Who doesn’t like awesome music covers, am I right?! Here are some of the best YouTube covers of Retro Video Game music I wanted to share with the world. Keep in mind that this list is by no means definitive; and yes, there will be more lists since there are scores (ba-dum-tss!) of talented musicians out there. Honestly, it was quite tough picking not just the musicians, but the themes of the games as well. As much as I love Final Fantasy VII and Legend of Zelda, I am sorry to say you won’t find those titles here. So, how exactly did I choose from what seems like almost limitless options? So many creators. So many games. So many themes. What do? To make things easier, I applied a simple criterion for picking YouTubers and the Games/Themes:
- Must be a content creator that focuses on making high quality music.
[Meaning that I couldn’t pick the video of the coolest vertical street performance video of the Gerudo Valley theme or that sweet ass oboe solo recorded on a webcam.]
- Must be original in either arrangement or in presentation.
[Wait…what? I know. How in the heck can we seek originality from a cover? Simply put, the same way The Legend of Zelda and Final Fantasy managed to stay fresh over the last 30+ years. Final Fantasy manages to tell the same story over and over, but gives you a fresh presentation and tweaks to the gameplay each and every time; while Legend of Zelda sends you on yet another “save the world” quest but tells you the story in a brand new way. So, why not apply that same logic when it comes to the arrangements?]
Now, without further ado, I present to you (in no particular order), some of the best YouTube Covers of Retro Game music:
Final Fantasy VI – Kefka’s Theme – BlackearacheXD
Final Fantasy VI is also another game that had the unfortunate luck of being released near the end of the SNES cycle. This meant that not many people had the chance of playing the game; however, those who have swear by it. Musically, FFVI is considered to contain Nobuo Uematsu’s best work. Blackearache here shows us why Kefka is the best series villain. He’s the only one who’s succeeded in destroying the world, unless you count Bahamut from FFXIV. Wait, were those spoilers? Hmm…
Golden Sun – Fusion Dragon – Dr. Pez – VGM
Here, we have a collaboration between Dr. Pez (guitar), Ashikodrums (drums), HatTrax (Bass) and Marcpapeghin (brass) performing the incredibly badass Fusion Dragon battle theme. I must say, when I clicked on that link I was not expecting to see a French Horn in the same video with “progressive Metal” in the title. This is easily one of the most underrated games of the GBA era of handhelds as it was released near the end of that system’s life cycle. Despite that, Golden Sun came to be known as a cult classic gem of the golden age of JRPGs.
Super Mario World 3 – Medley – moonbowmusicmovie
We all knew at some point we would find ourselves on the page of a Japanese YouTube musician, and what better one than that of the Moonbow Music Movie group. This group of talented musicians (which includes about five other members) masterfully recreated the swing rag, jazzy feel of the original game as well as turning out a sweet solo for the medley. It was also hard not to be taken in by the charm of these musicians since it is clear they are just playing music for fun.
Banjo Kazooie – Gruntilda’s Lair – 130Grit Sound Studio
If it’s one thing I love more than orchestral music, it’s video game music (duh). But there is one thing I love more than both: genre mash-ups! Who can argue against it when it’s nostalgia and whatever refined taste you currently have mixed into one?
Doom – E1M1 At Doom’s Gate – With Ether
Simon Leong and Al Poon are a couple of dueling guitarist that teach in Thailand and UK, respectively. How these two manage to sync up the time to practice with each other is not only incredible, but also adds some serious dedication to their art. Here, both pay an awesome tribute to the game that spawned the term “First Person Shooter” by working an original arrangement to a classic theme to pleasantly throw you off from immediately recognizing the themes involved.
Tetris – Korobeiniki – PlayerPiano
Oh, c’mon…you already knew that this one was going to be on this list. I mean who doesn’t place this song in their top retro game themes? Sonya Belousova, the talented Russian pianist and Director Tom Grey had a custom pinball piano commissioned just for this video which they gave away to a lucky Patreon. This version of the frantic handheld game that captivated a nation in the early 90’s is by the best I’ve heard to date.
Chrono Trigger – Guardia Millennial Fair – PPF
Holding one of the oldest active accounts on YouTube since 2007 (the website has only been around since 2005), PPF has always been consistent in the quality of his videos. Starting off with just his guitar and simple video editing skills, he now holds a large collection of toy and real instruments that he implements to recreate these classic themes bringing retro in HD.
F- Zero – Mute City – insaneintherainmusic
Passing over you on your right is insaneintherain with his collection of Jazz variations of game covers. This sax man is smoother than melted butter on ice placed atop wax paper. Jazz may not be everybody’s cup of tea, but if you love VGM, then my only question to you is: jasmine, mint, or chamomile?
Megaman X – Armored Armadillo Theme – Tsuko G.
The Megaman series was always known for its bitchin’ tracks and level design. You can literally pick a random track from a random game and you’ll still be grooving to the sweet sound of a charging mega buster alongside a memorable track. Evoking those same feelings is this acapella maestro SmoothMcGroove, Tsuko G. with nothing but kicking those beatboxing skills and a kazoo. Damn.
Donkey Kong Country 2 – Forest Interlude – michelleheafy
For as much love as this game series still gets, I am appalled that the only two themes anyone can remember from this series are either Stickerbrush Symphony or Aquatic Ambience. David Wise, composer of the first two games masterfully tracked both games to perfection. Nothing says that better than Forest Interlude (aside from Bayou Boogie). The best part of these themes is that instead of going with the same “frantic level design equals frantic music” trope that many other games at that time were going with, the contrasting calm and ambient music masked how fiendishly difficult these early games really were. The talented Michelle Heafy perfectly encapsulates the atmosphere of the Forest Interlude with her vocals, and piano work. Her talent doesn’t just stop there, she’s also a percussionist and guitarist. (And a total babe!)
This list is but a small scratch among the giant list of creators and the music they cover.
Do you have any favorite YouTubers that we did not mention and would like to share their talent? What Video Game Music is your favorite? Let us know in the comments below and you might just see them here on our next list!
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