When it comes to video game music, the rest of the industry is just playing catch up with Nintendo. Time and time again, Nintendo finds a way to innovate with their music, defining sounds for entire genres. It’s possible to enjoy Ocarina of Time’s score as just an album of legitimate music.
Which isn’t something exclusive to Ocarina; Nintendo music, in general, stands out as very cohesive projects, more so when they’re remastered and remixed for the many official Nintendo albums out there. They don’t pop up as often anymore due to the advancements in video game music, but they were Nintendo’s way of compiling their music in even more cohesive packages for fans.
10 The Legend Of Zelda: Ocarina Of Time Hyrule Symphony
Ocarina of Time is arguably already Koji Kondo’s best work, but the Hyrule Symphony reorchestration is absolutely sublime. Hand-picking only a few tracks from the base album, each song is masterfully re-imagined with a symphonic blend to the soundtrack, creating the vision of a more enchanted Ocarina of Time.
Hyrule Symphony presents listeners to experience Ocarina of Time’s soundtrack for the first time all alone again. That’s an incredible feat to pull off, especially considering how each song is very much a faithful remix. Hyrule Symphony is not only a monumental track, but it’s also vitally important, ushering in an era of Zelda orchestration that’s going strong today.
9 F-Zero: Jazz Arrangement
F-Zero isn’t a franchise that necessarily lends itself to jazz, but the F-Zero: Jazz Arrangement album is absolutely out of this world. Featuring some of the best western saxophone players from the era, the bombastic tracks of F-Zero are reimagined in a far more delicate yet still manic setting.
As a full album, the Jazz Arrangement might be one of the most cohesive albums featured here. There’s a very specific tone that the album carries out. It genuinely tries to take the listener on a journey, much like a race track. While individual tracks stand out, this is an album best listened to in full.
8 Super Mario World Arranged
Super Mario World Arranged is almost F-Zero: Jazz Arrangement’s antithesis in that regard. While still a very cohesive and logical album, its jazz is wavier, as is its overall structure. This is an album that’s content to just go with the flow, slapping in whatever sounds best when.
Which is simple, but it leads to an almost addictive album, one that a listener can come back to often. Better yet, the featured tracks match gameplay perfectly. It wouldn’t be unreasonable to put on the album, boot up Super Mario World, and eat up an hour. Familiar yet novel, the Super Mario World Arranged album is one of a kind.
7 Donkey Kong Goes Home
Donkey Kong Goes Home is one of the most unintentionally chaotic Nintendo albums ever made. Released in 1982 for the original arcade game, Donkey Kong Goes Home never decides on a set style or tone, simply throwing everything at the wall to see what sticks. It’s a bit lacking in grace, but it’s just such a fun listen.
It’s in many ways a victory lap of music that more or less lived and died in the late 70s and early 80s. The album even manages to fill in some Donkey Kong “lore” by reflecting on Mario, Pauline, and Donkey Kong’s relationship. It’s certainly not compelling, but it is at times fairly funny and interesting.
6 The Legend Of Zelda: Majora’s Mask Orchestrations
Very much Hyrule Symphony’s spiritual successor, The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask Orchestrations essentially takes its predecessor’s sound of scope and doubles it. It’s a much grander album, and far more ambitious to boot, experimenting with playing classic songs in unique ways.
Of note, Majora’s Mask Orchestrations perhaps features the best main theme remix in the franchise’s long history of orchestral symphonies. It may not sound as crisp or traditionally classic as Hyrule Symphony, but just as Majora’s Mask was to Ocarina of Time, Majora’s Mask Orchestrations is far bolder and more interesting as a result.
5 Smashing... Live!
A reorchestration of Super Smash Bros. Melee’s already epic score, Smashing... Live! takes a few key songs and simply makes them bolder, bigger, and all-around better. As was the case with Super Mario World Arranged, there’s nothing unreasonable about listening to Smashing... Live! while actually playing Super Smash Bros. Melee.
Of note, the album was most popularly distributed in the west through Nintendo Power. Subscribers were able to play the GameCube’s hottest game while listening to an intense but beautiful rendition of its score. Nowadays, it’s easy enough to find on YouTube, but it’s absolutely an album worth owning.
4 Sounds Of Kirby Cafe
Surprisingly, Kirby’s overall soundtrack isn’t all that soft. There are some truly intense boss themes, final bosses especially. Realistically, the Kirby franchise’s score might be the most bombastic in Nintendo’s roster aside from F-Zero. That said, Sounds of Kirby Cafe plays to the series’ soft aesthetic in earnest.
Even daring to adapt some of the more intense songs, Sounds of Kirby Cafe really eases the mind. It’s soothing, almost like a lullaby, offering a serene moment to relax and take in the world. It might be a bit too uptempo for meditation, but it’ll do anyone who’s looking to really relax well.
3 Mario Kart 64 On Club Circuit
The next three albums are the most unique to be featured here; they’re the albums that really show Nintendo’s creativity when it comes to their music. What better way to kick things off than with Mario Kart? Mario Kart 64 on Club Circuit is a genuinely cool remixing of the original game’s music.
Sonically, it takes a very “night” vibe, as if players should be driving after sunset. The album actively samples sound effects from the game as well, linking the album to the video game in an intimate manner. It’s an album that’ll make listeners want to play the game, the music blasting in the background.
2 Dragon Ball Z: Super Butoden 2 Arranged
Yes, there's actually a Dragon Ball Z album, and, to be completely honest, every DBZ album on the Super Nintendo is worth owning. It’s just that Dragon Ball Z: Super Butoden 2 Arranged is the very best of the lot. That might be because the composer infamously plagiarized a good chunk of the score.
With that in mind, it can be a bit difficult to stomach the score, but it’s also just such a perfect fit for Dragon Ball, while also featuring some legitimately beautiful pieces (Gohan’s Theme is a masterpiece.) It’s hard not to immediately love Super Butoden 2 Arranged on a first listen.
1 The Legend Of Zelda: Ocarina Of Time Re-Arranged Album
Video game music had a very specific sound before the fifth generation, but many at the time would be able to listen to Ocarina of Time without noticing anything resembling “video game quality.” It was cleaner, almost smarter, so what better way to celebrate the score than with a super video-gamey album?Ocarina of Time Re-Arranged Album is more or less what the game would sound like if the score went to the extreme of video game music. It’s eclectic, it’s chaotic, and it’s just downright cool. It isn’t Ocarina of Time’s personal sound, but it serves as an interesting lens to reexamine not just the game, but the music.