Video Game Music That Went Hard
Image: Nintendo Life

There is a lot of video game music out there that goes hard. By "goes hard" we mean it slaps. By "it slaps" we mean it's a bop. By "it's a bop" we mea— forget it. These are tracks that are really good.

In the vast majority of these instances, the tracks match the situation pretty perfectly. A high-stakes moment in the game might be met by tense strings and an ever-rising pitch; action set-pieces might opt for a big brass statement of the main theme to emphasise your heroic movements; chilled-out hubs might provide some lighter tracks on the keys, bringing your pulse down if it's generally an intense game or letting you fully relax into the world à la Animal Crossing: New Horizons.

But this is not always the case. There are often times when game music composers will write an extremely hard track and then it makes its way into the game regardless of the situation because the piece is Just. That. Good.

The release of GoldenEye 007 on the Nintendo Switch Online N64 Library has got us thinking about this exact game music phenomenon (for obvious reasons that we'll come back to later). We started thinking of other tunes that are undeniable bangers but, when we think about it, they play at unexpected times. They had no reason to go that hard, to be that good.

Below, we have assembled some of the tracks that instantly popped to mind when we started down this path. Of course, these are only the tracks that slap somewhat surprisingly. If we were just talking about the hardest video game tracks of all time then we would be here all day (there's no point in putting Ocarina of Time's Gerudo Valley on this list, for example, as that track's hardness perfectly matches its placement).

Have a listen through our picks (presented here in no particular order) and then take to the comments to let us know of any we missed. There will be many, and we're eager to hear them!

Wii Sports - Theme Music

Kazumi Totaka was told to make "music that chills" but he heard "music that kills" and they ran with it. The purpose of the Wii Sports menu music should be something to play in the background while you pick your game and argue over the need for safety straps, not one of the dance anthems of the mid-2000s.

You can't have a track with that shredding electric guitar, a piano melody, and a flute accompaniment and expect us not to get up and dance. The Wii Sports games are great, but the theme music does make it hard to actually want to press play.

Undertale - Megalovania

We'll admit, boss music is supposed to hit hard and trigger a fight or flight response in us, the player, but Toby Fox's Megalovania takes it to a whole new level. We are used to boss themes creeping us out or emphasising our movements, but they rarely get us this pumped.

What gives this number even less reason to go so hard is the fact that very few people are actually going to hear it (it only plays right at the end of a Genocide Run when you take on Sans in the final battle). Having a boss track slap this hard at the best of times would be saying something, but putting it over a battle that few are ever going to see? There's no reason for that level of hardness!

And yep, we know that you can trace this song right back to Fox's hack of EarthBound, but its use in Undertale makes it all the more prominent as an unnecessarily hard hit.

The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time - Lost Woods

Koji Kondo's Zelda scores are packed full of certified bangers, but very few go as hard as the Lost Woods Theme. This is a walk through a mysterious and winding maze, it would make sense for there to be a sense of trepidation about the danger around every corner, right? Nope! Let's have something undeniably upbeat with a rhythm section so fast that it's near-impossible to hear without tapping your foot.

If you claim to have never whistled this track then you are either 1) lying, or 2) unable to whistle.

The Witcher 3 - Gwent

If you haven't played The Witcher 3 then you may be unfamiliar with the card game, Gwent. Honestly, even if you have played it then Gwent might be a little foggy to you. As a brief recap, this is a sweet little card game that you can play at inns and taverns as a fun minigame to the main story.

To be clear, Gwent is really not that important to the game. So why is its music so toe-tappingly good?? This is a card game that people play to chill out, but the tracks that play over the top make it feel like you're engaged in some frantic and never-ending dance. All of the music tracks that play over the minigame hit particularly hard (and you can hear them all in the mix above), but we have timestamped the one titled 'A Story You Won't Believe' to really give a feel for just how much these card tunes can slap.

Super Street Fighter II - Guile's Theme

Yes, fighting games should be going hard on their music almost by default, we mean, how else are we going to get pumped for some punching? While many of these don't belong on this list for that precise reason, Guile's Theme from Super Street Fighter II is an exception purely down to how much of a bop it is.

The electric keys! The retro snare! This is a big all-American fighting man that we are talking about here and there was no need for his music to be that gosh-darn funky.

