Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

The staff and artists of OverClocked ReMix make us a list of their favorite video game-inspired songs

Photo: Shariq Ansari/OverClocked Remix

Fifteen years ago today, David W. Lloyd (better known as djpretzel) completed work on “Legacy.” It’s a relatively simple track—a faithful rearrangement of the title theme from Phantasy Star III for a digital orchestra—but it turned out to have an unforeseen lasting impact. Lloyd created the “DJ Pretzel’s OverClocked ReMix” database (derived from OverClocked, the name of his existing web-comic project) as a way to share it and the rest of the remixes he would compose. Over the next few months, he began adding contributions from other musicians as well, and his repository of reimagined and rearranged video game music gradually branched off on its own as OverClocked ReMix.

Today, OverClocked ReMix provides a home for nearly 3,000 remixes, with inspiration drawn from almost 900 games and every musical style—electronic, jazz, hip-hop, heavy metal. It’s proven to be a valuable starting point for musicians looking to break into video game music professionally, with a handful of ReMixers moving on to compose or contribute to beloved game soundtracks, like Super Meat Boy, Mass Effect 2, and Shovel Knight. But the spirit the site fosters—one of celebration, artistic engagement, and collaboration—defines its legacy.


To celebrate OC ReMix’s 15th anniversary, we invited the site’s administrators and some of its most prominent contributors to curate a selection of 25 arrangements, reflecting on some favorite songs from the site’s history and their own artistic growth. Clicking on the title of each remix will take you to its page on the OverClocked ReMix website, where you can find and download thousands of other remixes. If you like what you hear and see, consider supporting OCR by contributing to its Patreon campaign. Here’s djpretzel to kick things off:

djpretzel (David W. Lloyd, OC ReMix founder and administrator)

1. audio fidelity & Jenny Fae Davis, “Somber Memory”—Secret Of Evermore

Picking three remixes from a library of more than 3,000 is never going to be about which ones I think are “best.” (That sort of numerical, zero-sum approach to music is part of what we try to avoid with the way we operate OverClocked ReMix.) Thus, I’ve selected three memorable mixes that each take a different approach to incorporating source material from game soundtracks. My first selection is a remix of Secret Of Evermore by Jay Yaskin (a.k.a. audio fidelity) that he made for our Unsung Heroes album, which was dedicated to obscure and/or previously unmixed game soundtracks. He collaborated with flautist Jenny Fae Davis on this gorgeous, haunting arrangement that focuses on a single theme from one game and really maximizes the emotion and expression of composer Jeremy Soule’s original—a breathtaking, focused interpretation with impeccable production and an amazing performance.

2. djpretzel, “Pachelbel’s Ganon”—The Legend Of Zelda: Ocarina Of Time

This is a remix I made more than decade ago that I feel has aged pretty well: It takes Ocarina Of Time’s title theme and uses that as a verse, while “Zelda’s Theme” is employed as a chorus, offset against a permutation of the basic chord progression from classical staple Pachelbel’s Canon. Crazy, eh? While the cello and other aspects of the instrumentation are a bit dated, it’s got a hip-hop backbone that’s a little more forgiving to acoustic fidelity, or lack thereof. More importantly, though, it’s an example of using multiple themes from a single game or series in the same arrangement, which is often an effective way to cast the originals in a new light through juxtaposition while also building longer A/B song structures out of cues and themes that are shorter. That’s what I tried to do here, and I think it was one of my more successful attempts. It helps that composer Koji Kondo’s melodies are always so unforgettable.


3. Dj Mystix, “Eternal Tears”—Revenge Of Shinobi/Lost Odyssey

Jay Yaskin’s Secret Of Evermore mix was a compelling arrangement of a single theme while my own Zelda mix integrated two themes from the same game in a verse/chorus structure. Finally we come to this arrangement of Revenge Of Shinobi and Lost Odyssey from Mansoor Nazar (a.k.a. Dj Mystix), who has a (great) habit of incorporating multiple themes from totally different games into unified, coherent pop-vocal and instrumental arrangements. While purists might scoff at the idea of mixing musical themes from different fictional universes into a single piece of music, Mansoor Nazar always does what’s right for the music, and he doesn’t think of game or series boundaries as being sacrosanct. The results speak for themselves. Revenge Of Shinobi happens to be one of my favorite game soundtracks, so I picked this specific remix, but almost all of his mixes to date illustrate how compositions from different games and composers can work together.


