Top-10 Bad Games with Good Music

Here’s a little change from the Maiden blogs, but it’s still within the realm of music.

We all know one don’t we. A game that is mediocre, sub par or even right down awful… but you can’t stop humming the music to yourself because it’s actually pretty catchy. There is nothing more devious than a bad game with a good soundtrack because that’s what makes you come back to it: like a good actor in an Uwe Boll movie or candy corn (that’s a Lewis Black reference in case you don’t get it).

This is just my personal pick and these games aren’t necessarily in order from best to absolute worst, just what I thought of the soundtracks in general.

10. Grand Theft Auto: Vice City

While most may not regard Vice City as a “bad” game, for me it was easily the most disappointing title in the GTA Trilogy of GTA3,Vice City and San Andreas. The story was very half-hearted and the latter part of the game is spent gathering money which just got very tiresome after a while. But I’m an 80s fan, so there was actually something I quite liked about the game.

The music has every early-80s hitter from Michael Jackson to Iron Maiden and even Nena with their German protest-pop hit 99 Luftballons. With such excellent 80s one-hit wonders like I Wear My Sunglasses At Night, a hard-core 80s fan like myself should be wholly satisfied.

I’m sort of letting GTA: Vice City off easy on this list. Like I mentioned, the game isn’t really horrible, just mediocre and disappointing and rather ironically I was even a little let down by the lack of variety in the music. There was plenty of rock and pop but not much rap or reggae.

9. Sonic the Hedgehog (MS)

The Master System Sonic was in my view a failed attempt to bring the blue hedgehog to a technologically less sophisticated platform. The gameplay wasn’t horrible, but the game is frustratingly difficult and it essentially lacked the sense of speed and fun from its 16-bit counterpart which is the main reason I dislike the game.

However, the music was actually pretty darn good. The 8-bit rendering of the boss and Green Hill Zone themes were somewhat cute but the game’s original tunes are what actually stand out the best and actually sound really sweet. The second level theme which appears numerous times is quite nice and the map theme is also really good. And that cheery bonus stage theme is also something I do like.

At the same time, they don’t really sound like Sonic music, but the soundtrack is probably the most impressive part of this otherwise very unimpressive game.

8. Batman Forever

Acclaim’s sorry excuse of a movie tie-in was beat-em-up nightmare of Mortal Kombat style digitised graphics and poorly implemented play control. The game just didn’t contain any of the enjoyment you usually get from a beat-em-up and without the manual you wouldn’t even know how to use the special items which just made them entirely pointless.

However, the soundtrack was surprisingly high quality with an eerie and serious sound which would have fit well into a dark and serious video-game. It’s just too bad that the composer for the game’s soundtrack wasted his talent on this mediocre and not at all enjoyable pap.

I actually liked the movie and even I don’t like this game.

7. Yoshi Story

This game was already featured on my Bottom-10 Bad Games by Good Companies. Once again, I stress that Yoshi Story is not a horrible game, just an extremely disappointing sequel, after the 50+ levels of platforming joy-fest known as Yoshi’sIsland.

However, the graphics are excellent and the game is so cute it’ll make your head explode. And the music is just pretty damn catchy. Yoshi Story is one of those games where you know it’s not what you wanted from Yoshi’sIsland’s sequel, but it’s difficult to get angry when the well orchestrated and soothing soundtrack just puts you in such a good mood.

However, Yoshi Story’s soundtrack does land short of being as memorable as that of Yoshi’s Island, probably because the game only has 10 levels and can be beat in about a half-hour, but it certainly fills the qualifications for this list.

6. Dragon’s Lair (NES)

A small games company named Elite took it upon themselves to butcher one of the most novel and intriguing gaming phenomena of the 1980s, when they produced their 8-bit reimagining of animator-guru Don Bluth’s arcade laser disc classic Dragon’s Lair on the NES. The game ranks up there as both one of the hardest and worst games ever made.

However, the music is actually really good. It has melodic variety and depth and even the main theme sticks in your head very effectively. The game really takes full advantage of the NES’s five-channel sound-chip and it’s quite unfortunate that the game is as crappy as it is, since the soundtrack is actually quite excellent.

