Hearing a snippet of a new Kero Kero Bonito song during the PlayStation 5 Bugsnax reveal last month was sublime I never expected to hear one of my favourite genre-busting bands on a soundtrack for a videogame, but it also kind of makes perfect sense for them?
As a long time KKB fan I’ve seen them completely re-imagine their sound with each project. Their earlier tracks have an unmistakable game-tinged sound to them, utilizing electronic-pop, samples, and synths to emulate a nostalgic feeling while still keeping a defined style.They nail every type of music they try out, from the superpop sounds on Bonito Generation, to the more mellow indie rock in Time ‘n’ Place. They don’t miss.
Kinda bug and kinda snack
Try to catch ‘em in your trap
Feed somebody and you’ll see
We are whatever we eat
The pan flutes on this track take me back to Koji Kondo’s compositions for Super Mario 64: floaty and dreamlike melodies that lift you away from your controller and into a different world. That’s no accident: Kero Kero Bonito producer/songwriter Gus Lobban wrote a behind-the-scenes blog post for PlayStation on how the band put this theme together in quarantine, and in it he mentioned fifth-generation gaming soundtracks as a big part of his inspiration for Bugsnax.
The full Bugsnax song had its world premiere at the Summer Game Fest, featuring a cool remote performance from Kero Kero Bonito, and it was amazing. There wasn’t even a gameplay reveal. The song alone was the center of attention. It was refreshing to see focus put on the soundtrack of a game, highlighting the artists that help bring digital worlds to life. It’s not something you see often at gaming events.
It’s exciting that Kero Kero Bonito, specifically, is getting involved in game music. They’re a group that absolutely has what it takes to produce a perennial gaming bop. I hope this opens up the avenue for more fun internet artists collaborating with game developers because we one hundred percent need 100 Gecs on the Halo Infinite soundtrack.
Bugsnax’s banger of a theme song isn’t the first videogame anthem, of course, but it got us in the mood to talk about some of our favorites. These are songs that have stolen the spotlight and our hearts, and have become inseparable from the games they came from.
WARNING! This handy dandy playlist will have you singing along to some gaming earworms, so be cautious…
“We Are Burning Rangers”—Burning Rangers
This is a song that gets you pumped up no matter what. You don’t even need to know who or what the Burning Rangers are to get into this track. It’s such a slick arrangement carried by the videogame music powerhouse Marlon Saunders (known for his work on Sega games including Knuckle’s theme from Sonic Adventure). I stumbled onto this song after tripping and falling down a deep autoplay hole a few months ago and it has lived in my brain ever since. My favorite videogame songs are songs that I could play for my family and friends without them asking if it’s from a videogame, and this passes that test with burning colors.
Getting context on the concept of the game makes the song so much better. You play as a team of super firefighters who have to extinguish fires and save people in space. When you launch Burning Rangers you’re greeted with an action-packed flashy intro that’s reminiscent of a ‘90s anime. The whole soundtrack is composed of cheesy, memorable songs that fill you with an exhilarating energy. Every single track is dripping with passion; it feels like the musicians were trying to make something timeless, and it worked. It all makes me want to run outside, do a little dance, and extinguish a fire safely. You gotta bump it.
They are Burning Rangers, go!
They will never let you down!
Hyper, Burning Rangers, wow!
Don’t you lose your hopes now!
“Resort Island: Can You Feel The Sunshine”—Sonic R
I don’t think scientists will ever discover what makes this song such a gem, but that’s okay.
The whole song is imbued with a cheeky hedgehog energy that makes me speed up whenever it comes on during my quarantine walks. I can’t help it! It’s such a positive, feel-good track about taking a break and appreciating the world around you. A much needed reminder during this stagnant time full of bad news and more bad news.
Can you feel the sunshine?
Does it brighten up your day?
Don’t you feel that sometimes
You just need to run away?
If you don’t like this song, I’m sorry to inform you that you are in fact Dr. Eggman.
Sonic R isn’t a good game, but somehow it is stuffed top to bottom with some of the best videogame music I’ve ever heard—truly timeless melodies that bring a whole layer of emotion to an awkward racing game. Although I won’t be picking that game up again anytime soon, I will always be playing its soundtrack.
“Heartbeat, Heartbreak”—Persona 4: Golden
This song plays when you’re walking around in Persona 4: Golden, and since that game has a lot of walking, you end up hearing this song frequently. A constantly looping song in a videogame has the potential to get grating fast, but that’s not the case for “Heartbeat, Heartbreak.” The repetition works to this track’s favor; with each loop it actually gets better, trapping you in a groovy trance while you explore Inaba and all of its weird happenings. It’s such an upbeat track, but after a few listens it’s clear that the lyrics are pushing a very different vibe.
Tell me why you did it, every dream falling apart
Tell me why you did it after the promise…
Heartbeat Heartbeat, it keeps on pounding
Heartbeat Heartbreak, you tell me goodbye
I was kinda shocked when I realized I was dancing to such a sad song, but if they didn’t want me to dance, they won’t have made it such a jam.
Persona 4: Golden on the PlayStation Vita was my go-to subway game before the world turned upside down. Whenever I heard a track that I liked (which are most of them) I would use my Vita like a giant, misshapen iPod—halting my progress, idling my character, and just jamming out to those Persona patented acid jazz-y fusion tracks that Shoji Meguro is known for. One day, when the world reopens, I’ll once again be able to soundtrack my commute with this one—and with Kero Kero Bonito’s Bugsnax theme on the same playlist.
Funké Joseph is a non-binary black writer and artist. Check out their goofs @funkefly.