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Top 10 Soundtracks Created On The Amiga

Lifeschool . . . Comments

Back in the early days of the computer game industry, the music, as well as everything else, had to be painstakingly programmed in by hand. Getting the music to sound anything like a real tune was hard enough, but getting the instruments to sound anywhere near authentic was almost impossible. Thankfully, as the 80’s turned into the 90’s, machines got bigger and better, and with a lot more resources to not only incorporate music, but to make a half decent job of reproducing the instruments as well.

At the time, the market leader in game music quality was the Commodore 64; which had three whole audio channels to play around with; while rivals Spectrum, Atari, Amstrad and PC had to make do with single channel ‘plinky-plonky’ music and sound effects. Then along came the Commodore Amiga (and thanks to stolen blueprints, the Atari ST), with new 16-bit technology, and up to 8 available audio channels to mix down to high quality stereo. In addition, the Amiga (and ST) were fully MIDI compatible; which essentially meant that a computer and a synthesizer would be linked directly to each other at last. It wasn’t long before the seasoned hacks of game audio realised the possibilities of this new solution, and began to experiment.

These are some of the most memorable theme tunes to come out of that five year period, before the CD brought studio sound to the world of gaming. Note: Due to the limitations of the Youtube media available, some of these soundtracks are cut short, are of poor quality, or do not represent the game graphics to their fullest or most fluid. This is the first of two lists which will eventually comprise the 20 best.

10

SWIV
Andrew Barnabas (Storm), 1991

SWIV (short for Silk Worm IV) is a vertically scrolling shoot-em-up where the player takes control of either a helicopter or a battle jeep to negotiate a vast landscape and hundreds of attacking enemies. In keeping with the somewhat futuristic and military aspects of the game, Andrew Barnabas carved out a brash and upbeat main theme using music which would not be out of place in an action movie of that period. Andrew is very prolific, and is still at the forefront of game music today with the likes of Fable II, Star Wars: The Force Unleashed, and Tomb Raider: Underworld.

9

Pinball Fantasies
Olof Gustafsson (21st Century Entertainment), 1992

Pinball Fantasies is the second of three pinball simulators created by Digital Illusions on the Amiga, creating the very first vertical scrolling virtual pinball tables with an authentic feel. Each game came with four tables of varying difficulty and appeal, with usually one of these standing out as a real jaw-dropper. These games also earned a reputation for their long introductions and scores, both of high quality and atmosphere. This second game score by Gustafsson is a vastly more polished track than it’s predecessor (Pinball Dreams) and stands out as a synth-heavy and quite edgy futuristic anthem. In 2005, he left Digital Illusions to start a new company, called Motherlode Studios, later known as Epos Game Studios AB.


8

Zool
Patrick Phelan (Gremlin Graphics), 1992

Zool (Ninja ‘ant’ of the “Nth” Dimension) is a scrolling platformer similar to the Super Mario games, where the player has to run along and jump over a landscape of cute but deadly creatures and scenery. Deceased foes release extra Health, and the player could stick to walls in his attempt to negotiate the surprisingly tricky levels. One of the stand-out aspects of the game was the theme, which could be selected as one of two in-game tunes. Combining cutesy techno samples with hardcore break-beats, the music capitalised on the urgency needed to play the game through. Recently, Phelan founded Full Circle Audio to provide audio solutions for games. He now writes music for commercials, sound design for TV and also provides consultancy and game design services.

7

Turrican 2
Chris Hülsbeck (Rainbow Arts), 1991

Turrican 2 is a multi-directional scrolling platform shoot-em-up, with the player in command of a heavily armoured robo suited character with a variety of lethal weapons. Among these, the character wielded a very powerful ‘Ghostbusters’ type particle laser, smart bombs, bouncing bullets, and could disappear into a gyroscope to slip down cracks and to dice enemies to bits. The main theme was another master-piece, combining some aspects of opera and synth-pop to emphasise the main Turrican theme developed in the first game. By playing through the whole theme, the player was rewarded with a cartoon slideshow depicting the games’ story-line. Available on the album “Turrican Soundtrack”, remixed by the author.

