Jam-uary: Instruments in Games

2020 is here and one of my goals for the new year is to create 12 distinctive top ten lists to celebrate the theme of each month. In true Eric form, each theme will feature characters from games and will be based on a delightfully groan-worthy pun! To kick things off, I give you…JAM-uary (top ten times a character used an instrument in a video game).

10) Earthworm Jim (Sega/SNES 1994)

Earthworm Jim
The soil he did crawl! A super suit did fall!

Here’s a twist: The devious Psy-Crow kidnaps Princess What’s-Her-Name before the game even has a chance to begin! Apparently, a tap on the shoulder is all it takes to distract Jim from his trance-like accordion music (which seemingly has no effect on the Princess).

9) Wayne from Wayne’s World (SNES/Sega 1993)

Wayne
Party on, Wayne.

Remember that one scene in Wayne’s World where Wayne would shoot sonic beams out of the end of his guitar while avoiding electric shock from overcharged amplifiers? The 90’s had a bad habit of taking popular franchises and turning them into video games. It makes me wonder, COULD there be a good Wayne’s World game? Come on, Telltale. Let’s see a point-and-click Wayne’s World adventure. It will be mine. Oh yes, it will be mine.

8) Edward Chris von Muir from Final Fantasy 4 (SNES 1991)

Edward
You spoony bard!

First of all, I had no idea his name was so long. A prince by birth, he chose to follow music instead. I hope Edward is open to the idea of getting paid in “exposure.” But seriously, the piece he plays on his harp is one of the best in the game: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6APIGZCCeuE

7) Marty McFly from Back to the Future (NES 1989)

Marty McFly
I guess you guys aren’t ready for that yet. But your kids are gonna love it.

Speaking of taking popular franchise and turning them into video games… Well, honestly, this level is really one of the only levels in the Back to the Future game that actually got something right. All of the other levels involve throwing pies at bullies, blocking blown kisses with a text book, and avoiding workers carrying a giant piece of glass across the street. In this iconic scene, Marty has to play all the right notes and avoid the wrong notes so his parents will fall in love and kiss at the Enchantment Under the Sea Dance. This means that he has to physically collect floating sharps and flats by positioning his guitar at just the right angle. You know, just like a real musician.

6) Kass from The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (Wii U/Switch 2017)

kass
Sing us a song, you’re the accordion bird.

You’ve been asleep for a hundred years. You wander around a bit. What’s that noise in the distance? It’s……a giant bird playing the accordion! And he has a song about what you should try to do next! Link has a habit of taking instructions from birds. Maybe we should all give it a shot? Tomorrow, I challenge you to do what the birds tell you!

5) The Main Cast of Final Fantasy 8 (PS1 1999)

FF8 band
No one wants to see Zell tap dance.

There’s an evil time sorceress trying to rule over everything. What do you do? Form a band with your other teenage friends so you can play at the Garden Festival! I remember when I played this game for the first time, I spent WAY too long trying out all the different combinations of instruments just to see what the characters would look like when they played them. Guitar, flute, saxophone….even tap dancing! The most amazing part is that every one of your characters is perfectly fluent at each instrument no matter what you choose. Balamb Garden must have a successful music program! Here’s a video of our heroes trying out some of the instruments: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=znf1gNktsCc

4) Mike Jones from Startropics (NES 1990)

organ
I can’t tell if it’s an A sharp or a B flat!

Mike Jones is hopping around islands, exploring caves, and freeing pirate ships. In order to do so, he has to play a melody he learned from a talking parrot on a giant organ. Goonies, anyone? “If you hit the wrong note, we’ll all be flat!” Thankfully, there’s no repercussions to playing the wrong note in this game. I loved this part as a kid. The parrot’s song is sung in solfege. So, I, as an elementary schooler, had to know enough to understand what “do re mi” meant in order to move on to the next section. I suppose that’s nothing compared to having to dip an actual piece of paper included with the instruction manual in water in order to reveal a hidden code to unlock your submarine.

3) Zora Link from The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask (N64 2000)

zora
Zor-rock? Is that like Octo-rock? Womp womp.

I’m definitely calling the “New Wave Bossa Nova” at the next jam I attend. I love Nintendo’s effort to incorporate music into the Zelda games, though I never expected to see a Zora rock band arise as a result. They’re underwater. How do they make sound? How do they charge their amps? The acoustics must be awful.

2) Classic Characters in Tetris (NES 1989)

tetris
Russia Tour 1989

Alright, let’s break this down because it’s amazing (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k_O3Oaz2bos). Pit is playing the fiddle. Donkey Kong is playing the bass drum. Bowser is playing the accordion. Samus is playing the cello. Link is playing the flute. Mario and Luigi are doing a dance. And…Princess Toadstool is…..clapping? Is that really all she’s doing? It’s a shame the band had to break up and then they all started fighting.

Honorable Mention:

Banjo from Banjo-Kazooie (N64 1998)

banjo
Guh huh!

1) Dixie Kong from Donkey Kong Country 2 (SNES 1995)

dixie guitar
A musical family – even Cranky played the music box!

Easily my favorite way to end a level, Dixie Kong totally wailed every time you’d finish with this courageous Kong. I remember purposely switching from Diddy to Dixie just so I could see hear her guitar solo. Not that I minded Diddy’s rap or anything. But in comparison, Dixie’s jam definitely got me hyped to keep playing. Come on, Dixie. Time to get the band back together again!

Thanks for reading. Can you think of any characters who are instrumentalists, too? Let me know in the comments!

Published by erichagmann

Arranger / Pianist / Vocalist / Educator / Gamer

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