5.) F-Zero -- Yumiko Kanki and Naoto Ishida
F-Zero isn't just cool because it introduced us to Captain Douglas Jay (!) Falcon, the most declarative fistfighter ever to pilot a hovercraft. It was also a lightning-fast early Mode 7 racer with a soundtrack many fans are still enamored of to this day. I wasn't a huge F-Zero kid, but I couldn't deny that, especially for an early-release SNES game, the music was pretty damn catchy.
When I listen to this, I feel: like driving. Kind of a no-brainer, but the music really is perfectly orchestrated to make you want to force something expensive to move forward at high speeds.
Standout tracks: "Mute City" and "Big Blue" are the favorites here.
4.) Final Fantasy VI -- Nobuo Uematsu
Though I loved FFIV too, and it had some very strong music as well, the spot on this list has got to go to FFVI. From the polished-sounding Final Fantasy mainstay, "Prologue," to the many character themes, the whole epic tone is stated in no uncertain terms in each piece of music the game unfurls.
When I listen to this, I feel: Noble. No matter what I'm doing. I could be running around the park trying to hit pigeons with a trash can lid -- if you played FFVI, it'd feel noble as shit.
Standout tracks: Though it's as "overplayed" as an SNES song can be, "Terra's Theme" is one of the more gorgeous pieces of music of the series, if not the entire system.
3.) The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past -- Koji Kondo
The SNES Zelda is still my favorite by far, and a gigantic part of the love I have for the game is because of its moving, grand, evocative music. It's difficult for me to overstate how much of a baller I think Koji Kondo is. From wild forests to sacred temples and from imposing castles to placid villages, Kondo seems to have distilled the sense of a place into music so cleanly that I'm not sure I'd change a single note of this score.
When I listen to this, I feel: Like everything in life should be simpler. I used to think that A Link to the Past was what adult life would be like, so whenever I hear any of this music I get a sense that right and wrong should be instantly manifest. I feel like I know what I have to do.
Standout tracks: "Dark World" is a thrilling introduction to the game's second half. "Hyrule Castle" and its regal, menacing strains deserves mention as well.
2.) Secret of Mana -- Hiroki Kikuta
I'm going to get more and more effusive as we get into the last couple soundtracks here, so I hope you'll bear with me. Secret of Mana is about the power of nature, the importance of friendship, and the sometimes bitter consequences of following your calling. The score is a mixture of gleeful, bouncy songs and some of the more heart-wrenching music you can find, video game or no.
When I listen to this, I feel... well, SoM can go two ways. Listening to some tracks, you feel like you're eating cotton candy and racing your pals through an amusement park. It's nice, wholesome and happy. Other songs seem like they've been composed using a device that translates human sadness directly into music form.
Standout tracks: This game makes it into the top five for me based on the strength of the main theme, "Fear of the Heavens" alone.
1.) Chrono Trigger -- Yasunori Mitsuda, Nobuo Uematsu and Noriko Matsueda
It's tiring sometimes to read SNES best-of lists, because the same stuff always ends up near the top. I know. But this one's for good reason. In fact, I think that with a musical arsenal even half as impressive, Chrono Trigger would lose a fair amount of its "mega-classic" status. With the exception of some of the Stone Age music (which is appropriate for the setting, but kind of forgettable), almost every major theme in CT is melodically brilliant. It's truly an iconic soundtrack.
When I listen to this, I feel: Transported. There's a sense in these compositions of tenderness for the past and trepidation about the future. But there's also a consistent, heroic optimism about the present that's in many themes throughout the game.
Standout tracks: There's very few that aren't excellent. The main theme above is an enthralling, blustery epic fanfare at first, and then -- at the break at 1:15 -- a burst of melancholy and longing breaks into this otherwise very blustery, aggressive theme song. It's just one example of the type of amazing songwriting on display here.
Okay, everyone, what'd I miss?