15 Best Songs From The Donkey Kong Country Trilogy

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The Donkey Kong Country series technical marvel. It featured beautiful hyper-detailed sprites that mimicked 3D and a soundtrack crafted with so much care that it seemed as if it broke the 16-bit limitations of the SNES.

The music was so good that it became one of the very few video-game soundtracks to receive standalone publication back in the day, and this seems true even today.

Composer David Wise, joined by Eveline Fischer and Robin Beanland, created pieces that absorbed the player into the game’s worlds.

While David Wise’s influence in the soundtrack diminished after the second entry, echoes of his style can be heard in every game’s soundtrack right up until the most recent Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze.

But the original DKC game soundtracks are widely recognized as part of what made the games so memorable, and people to this day make remastered and remixed versions of it to post on YouTube(here’s my favorite channel doing this).

To celebrate this wonderful soundtrack and reminisce about our banana-collecting adventures, I’ve put together 15 of the best songs from the original SNES trilogy.

15. Life in the Mines – DKC

Here’s one I couldn’t possibly leave off the list. How could I?

Perilously advancing through the Monkey Mines, trying my hardest not to fall off the moving platforms as angry vultures tried to peck me and throw me off… it’s a very tense situation that I’ll never forget, and I’m sure many others reading can agree.

And this song encapsulates the feeling perfectly.

14. Credits Concerto – DKC

The first game’s credits after you’ve successfully retrieved the banana hoard and finished your adventure are a definite fan-favorite.

They’re positive yet soothing, in a way that’s only appropriate after beating such an intense game.

It reminds me a bit of the opening sequence for Yoshi’s Story, which isn’t strange considering Nintendo franchises have a way of influencing each other throughout the years.

13. Forest Interlude – DKC 2

The thing about David Wise as a composer is that, instead of following industry standards, he endeavors to give his creations a unique style.

The music is meant to suggest, rather than spell out, the feelings he wishes to convey.

Forest Interlude which plays in a small handful of levels in the sequel is a perfect example.

It makes me quite nostalgic, as if connecting me with the lost peace of the wilderness.

It also sounds remarkably similar to some modern R&B hits, which is a testament to how much influence these early MIDI creations have had on our current musical landscape.

12. In a Snow-Bound Land – DKC 2

This icy track is one of the most magnificent of the original soundtrack.

It’s ethereal, taking the listener into a world of white, snowy stillness.

Unlike many similar songs in the series, this one marries the implied ambient of the track with something akin to pop music. It’s more lighthearted and easier to follow, which is probably why many people list this as their favorite tune.

11. Fear Factory – DKC

Another track that breaks the ambient formula is Fear Factory.

Although it retains the tense suspense of most of DKC’s soundtrack, this song introduces a lot of synth riffs and overall has a faster pace that’s reminiscent of 80s music.

It’s pretty similar to what you might expect from the BGM for a Megaman X level, which is unsurprisingly appropriate for the industrial setting.

10. Cranky’s Conga – DKC2

Before there was Donkey Konga, there was Cranky’s Conga.

This is the background music that would play upon entering Cranky’s memorabilia-filled abode.

He may be an old fool, but he did teach Diddy Kong everything he knows. And for that we’re thankful.

This is the perfect tune to celebrate that the crisis has been averted. In a way, it’s DKC 2’s equivalent of the original’s Credit Concerto.

9. Gangplank Galleon – DKC

This song starts with a pretty normal goofy melody that anyone would quickly relate to.

It matches the pirate life at sea to start, but once the drums kick in and the song’s fast tempo takes over, it accompanies the tension of the situation perfectly. This really sounds like game music.

Fighting King K. Rool on his ship is daunting enough. But this song gets the adrenaline pumping.

8. Rockface Rumble – DKC 3

For the third entry in the series, DKC 3: Dixie Kong’s Double Trouble, Wise handed the reigns of the operation entirely to Evelyn Fischer who had been working closely with him since the beginning.

While most of the game’s soundtrack pales in comparison to the more unique feel of Wise’s original compositions, Rockface Rumble shines on its own to show Fischer’s ability.

