Listen Hear: Melty Monster Galaxy
Video games have tons of working parts that go into making them all so amazing. The story, the characters, the world, the graphics, the controls. But there is often an element that a lot of people overlook. An element that truly does bring to life a lot of the aforementioned list.
Music is an integral part of my life. Just as in films, the soundtrack can lift whatever game it’s in to an entirely new level. In this series, Listen Hear, I’m going to highlight some of video games’ finest musical pieces and explain why they mean so much to me. Hopefully you’ll find something here you enjoy and perhaps themes you never even noticed. Strap yourself in, we have a few decades to get through.
For an inaugural episode about video game music, it would only be fitting to start with Mario. However, I didn’t want to do the main theme from Super Mario Bros. that everyone is familiar with. It’s been talked about countless times by hundreds of people and they have all said what I would likely repeat, albeit with more curse words. Fuckers.
Instead, I’ve pulled a piece from what I consider one of the best games in recent years, Super Mario Galaxy 2. The track, “Melty Monster Galaxy”, composed and arranged by Ryo Nagamatsu, is a goddamn masterpiece in creating a particular tone. Take a listen.
Don’t you just feel intense? The planet in the game is made up of mostly lava and traversing it is no easy task. The first time I played this level I actually put down the Wiimote and just looked around and listened. It is that good. The music draws you in at first, low and drum heavy. As you move into the level proper, it becomes apparent that it’s extremely lava-centric, including the titular monsters, Magmaarghs. The music intensifies with more brass and louder violins; the danger here is fucking real. Then, right as the track appears to say “Mario just can’t do this…”, it crescendos at around the 50 second mark as it brings back the game’s main theme. It’s here that it has an almost Indiana Jones feel to it, beckoning Mario to explore and defeat his enemies to claim his fabled prize: The Power Star.
Just, goddamnit, what a great song. It has everything you need and tells a complete story in a minute and ten seconds. I’ll be the first to admit that soundtracks from more and more modern games seem to be taking a backseat, becoming forgettable background noise that does nothing to service anything on the screen, which is why I wanted to start with a strong example that goes against that notion. It’s a piece that all composers should strive to emulate. Pull me into your world, Mario.