Top 30 NES Soundtracks #07: Metroid
By Bucky Wednesday, 24 Jun 2009

#7 – Metroid (64 Votes)

#7 Metroid

Developer, Publisher: Nintendo
Year: 1986 (JP), 1987 (US), 1988 (EU)

Perhaps one of the most nostalgic selections of NES music, Metroid places at #7 on our list.

The music is composed by Hirokazu Tanaka (aka ‘Hip Tanaka’), who has reflected upon his work with some interesting perspective.

“…sound designers in many studios started to compete with each other by creating upbeat melodies for game music. The pop-like, lilting tunes were everywhere.

The industry was delighted, but on the contrary, I wasn’t happy with the trend, because those melodies weren’t necessarily matched with the tastes and atmospheres that the games originally had.

The sound design for Metroid was, therefore, intended to be the antithesis for that trend. I had a concept that the music for Metroid should be created not as game music, but as music the players feel as if they were encountering a living creature. I wanted to create the sound without any distinctions between music and sound effects. The image I had was, “Anything that comes out from the game is the sound that game makes.” (link)

He also describes the music as something that he wanted to make difficult to hum, with the most conventionally catchy tune being the ending music, designed to aid the player in achieving a feeling of catharsis when it was all done.

It’s Tanaka’s consideration of atmosphere that crafts the quality and enjoyability out of some very odd compositions. Take the Norfair or Tourain themes, for example. If you were to take them out of context, I would assume that most listeners wouldn’t enjoy them. As music that gives a very precise character to the world of Zebes, however, it’s capable of fitting right in as a fan favorite of video game music for many.

Despite Tanaka’s efforts to make the music non-catchy, the music of Metroid has been firmly planted in many of our memories. While it may be nearly impossible to sing along to Kraid’s Lair, I’m sure many of us have tried at some point. Being able to make some near atonal and highly dissonant compositions memorable is part of the legend of Metroid music.

Like a couple other entries in our list, Metroid was originally released on floppy disk for the Famicom Disk System:

(photo from

As a result, there are tracks with a different arrangement than what we’re familiar with on the NES. While I prefer the soundtrack without the extra voice of wavetable synthesis, it is interesting to hear the composer’s initial intention for the score.

Listen to the NES Metroid on youtube here. You can hear some of the original Metroid FDS music here.

This entry would be incomplete without a quick plug for Metroid Metal, which covers various Metroid themes, including the entire original Metroid, into a set of very unique and intersting prog-metal arrangements.

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