Back with another music list this week, as I quite enjoy writing them and it gives me a good excuse to listen to some big popping banging tunes! (Did I say that right, youngsters?).
Today’s topic is my Top Ten Favourite Boss Themes. Notice I said “favourite” there. This is not supposed to be an objective list of what I think the best Boss Themes are. It is merely a list of the ones that I personally enjoy the most, so please don’t get your silk knickers in a twist if I don’t include your favourite.
Usual rules apply with these:
- I can only select a piece of music from a game I’ve actually played, so if the boss music from your favourite turned based Elf-em-up isn’t included, that’ll most likely be why.
- It’s one game per selection, so if a game has more than one Boss theme that I like, I have to pick just one and won’t be able to put the other one further down the list.
- The game has to be at least 10 years old to qualify as Retro.
So with that in mind, let’s get started with my first choice!
This one isn’t strictly a Boss Theme, in the sense that it plays throughout the opening level of the game. Set on a tanker, Bond has to rescue some captured women, plant a bomb, and then escape the ship before said bomb explodes. What stands in his way between escape and fiery death, however, is none other than the imposing and terrifying giant known only as “Jaws”.
Played in the movies by the actor Richard Kiel, Jaws is the archetypal Bond Henchman. He’s strong, seemingly invulnerable, and is decked out with a lethal pair of metal teeth that chomp their way through anything or anyone stupid enough to get in the big man’s way.
So, with the bomb primed and the ship ready to blow, you have to find a way past the mountainous Jaws to the escape boat before everything gets a lot more explodey. If you get too close to the behemoth, he grabs you and flings you into the inviting ocean where, at best, you’ll be able to clamber back onto the deck with a large amount of precious seconds wasted or, at worst, the tide takes you into the path of a group of hungry sharks who gobble you up with insatiable glee.
The music is very 80s Bond, and I love it. Composed by Matt Furniss, the game gets an incredible sound from the Mega Drive hardware, which is something that wasn’t always the case as those who played Doom on the system can no doubt attest. It’s marvellous and seemingly always reaches a crescendo when it’s time to lock horns with the monstrous, metal teethed man beast.
Shaking and Stirring in equal measure!
Once again a spruced up Super Nintendo version of a classic theme makes one of my lists. Super Mario All-Stars was one of the first games I ever actually owned, boxed in as it was with my Super Nintendo.
Super Mario Brothers 3 is certainly one of the best games Nintendo has ever released, and it’s even better with the graphical and musical update that All-Stars brings to the table. I remember I used to eagerly anticipate getting to the end of a floating Koopa Air Ship or an imposing castle so that I could do battle with the Boss and listen to this theme.
It’s catchy, snappy, and doesn’t linger. It says all it needs to say in that first exciting loop and still fills me with rich nostalgia whenever I hear it.
High Flying like a Koopa Air Ship!
The Tekken series has its fair share of exciting, high tempo tunes, but the series is also capable of producing much more considered and foreboding music when the occasion calls for it.
True Ogre is the final form of Ogre, who is the Boss character of Tekken 3. Not unlike Cell in Dragon Ball Z, Ogre has a basic form but can evolve and transform into a more imposing and powerful form if he consumes enough energy.
By absorbing power from the game’s eternal antagonist Heihachi Mishima (or tortured protagonist Jin Kazama if you happen to be playing as Heihachi at this point in the game), Ogre transforms into an horrific Dragon/Moth creature, with wings and ferocious fire breath.
Whereas Ogre’s standard theme has a reasonable tempo to it, once True Ogre shows up the music slows down significantly and becomes much more pronounced and unnerving. You immediately get the feeling that something really isn’t right, as the background goes completely dark as Ogre swoops into shot with his new wings.
It’s a theme that’s stuck with me for years and still ranks up there as one of my favourite pieces of music from the entire series.
A song that’s Tekken all the plaudits!
I’m a big fan of the music in the fourth gen Sonic releases, with each game having its unique and enjoyable Boss Themes.
Sonic & Knuckles has a tiered boss system, with minor bosses typically facing off with you at the conclusion to Act 1 in most Zones, with a Major boss following up at the end of Act 2. I like both Boss Themes, but my favourite overall would have to be the Minor Boss music.
It has an enjoyable percussion and is in a permanent state of pensiveness, with doom bubbling below the surface. It works as both music to get you fired up and ready for some boss bashing, while also putting you on notice that one wrong move could lead to your violent doom.
It’s brilliant! I’m not trying to Echidya!
The thick, rich nostalgia that this theme fills me with is off the charts. I’ll never forget traversing Iggy Koopa’s castle for the very first time, only to face off with the sneaky little tyke on a rickety stage surrounded by a threatening pool of lava.
