Before there were Achievements, Trophies or even cutscenes, advancing in a game was usually its own reward. Even in those dark, sensory-deprived days, though, developers had a trick up their sleeve that always made us feel like we’d done something cool by struggling through a level or beating a tough opponent: victory jingles.
Usually defined as a loud fanfare that typically lasts no more than a few seconds, these jingles helped make a lot of tough games more bearable, and they’re still a staple of modern games (if not as frequently seen). In some cases, they’ve become even more recognizable than the games themselves. They’re also fun to listen to on their own, so we pulled together a list of our favorites for your ear-based enjoyment.
We won’t lie to you: some of the music you’re about to hear is so ancient, the notes will probably crumble to dust as they’re played. So in the interest of not boring our younger readers to death right off the bat, we’ll start with a game actually made in the last 10 years. Specifically this year.
You might not think a gritty, free-roaming game like Fallout: New Vegas would feature victory fanfares, and for the most part you’d be right. But if you recruit the little floating robot ED-E as your companion, you’ll get them at the end of every battle. Because he can’t talk, he’ll let you know hostilities have ceased by blasting out a sharp, bombastic little fanfare that makes ED-E worth having around all by itself.
If you spent much time in arcades in the mid-‘80s, this is a sound you’ve probably already heard a lot. Less a jingle than a terrifying “warp” sound, the transition between screens in the ever-manic shooter Robotron wasn’t so much a triumphant fanfare as it was a split-second warning that you were about to be thrown back into the shit. Even 28 years after its release, it’s still an instantly recognizable klaxon of doom.
This is another early-‘80s classic, although one that a lot of you probably haven’t heard, for reasons only partly related to its age. It only plays when you’ve “finished” the now-tough-as-nails Donkey Kong and rescued Pauline, at which point the game starts over at a higher difficulty. Until then, enjoy your brief burst of old-timey music.
Forget that laughing bastard dog (who you could actually shoot in the arcade version) for a second. Remember the mellow tones that played whenever you actually won? They almost made putting up with that canine’s shenanigans tolerable. Almost.
Above: Yeah, yeah, it’s not like this is the hardest victory screen in the world to get. Shut up
Duck Hunt may be familiar, but it’s nowhere near as rewarding to hear as the K.O. fanfare from Nintendo’s other most internet-famous game. It plays every time you successfully punch one of your giant opponents in the face enough times to send him sprawling to the canvas, which toward the end of the game is a lot tougher to pull off than it sounds.
Bringing this up now might give you the impression that this article is just a little too Nintendo-focused – which, to be fair, it probably is. But the sounds we’re about to play for you are some of the most iconic in videogame history. And while they’re not technically “victory” jingles, tell us the sound that plays when you find a hidden item doesn’t make it feel like a bigger victory than single-handedly killing a hundred Kraids.
Not quite the sound you were expecting? That’s because that one didn’t happen until Metroid II.
Above: You know, the one almost nobody played
Considering just how obscure Metroid II is, it’s a little weird that its item theme became the one that the rest of the series would stick with.
That’s probably because the ultra-popular Super Metroid took the theme and refined it, turning it into a piece of music instantly recognized by legions of Nintendo fans, old-school or otherwise.
Above: It also helped that the items were much cooler this time around
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