This year we continue the tradition of dedicating a Top 10 list to covers and remixes of PC game music. With respect to AAA titles this is probably irrelevant (as they are often multi-platform anyway) but when it comes to good ol' DOS and Amiga games or indie PC games, well they tend to get left by the wayside.
How the list was made
This year, I scoured the Internet for PC game music covers and remixes and came up with 151 to choose from. This is similar to last year's 2022 list but this remains a huge jump from 70 and 41 from previous years. The process probably took way longer than I would've liked, although it's good to know that I'm hitting a similar limit. This list was compiled from various sources including OCRemix, Remix64 as well as several YouTube channels. While this list is by no means an exhaustive one, it at least gives people a taste of what awesome PC game music remixes and covers are out there (if I've missed any released in 2023, be sure to mention them in the comments).
I applied a 0-2 scale scoring system, similar to what has been employed previously and also similar to our other Top 10 features. These are what each of the scores represent:
- 0 = remix that didn't resonate with me and I couldn't get into it. Usually because I'm not a fan of the source material or I don't really recognise it.
- 1 = remix that is good, worth a listen and can be appreciated for its technical merit.
- 2 = My favourites of the bunch. Ones I'm likely to listen to again and again. Remixes I'd want my friends to listen to.
The quality of remixes and covers seem to be getting better and better since 37 tracks achieved a score of 2 this time (compared to last year's 32 and 26 the year before that), meaning I had to discount even more tracks than in previous years in order to come up with a Top 10. Any remaining tracks with a score of 2 were included in the Honourable Mentions list below.
So, I present to you the Top 10 PC Game Covers and Remixes of 2023 as ranked by Choicest Games!Age Of Empires II - Tazer (Full Cover) (Age of Empires II) by Rich Hatton
Age Of Empires II - Smells Like Crickets, Tastes Like Chicken (Full Cover) (Age of Empires II) by Rich Hatton
Caladon - Arcanum: Of Steamworks and Magick Obscura (Arcanum) by Arcanum Vivum
Battlefield Theme on Guitar | A-Z of Video Games (Battlefield 3 and Battlefield 1) by Niall Stenson
Body Blows (Body Blows) by Vincenzo
Command & Conquer - Industrial (YM2612 Cover) (Command & Conquer) by Savaged Regime
Day of the Tentacle - Opening Credits - Unreality (Day of the Tentacle) by Unreality
Laputan Machine (Deus Ex Paris Cathedral Conversation Cover) (Deus Ex) by Alex Nes
The Smallest Church in Saint-Saëns - Disco Elysium Cover (Disco Elysium) by Hummingbird
HYPER HARDCORE! ft. MC Egghead (Disco Elysium Protorave Trance Remix / Cover) (Disco Elysium) by Alex Nes
At Doom's Gate/E1M1 on Guitar (Doom (1993) and Doom (2016)) by Niall Stenson
VGM #208: MilkyWay (Explore) // FTL [S Y N T H -- C O V E R] (FTL) by Amie Waters
Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Father "Shadow Hunter" (Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Father) by Error 47
Grim Fandango Live · 25th Anniversary Jazz Concert (Grim Fandango) by Peter McConnell and the Calavera Quartet
Vortal Combat (Half-Life 2: Episode Two) [Metal Remix] || Metal Fortress (Half-Life 2 Episode Two) by Metal Fortress
Journal Theme (Life is Strange: Before the Storm) Guitar Cover | DSC (Life is Strange: Before the Storm) by DSC
Minecraft OC ReMix by NoTuX: "Blue Magic" [Aria Math] (#4499) (Minecraft) by NoTuX
02 Darkwave (City) (from Police Quest 4) Neal Grandstaff: Did Ya Hear THAT? Soundtrack Music OST BGM (Police Quest: Open Season) by Neal Grandstaff and Friends
05 Darkwave (Downtown in Night Club) (from Police Quest 4) Neal Grandstaff:Did Ya Hear THAT? OST BGM (Police Quest: Open Season) by Neal Grandstaff and Friends
Pony Island OC ReMix by Chimpazilla: "Run Pony Run" [Enter Pony] (#4403) (Pony Island) by Chimpazilla