Not only that, the graphics of the game are also nothing to sneeze at. However, Dragon’s Lair on the NES stands as a testament that just because you can make a game look pretty and sound good, doesn’t mean it’s not a horrible piece of crap.

5. Donkey Kong Land

Another familiar face from Bottom-10 Bad Games by Good Companies list, Rare’s little brother version of Donkey Kong Country on the Game Boy ranks up as one of the most frustratingly ham-handed spin-offs in gaming. But once again, the soundtrack for this one was actually quite solid.

The Game Boy’s sound-chip was admittedly even more primitive than that of the NES, but still the Game Boy has actually been home to some awesome game soundtracks and DKL actually ranks quite high in this regard. Sure, the game reuses a few tracks from DKC, but just like Sonic MS, it’s the game’s original tracks that make it sound so good from the menu themes right to the boss theme, which I think is actually better than any of the boss themes from the DKC games on the SNES.

If DKL didn’t have such a retarded saving system, it could actually be one of my favourite Donkey Kong games… but it’s not…

4. Zelda: Wand of Gamelon

The CDi Zelda games rank up as some of the notorious games in history. Produced by Animation Magic Inc. these games are noted for their haphazardly programmed gameplay, bad, bizarre and at times quite disturbing animated cutscenes as well as some internet meme spawning voice-acting. Another thing the CDi Zeldas also had, quite surprisingly, were some extremely catchy and well produced soundtracks.

Note here, if you’ve been spoiled by Koji “the man” Kondo’s work in such titles as Ocarina of Time, don’t play the Wand of Gamelon expecting some orchestral wonderment, but the main themes are bizarrely catchy in a cheesy 90s pop way with positively popping percussion and even some really nice melody.

Wand of Gamelon may not deserve many hoorahs, apart from being one of the few games where you actually got to play as Zelda, but the soundtrack definitely did kick ass.

3. Fighting Street (Street Fighter)

Capcom’s Street Fighter franchise didn’t really kick off until the second instalment which also singlehandedly popularised the fighting game genre. The first game was doomed into obscurity both in the arcades and on the TurboGrafx-CD where it was released under the jumbled titleFighting   Street.

Street Fighter 1 had broken controls, only moderately impressive graphics for a late-80s arcade title and some laughably bad voice-acting (not to mention you could only play as Ryu). The soundtrack however was excellent, which shouldn’t be too surprising since this is Capcom after all. I quite like Birdy’s and Eagle’s themes but the entire soundtrack is full of variety and surprisingly high in production value.

Of course, it pales in comparison to Street Fighter 2’s soundtrack, but that’s an unfair comparison in more ways than one. Street Fighter 1 is a bad game, but it sure has some sweet-ass music.

2. Sonic 3D

Traveller’s Tales created Sonic 3D in 1996, after Sega themselves failed to produce a 3D Sonic game for their Sega Saturn system. Sonic 3D was in fact just an isometric 2D platformer with pre-rendered 3D sprites, so it wasn’t really a 3D game in any sense of the word.

Not only that, as a Sonic game it was severely mediocre with the gameplay comprising of the player collecting birds (Flickies) to pass the level. The soundtrack however is surprisingly excellent. It’s catchy with well-defined melodies and while playing, you might even be fooled into thinking you’ve picked up a decent game.

All in all, Sonic 3D only has somewhat slippery controls and disorienting level design, but it’s not quite a whole-hearted stinker of a game which is why I’m not gonna make it number-1 on the list. It actually makes it this high on the list on its musical credentials.

1. Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest

Castlevania II was an ambitious attempt by Konami back in the day to do something different with their horror 2D platformer series, which unfortunately turned into an utter failure. A free-roaming 2D action-game just didn’t work with Castlevania’s sluggish control-scheme and especially not with a password system instead of a battery-save feature.

However, Castlevania II has got one major element about it which is truly excellent: the music. Konami’s in-house band, Club Kukeiha, poured their heart out into the melodic, varied and horror inspired soundtrack which still ranks in the top-5 of the most memorable soundtracks from the series with many of its songs becoming enduring classics, heard in many future instalments of the franchise.

Simon’s Quest may not be very good game, but its soundtrack kicks massive ass.