Big Giant Circles (Jimmy Hinson, co-composer for Mass Effect 2 and Call Of Duty: Black Ops II; former OC ReMix submissions judge)

4. Shnabubula, “Mario Likes Thorazine”—Super Mario Bros.

Sam [Ascher-Weiss, a.k.a. Shnabubula] is one of the most talented musicians I’ve ever met. I once read a quote about him that was something like, “It’s nice to know that if robots ever rise up against mankind, and challenge us in a piano-playing competition for lordship over humanity, Sam can still save us all.” And I believe that. He’s also an amazing composer with a wide range of styles. This remix of arguably the most iconic video game theme ever shows how true that is. Those aren’t even live strings you’re hearing, but most people wouldn’t have any idea, because programming and producing sampled strings to sound both realistic and compelling is extremely difficult and requires admirable attention to detail. It’s amazing from a technical perspective, as well as an all-around light-hearted, fun take on a classic that makes me feel like I got invited to a fancy party I have no business being at.


5. The Wingless, “Godspeed”—Star Fox

The Wingless is a blight to humanity and bears no goodwill toward anyone. His only redeeming quality is that he released some of the most compelling and interpretive remixes that OverClocked ReMix has ever seen. He had a natural ability to invoke strong nostalgia, thoughtfulness, and raw energy in most of his contributions. The beginning of this remix actually makes me feel like I’m sitting in the cockpit of my own Arwing, prepping for an actual takeoff sequence, and it’s a great feeling. It almost makes me forget about the raw hatred burning in my breast at the very thought of The Wingless continuing to inflict terror and misery upon mankind. This assessment is in no way satire. Able-bodied men and women, I implore you, The Wingless must be captured and subdued at all costs.


6. Big Giant Circles and some1namedjeff, “Thunderstruck”—The Legend Of Zelda: Ocarina Of Time

I feel like I could tell a decent story about a few of my remixes, but if I were to pick just one that showcases “me” the best, I suppose this would be it. For the past few years, I’ve sort of cultivated a style of modern chip-tune music, taking the classic 8-bit sounds of the NES/Game Boy, etc., and fusing them with modern instruments and production. This remix does exactly that, turning the ever-popular “Windmill Hut”/“Song Of Storms” theme into a hybrid chip-tune-organic piece, with NES leads trading off with an authentic and magnificent live violin performance by my friend and fellow composer Jeff Ball. I feel like it’s going to stand the test of time, bridging the sounds of classic video game music with the music of today and hopefully many years to come.


Chimpazilla (Kristina Scheps, OC ReMix submissions judge)

7. bLiNd, “I Am Dracula (Club Mix)”—Castlevania

bLiNd can make just about anything sound groovy, but there is something so special about this. The haunting arpeggiated sequences, ominous bass line, intense beat, creepy sound effects, and vampire-movie samples (not to mention the all-around synth goodness) add up to one whopper of a mesmerizing dance track. “I Am Dracula” was released on OC ReMix on Halloween 2013, and small costumed children were treated to this song when they came up to the door, as I could not stop playing it. I still can’t stop playing it. “I Am Dracula (Club Mix)” remains one of my favorite OC ReMixes of all time. bLiNd is insanely talented.


8. Theory of N, “Somebody Set Up Us The Bob-omb”—Super Mario 64

Super Mario 64 is one of those games that has a permanent place in the heart of anyone who played it. Just thinking about this game gives a warm fuzzy feeling. Theory of N’s mix captures that nostalgia and expands it into funky awesomeness. The happy, chipper timbres capture the mood, and he starts the mix with a mono/retro vinyl-scratch feel, but then blasts out wide into glassy synths, buzzy badass bass, and wonderful portamento leads with fun solos. The mix is full of fun details and dynamics, surprises and ear candy. It is impossible to listen to this one and not smile and dance.


9. Chimpazilla and timaeus222, “Cloudhopping”—Yoshi Touch & Go

“Cloudhopping” is an upbeat dance/big beat/electronica remix with a hint of glitch. It captures the feel of Yoshi walking on clouds. I had been playing this silly little game called Yoshi Touch & Go, and it has such catchy music, similar to Yoshi’s Island. This incorporates several themes from the game, with tons of details and several synth solos and stylistic choices inspired by our friends and fellow ReMixers zircon and WillRock. I wrote a few bars of one of the themes one day and sent it to my friend timaeus, who added to it right away. We swapped that file back and forth, both pushing ourselves beyond anything we had done before. This mix is special to both timaeus and me, as it represents huge growth in both of our production abilities. We had a lot of fun working on it together.


