Over its lifetime, the videogame medium has featured some of the greatest pieces of music in the whole landscape of media. From songs that can inspire, scare, and provoke a deep emotional response in players to the lighter, brighter and just straight up toe-tappingly catchy. Many games feature music that will live on in the hearts and minds of players years after they have played them. And in this top 6 worst videogame soundtracks list, you won’t find a single one of them.
These are songs that will inspire nothing but revulsion, fear, panic, and dismay. So reader beware, your mind may never be the same again after this one. A far cry from Top 10 Best Videogame Soundtracks list that also features on this site.
For clarity, this list looks at whole soundtracks, and not just an individual song from them. To qualify, a game needs to feature at least two songs. So strap yourselves in folks, this is is going to be wall-to-wall garbage and then some.
6. Manic Miner
Admittedly it feels kind of mean to include a game from the ZX Spectrum on this list. Especially considering this title was the first game on the system to have in-game music at all. And at a time when that was still rather new. In the grand scheme of things, it’s a historical marvel. A feat of programming. A triumph of the human spirit. However, despite that, there is still no getting away from the fact that the game’s music is still rather naff.
Manic Miner features two tracks. The game’s title music is a rendition of “Blue Danube Waltz”, which suddenly strikes the player with the force of an unforeseen punch to the googlies—with a tone and volume that makes you worry that your Spectrum is suffering some great error… and that the game’s tape is about to burst forth from the machine-like confetti.
Then we move to the game’s main track (seen above) and the song that plays throughout. It’s a rendition of “In the Hall of the Mountain King”, which sounds far more sedate and less aggressive. It sounds far more subdued and is leaps and bounds better than the title screen music, even if it does sound rather nervous and shaky. Again, possibly out of fear of overpowering the machine itself.
Now let’s not get it twisted; there is some great music on the system. Agent X, Deflektor, and Trantor, amongst many others I don’t have the time to list, prove that the system is more than capable of creating some great pieces of music. And a case can be made that Manic Miner shouldn’t be on a worst videogame soundtracks list, given that it is the first to actually feature in-game music at all on the system. But sadly, however, Manic Miner proves that sometimes first is often the worst.
5. Army Moves
Army Moves is an action platformer on the Amiga developed by Dinamic Software. And the reason why you haven’t heard of it is that the game itself is terribly average. So don’t worry. You’ve not missed out on some hidden classic on the platform. The game features two songs. Each providing backing to the game’s three gameplay sections; one used on the side-scrolling shooter set in a jeep and later helicopter and the other playing during a sequence which is more of a Poundland Contra kind of deal.
The first song on the soundtrack is a recreation of the “Colonel Bogey March”, which sounds, well, squelchy. It’s probably the moistest song in existence. And has an overall sound to it of one of those dance remixes of classical songs that appeared in the ’90s. And the other track, which plays during the infantry section in the latter quarter of the game, is just horribly uninspired.
As at times unpleasant as their rendition of the “Colonel Bogey March” can be to listen to, it leaves an impression on the mind. The latter track is so drab and unexciting it’s boring. Not only that, but it feels like a strange tonal shift, turning from something that is a little wackier and almost satirical in nature into something far more serious and brooding. It’s a weird juxtaposition that will have you scratching your head long after you’ve heard it. Though given how average the game itself is, you’d probably not get that far anyway!
4. Extreme Paint Brawl
Of all the entries on this worst videogame soundtracks list, Extreme Paint Brawl has the fullest and most comprehensive. Featuring six eclectic tracks, which in truth have far more effort and craft within them than the game they feature in does. However, despite the quality of the tracks from a production standpoint from a raw listening level, Extreme Paint Brawl‘s music is a hot mess.
Honestly, there is a part of me that kind of likes the game’s music; it has a strange avant-garde feel to it. It feels experimental. Like the artist behind them had an idea for something truly different and new. And to be fair, I have never heard anything like it before or since. Probably with good reason.
Extreme Paintbrawl‘s music is a total mashup of different sounds, instruments, and sound effects. Some sounding like an attempt at recreating the DOOM iconic sounds. With others sounding like Primus hyped up on sugar covering Dragon Force recorded in a barn. All of it knocked up to eleventy-stupid and frequently sounding like two different tracks were accidentally mixed and recorded over one and other.
