Another day, another edition of Games with Coffee! This one’s brought to you by the Mage who wields magics of black and white, wears red all over and is a shining paragon of good, long-form video game journalism – The Well-Red Mage!
His Mageliness (I’m fully aware that’s not a word) of the Well-Red persuasion has asked in a recent post: “What is your favourite game for every year you’ve been alive?”
An excellent question, one that I’m more than willing to answer! And because I’m actually overdue for a music post as well, I’ll even throw in a favourite song/remix, just to spice things up!
We begin this rollercoaster almost 31 years ago (based on North American release dates) on the year of my birth, 1987:
December 1987: Mega Man (NES)
Favourite song: Cut Man’s Theme
Original Mega Man was HARD! I only got around to playing it in my twenties, but wow, I found it difficult. I particularly hated the Yellow Devil.
What I liked the most was the music, particularly Cut Man’s Theme! Check out this fun Western-like remix in which Cut Man gets ROASTED! It’s quite enjoyable:
December 1, 1988: Zelda II: The Adventure of Link
Favourite song: Dungeon Theme
OK, this is, without a doubt, my absolute favorite NES game! It was tough, but man I was obsessed with this title for years, until I beat it in my late teens. I still continue to play it to this day on either the Zelda compilation for the GameCube or through my Retropie. Even though it’s considered the black sheep of the series, it holds a special place in my heart.
The dungeon theme from this game is the most ubiquitous, having been featured in Super Smash Bros. Melee and onwards. I got here, like, a totally tubular surfer version of the theme, dudes. It’s pretty rad.
June 1989: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (NES)
Favourite song: Stage 2 – The Hudson River
I loved the Ninja Turtles! The first of three TMNT games for the NES, it was both unique and difficult, but still so much fun! Donatello was so overpowered…
Fun fact: the Konami code totally works for this game!
The Hudson River level was arguably where the game’s difficulty level skyrockets. The music, however, is really chill and nice to listen to. Check out chiptune remix of this awesome (but super hard) level!
February 12, 1990: Super Mario Bros 3
Favourite song: World 7 – Pipe Land
Honestly, this post can sum up how much I love this game. It was the first video game I have ever owned as a kid!
Here’s an awesome mix of the World 7 map theme to listen to! It’s a peppy and fun EDM track!
June 23, 1991: Sonic the Hedgehog (Genesis)
Favourite song: Marble Zone
Ah, my good friend Sonic. He was one of my many heroes that I looked up to as a kid. This was the game that stated it all. Since then, Sonic’s had further successes in gaming, cartoons and comics and has become a household name across the world, thanks to his blistering fast speed, his strong sense of justice and his snarky, devil-may-care attitude.
Out of all the music from the Sonic series, my absolute favorite is the Marble Zone. I have no idea why I love it so, but alas I do. Here’s a mix that I’ve recently gotten into; it’s a jazzy, funky rendition of the theme!
November 21, 1992: Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (Genesis)
Favourite song: Chemical Plant
And back again with some more Sonic! This one introduced Tails, Sonic’s two-tailed sidekick, the seventh Chaos Emerald and the Super Sonic mechanic. This was the first Sonic game I’ve ever played and, by far, my favourite of the retro Sonic games.
Chemical Plant was one of the more creative stages of the series with a killer theme to boot! The remastered version from Sonic Mania by Tee Lopes is my go-to favourite out of all versions of the level’s theme.
March 1993: Star Fox (SNES)
Favourite song: Fortuna
Star Fox, the pseudo-3D, on-rails starcraft shooter starring the team of the same name blasted its way into our screens in 1993. I really adore this game – I spent many a night trying to clear the first (and easiest) course as a kid, to no avail.
However, I did attempt the second course and really enjoyed the theme music for Fortuna. The One-Ups covered this theme in their signature sound; it’s smooth and funky, which I hope you enjoy as much as I did!
January 1994: Mega Man X
Favourite song: Opening Stage – Highway
1994 was a hard one – So many good games came out that year! Ultimately, Mega Man X, released in January of 1994, won in the end, simply because the character is so close to my heart, which I talk about here.
The opening stage music sets the tone of the game and the series itself. It’s gritty and tense, underscoring how grave the situation is, but is full of energy, with a great, pumping tempo and an excellent beat. It’s a stark difference to more peppy and happy tunes in the original Mega Man series. Featured here is an electronica/DnB mix with a jazzy saxophone added in, just to give it some flavour. It’s awesome!
