Video game music is more popular than ever, so why is Nintendo so late?

Image: Nintendo

There’s been a lot of Nintendo-related music news over the past year that has left me more than a little disappointed. I like to start a video game soundtrack while I’m working; I’m a huge fan of video game music gigs and have a small collection of albums and vinyl that I want to keep growing. And with access to the best video game music ever, I’m generally a happy bunny.

But Nintendo has always been very protector of its properties, and this goes for the music of its games. You might remember from last year’s Tokyo 2020 Olympics there was a ton of video game music playing during the opening ceremony – yet nothing of it was from a franchise owned by Nintendo. Nintendo was scheduled to make an appearance through June 16, but Big N and The Pokémon Company apparently pulled out at the last minute.

We understand. Nintendo owns the rights to his music and can do whatever he wants with it. But the real problem is that it doesn’t work anything with that

More recently, Nintendo cracked down on video game music YouTube channels. In the past six months alone, GilvaSunner has been forced to shut down their channel after Nintendo sent them thousands of copyright complaints. And DeoxysPrime also received over 500 complaints, leading them to remove all of their Nintendo music, with downloads of the Pokémon series soundtracks to almost every Mario OST.

We understand. Nintendo owns the rights to its music and can choose to do with it what it wants. But the real problem is that it doesn’t work anything with his music in general.

There was a brief breakthrough from The Pokémon Company, which in February launched the Diamond & Pearl Sound Library, a cool website that would let you create playlists, access other playlists, download music and audio files, and also see which artists had sampled some of the tunes from their music. Unfortunately, The Pokémon Company decided to shut this down earlier this week – disappointing, for sure. At least the YouTube version of the soundtrack remained operational. Small victories, huh?

But other than that, where can we get our Nintendo music solution?

Many other major video game companies have released their soundtracks on various streaming services. Thanks to Apple Music, Spotify and Amazon Music, I have access to a huge amount of music from Capcom’s catalog from ace lawyer, mega man, street fighterand monster hunter – including Monster Hunter Rise! Konami has also made many of its Castlevania soundtracks available, as well as a handful of Solid metal gear OSTs too. And I could go on and on about the number of indie games whose musicians share their music on streaming services and also make it available for purchase on band camp.

I’m also probably a bit spoiled in this regard. As a huge RPG fan, I also have easy access to almost all Final Fantasy soundtrack – with a handful of new releases excluded for the time being – via these streaming services. And classic RPG developer Falcom also released all the Yes and Trails/Kiseki soundtrack, even dating back to the 80s.

Square Enix went further, going so far as to open its own video game music YouTube channel. This means that by going to Square Enix Music, I can just click on a playlist and listen to Yasunori Nishiki’s Octopath Traveler OST whenever I want. Or pop to music from the Bravely series. All for free.

Before Square Enix opened this channel, many popular video game soundtrack downloads were deleted on the video sharing platform, NieR: Automata at Final Fantasy VII Remake. But at least he shared most of his music himself — a pretty big step in the right direction.

Wii Music
More music, but perhaps not like that, Nintendo… (Picture: Nintendo)

So, with Nintendo’s bullish approach to copyright, why hasn’t the company done more to give us easy access to some of the best video game music in the industry? A lot of my memories with video games are so strongly associated with each game’s audio – I’m sure everyone remembers the first time they entered Peach’s Castle in Super Mario 64, especially with the soothing, regal music and the bright interior. How about Ocarina of Time and the spooky music of Forest Temple? Interestingly, Mario 64 is one of the few Nintendo games to get an official worldwide soundtrack launch.

Another more recent exception to this is the Pokémon series. On Apple Music, you can grab digital versions of the Diamond & Pearl, X & Y, and HeartGold & SoulSilver Super Music Collections (what those OSTs are called) — and that’s just a handful of them. Why the Sword & Shield soundtrack hasn’t been released yet is beyond me though.

Often one of the only ways to get Nintendo soundtracks is to pre-order or grab a special edition. I remember buying Zelda: Skyward Sword on launch day and it came with a 25th anniversary CD with a handful of classic Zelda orchestral tracks. And the real The reason I pre-ordered the limited Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition is because the European release comes with some delicious vinyl.

Vinyl Collector's Edition Nintendo Xenoblade DE
Yes, I’m more than a little happy to own this. (Picture: Nintendo)

Another weird way Nintendo released some of its soundtracks was through Club Nintendo, with the Super Mario 3D World big band sounds seeing a release on the service when the game was first released. And games like Super Mario Galaxy (and its sequel), Mario Kart 8, and Kirby Triple Deluxe also got similar soundtracks through the service. But you couldn’t, and still can’t, get them any other way.

And look, everyone here at Nintendo Life often jokes about “look at this cool thing japan gets and we don’t”, and that goes doubly for soundtrack releases. At the very least, we can import these beautiful sets, but the shipping prices aren’t always friendly to our wallets.

Making this music much more accessible would not only make fans happy, but also give composers the wider credit they deserve. So many Nintendo games don’t even make obtain the official soundtrack releases, which means that the composers’ names are simply hidden in the credits and their work is not shared in a more official capacity. Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door hasn’t seen any soundtrack releases, for example, and many people don’t know the names of composers like Yoshito Hirano, Yuka Tsujiyoko, and Saki Haruyama – all of whom continued to work on the Paper Mario series while composing for the fire emblem games too.

I’m not necessarily asking Nintendo to release everything his music on everything streaming services, because many of the royalties that come with it are extremely low, but I’d like a little more access to the music from those games. In a year when a Kirby arrangement rightfully won a Grammy Award, we still can’t listen to the music that officially inspired the remix without worrying that a fan’s upload will be deleted.

Kirby's birthday art
This little guy technically has a Grammy Award, go to Nintendo! (Image: Nintendo / @Kirby_JP)

Well, at least we have the ability to walk around with our Switch in our backpacks with our headphones plugged in to at least listen to the Smash Ultimate and Super Mario 3D All-Stars soundtracks. Maybe Nintendo could release a music app for the console?

Despite the difficulties, I’m sure many of us want to see Nintendo be a little more free with their music. With the boom in video game vinyl, companies launching their own channels, and the much wider availability of soundtracks, Nintendo’s relative absence from the market, especially in the West, continues to be disheartening.

Share your thoughts on what you’d like to see Nintendo do with their music. A new Nintendo streaming service? An advantage attached to a Nintendo Switch Online subscription? More soundtrack releases worldwide?

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