Baba Yetu | Live from the National Theater of Korea (Sid Meier's Civilization IV) by FLASIC
シルフィード / The Legend Of Silpheed（4759PlayerProMax ver.）をKORG opsixで弾いてみた (Silpheed) by DJ SHIN
Stray OC ReMix by TheManPF, Katajun, newmajoe, Zach Chapman: "W3 4RE TH3 ROB0TS" (#4418) (Stray) by TheManPF, Katajun, newmajoe, Zach Chapman
Streets of Rage 4 - Rising Up (Elevator Music) | METAL COVER by Vincent Moretto (Streets of Rage 4) by Vincent Moretto
Jeroen Tel - Supremacy / Overlord (C64, Piano Version) (Supremacy (Overlord)) by Grazia Pizzuto
Tyrian - "The Level" (og. by @AlexCBrandon) (Tyrian) by BG Ollie
UNDERTALE - Waterfall | Contrabass Clarinet (Undertale) by InstrumentManiac
#10 SCUMM Bar cover (Escape from Monkey Island)Game: Escape from Monkey Island
Source: SCUMM Bar
Original Artist(s): Clint Bajakian, Anna Karney, Michael Z. Land, Peter McConnell and Michael Lande
Remix/Cover Title: Scumm Bar - Anglo Concertina (Escape From Monkey Island)
Artist(s): Anglo Kazooie
Escape from Monkey Island doesn't get as much love as the other entries in the Monkey Island series and this unfortunately means that many miss out on its awesome soundtrack. When people usually think of the SCUMM Bar music, they think of the background music from the first Monkey Island game, but there's also a SCUMM Bar theme in the fourth Monkey Island and this is the one that Anglo Kazooie performs on an Anglo Concertina. It's a very short cover coming in at 1:08 but the concertina gives the whole cover a very authentic feel - you could just imagine yourself hanging out in a bar with a bunch of foul-smelling, grog-swilling pigs… er I mean, pirates!
While there were a couple of competent Monkey Island remixes that were posted this year, this cover was the only one that tickled my fancy.
If you want to check out more of Anglo Kazooie's covers of movie and game music, check out their YouTube channel.
#9 LA County Morgue Live (Police Quest: Open Season)Game: Police Quest: Open Season
Source: LA County Morgue
Original Artist(s): Neal Grandstaff
Remix/Cover Title: 01 Detective Carey's Theme "Strut" (from Police Quest 4) Neal Grandstaff: Did Ya Hear THAT? OST BGM
Artist(s): Neal Grandstaff and Friends
As far as I can recall, this piece of music only plays at one particular point in the game Police Quest: Open Season, an old Sierra point ‘n' click adventure and the last of the Police Quest adventures (Police Quest would eventually morph into the SWAT series of games after that). This music plays when your character, Detective Carey, is in the car park of the LA County Morgue. Often, you don't tend to linger too long so most of the time you don't even get to hear this boppy piece in its entirety. And yet, in 2023, Neal Grandstaff, the original composer, along with some "friends" decided to perform a live cover of it. And I'm sure glad they did.
There are actually another couple of covers by Neal Grandstaff and Friends that I considered for the top 10: both are jazzy renditions of the "Rainbow Cafe" segment of the game. However, I preferred the early 90s pop flavour to "Detective Carey's Theme" (it was released in 1993 after all) and it's always a laugh juxtaposing this with the actual location you hear it, which are the reasons why it made the top 10. You'll find the "Rainbow Cafe" covers in the Honourable Mentions list.
If you want to check out more retro game music as well as covers check out the Xeen Music YouTube channel.
#8 Night Shift Cover (Theme Hospital)Game: Theme Hospital
Source: Night Shift
Original Artist(s): Russell Shaw and Adrian Moore
Remix/Cover Title: Father & Son Join Forces to Perform Theme Hospital - Night Shift Song
Artist(s): Gil and Miguel Ramos
I can never get enough Theme Hospital covers so when I came across this gem which had less than 200 views when I first saw it, I thought it was criminal! Gil and his son are incredibly talented and give us a really smooth cover of "Night Shift". It's heartwarming to see a father and son collaborating on a music project together.