August 11, 1995: Chrono Trigger
Favourite song (besides Corridors of Time): Chrono Trigger
One of the all-time greats, Chrono Trigger, the memorable, time-travelling RPG was released in this year. I don’t need to explain how amazing this game is; it’s well-documented. It’s even given a special distinction as one of the games featured on the AmbiGaming blog for the “Year of the RPG.” You can check out my contribution to this event here.
Now, I’m not going to share yet another Corridors of Time remix (because, while it’s an AMAZING track and my personal favourite, honestly it’s been remixed by everyone and their dog); instead, I’ll go to my next favourite: Crono’s theme from Chrono Trigger! This mix is a britpop-inspired, gorgeous version of the main theme; check it out!
September 9, 1996: Crash Bandicoot
Favourite Song – Title Theme/N.Sanity Beach
Oh man, Crash Bandicoot! I got so many good memories of my bros and I going through this game together. I used to stay up all night playing it and even tried to squeeze in a level before going to school in the mornings! I even wrote/illustrated a sequel of sorts to the game for my fourth grade creative writing class… needless to say, my teacher didn’t appreciate a story about a video game character, so I ended up with a pretty bad grade…
The title/first level theme for the game is the memorable one for me; just hearing it lights up my face like fireworks on Canada Day. I especially liked the remastered version of the theme – the folks in charge of the remaster modernized it while retaining its zaniness, which I appreciated.
January 31, 1997: Final Fantasy VII
Favourite song: Opening ~ Bombing Mission
(A third of the way through! Woo!)
I knew this list wouldn’t be complete without me mentioning at least one Final Fantasy game, let alone the best of the bunch (My personal opinion!). I’ve already waxed poetic about how this game and it’s protagonist inspired me, so check it out here.
Honestly, it was hard narrowing down a favourite song, but ultimately, Opening ~ Bombing Mission won out. It’s such an epic and intense track that sets the tone for the whole game, especially when it’s orchestrated, as demonstrated on the Distant Worlds soundtrack.
November 23, 1998: The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
Favourite Song: Hyrule Field
Quite possibly the greatest game ever created. Well I say that about a lot of games, but this one is certainly a contender for that title. This title, I feel, also expanded greatly on Link’s character as an altruist (based on player input, of course). You can read my thoughts on that here.
As for my favourite theme, it has to be Hyrule Field. It instills a feeling of adventure and intrigue that’s just waiting to happen! I have before you the 30th Anniversary Concert edition of the theme; it sounds majestic and makes me picture Link travelling the vast, rolling plains of Hyrule with his faithful steed Epona. Give it a listen!
September 9, 1999: Sonic Adventure
Favourite song: Welcome to Station Square
09/09/99 – Those numbers live in infamy as the North American release of Sonic Adventure for the Dreamcast. I remember playing this at a Blockbuster (remember those?) around the first time it came out and I was blown away at how awesome Sonic and the gang looked in 3D.
A tune that really stuck in my head for the longest time was the theme to Station Square. It sounds so inviting and makes Station Square a real chill place to kick back and hang out.
October 24, 2000: Mega Man Legends 2
Favourite Song: Mother Zone – Library
While the first Legends game focused on the events of Kattelox Island, including the mysterious Master System and Mother Units, the second expanded on Mega Man Volnutt’s story, including his origins as a Purifier Unit. It cumulates into a final clash at the very end between himself and Sera, the Mother Unit that wants to fulfill her programming and activate the Master System.
My favorite song from this game is the library in the Mother Zone on Elysium, right before the final confrontation with Sera. It’s haunting, and it has a real “about to enter the final battle” feel to it.
December 3, 2001: Super Smash Bros. Melee
Favourite Song: Great Bay
Man, 2001 was a stacked year for gaming! Final Fantasy X, Jak and Daxter, Rogue Squadron II, Metal Gear Solid 2, and the list goes on! Ultimately, my pick for this year has to go down to Super Smash Bros. Melee. I have so many good memories of this game: particularly one where, back when I was in high school, a bunch of us set up a TV in an unused classroom during lunch, hooked up a GameCube, got four controllers and set up some EPIC tournaments! Those were good times…
Presently, Melee is still one of my go-to games to play during game night with friends. Of all the stage music that exists, my absolute favourite is the Great Bay stage music. It’s a fantastic, orchestrated version of the Legend of Zelda Overworld theme! I can honestly put it on repeat and listen to it over and over again, it’s so good!