This theme kicked in, the lights went dark, and thus began an epic battle that ended with Iggy taking a spill into the menacing magma below!
I know some will be surprised that I haven’t included Bowser’s famous theme here instead. I obviously enjoy that one very much and think it’s excellent Boss Music, but I ended up plumping more for the Koopaling theme as I enjoy that it’s a bit more up tempo.
It has a lighter and more mischievous feel to it that Bowser’s doesn’t, which just edges it ahead in my own personal opinion. We all have different tastes at the end of the day. Now if you’ll excuse me, I think I’m going to listen to this one again!
It’s an (Iggy) pop treat!
Sticking with the SNES, we go to one of my favourite games of the fourth generation. I think those of you who have read my work before will hardly be surprised that DKC has made an appearance here on this list.
This was another difficult choice as DKC has two very good Boss Themes. King K. Rools theme in the final level of the game is excellent stuff, with a jovial swash buckling start that gradually becomes more sinister and villainous as it progresses. It’s an iconic piece of music from the fourth generation that never fails to raise a smile for those who remember it.
However, I’ve always felt the standard Boss Battle music never really gets its fair credit. It’s a pulsating and dynamic piece of music that really captures all the pressure and stakes of a Big Boss Fight exceptionally well.
Hopefully, by including it here, I can help get a good piece of music some more of the love it richly deserves.
It’s a Banana Hoard of musical goodness!
Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty is another game that has more than one set of Boss music throughout the game. There is a special theme for when Snake fights on the Tanker level, another for the climactic fight at the end of the Plant mission, and then there’s one especially put aside for when you fight the dangerous “Dead Cell” group.
Made up of Fatman, Fortune, and Vamp, Dead Cell are an imposing collection of villainous rogues who make life very difficult for rookie Raiden on his first sneaking mission. This music plays during the battles with the aforementioned members of the group, as well as playing when you have to take on a Harrier jet with just a stinger missile launcher to protect you from instant destruction.
To be honest, that entire section of the game is probably my favourite. The cut scene prior to the battle is one of the best in MGS history, and the battle that follows the cut scene is both enjoyable and harrowing in equal measure.
The music is just perfect for such an occasion, with it seemingly matching the speed of the player’s heart as they have to dodge attack after lethal attack from a man in an armed to the teeth fighter jet!
I have this on my I-Pod and really enjoy listening to it in the gym. I think that Harry Gregson-Williams is an excellent composer who really “got” what MGS was all about and treated the series with the gravitas that people from his background hadn’t really done so before. Gregson-Williams was a respected film composer who Hideo Kojima actively sought out to compose the music for MGS 2. Thank goodness he did, as the music in MGS 2 is top-notch!
This one’s sharp like the edge of a ninja sword!
Despite DKC 2 being possibly my favourite game of all time, I used to hate the last two levels of the normal world as I found them ridiculously hard. The first one is a parrot race between Squark and Kaptain (he’s a pirate now, because reasons) K. Rool’s pet beast, which I still shudder thinking about now.
But that pales in comparison to the eventual battle with the Kaptain himself. I haven’t played this Boss Battle in a while, but dearie me did it drive me almost to madness when I first played it as a child.
It’s not hard to predict how K. Rool will move, but even when you know what’s coming you can sometimes do little about it. This music filled me with dread back in the day, and as I failed numerous times to beat the scandalous sea reptile, I listened to it many a time.
But my own personal pain doesn’t take away from the fact that this is an excellent piece of music and one that I think has very much stood the test of time.
Do you know why the Kremlins are pirates this time out? Cos they ARRGGGHHHHHHH!!!
I don’t think I can properly do this one justice. You’ll have to watch it for yourself.
There’s nothing like a good bowel movement!
I can honestly think of no Boss Music that better suits the character it’s for than this one. When I first played Super Mario 64 I was shocked to see just how big Bowser was. Previously, Bowser hadn’t been that much bigger than Mario. Yes, he was taller and beefier than the beloved plumber, but at least they were both in some semblance of the same universe size-wise.
This all changed with the move to the Fifth Generation.
Bowser positively towers over Mario now, like a T-Rex would one of the hapless humans in a Jurassic Park movie. He spits furious fire breath and stomps around the stage with terrifying strength. This music suits the new Bowser just perfectly.
It’s heavy under foot and has a very menacing tone. I much prefer it to the other theme they give him at the end of the game. This song plods along deliberately, with the snare drum never letting off in the background. It’s a truly marvellous Boss Theme and is probably up there with my favourite Video Game musics of all time.
A stomping good tune!
I hope you’ve enjoyed this little trip down memory lane with me today. I’ll be back next week with more Retro memories.
Thanks for reading
Come On You Blues!!!
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