Gundam: Hot Scramble (NES), Bard's Tale (C64), Empire City: 1931 (ARC, OPN), Arkanoid (NES), Ace Of Aces (C64), Thunder Ceptor (ARC, YM2151) & 3-D Thunder Ceptor II (ARC, YM2151), Samantha Fox Strip Poker (C64), Karate Champ (NES), Ninja Hattori-kun (NES), Silpheed (PC-88, OPN), Ninja Kid (NES), Space Position (ARC, 2x OPN), "Bump, Set, Spike! Doubles Volleyball" (C64), Spindizzy (C64), Safari Hunt (SMS), Killed Until Dead (C64), Legend of Kage (NES), Sky Kid Deluxe (ARC, YM2151), Atlantis no Nazo (NES), Mighty Bomb Jack (NES), Asterix and the Magic Cauldron (C64), Trojan (NES), Deadly Towers (NES), They Stole a Million (C64), The Bard's Tale (AMI), Circus Charlie (NES), Tag Team Wrestling (NES), SonSon/Son Son (NES), The Return of Ishtar (ARC, YM2151), Slalom (NES), Space Quest (Tandy 1000), Kiki Kaikai (ARC, OPN), Kings Quest III (Tandy 1000), Joust 2 (ARC, YM2151), Ultima III (AMI), Baltron (NES),
Dig Dug II (NES)
XX Mission (ARC, 2x OPN)
Jackal (ARC, YM2151)
Gladiator (ARC, OPN)(in-game)
R.B.I. Baseball (NES)
Defender of the Crown (AMI)
Land Sea Air Squad (ARC, OPN)
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