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The top ten songs from the Banjo-Kazooie series

The two Nintendo 64 Banjo-Kazooie games are known for a lot of things, from being excellent platformers to having great and memorable music.  While their GBA and Xbox 360 sequels weren’t as well-received as their N64 originals were, the Banjo-Kazooie franchise is still remembered as one of the best open-world platformer series in history.  In honor of their memory, I’m going to share my top ten favorite songs from the series.  The list will be split up into two posts, with today’s post being the first five on the list and tomorrow’s post having the remaining five.

I originally started this out as a top-five list, but I couldn’t decide on the five I liked most, so it was expanded into the list of ten it is today.  Because it was so difficult to pick ten I liked, this list isn’t going to be in any specific order.  Anyway, enjoy the list!

Click Clock Wood – Spring (Banjo-Kazooie)

Any article listing the top ten songs from the Banjo-Kazooie franchise is bound to have this song somewhere in it, and for good reason.  The song itself starts off with only one instrument playing, but then slowly builds up to become one of the most memorable and catchy songs in the entire game.  Add in the birds and crickets chirping in the background, and you get a song worthy of being on any top ten list.

But the song itself isn’t the only thing great about this track.  It also fits in perfectly with the theme of the level.  Click Clock Woods is a level based around a tree in a forest, and the song captures that feeling perfectly.  The wind instruments used in this song create a serene, peaceful feeling while also keeping up that fun atmosphere that the Banjo-Kazooie games are known for.  In addition, the song pauses and slows down in parts so you can hear the crickets and birds, which gives off the feeling that you’re in the middle of some forest.

Mr. Patch Battle (Banjo-Tooie)

Mr. Patch is probably one of the most memorable bosses in Banjo-Tooie, and the song that plays in the background is even more memorable.  The music that accompanies the battle with Mr. Patch is expertly composed to give off the feeling that you’re in some kind of demonic circus battling against something, all the while keeping that quirky charm Banjo games are known for.  I’m not a composer, but I can’t imagine any other song going along with this battle as well as this one does.

To truly understand why this song is so great though, you have to have played through the level in which this song appears in Banjo-Tooie.  Witchyworld is like a carnival from hell, and right in the middle of said carnival is a giant circus tent.  Inside that tent waiting to battle is, as the game describes, a strange wobbly inflatable thing known as Mr. Patch.  It’s basically the main attraction to the carnival, and the fast-paced music that goes along with the battle just emphasizes that point.

Gruntilda’s Lair (Banjo-Kazooie)

No list compiling the top ten songs from the Banjo-Kazooie series would be complete without the series’ most iconic song.  This is the song you hear the most when playing through Banjo-Kazooie, and you never tire of it.  The instruments used in this song fit Grunty’s lair perfectly, as they make you feel like you’re really in a witch’s lair and not anywhere else.  The instruments used also change when you get close to a level’s entrance to fit the level that you’re around.  It’s a small touch, but it goes a long way in helping this song stand out.

As a side note, this song becomes even greater when you realize that it’s actually based on the 1932 song Teddy Bear’s Picnic by Henry Hall and His Orchestra.

Rusty Bucket Bay (Banjo-Kazooie)

Yet another song that shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone that’s played the Banjo-Kazooie games.  Like the other songs on this list, Rusty Bucket Bay’s music fits the theme of the level perfectly.  The entire level is an industrial shipyard with one main ship in the center of it all, and because of the instruments used in the stage’s theme, you get the feeling that you’re actually in an industrial area.  You can also hear the sounds of seagulls and the ocean and in the background of this song, and to top it all off, it incorporates ship whistles into the actual song.

But what I think I love most about this song is just how catchy it is.  Even after you’ve left the level and moved onto Click Clock Woods, you’ll still find yourself humming this level’s theme.  And even if you’re someone who hasn’t played Banjo-Kazooie, you can still appreciate Rusty Bucket Bay’s theme because it’s actually a really good song.

Grunty Battle (Banjo-Kazooie)

Banjo-Kazooie is on a roll today!  Four of the first five songs on this list are from the first game in the series.  Don’t worry, tomorrow won’t have as many Banjo-Kazooie songs.