6

Apidya
Chris Hülsbeck (Blue Byte), 1992

Apidya is a very unique game indeed. It features the main character as a wasp (a wasp?), weaving it’s way across a meadow, a pond and a sewer, and avoiding or destroying all the insect life it encounters along the way. The games soundtrack follows running themes and ‘hooks’ and develops as each stage of the game is completed – a real encouragement to the player to battle through the mayhem on screen. Chris Hülsbeck has orchestrated many of his classic themes, and his music from Apidya, Turrican 2, Turrican 3 and Great Giana Sisters was performed live at the Symphonic Game Music Concert series in Leipzig, Germany between 2003-2007. The concert album “Symphonic Shades” was released on December 17, 2008. The Apidya theme is also available on the album “Apidya Soundtrack”, remixed by the author.

5

Sensible World Of Soccer
Richard Joseph and John Hare (Renegade), 1995

SWOS is a top-down scrolling soccer game – in the same miniature scale as Cannon Fodder, and features our final theme by composer Richard Joseph. By now, the technology existed to compress audio samples to such a degree that full speech songs were now possible, and “Goal-scoring Superstar Hero”, sung by Jackie Read, did just that. The song was a triumph of the latest resampling techniques and featured a chorus as well as a verse. A later remix of this song, made for “Sensible Soccer 2006”, had another two verses added to it. The CD version of the game also included the studio recording as an audio track. Richard Joseph went on to win the BAFTA Award in 2000 for best audio in the game “Theme Park World”. He died of lung cancer in early 2007.


4

State of the Art
Rune Svendsen and Paal Granum (Spaceballs), 1992

State of the Art is another demonstration of the sound and graphical capabilities of the Amiga, using advanced programming techniques to combine silhouette dancers with hardware generated special effects – one of the very first sources to do so to such an
extent. The music is in the hardcore rave style that was very popular at that time, using many high quality synth sounds and modern sounding rhythms; which seems to complement the presentation to a tee.

3

Project X
Allister Brimble (Team 17), 1992

Project X follows the classic side-scrolling shoot-em-up formula of R-Type and features a selection of ships as well as a wide range of upgradeable weapons and gadgets to help the test pilot through the levels. It also had a very up-to-date soundtrack for the period. The main theme returned once again to the hardcore rave scene and in doing so created one of the most recognisable themes on the Amiga. There are several versions of the theme, and the author himself has remixed and reconstructed it for mainstream release. Allister now works as a freelance musician and sound designer for the games and console industry with Anthony Putson as “Orchestral Media Developments”.


2

9 Fingers
Rune Svendsen (Spaceballs), 1993

9 Fingers was one of the later graphical demos to be released by Spaceballs on the Amiga. If features an updated version of the silhouette model created for the State of the Art demo the year before, and falls back on hardcore trance music to showcase the effect. This time, the technology allowed for more fleshed out human features and also a slightly higher quality audio experience. The theme is short and not very technical in it’s use of the format, but manages to sound almost studio quality in its production – a real step forward in computer sound until the CD age brought ‘real’ audio to the industry. This demo is also incredible in that it manages to squeeze all that onto one 880k disc! Today, storing just one single picture or a frame of animation may require more than 1MB! Rune Svendsen is currently involved in stage and theatre production.

1

Xenon 2 – Megablast
David Whittaker (Image Works), 1989

Xenon 2 – Megablast – is a vertical scrolling shoot-em-up with all the associated toys and weapons of that genre. To give the game the edge, the games creators – The Bitmap Brothers – co-operated with the British musician Tim Simenon of ‘Bomb The Bass’ to include the hip-hop track ‘Megablast – Hip Hop On Precinct 13’ (which is also the origin of the game’s subtitle), as the title music – to become the very FIRST game to accurately include an existing pop single as its theme. The song itself is based on the theme of John Carpenter’s ‘Assault on Precinct 13’ movie, and also features samples from Sly and the Family Stone song, ‘You Can Make It If You Try’. There are two versions of the track in the game: a nearly faithful rendition (only missing a few spoken lines) as the loading music, and a simplified version as the in-game background music. The Amiga version also had a few changes; such as helicopter sound effects at the beginning and ending of the track. David Whittaker is also no stranger to programming audio hits. His sub-tune of ‘Lazy Jones’ was the basis for the dance hit ‘Kernkraft 400’ by Zombie Nation, which went to number 1 in many European countries. David is still busy today working on the LEGO (Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Batman) action series of games.

