The All-Time Top C64 Game Tunes
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1: Monty on the Run (Rob Hubbard)
One of the C64's most fondly remembered games was accompanied by this energetic, progressive masterpiece. From the otherworldly oscillating introduction, it soon develops into a frantic "race against the clock" extravaganza. The tune's multiple sections blend together seamlessly, with excellent improvisation throughout the latter part and even some Mozart influence creeping in! Both technically and melodically, this could be considered Hubbard's finest moment.
2: R-Type (Chris Huelsbeck & Ramiro Vaca)
|Fact fans: According to the STIL list, Monty on the Run was inspired from Charles Williams' "The Devil's Gallop". Though the similarities are apparent, I would certainly consider Rob Hubbard's the superior piece!|
The excellent techno intro is a feat in itself, but what separates this title from the others are the in-game tracks. What is apparent to anyone who has played the arcade or PlayStation versions, is the significant improvement in the quality of the multi-level music of C64 R-type. Huelsbeck and Vaca performed a remarkable job in sprucing these up in just about every way possible, incorporating meaty bass-lines and rhythm tracks that perfectly suited the pace of the game. What makes the achievement all the more impressive is that this was done using just two of the C64's three sound channels!
3: One Man and His Droid (Rob Hubbard)
As with Monty on the Run, this is another fast-paced extravaganza from Hubbard to get your adrenaline racing. The evolving chorus is complemented perfectly by the intricate and constantly moving note patterns. This tune could sometimes be heard as part of "Invade-a-Load", a Space Invaders clone which you played whilst waiting for your favourite game to load. Not surprising really, as it has all the atmosphere and impact of an imminent stellar invasion!
4: Spellbound (Rob Hubbard)
Another timeless Hubbard classic makes the top 5 and with good reason. Suspense, mystery, intrigue - this piece has it all and more. Embellished with an array of interesting space-age sound effects, it helped maintain your interest as you went about solving puzzles and harassing robots in this space adventure. Along with the unique and well-structured chord sequences, this piece is notable for its (probably unintentional) Eastern/Medieval overtones.
5: Ocean Loader v3_0 (Pete Clark)
An adaptation of Galway's original Ocean Loader tunes, Peter Clarke improved on the former by introducing an upbeat tempo and completely new melody following the introduction. Quite classical in nature, it is unusual for the C64 in the way it harmoniously intertwines the intricate melody, bass and descant. A true classic that captures the very best of a bygone era.
6: After the War (Charles Deenen)
This much overlooked title by Deenen contains two magnificent pieces. Tune 1 sets the tone with its tension-building siren introduction, before developing into what must be one of the most atmospheric, melancholic scores around - never mind on the C64. Tune 3 is the perfect counterpart - also sad, but conveying a sense of relief that the war is finally over.
7: Ghouls 'n' Ghosts (Tim Follin)
Now THIS has atmosphere! Whilst their roots in the Capcom arcade game are evident, Follin has enriched the C64 level tunes to such a degree that they vastly outperform the original scores. Level 2 (tune 8) is probably the pick of the bunch, followed by level 4 (tune 10), but all the pieces have something to offer. Ethereal yet intricate, deep yet subtle, this is about as artistic as music can get.
8: Kinetix (Jeroen Tel)
|Quote from Tim courtesy of the STIL list: "[It took me] maybe two or three days [to write]. I was quite enthusiastic about [it], so I probably worked quite fast."|
Something of a rollercoaster ride and lasting more than ten minutes, this techno-style track has enough juicy nuggets to merit its inclusion in the top 10. It's very much a tune that grows on you the more the listen to it, and it is both complex and detailed. The occasional screechy sections can grate, but its originality and compulsive nature more than compensate for any shortcomings. Tune 3 is a short but enjoyable melody and a fine complement to the main theme.
9: Auf Wiedersehen Monty (Rob Hubbard and Ben Daglish)
Wiedersehen by name, weird by nature! As with Hubbard's other works, this is a progressive, developing piece, where each component has been jelled together skilfully. What makes AWM stand out from the crowd, though, is the unusual, clever melody and surreal chord sequences. These attributes, combined with the hypnotic "tick-tock" intervals, elevate it to an almost dream-like status, not captured by any other tune before or since.