By the time you reach this battle, you’ve gone through nine worlds and collected almost every jiggy and note in the game to get to this point, and you expect an epic showdown between Grunty and yourself.  The game doesn’t let you down, and that’s thanks in part to the amazing music that’s playing in the background.  While the rest of the game’s music has a quirky, happy feeling to it, this song is completely serious.  It really gives off the feeling that this battle is the finale, and it’s done or die.

I also love the fact that it starts off as a remix of Guntilda’s Lair’s theme, but then transforms into an epic final battle theme.  The remix is a great way to start off the final battle with the evil witch that’s kidnapped your sister, and the epic part is an even better way to finish off the battle that the game had been leading up to the entire time.

Mad Monster Mansion (Banjo-Kazooie)

This track starts off with an organ playing a song that gives off the feeling that you’re in some haunted graveyard, but then it transforms into one of the quirky songs that the Banjo-Kazooie series in known for.  While it is a quirky song, it doesn’t manage to kill the overall atmosphere of the level.  The organ music continues to play in the background in some parts, and in the other sections of the song, the other instruments used are able to carry the creepy feeling.  Couple that with the hoots of owls and howls of wolves in the background, and you get Mad Monster Mansion’s theme.

But the thing that I like most about this song is the feeling you get when you’re actually playing the game.  You’re constantly running away from ghosts, skeletons, and tombstones that come to life, and the song is just the right place to make it feel creepy and frantic at the same time.

Jolly Roger’s Lagoon (Banjo-Tooie)

Although this song only plays in the entrance of Jolly Roger’s Lagoon, it’s probably the song that most people associate with this world.  Since it plays right at the entrance, it’s the first song you hear when you play the water-based level.  Right when you hear the first notes, you realize that the world you just entered is going to have a pirate theme, even if the surrounding buildings don’t look like it initially.

Freezeezy Peak (Banjo-Kazooie)

Freezeezy Peak is probably one of the most unforgettable stages from the original Banjo-Kazooie, and part of the reason it’s so memorable is thanks to the level’s music.  The music in this world makes you feel like you’re really in a winter wonderland.  The instruments used help create the vision that everything around you is either icy or covered in snow, and on top of that, the overall feeling of the track is upbeat and happy, just like how you’d imagine a winter wonderland to be.

The music really fits the level when you actually start to walk around and take everything in.  The enemies are mainly evil snowmen, and then the characters inside the level are colored lights, a walrus, and a family of polar bears, which all fit the winter theme and the music perfectly.

Hailfire Peaks – Lava Side (Banjo-Tooie)

When you enter Hailfire Peaks for the first time, this is the first song you hear.  It’s an excellent way to introduce the level, as it automatically makes you feel like you’re on the side of a gigantic volcano full of lava.  Instruments such as trumpets and tubas help listeners be able to imagine themselves in an area where they’re surrounded by pools of lava on all sides.  The background sounds that play during the song also emphasize that point because, throughout the track, you’ll hear gas escaping from vents and the sound of bubbles popping in the lava.

Although the ice side of this level is the same song, just with different instruments, it’s much more toned down.  While it does fit the theme of the ice side of Hailfire Peaks, it’s overall less memorable than the lava side’s theme because of its toned-down nature, which is why this song appears on the list instead.

Banjo Land (Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts and Bolts)

I know this is a cheap song to put on the list considering about half of this song is already on the list in form of MIDIs.  I was considering leaving it off of the list for a while, but then I decided that it was just too good to leave off.  Really, if you’re a fan of the music in Banjo-Kazooie and Banjo-Tooie, how can you not love this song?  It’s all of your favorite songs from past Banjo games, just orchestrated.

There isn’t much else to say about this track, considering I’ve talked about most of it in my other entries.  The only thing that’s really left to discuss is how it fits in with the level.  Although the level doesn’t have the industrial feel that Rusty Bucket Bay has, or the forest-like atmosphere that’s present in Click Clock Woods, this song does fit the stage to a tee.  Banjo Land is all about nostalgia, and listening to this track is probably one of the most nostalgic things I’ve ever done.

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