Contributor: Lifeschool



  • Hemant

    am I first one to comment. I am regular reader from 2007 and second comment..:o

  • Hemant

    Lovely list as usual.

  • pikot

    hi there man from 2007, its already 2009
    :p

  • Darren

    Now these bring back memories :D
    Making me feel old…

  • Redcaboose

    They sound so primitive now, but back then they were really cutting edge. I used to stay up all night playing games on the Atari 2600, and I thought the sounds on those cartridges was great:Pong, pac man, space invaders. I still run across them on the net every once in a while.

  • Jack Deth

    Wizball had a fantastic soundtrack, or was that C64?

  • The sound clips all make you appreciate just how far computers have come in quite a short time. Just imagine what the future holds for us!

  • LeeJH

    Most of the best Amiga music was on the demos, not the games. Luckily a lot of it could be ripped, and I still have a big collection of MOD files with some really good and original music.

  • Metalwrath

    The music sounds very 80s… reminds me of the first Terminator film for some reason.. kind of disco hip hop electronicish..
    Interesting list although I didn’t understand most of it :p

  • comeonguys

    come on guys, give us lists that throw us out of our chairs like you used to.

  • stunty

    Xenon 2 FTW!

  • Spange

    Cool list, very well written and informative. Takes me back, damn I wish I still had an Amiga :(

    • MrZoon ~8Þ

      I have about 7 of them :))

  • Paro

    Yeah….Bring on some controversy Jamie!

  • joydivision

    hey anyone played Contra? I like its soundtrack!!

  • Gina

    Awesome list!

    Just a little side fact on the Amiga – one of the art museums in Detroit had an exhibit a few years ago featuring a digital movie made by Andy Warhol on an Amiga from the 1980s (Warhol was a huge fan of the Amiga and really liked working on them). The exhibit was only displayed for one day though due to legal estate issues.

  • Nameless

    Yeeeesss!! Not one but *two* Team7/Team 17 games! I loved pretty much all of their games back then. I played with Pinball Dreams and Pinball Fantasies so furiously that I broke the Esc button and the the LCtrl button too :-P There was another awesome game of theirs that isn’t featured here, Superfrog, one of the best platforms I’ve ever seen. And its music was wicked too. Started with a rendition of Greensleeves in the intro then went on with an original soundtrack complete with croaks. Dang, even the stupid pirate’s intro on my disc had an awesome tune! Good times.

  • oouchan

    I can’t believe I remember these! I feel so old!

    I liked Xenon 2 and Project X. Now I play Assassins Creed…wow…what a difference. Still like the old ones though!

  • damien_karras

    Wow, is this a niche topic. Well done, though, on your research. Jumpman FTW!

  • I know nothing

    OMG! I cant believe cannon fodder’s not there its one of the best tunes to come out of the amiga,btw i still got mine and the Atari STE and still work fine.Great to play when i’m feeling retro :)

  • CFkimahri

    This list made me sign up!

    I love the Amiga 500. Hell I even downloaded MP3’s of these songs.

    I am upset that there is no Cannon Fodder, Chaos Engine or Lotus on there.

  • Krav

    WTF, who cares. Better lists please! This crap is so old. i never had an atari. my first system was sega genesis.

  • debaser

    Cannon Fodder should b there

  • Steve

    Silkworm was AWESOME! I was always the Jeep, and my brother was always the Helicopter. Totally could beat that game!

  • Josh V.

    Boring list, apparently its becoming difficult as of late to keep the interesting lists coming after two years of mostly outstanding topics.

  • Gigi

    WTF is Amiga?

  • Violet

    Ok…..being an avid lover of synth music, is it wierd that I want to download some of these songs and throw them into my playlist??

