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Home / Features / 13 iconic video game sounds that’ll take you back in time

13 iconic video game sounds that’ll take you back in time

Gaming geeks, lend us your ears for a trip down memory lane

Shiny graphics are great, and teraflops are okay too, we suppose, but nothing stirs up deep, primitive, nostalgic gaming memories like the squeak of a long-forgotton 8-bit sound clip.

From PAC-MAN’s waka waka to Zelda’s melodies and Sonic’s ring dings (yes, that’s the technical term), there are plenty of sounds that we’ve stored away, deep in our brains, just waiting to resurface once again.

We’ve rounded up some of our favourite gaming sounds through the ages. Obviously there’s plenty more, but these should tide you over for a while, we reckon. Enjoy:

The Ring ding – Sonic the Hedgehog (Mega Drive, 1991)


There are few sounds more satisfying that zooming through a long line of gold coins as your favourite blue anthropomorphic hedgehog, with each collective ding providing more satisfaction than the last. Watch out though – one stray spike or slip up will transform all that happiness into bitter feelings of loss and resentment, as your precious gold circles are flung across the map, like the coins of a drunkard on a night bus.

That sodding Duck Hunt dog – Duck Hunt (NES, 1984)

If any pooch deserves to be screwed, it’s this annoying mutt right here. Its incessant ear-piercing laughter mocking our every Duck Hunt failure drove us around the bend – until, of course, we got the chance for revenge in Vs. Duck Hunt, which had a hidden bonus level that let you take out your frustrations at long last. Take that you stupid mutt (and sorry, PETA).

“Finish Him!” – Mortal Kombat (1992)

You’ve battered your opponent from side to side – embarrassed them really – and you’ve more than earned those two sweet words. You cement your superiority with a steely glare before executing a perfect fatality, watching your foe’s virtual (and real) world crumble around them. Enjoy your victory pizza, and graciously accept the plentiful gifts the masses lay before your feat. You’ve earned it.

‘Puzzle Solved’ melody – The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (N64, 1998)

This three second melody is sweet, sweet music to any Zelda fan’s ears. We recommend playing it every time you solve a problem in real life. From increasing your profit margins to getting the lid off a stubborn jar of jam, it’ll enhance the moment greatly. Feel free to use it as a notification tone too, if you like.

“Say-gaaaaaah” – Sega Mega Drive

The second that white screen, blue text and harmonised voice fires up, you know you’re in for a good time. From ploughing through levels in Sonic to mowing down enemies in Desert Strike, the Mega Drive console startup sequence initiates a Pavlovian drool response in us to this very day – which is why we stopped using it as our ringtone. People started to look at us with a mixture of disdain and shock.

“Stay a while. Stay FOREVER!” – Impossible Mission (C64, 1984)

Evil Elvin Atombender’s opening line in Impossible Mission still occasionally haunts our dreams. Then we remind ourselves that we defeated Dr. Atombender’s rubbish 8-bit sprite many, many years ago. Yeah, take that you stupid pixel man. You’re nothing to us now. You hear that? Nothing.

Night vision goggle power-up whine – Splinter Cell (2002)

When you hear the camera flash-like sound of Sam Fisher’s night vision goggles, you know it’s business time. Sure, it’s odd that guards completely ignore its green glow and high-pitched whine – but who cares when you’re having so much fun dishing out death from the shadows? Funny how it also sounds a bit like the Catchphrase buzzer, isn’t it?

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“Hadouken!” – Street Fighter 2 (1991)

Our panicky Street Fighter 2 button mashing resulted in firing countless desperate energy balls against quick-reflexed foes. The sound is permanently etched on our minds. Sadly, shouting it out in real life does little to clear packed Underground carriages or Sainsbury’s queues. Well, depending on how loudly you bellow. Sometimes it works a right treat.

Headbutt coin ding – Super Mario Bros. (1985, NES)

This is quite possibly the most recognisable game sound ever. It almost makes us want to smash our heads against brick walls in the hope of releasing golden treasure, but after multiple experiments, we can confirm that it doesn’t work. This is quite possibly the most recognisable game sound ever. It almost makes us want to smash our heads against brick walls in the hope of releasing golden treasure, but after multiple experiments, we can confirm that it doesn’t work.

Newspaper hitting a porch – Paperboy

There are few things as satisfying as a perfectly-timed newspaper throw in Paperboy. It cements one’s status as a master delivery boy, a higher station than we’d ever hoped to achieve in real life. Few things sound less like a newspaper hitting a porch, mind you, but tht’s besides the point. We think. Wait, what were we talking about again?

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You’ve been spotted! – Metal Gear Solid


The most rage-inducing, panic-creating sound in gaming history, the klaxon from Metal Gear Solid (coupled with the massive on-screen red exclamation mark) generated many a controller-to-floor incident. To this day, we have to stick a red dot over the ‘1’ key on all of our keyboards to avoid any PTSD incidents. On-screen keyboards, as you can imagine, are nightmare. #JustPTSDGamerThings

Three. Two. One. Beeeeeep! – Super Mario Kart (SNES, 1992)

It’s only five short seconds before you and your friends descend into karting madness, throwing turtle shells, bananas and lightning clouds at each other. The adrenaline is high, your palms are sweaty, and already, you can hear the blue shell’s stalking, merciless approach in your ears. Who cares if you’ve been first place all race? That blue shell respects no one…

“Waka Waka” – PAC-MAN

Do you trust us? Then take your finger, and repeatedly poke it in and pull it out of your ear. Boom. PAC-MAN. Check out the video for proof. Cleaning your ears just got a little bit more enjoyable.

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