We all have that one song from a video game that, for whatever reason, we hold extra close to our hearts. Usually, it isn’t that deep, but sometimes it is. For me, my love of that one video game song usually stems from memory and repetition. The song first found its way to my ears when I was a small kid, and it just so happens that the game it stems from is one of my favorites of all time. So, I replay it a lot. And now that one song is as inseparable from my rich tapestry of ties that bind me to gaming (or whatever) as it is a song that is distinctly short and really not all that special. Yet, I hold it close—I always will.
I guess I should reveal what “that one video game song” is for me, it is “Bonus Room Blitz” from Rare’s Donkey Kong Country a.k.a one of the best games of all time. The song can be found below. Give it a listen, it is quite short, and then continue reading.
Yes, I know…but what about “Aquatic Ambiance?” And my answer to that question is, while that song absolutely rules, it isn’t “that one video game song” for me. This is due to the fact that, as a small child, the underwater levels in Donkey Kong Country were the bane of my existence and they still aren’t all that great today. Okay, now back to “Bonus Room Blitz.” It is such a fantastic little song that makes for a minute of pure bliss. I would rarely turn my Nintendo Gameboy Advance/DS speakers all the way up, but it was go-time whenever this song would come on. As a kid, I liked it because it reminded me of Indiana Jones (I don’t know why) and I loved Indiana Jones as a kid—that love has obviously dulled with both the passage of time and as my media literacy has expanded beyond where it was when I was nine years old. There was a time when I was young that I lived on the Atlantic coast in South Carolina, and this track always brought my young mind back to wind-swept, sandy beaches that I spent much of my young life playing on. The move from the beach to Atlanta was the first time in my life that I felt real, raw emotional pain. I was 7, but “Bonus Room Blitz” would cheer me up. Using a barrel and my memory, I would traverse levels, bash walls, and enter the hidden areas where this song would be triggered. The volume slider on my Gameboy Advance would slide up and I’d set the handheld console down, content with letting the song loop while I closed my eyes and laid in bed. If you’d asked me back then, I’d of sworn that in those moments I could smell the coast and hear the waves breaking against the shore. Life went on and I grew to love the city, but new traumas and hard times surfaced, but “Bonus Room Blitz” was there for me all the same. It wasn’t so much therapeutic as it was a means to make me feel a little slice of pure happiness. That is what this song sparks in me; if it was a color, it would be a warm hue of orange.
On top of the emotional connection I have with this song, it is “that one video game song” to me for other reasons—the biggest being that I first heard that song when I found my first video game secret. Donkey Kong Country helped me approach games from all angles, and to check weird corners and do random things to see what might be hidden around the corner or behind the next wall. My young mind was blown when I threw a barrel at a wall and it blew apart to reveal a door. I entered that door, was greeted with an absolute bop, and the choice to grab a bunch of bananas and an extra-life balloon. “Games can do this?” is probably the question I kept asking myself after that. Ever since then, I’ve played games in that “poke and prod and try and go everywhere/see everything in a game/on the game map” kind of way that, in all honesty, has probably lead to my recent burning out on mainstream AAA games. Too big. Too vapid. The discovery feels neither natural nor real. But “Bonus Room Blitz” shows me that discovery in games can still be found in a way that feels pure, off-the-cuff, and like true discovery. Hell, whenever I play other games that do discovery well, a part of me wishes that I’d hear this song in whatever hidden area I stumble into.
Lastly, and least important (or most important, I do not know and I just hate the nostalgia discourse around games), is the eye-rolling sense of nostalgia that “Bonus Room Blitz” pulls from the depths of my cold mortal shell. Every time I replay Donkey Kong Country (which is far more often than I’d like to admit), I will inevitably hear this song. And when I do, it takes me back to those long road trips as a kid or that long, seemingly unending drive to my new life in Georgia, headphones blaring in my ears as Donkey Kong smashes walls and discovers secrets. “Bonus Room Blitz” plays as the miles and views and towns and cities blur in the passenger-side window where I’d rest my head. That was then and this is now. “Bonus Room Blitz” only ever occasionally enters my life but the miles and years and faces and places and pain and joy pass by all the same. It turns out “that one video game song” might just mean a whole hell of a lot to me. What is yours?