  • Cyn

    23. Josh V. –
    of the almost 2 doz comments only a handful or less have expressed that same ‘beat the dead horse’ sentiment. if this list does not appeal to you, check the archive. better yet – submit your own list!

    seriously – why do people post comments complaining about one particular list being an indication of the overall condition of this site? or even a coupla lists about topics they themselves do not have an interest in but given the comments of other commentors, obviously some folks do. why is your one opinion so much more important than all the commentors before you?
    i don’t get it.
    if you don’t find a list interesting. find another list on site to read. submit your own list. go outside and play in traffic. something.
    why be so negative and post spiteful or in some cases downright hateful comments. does it get you off? keep you from going postal at work? keep you from beating your spouse? kicking the dog? what? it takes effort to type something out like this…why expend the effort to post a negative comment? why not expend that same effort by contributing constructive criticism or even another list idea if not an actual list?
    seriously folks lighten up. be happy. life is way too short to generate negativity w/ non constructive critique. :)
    so sez the over caffienated Cyn the admin ;)

  • smurff

    Where are you Randall ? We need some professional input here !
    Just a line or ten not a whole essay again.

  • Bagly

    Ok.

  • SuperHero3

    Long live the “old-school”!

  • EAL

    Does Turrican 2 look suspiciously like Metroid to anyone else?

  • Lifeschool

    OOps, I think my comment (27) was jumping the gun.

  • Wow – slow day! Lifeschool – your comment has been removed for the reasons you stated in your email :)

  • bigski

    Again-I don`t understand. Nothing bad to say.Will leave arguements to the geek squad. Have a wonderful day.

  • Lifeschool

    32: JFrater, yeah – all true Amiga fans will love this list in time, but it may take a while for casual visitors to come along and comment. In my book, no news is good news – I am posing no great argument with this list, so it shouldn’t attract too much in return.

    6: Jack Deth, it was better on the C64, if this list takes off, I’d L.O.V.E. to do a C64 music list – remember Rob Hubbard?

    15:Nameless – yeah! Right On! I had Superfrog on the list from the get go, only removed it to squeeze others on. I also liked the dog barkingly funny Fire and Ice theme.

    18: IKnowNothing: Ah, just wait for the second part.

    19. CFkimahri “This list made me sign up!”, yeah, me too as it happens.

    25. Violet – very good! They are classic even today. You can download all these tracks in Mp3 at: http://www.amigamusic.com – click on the tiny disk icon.

    Keep those memories coming.

  • Blogball

    Nice list Lifeschool. Your informative intro perked my interest and so I went to Wikipedia to learn a little more about the Amiga.
    It’s Kind of sad that they couldn’t stay around especially for a computer that was ahead of it’s time in the beginning.

  • Kreachure

    LOL anyone who knew what this list was about before actually reading it is officially a nerd…

    and I certainly did! :P

  • osy

    hey it’s a great list!
    it reminds me an “8 bit music” group, “anamanaguchi”

    saludos!

  • oouchan

    26. Cyn
    Hear, Hear!!!

    I personally like the part of playing in traffic… :)

  • fgds

    My favourite amiga music was from GODS, by bomb the bass.
    I think this is the DOS version, but the music is the same

    http://au.youtube.com/watch?v=vj0vPVuspaw

  • Addyoung

    What the hay is an amiga!? Sounds like magic

  • shamzahm

    i don’t like the past few lists D:

  • Lifeschool

    40: fgds – Glad you think so, stay tooned for the second part of this list 10-20 (I think the editor meant to put these lists on in descending order…)

  • Lifeschool

    36: Blogball. Thank You. I feel like the Amiga is lost on those who are too young or from a part of the world where the Amiga was unknown. If you do read the blurb on the Wiki, the original A1000 is the place to start. BTW, the A1000 in all it’s mark 1 glory reached No.7 in PC World’s list of the greatest PCs (Personal Computers that is), of ALL TIME. The Apple II came first. Here’s the link:
    http://www.pcworld.com/article/126692-8/the_25_greatest_pcs_of_all_time.html

  • Lifeschool

    Wow, just found these clips for anybody who is unfamiliar – or especially those who are familiar, with the Amiga.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DaRkacQ-YMg
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k5CYsgVCzYY

    WAY ahead of its time is an understatement!

  • theturbolemming

    Man, video game soundtracks are so seriously underrated. Even back to the Amiga!