It feels heroic, like something out of a shounen anime or an RPG, and it accompanies the action of climbing up the mountain perfectly.

It makes you feel like Kratos climbing mount Olympus, which is crazy considering just how goofy Kiddy Kong is. I mean, he’s wearing footie pajamas!

7. Mining Melancholy – DKC 2

Another fast-paced track is this techno-like tune from DKC 2: Diddy Kong’s Quest.

It’s a far cry from the Life in the Mines theme from the original, but it also takes on a life of its own.

Instead of suggesting the ambient, this song complements the action and vertical movement of these mining levels.

That’s not to say it’s not appropriate for the mines, as it has a very industrial feel with a lot of metallic sounds like you’d expect in such an environment.

I think it’s the kind of thing I wish could play in the background whenever I’m trying to accomplish some task at home.

6. Opening Theme – DKC

This song starts like any other main theme for most titles from back in the day would have started.

Slow, and slowly building up towards something greater… and then DK shows up and gets all hip-hop on you with his boombox and sick moves.

It’s one of the most iconic themes in gaming and one that has never left my mind after so many years.

5. Ice Cave Chant – DKC

One of the most interesting compositions in the original’s soundtrack is this upbeat and positive tune.

It contrasts strongly with most of the game’s more haunting tracks, which is one of the benefits of having Fischer working on the score to play a balancing role with Wise’s more experimental nature.

That said, this song is unique even among Fischer’s roster.

While it generally suggests a place whimsical in nature, there are brief moments as it transitions from one section to the next where it becomes something unsettling and twisted… reminding you that you’re behind enemy lines.

4. Aquatic Ambiance – DKC

On the other side of the spectrum we have a suspenseful yet calming track that embodies the mystery of what lurks in the waters.

It accompanies every water level in the first game and it’s possibly one of the most memorable for anyone who played DKC back in the day.

This music perfectly augments the feeling of claustrophobia while under tight corners in the water, yet also the peace and serenity you can feel hanging out by a lake or ocean.

It’s one of the most loved songs in the entire series, as you can tell from visiting any forum or simply looking up the number of views it has on YouTube.

I imagine this is why the developers of the more recent DKC: Tropical Freeze decided to feature it in the game.

3. Stickerbrush Symphony – DKC 2

The song most people will list as the one that impacted them the most in the trilogy, especially other composers and artists who were heavily influenced by it, is Stickerbrush Symphony.

And if you’ve ever played DKC2 you know why.

This is a complex orchestral piece that manages to find a balance between keeping you calm and focused during the puzzle-hell of a level where it plays.

And remember: this was designed to play on a Super Nintendo in the 90s. The fact this could even technically be created is mindblowing in its own right.

2. Misty Menace – DKC

Some may find including such a niche song so high in the raking questionable.

Insulting, even, that I put it higher than Stickerbrush Symphony.

However this deeply unsettling tune is probably the one that best shows Wise’s ability to transmit a lot of feeling with silence and suggestive sounds rather than melody.

When you listen and imagine trying to create this from scratch it really does leave you wondering how he even created this tune to match the cave levels so well.

It starts with what essentially amounts to white noise, then slowly creeps up on you with erratic metallic noises that increase the tension little by little, but never resolves.

It’s so intense that at times it feels like trying to defuse a bomb rather than clear a stage. Truly a minimalist masterpiece.

1. DK Island Swing – DKC

Now if we’re trying to find the most notable and DKC-centric song from the entire soundtrack, well I have to give credit to the one that started it all.

DK Island Swing is a jazzy percussion-heavy theme that has become synonymous with the game’s titular character over the years. It plays right from the first level and feels like it leads you into this vast virtual country; the Donkey Kong Country.

It may be the tasty jungle-like rhythms that you can’t help but jam to, or the mere fact that it was the theme for DK’s stage in Super Smash Bros. on N64… but this song is the most iconic track featured in Donkey Kong Country’s brief history of greatness.

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Nelson Chitty

Nelson Chitty is a Venezuelan expat living in Argentina. He’s a writer and translator passionate about history and foreign cultures. His ideal weekend is spent between leisurely games of Civilization VI and looking for the next seinen anime to marathon.