Wednesday, June 6, 2018

A Journey Through Snow Music (Updated)

Here are my Top 20 Snow Tunes from various games over the years. This was tough to put in some kind of order, as all of these tunes are pretty rad. I mainly just wanted to run through the snowy themes that I've heard over the years and talk about them a bit.

Updated: A trio of new tracks added, now a Top 20 rather than a mere Top 17.

#20: Winters (Earthbound) - It's probably no secret that I have a special affinity for Earthbound, like so many other people who played it at the time. This song is cheerful and fun, and brings back memories of riding the Loch Ness Monster. What a great game.

#19: Snowhead (Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask) - This one is a two-fer, as I consider these to be two halves of a whole theme. Majora's Mask is easily the darkest Zelda game; despite the best efforts of Twilight Princess, it comes off more like a gothy teenager trying to be dark. Majora's Mask on the other hand is legitimately chilling, with the citizens of the world obliviously going out their business as the end looms in the near future. The soundtrack of the game reflects this, with some very eerie tunes dotting the game world. Snowhead brings back memories for me, because I first played the game in the middle of an actual blizzard.

 #18: Frost Walrus (Mega Man X4) - There are two different themes for the first and second halves of the level, so this too is a two-fer. They're two of the standout tunes from the X series' debut on the PlayStation, and bring me right back to when I first played the game.

#17: Frosty Frolic (Donkey Kong Country 3) - The first appearance of a Donkey Kong Country game on here and it won't be the last. This track is energetic and exudes "snow theme".

#16: Petrolith Castle (Skyblazer) - Given the length/repetition of the track, I may have placed this one too high up. It plays in a beautiful ice castle, with the Indian-sounding instrumentation that characterizes this game and a hint of sadness.

#15: Hiya-Hiya Island (Super Adventure Island II) - This is a quintessential "ice area" theme. It's basically three different themes that flow into and enhance each other. One of many tracks in this game that are shockingly good.

#14: Ice Cap Zone (Sonic the Hedgehog 3) - Probably my favorite track from any Sonic game, this one is infectious and inspired a great acapella from Smooth McGroove.

 #13: Ice Mountain (Super Ghouls and Ghosts) - It's hard to appreciate this tune during the game because of how deadly the stage is. The music has a mythical vibe to it, like you're creating a legend as you go. For me it's synonymous with finally closing in on the endgame of this very difficult trek.

 #12: Dun Murogh (World of Warcraft) - One of World of Warcraft's earliest areas is also one of its most impressive, in terms of audio, visuals, and layout. For a long time it was one of only two snowy areas in the entire game (until players got an entire continent of snowy areas). This tune has the feel of the beginning of an epic journey.

 #11: Slipside Ride (Donkey Kong Country) - This game has one of, if not THE best soundtrack of any game on the Super Nintendo. Just astounding music all around, and a great game to go along with it (even if it doesn't really do anything that Mario didn't already do). Slipside Ride is the only ice level in the game, but it's extremely memorable. Between this uplifting music and the way the ice crystals sparkle and flash all around you as you run through the level, it's one game experience I'm not likely to forget about.

#10: Buried in Snow (Final Fantasy VII) - Plays during a particularly depressing section of the game, but this music manages to not be too dark. It also reminds me of the snowboarding minigame. Looking forward to the remix of this tune in the remake of Final Fantasy VII...if we ever see that game.

#9: Tundra (Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim) - Much like Dun Murogh, this is a relaxing theme that plays as you look out over an expansive landscape. The Elder Scrolls and Fallout series' have very underrated soundtracks, likely because the music tends to be closer to ambient rather than loud or right up in the foreground.

#8: Snow Labyrinth (Brave Fencer Musashi) - This almost sounds more like a rain theme. At the very least, it's reminiscent of icicles falling. It might be placed too high due to the overall repetitiveness of the sound, but I found this track to be super-fitting for a snow labyrinth when I played the game and have fond memories of it.

  #7: Bresha Ruins (Final Fantasy XIII-2) - Technically, this isn't really a snow theme; it isn't snowing in all of the locations you hear it. However, in the areas where it IS snowing (or raining), this theme is fitting and compulsively listenable. FFXIII-2 had a certain look and sound to it that was very impressive for the time, even if the game itself wasn't quite as good as I hoped. Kinda like Chrono Cross.

#6: Chill Penguin (Mega Man X) - One of the first tracks I heard in Mega Man X. It's a fantastic tune among many others that set the mood for the X series nicely. Every time I listen to this I can almost hear the sound effects from that stage as if they're part of the song.

#5: Phendrana Drifts (Metroid Prime) - One of the most atmospheric and mind-blowing games I've ever played, and the snowy labyrinth of Phendrana is a contender for the most memorable location in it. The music adds a lot to the cold environment of the game.

#4: Narshe (Final Fantasy VI) - The best word I have for this one is "mystical". The piano, the almost somber melody, and the heavy breaths all combine to create something incredibly moody for the snowy mining city of Narshe. As a kid, I used to leave this theme playing while I stepped outside into the snow (close enough to still hear it) and it fit the real world just as well as it fit the game. Just outstanding.

#3: Labyrinth of Dragons (World of Final Fantasy) - Another Square game with an unexpectedly great soundtrack is World of Final Fantasy. This track plays in the icy mountains of the dragon labyrinth. Just a fantastic "battle in the frozen north" kind of tune.

#2: Vision On Ice (Tobal No. 1) - Masashi Hamauzu really brings it with this one. Tobal is a relatively unsung early Playstation fighting game with an incredible soundtrack featuring some of Square's best composers. Each stage has a different frenetic, high-energy track giving it a distinctive mood. For the ice stage, we get this crystalline-sounding, dramatic fight theme. It veers dark in some places, but it takes you out of that darkness as it goes on.

#1: A Wish (Secret of Mana) - There wasn't really any other choice for first place. "A Wish" plays as you cross the ice forest in Secret of Mana, fending off wolves and trying not to get too distracted by the sparkling, snow-covered trees. Like so much of the soundtrack of this game, this tune tends to invoke memories and emotions in anyone who experienced it when they were younger.


  1. That was quite the aural experience.

  2. This is a great idea for a list... I was hoping A Wish would be at the top. I was not disappointed. :)