  • diogenes

    -tossin and turnin’ here
    ….and i thought i knew what was what
    -thought i was in with the clique
    -was down in the groove and all

    Think i better just revert and take lots of E
    and put on the sweat bands
    & glow sticks-et al

    and lock myself in the closet with a strobe light
    and this playlist on my brainpod

    and get with it.
    re-program
    undergo a proper circuit (c-section)
    right out of the involuted future womb

    I have so much to learn.
    The Amiga was in The House Apon The Hill
    among the knotty weeds of plastic coated wire brush
    We could only gain access by which way the wind blew on any particular day
    but only if it blew right
    or even dare to tread the long winding path
    in troops or action figure/matchbox car cases in tow
    The inner lair could be diserned from the outerworld
    by way of high voltage cables and transformers.
    it all sort of mixed into a golden reflection like foil around chocolate, surrounded by floating commercial clouds

    “good luck on penetrating the electro mother within”.
    and we would knock on the door of the future and all its viral enbodiment of our youthful desires.
    “Is Stevie home?”
    “Stevie’s dead.”

    So this is The Way of The Shaman?

    nice effort Lifeschool, I have no idea what your talking about.
    all i last remember is taking a silly “so-called robotics class” as a kid, at the local Children’s Museum, and the guy showing us how he made his robot “dance” and “sing” “Daisy” .
    And all us “kids” thought it was really stupid, but played along , all the same.

    YMCK and Hirokazu Tanaka is really all I can add. But I dont really know much of anything about them. just part of the “music” I would have only come across -by way of having a compooter in my hands for way too long.

    Your message comes across in the writing of the list and for those that know—perhaps one day their children will unearth this beaut.

    p.s. The Arts stretches to Infinity

  • bigski

    Well said dio.

  • Lifeschool

    47. diogenes: Nice use of quotations there; I only thought they could be used for brand names, slang, quotes, trademarks and logos… go figure. And yes, this may be the way of a shaman :) if he was brought up with an Amiga :D. But I’m not a shaman: just a man of the world – I’ve looked into shamanism, but prefer to take the broader view.

  • sarahenity

    I’ve still got my Amiga :D I’ll have to hook it up… I know it still works fine, and I’ve had it there for as long as I can remember

  • Melina

    What??!?!?! No Monkey Island???

  • sharlu

    can i join the “amiga?? wat the?!?!” club

  • Reath

    So many fond memories came flooding back as I read this list.
    Cheers Lifeschool.

    Congratulations to Jamie for running a site with lists on such a diverse array of topics.

  • DJM

    Where is Body Blows and Speedball 2?

  • HungryDead

    Just spent maybe 4 hours reading a bunch of lists, very interesting site. Ignoring technical quality it’s surprising just how much is re-invented and what creativity the musicians, artists and programmers had back then. Well researched and a good choice of tracks with some excellent synth-pop.

  • tahrey

    Can someone take Krav outside and hang them by the ankles for a little while? Shouldn’t be too difficult as they’re probably not up to adult height yet… Got little time for anyone who thinks that things from before their own narrow little timeframe are automatically worthless.

    Funny thing I that I can’t really think of any Genesis(-exclusive) soundtracks that leap out at me. It had good hardware but the innovative composers seem to have stuck to other systems like the SNES, Miggy and ST (or even Gamegear). Sonic 1 and Streets of Rage may get a look in, but that’s about it.

    Oh yeah and there’s the little point of the Megadrive being largely contemporary with the OTHER 16-bit machines I’ve mentioned above. So is that old and busted as well, then?

    Anyway I must slightly nitpick with the intro as well. The ST was my first “real” computer (my own definition: something you can make a laser printed newspaper with :D), and much as I love it dearly, I don’t remember it having Amiga-troubling audio (or graphic) capabilities, until the less common STe came along (both the STe and Amiga being 4-channel, btw, not 8). Its strengths were more in slightly better raw processing power when not doing multimedia stuff, and built-in MIDI (which the Amiga lacked). But, the on-paper inferior YM2912 synth chip – like a slightly cut down SID – gave it a musical identity all of its own, exploited well at the time and still being used by talented and innovative artists who worked around and with its limitations and capabilities to make some frankly awesome pieces of music (multi timbral, the occasional – scratchy – sample, and crazy crazy abuses of timing and interference to make bizarre industrial sounds). I’d like to see another list of those in fact.