So much so there is a part of you that often wonders if this the work of an avant-garde genius who went to the wrong recording room. Or the creation of someone who has no idea what they are doing but by gum they are going to do it loud and proud.
3. Hong Kong 97
Chances are, dear reader, you have heard of Hong Kong 97. Its infamy and the mystery surrounding its creation are worthy of a whole article in itself. But even if you’ve not had the pleasure of seeing the game in action, you will more than likely have heard the game’s soundtrack reused at some point or another. And in the full interest of transparency, I am breaking my rules here a little as the game only features one song in the entire game. And even then, to consider it a song, it’s pushing it.
Hong Kong 97 features a sample of “I Love Beijing Tiananmen”, which was originally written in China during the “Cultural Revolution” in the 1970s. The sample that features in the game is the first two lines of that song on a loop which plays constantly. Win or lose. Menu or in-game. It always plays. Never-ending.
Needless to say that Hong Kong 97 itself is a terrible game. And whilst it may have been created as a protest piece, that still doesn’t get over the fact that it is a chore to play through; terrible sprites, horrible gameplay, and a Game Over screen that is probably the biggest “NOPE” in the history of the industry. If you really must listen to the soundtrack, just find a rip of it on YouTube and otherwise avoid it at all costs.
2. Rocky & Bullwinkle
Whilst licenced games are often terrible, and to be honest, this game is no exception. I mean, you’d never see the likes of it on a Top 5 Greatest Licensed Games list. Few of them can truly lay claim to having one of the worst soundtracks in videogame history. But that is an accolade that dear ol’ Rocky & Bullwinkle on the NES currently can lay claim to.
It feels like the creation of programmers who had no idea what they were doing. And at this point, music in games was not the rarity that it once was; the game came out in 1992, 11 years after Manic Miner. Every single song that features in Rocky & Bullwinkle is a nightmare. Sounding off-key, out of time, and in some cases just straight up drunk. It feels like an attempt was made. But that attempt fell flat on its face. With some seasick-sounding songs that sound as though the NES is in constant pain. The music which plays during the sawmill section sounding particularly painful.
Additionally, not only are the tracks on this one abysmal, but the music loops aren’t properly synched up; there is often an uncomfortable pause between each loop.
Again, whilst some may defend the poor quality of it as being a sign of the times, one would have expected the programmers to know these tracks had to loop, right? Goodness, even a modicum of musical proofreading could have gone a long way to improve the quality (or lack thereof) of this mess!
1. Crazy Bus
Crazy Bus. That is all that one can say. Crazy Bus. A game that doesn’t so much have a soundtrack in as much as it has a prolonged death rattle. It’s like hearing the Sega Mega Drive screaming in agony. As though the gates of Hell are opening up right before your eyes. It’s like the sound of a keyboard being thrown down a flight of stairs. Or what your parents thought dubstep sounded like and recreated out of spite.
Its title music is the most infamous piece on the soundtrack. One which was apparently programmed in such a way that it would be slightly different every time it plays. Perhaps if a thousand Mega Drives played for a thousand years, one would recreate the works of Beethoven. Or lead to the total breakdown of reality itself.
However, in-game, there is only the low hum of your bus as it slowly drives to the other end of the screen. And then it’s back to the title screen to get your brain melted again. It’s a frightful din that only instils the deepest of existential crisis in even the most resolute of individuals. The game’s other track plays on the game’s menu screen, which is just as bad, if not worse, as it kind of resembles a song. Tricking your brain into thinking that it is merely you who are broken and not the game’s music itself.
By all accounts, Crazy Bus was just a programming experiment that just found its way onto emulator lists, and its legacy exploded from there. It was an experiment just like Frankenstein’s monster, and like said monster, it wasn’t released as it escaped.
Now to be fair, the game’s developer has by all accounts been in good spirits about the game’s reception. And as such, one cannot truly feel personally aggrieved by its existence. So whilst I and many others will be hearing it echoing in the back of our minds for the rest of our days, they developed an infamous legend known the world over, which is more than I have ever done.
[wpdiscuz-feedback id=”osaxz64ims” question=”What games do you feel have terrible soundtracks?” opened=”1″]And so concludes this top 6 worst videogame soundtracks list. Do you feel there are some missing? Are there ones even worse than these? Leave a comment down below![/wpdiscuz-feedback]
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