Sonic CD - Boss Theme (JP)

There are two different versions of the Boss Theme from Sonic CD depending on whether you're playing the American or Japanese version of the game. While the US track is all about sending seven shades of shivers right down the spine, the Japanese edition is a slap to the face of throwback funk giving an entirely different vibe to the Robotnik battle.

There could have been any music over the fight and we would have been tensed up to the max, but it takes on a life of its own when the action is scored with such groove.

Splatoon 3 - Tableturf Battle

The music in the Splatoon series runs at such an over-the-top level that when we heard of Splatoon 3's card-based minigame, Tableturf Battle, we should have known that it was going to be some of the hardest card tunes out there. But even that level of anticipation couldn't have prepared us for the finished product.

It makes sense that Turfwar Battles should have their pop-inspired tracks while we run about, shooting ink everywhere, but did they lay off for the game's lower-key moments? You've gotta be squidding us! The Tableturf music rocks and we never should have expected anything less.

Mario & Sonic at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games - Copacabana Beach

When you think of top-notch music in the Mario or Sonic franchises, the 'at the Olympic Games' series might not immediately come to mind. But it should, because that stuff goes hard.

Copacabana Beach is a prime example. This is the game's hub world! You're not thinking about scoring the next point, landing a perfect trick or running the best time, you are literally just wondering about, selecting your game mode. Instead of embracing this 'background music' location, the track is full of Brazillian beats. Saving your energy for the actual event has never been harder.

Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havok - Buzzkill

The Danganronpa series is extremely OTT at the best of times and the music usually follows suit. The track 'Buzzkill' demonstrates it all. Yep, it fits the tone of the sinister goings on, but for a game which is effectively a high school murder mystery, this really goes waaay harder than we would have expected.

Out of context, we could hear this being played at an exercise class. In context, you couldn't get a scenario much further away...

Resident Evil 4 - Wesker Theme (Mercenaries)

If you have only listed to the opening few seconds of this track and were thinking to yourself "hmm, this doesn't seem all that wild", then you haven't listened for long enough. Wesker's theme suits the gameplay down to a T, but the way that this track progressively goes more and more off the rails makes it a standout in the game's score.

Why are the choral vocals so intense? What is happening with that dance track underneath the mix? Who brought an electric guitar into the studio? Where can we find more of this??

Kirby and the Forgotten Land - Roar of Dedede

"Remember guys, it's a kid-friendly adventure about a pink blob and a big penguin, so the music really doesn't need to be too..."

Bring on a massive rock number.

Did this track need to go that hard? No way. Fortunately, there are too many sound effects played over it in-game that it softens the blow a little, but just have a listen to that anthem in all of its unrivalled glory now!

Donkey Kong Country - Aquatic Ambience

We're going to finish with a Rare duo we struggle to pick between. For music to "go hard", it doesn't necessarily need to be all about bravado and OTT melodies (though many of the entries on this list are). It is completely possible to still achieve this level of excellence without being all showy.

Take Aquatic Ambience from Donkey Kong Country as an example. Yes, it's an underwater level so it was always going to have a chilled-out soundscape, but maestro David Wise didn't need to hit us with the most relaxing tune of all time. You go to the level to swim about and collect some bananas, you leave having experienced pure nirvana.

Goldeneye 007 - Pause Screen

This might just be the king of game music that had no right to go that hard. This is a pause menu for crying out loud! Legendary composer Grant Kirkhope could have sampled any old James Bond tune and tweaked it for some low-key listening while we paused the game, but oh no, he had to go and make the smoothest remix going.

The heavy bass line and rhythmic drum section turn this chilled classic into a certified slow-burn banger with plenty of influence from Eric Serra, the composer of the film's score. Honestly, this could come on in a club today and we wouldn't bat an eyelid.

Well there you have it, a selection of some of the tracks that we think go the hardest in video games. Paired with our debate on the very best game music overall, we reckon that we're onto a pretty meaty playlist by now — and come on, who wouldn't want to walk around to that Goldeneye 007 beat??

Based on our picks, which music track do you think goes the hardest? You can fill out the following poll to give us your choice and then be sure to head to the comments to let us know what we missed!

Which video game track goes the hardest?