September 17, 2002: Kingdom Hearts
Favourite song: Hikari (Simple and Clean)
2002 was also the year I upgraded to a PS2! My first game on it was Kingdom Hearts and much like when I first played Final Fantasy VII, I also didn’t have a memory card to save my game with at first! Regardless, I love the series, with its emphasis on friendship, teamwork and never giving up on someone, even when they’re at their lowest point (ie. corrupted by darkness).
Hikari is my personal favourite from the Kingdom Hearts soundtrack. I consider this the secondary main theme alongside Dearly Beloved, the game’s title/official theme. It’s uplifting, bright and makes me feel hopeful, which sounds a bit corny, but still. I found a track that mixes the two aforementioned themes in a groovy, jazzy motif, with the focus on Hikari. Check it out!
March 24, 2003: The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker
Favourite song: Dragon Roost Island
Ah, Wind Waker. With its eye-popping cel-shaded visuals, robust story and gameplay and expansive, ocean-based world, this game quickly became a favourite of mine. I especially loved the sailing aspect; it’s just Link, the open sea dotted with tiny islands and his magic talking dragon boat.
The best theme from this game has to be Dragon Roost Island. It’s catchy and fun to listen to. In fact, it’s so good, they remixed it for the Rito Village in the latest installment, Breath of the Wild. Check out this version done by the London Philharmonic Orchestra as part of the Greatest Video Game Music concert!
November 24, 2004: Metroid Prime 2: Echoes
Favourite song: Temple Grounds
I remember picking up Metroid Prime 2 the day it was released. I was still in high-school then, bought it on my way home, plopped down on the couch that very night and was blown away at how different it was from the original Metroid Prime. Every aspect of the game was improved, and I really liked the new ammo-based beam system; it made playing through the game much more dire, since you have to manage your ammunition carefully. Last year, I read an incredibly detailed review on this game by one Red Metal from Extra Life, in which I learned that Retro had all of three months before the holiday season in 2004 to complete the game, when they were only 30% done! It’s surprisingly amazing, given that the final product hardly looked like it was rushed at all!
I really like the Temple Grounds theme. The grounds are the main hub throughout Samus’ adventure and it has a chill, calm, almost hopeful atmosphere to it, like you’re helping our favourite bounty hunter make progress in saving the Luminoth from the Ing. Check it out.
October 12, 2005: Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney
Favourite Song: Turnabout Courtroom – Trial
The first entry in the Ace Attorney series, I actually played this game and its sequels through my university years. Its visual novel style, which focuses on investigating crimes and presenting evidence in court, was something I enjoyed a lot.
My favourite tune is the Trial theme, right before the trial starts up. I feel psyched up whenever I listen to it – it’s like I’m ready to face the world, present evidence and yell Objection! I found this amazing hip-hop track that uses the theme as its base, the lyrics are great and the flow is smooth like butter. Give it a listen.
August 15, 2006: Final Fantasy VII: Dirge of Cerberus
Favourite Song: Counteroffensive
Part of the Compilation of Final Fantasy VII, Dirge of Cerberus stars everyone’s favourite former Turk-turned-immortal experiment, Vincent Valentine. It clears up a few plot holes from the original game, but opens up a whack of new ones, particularly revolving around the mysterious Genesis…
Dirge’s gameplay also differs from the traditional Final Fantasy structure, in that it’s an over-the-shoulder, third person shooter with RPG elements. It was a bit odd, but I found it to be quite fun and different! The additional post-game missions were a plus too!
Counteroffensive is a great track; it’s the kind of track you want to put on when you know you got things to do. It’s a damn good jazz/orchestra* fusion with a crunchy electric guitar in the background in the first bit, before going all out with the orchestral elements while adding a few extra touches with the guitar. Bottom line, it’s pretty good.
*Who here bets they know my favourite genres of music by now? I mean, c’mon, I’m a coffee guy! Coffee & Jazz are a match made in heaven! And who really can hate orchestrated music?