    But for now, much enjoying this one. Its a world I didn’t get to experience at the time except by very rare passing contact – friends of friends, systems in use when visiting prospective high schools etc – and only discovered much later after getting a PC and discovering some MOD repositories. Turrican isn’t maybe as exciting sounding this way, but Xenon 2 is =so= much better :D

  • shaun

    You forgot one of the best demos ever. Jesus on e’s.

  • Frenkie

    Jesus on e’s, That was directly on my mind, wonder if anyone has that for me ?

  • catholicthinker

    I recall the music of Another World as being terrific. And I have to put in a plug for Galaga’s music, one the finest, most addictive computer games ever made.

    Another for consideration is the delightfully kids-y “Beetle” from a British company long defunct. Gosh, how I wanted more than just the demo! The music was cute without being saccharine, somehow.

    Such warm and wonderful memories.

  • Obliterator

    Yeah, galaga music absolutely rocks!

    Very funky videos, i almost puke with all those colors and synth sounds.

  • anurlaiqar

    My fav Amiga soundtrack is from “Rock ‘n’ Roll”… It is the soundtrack of my childhood.

  • Stalvern

    No Shadow of the Beast? A sacrilege!

  • lele

    Turrican 2 is, by far, the best theme of amiga games. And the rest of turrican 2 soundtrack was masterpieces!

  • anon

    Oh, come on!
    Of those, I would only include Project X and MAYBE Zool for the refreshing flutish thingy and Turrican 2. Both demos were crap. What is this, a list of your friends?

    At the bare minimum, the list is missing Supercars 2 and Lotus 2. Especially the latter!
    If you want memorable titles, add Rick Dangerous there.
    AFAICR Nitro had nice music as well.

    How about Lemmings? Ok, not exactly original, but excellent execution.

  • Carlo

    There are some errors in the post:
    1) the commodore Amiga did have 4 audio channels, not 8. (two channels for the left speaker and two for the right speaker
    2) the MIDI port was not available on the amiga: it required an adaptor cable. the Atari ST did instead have a midi port directly on his case. Anyway this wasn't really a great feature: midi is jus a serial port, it requires no really special hardware
    3) the atari ST audio chip was not comparable at all with the one of the amiga: it was more comparable to the one of a c-64. the amiga audio was designed to play real world sampled sounds, the atari ST did have a old style waveform generator, like a C64.
    4) the atari ST was no good at all as a gaming machine it didn't have ANY kind of graphics hardware acceleration, whereas the amiga did have a powerful "bit-blitter" that did in HARDWARE most of the tasks needed in 2D games (scolling, drawing of moving objects over a background and the like)

  • I ♥ Trance

    interesting article! I had no idea so much was done with the Amiga! I remember using my dad's ol' texas instruments cartridge based personal computer back in the 80's to play video games :)

    Also, If you happen to be a fan of trance music like myself :) Check out <a href="http://www.music-trance.com” target=”_blank”>www.music-trance.com Some good original uplifting music :)

  • Lada

    “This demo is also incredible in that it manages to squeeze all that onto one 880k disc! ”

    error, 9 fingers is on 2 FD (State of the art is on 1 disk only)

  • moopersoup

    Nice list, very original. These tracks really draw you in, its easy to see how people can get sucked into these games for hours at a time.

  • Vic

    Why isn’t Elf included?

  • Nick

    Where the EFF is Shadow of the Beast?

  • MrZoon ~8Þ

    AMIGA ROOLZ!

    • MrZoon ~8Þ

      Yeah, and SotB.. Blood Money.. &c. DW is a FRICKIN GOD, BTW but there are hundreds of other gods and demigods stretching from the wayback right up til today. Check out Nectarine Radio for more juicy Amiga bits.. The A changed my life and the lives of many others, in a world of bleep-bloop and 16 colors it came down hard and fast and furious like an avenging angel of righteous digital fun. Damn the "management" and the diseased horses they rode into town on. I worked in an A dealership and every day we would watch the eyes of the uninitiated widen and pop in amazement, and then we would sell'em, but we kept it real, actually supporting our users (sounds like a drugdeal? :) and having *fun* with them.. show me that today. HPDELLAPPLE blow it out your collective ashes..

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