If you want to check out more videos by Gil Ramos (including some Undertale covers) check out his YouTube channel.
#7 The Magic Meadow Cover (Quest for Glory)Game: Quest for Glory 1
Source: The Magic Meadow
Original Artist(s): Mark Seibert
Remix/Cover Title: Quest for Glory 1 - Erana's Peace (Piano Version)
Artist(s): Grazia Pizzuto
German pianist Grazia actually featured in the Honourable Mentions list last year for her rendition of The Settlers theme and she's continued to do beautiful piano covers of retro PC game music. For me, it was a challenge between picking her cover of Jeroen Tel's Overlord (Supremacy) theme and this one, a cover of Mark Seibert's "The Magic Meadow", which plays when you visit Erana's Peace in the first Quest for Glory game. It probably comes as no surprise that I picked Quest for Glory in the end.
I'd say "The Magic Meadow" is probably one of the most popular pieces from Quest for Glory to be covered, probably because of its unique, beautiful and serene sound. It serves as perfect background music for the location in the game and despite already featuring a cover of this piece in the 2021 list, I have no qualms of including yet another one.
If you're into piano covers of some classic PC game music be sure to check out Grazia's YouTube channel.
#6 Magic City Cover (SimCity 3000)Game: SimCity 3000
Source: Magic City
Original Artist(s): Jerry Martin
Remix/Cover Title: Sim City 3000 - Magic City - Arrangement
Artist(s): Justin Thornburgh, William Sandberg and bewildebeest
Jerry Martin's SimCity 3000 soundtrack is phenomenal. Through most of the tracks, he managed to work a SimCity 3000 leitmotif into them and despite having a few sensational jazz pieces in the mix, there were also a lot of weirder, almost New Age tracks such as "Magic City" which features on this list at number 6. The original track transports the listener to a bird, flying high over a bustling metropolis, watching all the people below going about their daily business.
Justin Thornburgh stays relatively true to the original for the first half of the piece but then his arrangement takes a life of its own as the piece progresses. It's a fresh take on this classic played on a myriad of instruments which makes it definitely worth a listen.
If you want to listen to some more video game music covers (mainly JRPGs) check out Justin's YouTube channel.
#5 Jaw-Breaking News! Cover (TMNT: Shredder's Revenge)Game: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder's Revenge
Source: Jaw-Breaking News
Original Artist(s): Tee Lopes
Remix/Cover Title: TMNT: Shredder's Revenge - Jaw-Breaking News! (feat. Jack Gardiner)
Artist(s): Tabor Mullins (feat. Jack Gardiner)
The soundtrack for TMNT: Shredder's Revenge by Tee Lopes has featured on this list before, thanks to an amazing acoustic guitar cover of "King of the Spill" by CRGuitar (my favourite track in the game). Now, we have a cover based off the music that plays on the first level where the Ninja Turtles fight their way through the Channel 6 News studio. The track starts off pretty true to the original with the funky synths and electric guitars playing but it eventually veers onto an entirely different direction and you'll hear some awesome guitar solos as you'd expect from a game based on an 80s franchise. At 1:55 there's even some jazzy improv with a touch of prog rock which is wild, unexpected but very welcome.
There was some stiff competition from another couple of covers based off Shredder's Revenge including a good effort at "Panic in the Sky" by Michael K and a faithful guitar cover of "Big Apple, 3PM" by Miles Meakin. In the end, I ended up going with my choice only because it seemed to offer something fresh and new, but I'd still urge readers to check out the other covers.
If you want to listen to some more video game music covers check out Tabor Mullins's YouTube channel.
#4 Machina Del Diablo Cover (Age of Empires II)Game: Age of Empires II
Source: Machina Del Diablo
Original Artist(s): Stephen Rippy
Remix/Cover Title: Age Of Empires II - Machina Del Diablo (Full Cover)
Artist(s): Rich Hatton
Age of Empires II had an interesting soundtrack, melding medieval style music and instruments with modern electronic styles. It made for some very memorable music suitable for toe-tapping, including the cover that features in the number 4 spot which is based off "Machina Del Diablo".