August 14, 2007: Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3
Favourite song: When the Moon’s Reaching Out Stars
(Two thirds of the way through!)
Persona 3 is a heck of a fun game: it’s part dungeon crawler, part dating sim and all classic RPG goodness with a great story and interesting battle mechanics (I mean, the characters shoot themselves to summon their Personas, how crazy is that?!). I lost hours of my life trying to max out my social links; The most stressful thing about this game isn’t the tough fights or boss battles, but worrying about running into and upsetting one of your friends because you’re hanging out with another friend. I mean, it’s ridiculous, but a great time nonetheless.
When The Moon’s Reaching Out Stars is probably up there on the list of oddly named song titles, but it’s real catchy, even if the lyrics sound slightly depressing. It’s bubbly, J-Pop-like beats really capture that after-school feel, when all you want to do is skip homework and head to the mall, the arcade or the local cafe for your caffeine fix.
March 24, 2008: Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII
Favourite song: Under the Apple Tree
Zack! While most found him annoying, I found him to be quite endearing, mostly because he’s as hyperactive as I am at times. It was nice to see firsthand how he fits into the whole narrative for Final Fantasy VII, including how he met Aerith and Cloud, how he inherited the Buster Sword, from his honor-obsessed mentor, Angeal, and his interactions with pre-crazy Sephiroth. Also included was Genesis, introduced in Dirge of Cerberus (See 2006). Whereas the DoC version was mysterious, Crisis Core Genesis was a prat with a penchant for reading and endlessly quoting “Loveless”. One good thing about him though is that he makes a mean dumbapple pie.
Speaking of apples “Under the Apple Tree” is my favourite from the soundtrack. It’s a simple, yet soulful acoustic theme, of which I consider this to be Zack’s theme.
October 27, 2009: Tekken 6
Favourite song: Edge of Spring
One of the two fighting game on this list, I spent an ungodly amount of time playing this game, practicing and trying to beat my cousin, who rocked as Jin and Asuka. I mained Raven and Hwoarang, my two favourite characters in the series and my favourite stage was the Mystical Forest, mainly because of the stage theme, Edge of Spring. It’s such a peaceful, uptempo track. It also works as a great workout track!
March 9, 2010: Final Fantasy XIII
Favourite song: Blinded by Light
The thirteenth installment of Final Fantasy garnered a mixed reception – you either loved it or hated it. I personally enjoyed the frantic battle system, the characters and its story, which the majority of it surrounds the protagonist, Lightning, and her sister, Serah and spans two additional games in the series. Lightning herself is a badass; her no-nonsense attitude, strong will and determination to achieve her goals being an inspiration to many, including my good friend, fellow Canuck and Lighting’s #1 fan, LightningEllen (who you should definitely check out; she’s awesome!)
As for my favourite track, it has to be Blinded by Light. It’s one of the best battle themes in the series, in my honest opinion. I’ve taken a shine recently to the Dissidia 012 version of the theme, since it also mixes in a bit of Defiers of Fate and makes it sound quite epic.
Oh, speaking of Dissidia…
March 22, 2011: Dissidia 012
Favourite song: Reform
The second fighting game on this list, I got Dissidia 012 the day it came out. I remember that I wanted to get both this and the original, thinking that 012 was a completely different game. Imagine my surprise when I was told that the original Dissidia (013) was unlocked by playing through the 012 scenario. To top it off, an additional scenario could be unlocked after playing out the 013 scenario. Seriously, this game was chock-full of content!
The song, “Reform” always makes me smile – it’s the theme that plays in the menu when you start up the game. It sounds powerful and majestic and really makes one envision that they’re about to enter an arena to participate in a great battle. At least, that’s how I interpret it!
September 18, 2012: Borderlands 2
Favourite song: Short Change Hero
I really like the Borderlands series. It combines RPG and FPS mechanics and ties it into a humorous and over-the-top story with fun characters. Its sequel improves on the original’s formula, with a new cast of characters, a crazier story, new status effects and guns (LOTS of guns!), among other things!
The song that plays on the opening, Short Change Hero, has been featured in several other games (Arkham City) and movie trailers (uh… that one with The Rock in it?). Nevertheless, it’s a great song to start your adventure on Pandora; it really sets the scene, know what I mean?
