Anyone who knows me well knows that I am quite the rock fanatic, and a particular metalhead, so this time on NintyBeats I’m here to share a sampling of times Nintendo threw down and pulled out the guitars to shred with the best of them. Get ready to jump down into the mosh pit and headbang to a selection of their finest rock or rock inspired tracks from over the years.
Bowser ~ Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island ~ SNES (1995)
Starting off the list, coming from an unexpected place of origin, is the final climactic battle against Baby Bowser in Yoshi’s Island. Having just been transformed into a giant, glowing eyed monster (this sounds familiar…), this is no longer the bratty child form of the soon to be King of the Koopas. The musical choice can be very easily described as akin to thrash metal sprinkled with dashes of prog rock keyboard for an energetic finale to an otherwise colourful game. While it’s making the best it can of the sample based SNES sound hardware, it still pulls through in the end.
The Long Distance of Murder ~ F-Zero X ~ Nintendo 64 (1998)
Now we enter the realm of proper speed metal with F-Zero X, lightning fast and heart pumping just like the do or die, high octane races the series is well known for. The Nintendo 64 is better at providing crunchy samples for heavy guitars than the SNES ever was, while still being relatively charming in its execution, we’re not quite there yet for actual streamed music on proper instruments just yet. As an aside, F-Zero X actually had an arrange album recorded on live instruments which is an absolute treat to listen to. And yes, the track is actually called that, not often you’ll see “murder” used in the normally family friendly Nintendo vocabulary.
Chapter 14: Lightning Battle ~ Kid Icarus: Uprising ~ Nintendo 3DS (2012)
Leaping forward quite considerably, over a decade in fact, to the 3DS with the revitalisation of the Kid Icarus franchise in Masahiro Sakurai’s guidance. Starting off the chapter with a fast and frenetic shredding of the guitar before quickly flying into the realm of prog rock for a piece that evolves as you play through the chapter. Seeing as the first half of each stage is an on-rails shooter, this piece is specially made to go alongside a scripted sequence of events as you progress towards the halfway point, lending itself well to the progressive nature of the genre.
Justice RIP ~ Fire Emblem Warriors ~ Nintendo Switch, New Nintendo 3DS (2017)
Whilst not the first of the Nintendo themed Warriors games, this was a fine opportunity to include Fire Emblem in the mix seeing as Zelda is a little further along in the list. Being a remix of a track from Fire Emblem Fates on the 3DS, this piece has sweeping fantasy elements to it alongside the traditional Warriors guitars. An orchestra ensemble accompanies the rock guitar to add flavour to the original Japanese inspired soundtrack that the Birthright half of Fates had in tow.
Incoming! ~ Xenoblade Chronicles 2 ~ Nintendo Switch (2017)
Hitting hard and fast, Incoming! pulls no punches as it quickly throws you into action. Being one of the story boss themes, it’s no surprise that it has weight to it, motivating the player to perform better in battle. The violins accompanying the guitars work to create a sense of motion and even act as just an important instrument to the piece as the guitar does. In fact, this song knows to actually have a breather several minutes in, only to shift back into gear to continue the fight.
Battle! Marnie ~ Pokemon Sword and Pokemon Shield ~ Nintendo Switch (2019)
A bit more in the pop-rock side of things, Marnie’s theme serves as a contrast to her harsh outside appearance with a sweeter side within. Despite this, a sense of determination is conveyed with the punk rock guitars that go along with the theme of Team Yell as a whole. There are more “rock”-like tracks in the game, particularly Team Yell’s battle theme, but I feel Marnie’s theme better suits the game’s focus on rivalries and growth as a Pokemon Trainer.
Frozen Grotto (Familyjules) ~ Cadence of Hyrule ~ Nintendo Switch (2019)
Perhaps the song that goes the hardest on the list, Familyjules’ contribution to the Zelda themed Cadence of Hyrule is probably the only time you’ll ever hear djent in an officially endorsed Zelda game. There are more familiar songs in the soundtrack, remixes of celebrated songs from Zelda’s history, but none quite hit as hard as the Frozen Grotto’s theme when playing with Familyjules’ music enabled from the expansion pass DLC. While he did do the guitar work in the base game, Jules went above and beyond for the DLC remixes, even going as far as to use a bass guitar string on an 8-string guitar to really hit those low notes for a deeply satisfying, crunchy sound.
Bowser’s Fury (Lake Lapcat West) ~ Super Mario 3D World + Bowser’s Fury ~ Nintendo Switch (2021)
And we come full circle, from Bowser as a child to him as a hulking kaiju monstrosity terrorising Lake Lapcat in the latest Mario outing. Much like how Cadence of Hyrule brought heavy metal to Zelda, Bowser’s Fury now has a suitable hard rock theme to run in fear from as Fury Bowser wreaks havoc to an unsuspecting Mario. There is even unintelligible growling to go alongside the almost death metal riffs. Lake Lapcat West’s variation of the theme adds some additional guitar flourishes and even a bit of whammy bar action too, making it a more intense variation of the song.
And so comes an end to our little rock adventure. Needless to say, Nintendo aren’t shy at flexing musical variety into their games when appropriate, and that doesn’t just end with rock or metal. It is a musical style that has stuck with me over the years, invigorating and motivating me throughout my life, be it in creative endeavours or for exercising routines. With all that said and done, I hope you’ve enjoyed jamming to the vertical slice of tunes I’ve shared with you, and remember to rock on!
Long time fan of Nintendo and games in general, I always lean on the quirkier and unique sides of things in particular. It all started when I was lucky enough to get a Gameboy Color and Pokemon Yellow for my tenth birthday and it’s been going strong ever since. I’ve always had a need to get my voice heard and share anything I find interesting with the world.