Rich Hatton does a great job in covering this and is one of those unicorns that is skilled with a variety of instruments. In fact, he didn't only cover one Age of Empires II track but three last year, and they're all top notch. I struggled picking one to make this list but in the end it all just came down to personal taste (the remaining two both made the Honourable Mentions list so be sure to check them out).
If you want to listen to some more video game music covers check out the Rich Spectrum Sounds YouTube channel.
#3 Spider Dance Cover (Undertale)Game: Undertale
Source: Spider Dance
Original Artist(s): Toby Fox
Remix/Cover Title: UNDERTALE - Spider Dance
Artist(s): Luke Pickman
I tried. I really tried. I was telling myself that Undertale remixes and covers are way over-represented but I just had to slip this one in because it's that damn good. Like the previous video on this list with Rich Hatton, Luke Pickman is another unicorn who happens to be skilled with many instruments. While Rich Hatton's thing was Age of Empires II, it seems that Luke Pickman is really into Undertale: in fact he's got at least 16 on his channel as I type this post and they're all ridiculously good.
I had trouble picking my favourite out of Luke's recent additions to 2023 since there are many strong offerings in the Undertale soundtrack but "Spider Dance" has always been one of my favourites which is why it secures the number 3 spot.
If you want to listen to some more Undertale covers check out the Luke Pickman's YouTube channel.
#2 China Loading Theme Cover (Battlefield 2)Game: Battlefield 2
Source: China Loading Theme
Original Artist(s): Fredrik Englund, David Tallroth, and Jonas Östholm
Remix/Cover Title: Battlefield - China Loading 2023 REMIX
Artist(s): ReborN9889 (L.H.)
Wow. Similar to other covers that featured on this list, this one seemingly came out of nowhere. Battlefield 2 isn't a game heavy on music with there only being a handful of themes for the game, however, in the old days you'd often be waiting a couple of minutes while a new map loaded and depending on whether China or the Middle Eastern Coalition (MEC) was the opposing force (the USMC was always present on each map) you'd be treated to a map loading theme! Both themes had their own distinct takes on the Battlefield theme using instruments and styles common to each region. So, it's amazing to see that almost two decades later, a group of Chinese musicians have finally done it: covered the China Loading Theme using traditional Chinese instruments!
Unfortunately, I've found scant information on who actually arranged or performed this piece. My reading of Chinese isn't that great (despite having taken classes in the past to do so) and the channel doesn't give much information on the crew behind it. I'm hoping that their video gets a lot of positive attention though since they deserve it, and maybe they'd be willing to do other covers in the future.
#1 Scientist Salarian Cover (Mass Effect 2)Game: Mass Effect 2
Source: (I Am the Very Model of a) Scientist Salarian
Original Artist(s): Gilbert and Sullivan (for Major-General's Song)
Remix/Cover Title: (I Am the Very Model of a) Scientist Salarian *FULL SONG* ft. Will Roland - The 8-Bit Big Band
Artist(s): The 8-Bit Big Band
There was no doubt in my mind that this had to make the number 1 spot due to sheer effort involved in bringing this to life. But where does this song even come from? Well, it's actually an easter egg of sorts in Mass Effect 2. While talking to Mordin Solus, a Salarian scientist that joins your crew, he mentions that one of his hobbies was performing in Gilbert and Sullivan musicals. If Shepard decides to ask Mordin to elaborate, Mordin breaks out with his own version of Gilbert and Sullivan's "Major-General's Song" from the comic operetta "Pirates of Penzance". It's a surprising and hilarious moment in the game but somebody out there decided to create even more lyrics for "(I Am the Very Model of a) Scientist Salarian": Tyler Larsen aka AssaultSloth ended up creating a fully-fledged song and the 8-Bit Big Band took notice.
Listening to the track you could almost imagine you're watching "Pirates of Penzance" if you weren't concentrating on the lyrics and the expert impersonation skills of Will Roland who sounds exactly as if Mordin Solus was performing the song in the flesh.
If you want to listen to some more video game music covers check out the 8-Bit Big band YouTube channel.
So, what do you think about the list? Did you enjoy any of these tracks? Are there any choicest VGM remixes or covers that I missed in 2023? Make sure to leave a comment.
Every remix and cover that has featured in these articles are also available on Spotify.