10: Bionic Commando (Tim Follin)
|Quote from Rob courtesy of the STIL list: "I just think that Gremlin thought that the original Monty On The Run was very popular and they just didn't want to totally move away from what I did on the original, so they asked me to spend 2 days working with Ben at their office and that's what happened."|
Loosely based on the Capcom arcade scores, Follin reached a new level of technical accomplishment with C64 Bionic Commando. Each of the individual level tunes are deep and intricate, with improvisation featuring prominently throughout the latter parts. Fans may note a similarity with Follin's later X-Men scores on the Super NES.
11: Turbo Outrun (Jeroen Tel)
|See here for some trivia on this music.|
"1-2-3-Hit it!" Sorry, couldn't resist it - these tunes are so cool. Tel spent a lot of time getting C64 Turbo Outrun music just right - and it shows. The intro tracks are notable for the very well implemented sample loops and overall grooviness. However, what really impresses are the in-game tunes. Like C64 R-Type, these utilise just two sound channels and (also like C64 R-Type) greatly surpass the coin-op originals. Special mention must go also to the short-but-sweet high-score tune (#11).
12: Batman The Caped Crusader (Fred Gray)
|Quote from Jeroen Tel courtesy of the STIL list: "Turbo Outrun took about a month all together. It was a lot of fun, but I recomposed every tune about three times to get it perfect. I still think it is one of the best audio tracks I ever did on the C64."|
See here for more quotes and trivia on this music.
This was one of the games bundled with my C64 when I first acquired it many years ago. I can still remember being blown away by the film-like score that accompanied this arcade adventure. Atmospheric and moody, it inspired a real sense of urgency as you battled to thwart the evil Joker and Penguin (with his devious umbrella factory operation, natch).
13: Zamzara (Charles Deenen)
After listening to over one minute of what appears to be a mundane repeating loop, Zamzara explodes into life with arguably the most tuneful piece of music heard on the C64. By oscillating notes at a very high speed, rich and meaningful chords have been created, and this is a very good example of the power of Deenen's sound editor (used to create most of Maniacs of Noise's C64 music). The mellow high-score piece also deserves more than a couple of hearings.
14: Battle Ships (Mark Cooksey)
Simply an excellent piece of music, classically styled. Despite lasting a good few minutes, it never gets boring - and the interspersion of sound effects (bombs dropping, explosions etc.) is the icing on the cake. Cooksey's finest hour.
15: Loopz (David Whittaker)
This Pipemania-meets-Tetris clone featured three great melodies to help spur you on to impossibly high scores. Tune 1 has an avant-garde feel, which Whittaker fans will recognise from the impossibly weird Archipelagos game music on the Amiga, whereas tune 8 is solid and nostalgic. However, the ninth leaves both of these behind as it stylishly whizzes up and down the diminished 7th scale. A must hear!
16: Ocean Loader 4/5 (Jonathan Dunn)
This will be familiar to C64 users past and present, as it was used as the loading music for many of Ocean's biggest titles. Bold and adventurous, it almost made the painstakingly slow loading of the games seem worthwhile.
17: DNA Warrior (Thomas Petersen & K. Christensen)
A professional package of jazz-influenced music. Each of the tracks on offer progress in a creative, intelligent manner, whilst the synth instruments augment the proceedings very well.
18:Rubicon: Jeroen Tel & Reyn Oeuwehand
A firm favourite among SID fans and it's easy to see why. Tune 1 is solid and technically very competent, though sadly doesn't reach its full potential, as it sticks rigidly to the same chord base throughout. Stronger is tune 11, which is energetic and has a Turrican-esque feel about it. Top marks though, go to tune 3 (which should be played at NTSC speed) - a very nice piece, divided into two sections - both excellent.
19: The Last V8 Rob Hubbard
The deep rumbly bass of the opening section leaves you in no doubt that another Hubbard stormer is brewing. Sure enough, the piece develops in classic style, featuring almost as many twists and turns as those you negotiate in the game itself!
20: Alloyrun Jeroen Tel
|Quote from Rob courtesy of the STIL list: "Last V8 was a simple futuristic game and so I was off into Jarre land.... I purposely wrote the 2 melody lines to work off one voice to make it sound like more than 1 voice."|
Unquestionably the funkiest intro to a C64 tune ever. Powerful and fast-paced, it would score even higher, but unfortunately is a bit repetitive after the first minute or so.