July 9, 2013: Metal Gear Solid: Legacy Collection
Favourite Song: “Metal Gear Solid”: Main Theme
I got this compilation series, spanning the 25 year history of Solid Snake from my wife (We got married in November of 2012) for my birthday! I didn’t even ask for it; her co-worker recommended her to buy it for me, so that was awesome! Metal Gear is one of my favourite series, so it was a great birthday present to get!
The main theme from Metal Gear Solid is my choice track for the whole compilation. I mean, there’s not much to say about it – it’s the main theme and it’s awesome! Y’know what would make it more awesome? A jazz remix (surprise, surprise…). Check this mellow piano version of the theme.
February 11, 2014: Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII
Favourite song: Luxerion
Another year, another Final Fantasy! I got this as a Valentine’s day gift from my wife, also on recommendation from that same co-worker. It was nice to see Lightning and Serah’s story end on a happy note – they suffered for too long.
Luxerion is up there on my list of my top RPG town themes of all time. It gives off a relaxed, European town vibe and makes you forget that the world is ending in
seven thirteen days.
May 12, 2015: Final Fantasy X/X-2 HD Remaster (PS4)
Favourite song: Battle Theme
I feel this is the superior of the available remasters of Final Fantasy X and X-2, simply because you can switch between the original and remastered soundtracks, while enjoying the updated graphics and extra content available.
I personally enjoyed the updated battle theme music. It sounds so much more intense than the original version, thanks to the addition of that crunchy electric guitar (which was a controversial move if you check the YouTube comments…).
November 29, 2016: Final Fantasy XV
Favourite song: Galdin Quay
I’ve been eagerly anticipating this game for quite some time and, honestly, it was well worth the wait in this writer’s opinion. I loved the setting, the main characters, the battles and the music. And while some of the secondary characters ended up being too underdeveloped and the endgame sequence could have been reworked to make it less rushed, I’m still of the opinion that it’s a great game and a well done effort by Square-Enix.
There’s lots of good music by veteran composer Yoko Shimomura, but my favourite is Galdin Quay. Something about it reminds me of going on vacation. It could be the soft acoustic guitar when you’re out on the beach area or the swanky piano that starts up when you enter the restaurant, I’m not sure, but damn is it good!
March 3, 2017: The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
Favourite song: Temple of Time
Who here would have thought the Nintendo Switch would be such a big hit? Not me, that’s for sure. The majority of the credit for succeeding so well goes to the 2017 Game of the Year, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. It has forever changed how I look at Zelda games. I thoroughly enjoyed it!
Because the soundtrack was so minimalist, it’s hard to pick out a favourite theme. In the end, I picked the Temple of Time theme. The haunting, slow piano really showcases how ruined and decrepit the once glorious temple had become in the 100 years since Link’s slumber. Naturally, I’ve found a remix to it; a slick trap version. The vocal samples may throw you off, especially if you hated the English voice acting, but overall, it really plays with the minimalist style while adding some sick beats! Check it out.
Finally! The list is done! Shoutouts to Wikipedia for helping me with NA release dates, OC Remix for the dope tunes and YouTube, because why not make a playlist to coincide with the post? Also, a big shoutout to the Well-Red Mage for asking the big question in the first place!
As for 2018, I’m not sure what my favourite game will be? I guess I’ll have to find out as the year progresses!
I hope you enjoyed this romp through gaming history! Drop a line if you agree or disagree with my choices, or if you’re enjoying the tracks I’ve selected. And stay tuned for the next few editions, where I continue to celebrate the Year of the RPG by downing an Espresso Shot over one of the grandaddies of the JRPG genre: Dragon Quest (or Warrior here in North America)! And speaking of our erstwhile Goddess of Wisdom’s RPG event, it seems that a good friend of Koffi’s might have a letter for her as well! What could it be about? Keep it locked here to find out!
Oh, and one last thing; I’m about to get involved in something BIG (writer-wise – I’m already in deep with my little baby boy, who’s now a month old! He’s so adorable!). I can’t reveal anything yet, but come around mid-March, some sorcery will be afoot. Stay tuned…
With that, this has been Ryan from Games with Coffee, hoping you’re enjoying the tunes I’ve selected (over a cup of your favourite brew, of course) and reminding you to Keep Gaming and Keep Brewing!