Danny Baranowsky (composer for Super Meat Boy and The Binding Of Isaac; former OC ReMix submissions judge)

10. A_Rival, “Stainless Steel”—Mega Man 2

This was the first remix I really fell in love with. It was on the first mix CD I burned, and I played it incessantly. I was getting really into The Prodigy around the same time, and this seemed like a Prodigy version of Mega Man music, which was about the greatest thing I could possibly imagine back then. I remember thinking how professional it sounded and being fascinated by the process of creating this kind of music. And since it was a remix of a song I had heard so many times as a kid, it helped establish for me that video game music was just music, to be enjoyed, explored, and appreciated in the same way as “real” music. I’ve had the pleasure of knowing AE (now A_Rival) for many years now, and I’m still repeatedly blown away by his skill as a musician and producer.


11. Protricity, “Neighburgers”—Zombies Ate My Neighbors

I had the good fortune of living near Ari Asulin when I was getting into OC ReMix, and we hung out a few times. I can pinpoint the exact moment when I decided to go whole hog on the music thing—when Ari showed me how his Donkey Kong Country 2Brambles In The Breeze” remix was made, and what VSTs (virtual studio technology) were and how they interfaced with a DAW (digital audio workstation). Seeing how music production worked was one of the most profound moments of my life, and I give Ari a lot of credit for my career today. “Neighburgers” is Ari in top form. His methodical, precise arrangement and production—along with an innate understanding of what made the original great—took it to a new level. His alterations and additions encapsulate and exalt the original, using the additional detail available in non-SNES-chip hardware to not just remix but reimagine the source.


12. Danny Baranowsky, zyko, and Vig, “Invertebrate Retreat”—Earthworm Jim 2

At the time, I had a new-found obsession with trip hop, most notably Portishead and Sneaker Pimps, and the progression in Earthworm Jim 2’s “Subterranean” must have jumped out at me. I had done my fair share of OC ReMixes, and I wanted to try something really ambitious. I was taking college music classes, including voice, and wanted to record some singing. I’m not sure that I expected it to become a big production, but by the end, Waleed and Jesse were involved and it became a long-distance trip-hop-rock-opera collaboration. I was blown away by the reaction, and eventually the original composer, Tommy Tallarico (who now runs the incredible Video Games Live concert series), included it on one of his CDs. While I cringe at many elements of it today (emo-nerd singing and lyrics), it was certainly a turning point for me and solidified my determination to write music for a living.


DarkeSword (Shariq Ansari; multi-time OCR album director, OC ReMix submissions judge)

13. Southwestern College Afro-Cuban Jazz Ensemble, “Fiesta Amongst The Trees”—Ristar

This remix combines two of my favorite things in the world: Latin jazz and Ristar. It might just be nostalgia talking, seeing as how I was a Sega Genesis kid growing up, but Ristar’s got one of those absolutely fantastic soundtracks with incredibly memorable melodies. The fine folks of the Southwestern College Afro-Cuban Jazz Ensemble took one of the best songs in the game and gave it the full live treatment—great tight performances and excellent solos. It’s groovy all around.


14. DarkeSword, “Thicket”—Secret Of Mana

While not as popular as other remixes I’ve done, I consider this to be my best. Hiroki Kikuta did something amazing with the Secret Of Mana soundtrack, with all these lush melodies and interesting harmonic ideas, and I tried to play with that approach when adapting “Angel’s Fear” and “Into The Thick Of It.” I had a lot of fun playing around with tonality in this piece and switching back and forth between diatonic and parallel harmonies. It was also great putting together this really light, airy electronic sound, filled with bells and synths and swooshing pads.


15. Ziwtra, “Aftershock”Soukaigi

For variety’s sake, I probably shouldn’t pick another remix of a Kikuta song, but I can’t help myself. Ziwtra’s long been my favorite ReMixer on the site, and while we haven’t seen a track from him in a while, what we’ve got is absolutely phenomenal. “Aftershock” tackles music from Soukaigi, a Japanese-only strategy role-playing game with a beautiful soundtrack by Kikuta. There’s a fantastic push and pull in this track, with strong kinetic beats and a combination of twinkling synths, deep bass, and light electric strings. This is an excellent tribute to an excellent soundtrack.