21: Hawkeye Jeroen Tel
Hawkeye is a typical example of what Tel does very well: he develops a theme which is used almost throughout the entire piece and then builds the other sections around it. Excellent progression as always, culminating in a fantastic rippling up and down the scale section at around the 3-minute mark. Tune 6 must also rank as one of the greatest high-score tunes.
22: Hotrod (tunes 1 & 2) Jeroen Tel
Another Tel winner, Hotrod's first two tunes are similar in style to the Turbo Outrun intro music - the first in particular making great use of the sample channel. I would actually say they're better than the Turbo Outrun intro tracks, being more structured and with greater variety.
23: Super Hang-On Steve Barrett
Apparently different from the Sega originals, Barrett's compositions are simple in orchestration, but high on melody. This is especially true of tune 4 - without doubt the pick of the bunch.
24: Cataball Mark Cooksey
This is a simple yet highly effective tune, similar in style to Cooksey's Battle Ships. Whilst not quite reaching the latter's high standard, Cataball (also known as "Hoppin' Mad") is anything if not catchy. You'll be humming it for weeks :-)
25: Ghosts'n'Goblins Mark Cooksey
Interestingly, it would appear that each home computer version of G'n'G was accompanied by a different music track. While the arcade version had a rather cheesy and repetitive theme, the Amstrad and C64 versions had rather cool music. Cooksey created the C64 version starting with Chopin's Prelude No.20 in C- ('Funeral March'), but it soon picks up the pace. Spooky and funky, it suited the game perfectly.
26: Black Lamp (tune 2) Tim Follin
A very creative piece, classically styled. Ghouls'n'Ghosts overtones are evident around the 40-second mark, and there's some excellent use of echo at this point.
27: Delta Rob Hubbard
Delta is some people's fave C64 music of all-time. Although it is hard to see the appeal of the Pink Floyd-influenced tune 1, the upbeat pulsating tune 12 and the more reflective tune 13 are both quality pieces.
28: Supremacy Jeroen Tel (tune 1)
|See here for trivia on this tune.|
Classically medieval-orientated to start with, Supremacy builds up into a highly polished piece of music. Excellent variety, it mixes multiple styles to great effect.
29: Turrican (tunes 2 & 6) C. Huelsbeck & R. Vaca & S. Hartwig
Ah - the legendary Turrican! Action-packed and technically exemplary, these two tracks demonstrate the power of the SID chip with aplomb.
30: Gauntlet III (tune 1) Tim Follin
Featuring Follin's trademark ethereal quality, this piece scores highly due to its originality: an imaginative melody sprinkled with the type of eerie embellishments that made Ghouls 'n' Ghosts so great.
31: Startrash (tune 2) Ramiro Vaca & Chris Huelsbeck
Similar in style to the R-type intro tune, this solid track has enough hooks to keep you listening, with the highlight being a rippling chord sequence around 1:15. The in-game tune (3) is also good in a mysterious kind of way.
32: Flimbo's Quest Reyn Ouwehand & J. Bjerregaard
A nice mix of bouncy, cheerful platformy type tunes.
33: Cybernoid Jeroen Tel
Possibly Tel's most famous composition, this is a long track which is generally of a high standard throughout.
34: Scorpion Marcel Donne
I remember playing this game many years ago on, I think, a Zzap! 64 covertape. It was great to rediscover the fabulous intro tune more recently, which has a very Maniacs of Noise-y sound to it.
35: The Last Ninja (tune 6) Ben Daglish & Anthony Lees
A nice upbeat oriental tune which suited the game perfectly. In this genre, only bettered by Allister Brimble's Dojo Dan (level 1) on the Amiga.
36: Blood Money (tune 2) Fredrik Segarfalk
An interesting melody with logical chord progression ensures its place in the top 64.
37: L.E.D. Storm Tim Follin
Another one of those titles where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Tune 6 is especially good (but oh so short!), while the others are enjoyable to listen to in sequence.
38: Thing on a Spring Rob Hubbard
Although not spectacular, this chirpy piece bounces along nicely and has a definite Hubbard feel to it.
39: Fruitbank Johannes Bjerregaard
Very much the type of music you would expect from an arcade fruit machine simulator. I like the way the main theme is continually being played around with, creating a sequence of very listenable melodies.
40: Trivia, The Ultimate Challenge (tune 1 & 2) Jeroen Tel
As with Fruitbank, this very much lives up to the theme of its name. Both tunes are pleasant on the ears.
