Pokémon games, are, for the most part, not known best for their music. However, that does not mean the games are not filled with catchy, uplifting, and dramatic themes! Many are deserving of appreciation.
I attempted to find as many different artists covering different tunes as I could, and what resulted was, to some extent, a bias towards the original games and Gold, Silver and Crystal, though almost every generation has something in here.
Here are the 15 I picked out:
Ok, this one does not look like a rock cover in the first few seconds, but it gets there. There are a few covers in here that are a bit deceptive like that. This tune brings back memories of my second journey in the Pokémon world. Unfortunately this also brings back memories of a failed randomizer Nuzlocke. I met a legendary in the wild. Amusingly (or perhaps frustratingly) it spontaneously combusted with Self-Destruct and eliminated my only Pokémon. Curse you, Registeel!
However, I have to admit I like CSGuitar89's take on the theme. This cover is a bit more upbeat than even the original.
CSGuitar89, or Casper, is from the Netherlands and does video game guitar covers. Some day he hopes to record his own original music.
Having played Blue, Red, Yellow, and FireRed and LeafGreen an absurd number of times, I have heard a couple of versions of this theme many times over. That being said, the tune is not one that gets old or annoying fast, which is a good thing because if you play the original games or the remakes you will be hearing it a lot.
And while this cover sounds pretty similar to the original, it lends something to the theme that the Gameboy version perhaps did not have. Simply put, actual instruments sound way better than electronic beeps...unless that is the kind of sound you enjoy.
Unfortunately there seem to be a lot of "Carlos Malanches" out there. This particular artist only has a few YouTube videos out there and no description on his account, so I was reduced to looking around Google, through many possible matches, none of which seemed likely. Whoever you are, dude, we appreciate your work.
Another Red, Blue and Yellow cover! There are actually two versions of the cover in this video, one with drums and one without.
Like the previous cover, this cover of the Red, Blue and Yellow Gym Leader and Elite Four theme brings new life to the tune. Due to the fact that guitars are pretty capable of emulating the sounds of other instruments (or even Gameboys) it sounds more than appropriate. Feeling nostalgic yet? I sure am.
Galiasocial (or, Galia Social) is actually a trio of musicians: Colby Peters, Ed Rizo, and Christian Logaglio. They typically play pop and rock music in Florida though they may be branching out further to other regions.
If I had to pick one route in the original Pokémon games with the best music, it would be route 11. There is something about the whole song that makes me feel like I really am on an epic journey. I was completely bummed, then, when I felt FireRed and LeafGreen butchered the theme.
But this cover nails it.
There are a few frills here and there, but they add to the cover rather than take away from it.
KawlumPlaysGuitar and Paul Farrer had little information on each of them other than what was on their YouTube profiles. KawlumPlaysGuitar is "slowly 'Metalifying' the world" and Paul Farrer does metal covers and original songs. Well, I certainly hope to hear more from the both of them.
Since I found a load of Gold, Silver and Crystal covers as well, why not have a piece that combines Red, Blue and Yellow pieces with Gold Silver and Crystal pieces to transition between the two?
Anyways, this is a pretty cool combination and takes on a number of city themes from the first two generations, including Vermillion, Viridian, and Saffron cities, as well as Olivine and Blackthorn cities. The S.S. Anne theme is also thrown in there for good measure.
The medley changes up the tempos of a few of the songs a little and adds some embellishments here and there, but they ultimately are all excellent choices and I love what the artist did with it.
Swiggles1987 covers video game music on YouTube (and takes requests), as well as composes music for smaller video games.
Ok, admittedly Team Rocket is a bit wimpy. But this song has always gotten me feeling ready for a fight, one way or another. Though Team Rocket may be undeserving of such an awesome metal cover and theme in the first place, I still love what Ferdk did with the battle theme. Turning the tune into a metal composition gave it an even more sinister feel.
Ferdk is from Argentina and does metal video game covers in his spare time. He also writes his own original music.
In the end, I picked this theme because the game corner, once a feature in the first 3-4 generations of games, was ultimately removed from the series. Players used to be able to trade coins they won by betting for Pokémon, items, TMs and in later installments, decorations for secret bases.
Are the games worse off for their removal? Probably not, but the tune that played in the old Gold, Silver and Crystal game corner reminds me of a relatively carefree time of my life I sometimes wish I could go back to.
BrodysGameMusic brings back this theme without most of the previously staccato notes, but I certainly do not mind because he keeps the original intent and spirit of the piece alive.
BrodysGameMusic, or Brody, plays music as a hobby, covering mostly game music and occasionally writing some original tracks.
This cover is based on one of the most intimidating themes in the Pokémon universe. In Gold, Silver and Crystal, as well as HeartGold and SoulSilver, it plays during the Champion battle with Lance, and during the final battle with Red. I remember my seven year old self finally reaching the Champion with my under-leveled team (I was at the age when I did not understand battling trainers was necessary and viewed them as an annoyance). The sense of foreboding, and the anxiety the theme music seemed to generate in me was practically tangible. And yet I felt so ready for the challenge.