Liontamer (Larry Oji, OC ReMix community manager and submissions judge)

16. ktriton and Christian Pacaud, “Static Wonderland”—Tsugunai

Kunal Majmudar, a.k.a. ktriton (featuring Christian Pacaud on bass), knocked this Yasunori Mitsuda-centric medley out of the park. I also have to give ktriton major bonus points for obscurity after choosing to arrange Tsugunai’s soundtrack alongside nods to themes from Xenosaga, Graffiti Kingdom, and Shadow Hearts. Whether you’re focused on the refined bass line, detailed percussion, or sophisticated leads, this is laid-back, evolving jazz as it finest, with some great sound-design twists and turns to keep your ears perked up. When I originally judged this submission, I was on the fence with my “yes” vote, in particular taking issue with some of the transitions. Having listened to this piece so many more times afterward, I’ve long since grown to understand and appreciate all of its minutiae and structure, including its “out of place” sections. “Static Wonderland” is a track that’s made me a much better, more well-rounded, and open-minded music critic, and for that, I’m eternally grateful.


17. Star Salzman and Paul Baxter, “Forever Until Tomorrow”—Chrono Trigger

Star Salzman is one of the community’s most creative singer-songwriters. Though most fans know Star from another Chrono Trigger arrangement of his, “The Incredible Singing Robot,” I’ve always been partial to the scope and meaning behind his lyrics for “Forever Until Tomorrow.” Along with the powerful combination of the piano, electro-synths, bass line, and Paul Baxter’s guitar work, Star owns the vocals. If the right mainstream music person discovered his material—whether his OC ReMixes or his plentiful original songs at starblast.org—Star Salzman would be the next pop-music hit-maker, able to come up with thought-provoking lyrics that also rock the Earth. Much like the way virt impressed fans with his Final Fantasy VI mix (“The Impresario”) after we were able to give him a budget, I believe Star would also rise to the occasion of pro music work, having no trouble thinking big and achieving greatness.


18. mithius and Brandon Strader, “Sentient Machines”—Final Fantasy

“Sentient Machines” is an excellent progressive-rock spin on the “Floating Castle” theme from the very first Final Fantasy on the NES, with air-tight additions of acoustic guitar, jazz, Eastern, and orchestral elements. At 10 minutes long, the arrangement’s got plenty of room to breathe, and it’s incredible how much mileage mithius, a.k.a. Richard, and Brandon spun out of a catchy yet brief source tune. Brandon’s emerged as OCR’s most active contributor, recently surpassing Mazedude’s 65 OC ReMixes, and is quickly on pace to top djpretzel for the most remixes on the site. Part of the way Brandon has hit that mark is diving head first into creative collaborations that stretch his range and abilities, all while also pulling great new people like Richard into the community. Whether it’s a ballad, metal, opera, or chip-tune, you never know what you’ll hear next from Brandon. He’s fearless when it comes to expanding his repertoire.


19. OverClocked Assembled, “Tengen Toppa Dairantou: Part 3 - All-Stars”—Super Smash Bros. Melee

The largest and most ambitious rap collaboration in OCR history, Sir Jordanius led and produced this massive team-up of 10 artists for our community’s A New Challenger!! album in support of the yearly Apex fighting game tournament, one of the largest global gatherings for competitive Smash Bros. players. A big tournament needs equally epic music, and the hip-hop collective of OverClocked Assembled came through with this ultra-deep arrangement of several original Smash Bros. themes with vocalists rapping in the style of famous acts like Snoop Dogg, Will Smith, DMX, T-Pain, Missy Elliott, Jay-Z, and Tupac from the point of view of Smash Bros. characters like Fox McCloud, Mario, Solid Snake, Jigglypuff, Samus Aran, and Mewtwo. “Mew-tupac” has to be heard to be believed. It’s meta, it’s genius, and it’s the total package of a well-executed concept I never knew I needed yet can’t live without.