41: Commando Rob Hubbard
Tune 1 (in-game) is a reworking of Capcom's arcade theme, but improves upon it thanks to some Hubbard grooviness, whereas tune 2 (high score) has a warm nostalgic feel to it.
42: Hollywood or Bust Rob Hubbard
Let the good times roll with these very reasonable "show-time" pieces.
43: Speedball David Whittaker
Tune 1 is a direct conversion of the excellent Amiga original. This version is almost as good, retaining all of the former's interesting chord progressions.
44: Peter Pack Rat Tim Follin
Tunes 1 and 2 have a retro early eighties quality about them (cf. Super Pipeline), which mix nicely with Follin's orchestration.
45: International Karate Rob Hubbard
Ah so! Oriental meditation music combines with Hubbard genius like yin and yang.
46: Last Ninja 3 (tune 3) Reyn Ouwehand
Broody yet subtle, this piece evokes an atmosphere similar to that of Chariots of Fire, but a bit darker.
47: Gerry the Germ Rob Hubbard
|See here for more information on this tune.|
Another chirpy/bouncy/jolly title in the mould of Thing on a Spring. Tune 1 is the pick of the bunch, but the others are fun to listen to as well.
48: Battle of Britain Rob Hubbard
This triumphant RAF-themed track is one of the more overlooked of Hubbard's works.
49: Agent X II Tim Follin
The Mad Prof's Back (tune 1): Although not the strongest of Follin's scores, an intricate melody line with some nice touches should maintain interest.
50: Barbarian (tune 2) Richard Joseph
Rich instrumentation and notable variety from Richard Joseph, who in later years composed music for major Amiga titles. Best played with the filter turned off in SidPlay.
51: Revenge of Doh Jonathan Dunn
Somewhat reminiscent of the Ocean Loader theme, this melody was the only tune that wasn't a cover of the original arcade version.
52: Stormlord (tune 1) Johannes Bjerregaard & Jeroen Tel
A creepy introduction followed by some well-chosen chords sets the pace for this groovy number. Very good use of the fourth (sample) channel.
53: Tilt (tune 1) Steve Barrett
What a great game this was! The title tune is also good - simple, but catchy. This is a cover of the Spectrum version originally by Allister Brimble.
54: Savage (tune 1) ?
"Savage... Savage... oooooooohhhhh..." A well funky one, this. I especially like the way the tune progresses. You can find a fantastic update/remix by Chris Abbott on his website at www.c64audio.com
55: Eliminator Jeroen Tel
A marathon of a tune that never seems to end. Starts off in typically smooth Tel fashion, and despite lacking direction with some improvisation around the middle, Eliminator picks up in fine style towards the end.
56: Scumball Tim Follin
Short but sweet - holds a certain film-like charm.
57: ShadowFire Fred Gray
What this piece lacks in technical innovation, it more than makes up for a melody which is both endearing and captivating.
58: Cybernoid II Jeroen Tel
Not quite reaching the high standard of the first Cybernoid, this is still a solid track with a "chunky" feel to it.
59: Paperboy Mark Cooksey
The in-game tune (2) suited the game perfectly, but isn't quite so enjoyable to listen to on its own. However, the high score track (5) is still as classic as ever.
60: Task III (tune 1) (unknown)
This energetic track from an unknown composer has enough interesting twists and turns to warrant a place in the top 64.
61: Mr. Heli Charles Deenen
Tunes 1 and 5 have a "clean-cut" feel to them and are both fairly cool, hence its placing. 5 is Deenen's own creation, while 1 is a cover of the arcade.
62: Yie Ar Kung Fu (tune 19) Martin Galway
A fairly straightforward melody which scores highly in the nostalgia factor. Accompanied the front-end of the very first compilation of emulated SID tunes (on Amiga).
63: The Way of the Exploding Fist (tunes 1 and 2) Neil Brennan
Although a bit dreary and repetitive, these quaint oriental tunes hold a certain mystical magic.
64: Crazy Comets Rob Hubbard
More style over substance, Crazy Comets has enough hooks to scrape into the top 64.
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All music on this page borrowed with the kind permission of the High Voltage SID Collection crew. All SID tunes are the copyright of their respective owners. Text on this page (with the exception of the STIL excerpts) copyright N. White 2002 onwards