On guitars I have to admit while the song loses none of its awesomeness. But the parts with falling notes, for me, lose some of the feelings I remember watching my Pokémon's HP plummet after a nasty hit. That does not mean, however, that it is not a good cover, and it is worth a listen.
DSC, or Dominic Choi, an Australian and the artist in question, posts game music covers every two weeks on Fridays on his YouTube channel.
I admit, I cheated a bit here. The Pokémon anime theme is not strictly game related, but it is not entirely unrelated either, so I decided to throw it in. A lot of us, now adults, remember this as part of our childhood, an accompaniment to the games.
NateWantsToBattle, one of the many featured in this cover, is pretty talented on his own. I almost decided to go with his Lysandre's Theme cover. But then I found this and the nostalgia waves pummeled me into submission. Admit it, you like it too.
NateWantsToBattle roped dookieshed, Munchingorange, NintendoFanFTW, RandomEncountersEnt, TheKingNappy, ReallyFreakinClever, and TheShueTube all into this video cover.
NateWantsToBattle covers anime and video game songs. Dookieshed, Munchingorange and NintendoFanFTW all make their own videos about video games (walkthroughs, Top 10s, and other amusing things). RandomEncountersEnt and TheShueTube make their own parody music videos. TheKingNappy posts daily Pokémon content, and ReallyFreakinClever looks at and discusses game design choices.
All in all, quite a crew!
Generation 3's Victory Road music is probably one of my favorite Victory Road themes. After Ever Grande city's encouraging theme this one seems more harsh and challenging.
Ruby and Sapphire are full of synthesized trumpets and I am surprised how well the guitars fit. Nevertheless, metal is full of harsher sounds and thus such a style is fitting for the theme.
RichaadEB, or Rich, is a YouTube guitarist who does (metal) covers of video game music, and otherwise is a big nerd.
Pokémon Colosseum is one of those games that not many people know about. The game is a GameCube game, in which the only Pokémon you can catch you actually have to snatch from other trainers. But before you freak out, these Pokémon have been corrupted to be fighting machines, unafraid of attacking humans. In this game it is your job to purify these creatures, returning them to their normal, uncorrupted states, as well as figure out who is responsible for all these "shadow Pokémon."
More importantly, the musical cover is one of several battle themes, this one of a battle with a Cipher peon. Dr. Pez and his fellow musicians, HatTrax and Ashikodrum, handle this one with ease, though the original song was made for such instruments. In some ways, it is better that they do not deviate from the original's composition.
Dr. Pez and Ashikodrum both do video game covers, and while HatTrax also covers these sorts of songs he also does some classic and progressive rock songs.
In the remake versions of Ruby and Sapphire, Wally, one of your rivals, gets his own theme. He is pretty frail and delicate at first so the theme is a little more fitting later on in the game. Due to the fact that this cover and the original are so similar it becomes an effort to replicate the original as closely as possible, and RawkHawkRockin does this brilliantly.
There is not much information about RawkHawkRockin out there, besides that he does video game music covers and that he is Greek. Hopefully we will see more of him in the future!
For those of you who breed Pokémon (as the artist, Arathrum, noted), you will probably know this song all too well and perhaps even be sick of listening to it because you have spent hours of your time riding back and forth in front of the day care center, waiting for your Pokémon to lay that 6 IV egg. Even if you are tired of it, give this version a spin. Though Arathrum tries to stay as close to the original as possible, the guitars give it a different feel.
Arathrum does mostly metal video game covers, and from time to time his own compositions. He is from The Netherlands.
From what I recall of Nimbasa city in Pokémon Black and White versions, it is a pretty large place, with a few sports stadiums, the Musical Theater, a Ferris wheel, and a gym. Nimbasa is not as large or intimidating as Castelia city, of course. But I always enjoyed the generally upbeat theme. This cover is certainly less so but anyone who liked music that played in Nimbasa will probably like this version as well.
Shady Cicada is a composer who covers and remixes already existing music as well as writes his own, incorporating many different genres into his work.
I got to a point where I could only pick 1 song covered by this artist, FamilyJules7X. The choice was difficult so I picked the one that packed the most into one medley. This medley includes a number of different cities from Pokémon X and Y, Lysandre's theme, and the theme from the Pokéball factory, and a few others I will leave as a surprise (or you could just follow the link to the YouTube page and look there).
The themes in this medley are very, very different in some ways but somehow FamilyJules7X has made them fit together excellently.
FamilyJules7X is an American musician who makes video game music covers and has written an album specifically for Crypt of the Necrodancer called Aria's Ascent.
When not delving into the world of remixes or orchestrations, it can be pretty hard to find cover versions of Junichi Masuda's work that are not metal or rock based. That does not, however, mean they are undeserving of praise or attention. These artists add something new to the music already in existence with their covers.
So take a moment to appreciate not only these covers, but also other Pokémon music covers out there. You will not regret it.