Mazedude (Christopher Getman; composer for The 7th Guest: Infection; one of OC ReMix’s most prolific contributors)

20. Mazedude, “Tangerine Fever”—Donkey Kong Country 3 (Game Boy Advance)

Something I like doing while remixing is “style homages,” not only honoring a game and its composer but creating a tribute to the style of another composer. It’s double nostalgia for me, and allows me to give a nod to a genre that inspired my writing in the first place. Often, I tackle an obscure sub-genre of tracker music (tunes built in a tracker, an early type of music sequencing program) or a piece that meant a lot to me when I discovered it as a teenager. One example is the legendary piece “Tangerine Fascination” by Andrew “Necros” Sega, which took second place in the MC4 music competition back when tracking was at its peak. I’d wanted to honor it through mimicking its unique flavor, and OCR’s Donkey Kong Country 3 album project was my chance. When I first heard “Mill Fever,” the source track for my remix, it reminded me so strongly of Necros’ sound so many years ago. It seemed a perfect marriage of ideas. By the way, give “Tangerine Fascination” a listen. Maybe it’ll inspire you too.


21. virt (Jake Kaufman), “Dance Of The Zinger”—Donkey Kong Country 2

I’ve known virt since 1997 via the world of tracking. We were teenagers, learning our craft, aspiring to take our work to a professional level, and competing against each other in compos. Today, our paths have varied a bit, but I still get a kick out of it when both our names grace the same project—especially when OverClocked ReMix is the glue behind it. “Dance Of The Zinger,” from the legendary Serious Monkey Business album, is a phenomenal example of high-end production elevating a simple composition. There’s not a whole lot in terms of melody, chord progression, or great depth in the notes of the original, but through detailed layering, effects, and arrangement, this remix really shines. It’s also nice to see virt tackle so many different genres; I recognize the “Jake Kaufman sound” in lots of his music, but this is an example where it stands alone.


22. The OneUps, “Super Mario’s Sleigh Ride”—Super Mario World

I tend to geek out when a single track has multiple homages within it—a game remix that’s also a nod to a movie soundtrack while featuring a live soloist, yadda yadda. “Super Mario’s Sleigh Ride” does that to such a level that one can’t help but smile, nay, grin when hearing it. It’s fun, infectious, and fast-paced; the fusion of Super Mario World themes with classic Christmas tracks is genius. It’s hard to keep track of which theme is coming at you, especially when there are several at once, and therein lies the fun of playing “name that tune” while listening. This is also a great sampling of The OneUps’ early style, nostalgic in itself for being some of the first band-based game arrangement work on the scene. With Christmas around the corner, I expect to be playing this more than usual in the days ahead.


zircon (Andrew Aversa; co-composer for Soulcalibur V; former OC ReMix submissions judge)

23. zircon, XPRTNovice, Jillian Aversa, and some1namedjeff, “A Fistful Of Nickels”—Final Fantasy VI

When I think about all the video game remixes I’ve created since 2002, none make me as proud as “A Fistful Of Nickels,” an arrangement of “Shadow’s Theme” from Final Fantasy VI. Originally appearing on the Balance And Ruin album project I co-directed, this piece is a big love letter to classic spaghetti Western film scores like A Fistful Of Dollars by Ennio Morricone. My concept was too wide in scope to pull off on my own, so I recruited a number of excellent musicians to help out with live instrumental parts. Their efforts brought my grand vision to life.


24. Estradasphere, “Super Buck II”—Super Mario Bros. 2

I can’t believe that “Super Buck II” by Estradasphere, which arranges Super Mario Bros. 2, was posted to OC ReMix in 2002. At that time, video game music was far from the phenomenon it is today. There were no touring concerts, no legions of cover bands, or superstar solo artists on YouTube. So, imagine hearing for the first time a killer band like Estradasphere—full of talent and versatility—covering a classic NES theme with incredible style and flair. This would still be an incredible remix if it were posted today; it’s a joy to listen to, evoking the very best of big band and swing greats.


25. McVaffe, “Fillmore Freestyle”—ActRaiser

“Fillmore Freestyle,” McVaffe’s arrangement of “Fillmore” from the SNES classic ActRaiser, holds special meaning for me. It was one of the handful of remixes I first heard circa 2002 that inspired me to become a ReMixer and music producer and work hard to improve my skills. By the standards of today’s electronic dance music, it might seem understated, lacking big trance synths, dubstep drops, and maximized kicks. What it has instead is a precision in its arrangement and sequencing that, especially for the year 2000, is highly impressive and candy for the ears. I smile every time I hear those lovely sliced and chopped breakbeat drums.


We’d like to especially thank Larry “Liontamer” Oji, OCR’s head judge and community manager, for helping to put this together and reaching out to the artists who contributed.


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