Video games have so many iconic sound effects—hearing the simple "ga-ling!" of the Nintendo coin can invoke a nostalgia as powerful as any memory of actually playing a game. From the Mario's three-note warp-pipe descent to Simon Belmont's famous whip, all games feature sounds that players will hear over and over and over again until they're drilled into our subconscious.
But when we talk about these sounds, we can lack the vocabulary to accurately describe the effects in question. I thought it might be fun to attempt to write out phonetic recreations of some of gaming's most famous sound effects to see what they would look like on the page.
A few caveats: This list is just for fun, and I'm really looking forward to seeing how you guys would write some of these. In no way do I believe my list to be definitive. Secondly, I'm aware that there are a bunch of other famous sound effects I left off, and hope to assemble at least one more list for a follow-up.
So, let's begin! Click through the gallery to hear the sound effects and see them written out.
Big thanks to Matt Buzzi for the assist tracking down these videos.
Easily the most iconic video game jumping sound effect of all time, Mario's leap is elastically charged, and its arc is as important as its phonetics—it starts low, then crests up and down, in a perfect sonic representation of the famed plumbers impossibly springy leap:
Metal Gear Exclamation Point
The sound of dread, the sound of failure: nothing quite sends shocks through my system like the sound of a guard being alerted in Metal Gear. My memory of this one was a bit rounder than the effect actually is, so I added a few more R's than I would have thought, but that "v" sound seems pretty clear:
Halo Shield Recharge
This one's a two-parter—the first, a notification of extreme vulnerability: dee-dee-dee-dee-dee followed, after an excrusiating wait, by the lengthy ooooooommmmm a spartan's shield recharging:
Super Mario Bros. Warp Pipe
This one was very tricky, since there's a warbly quality to each of the "garlp"s of the warp-pipe from Super Mario Bros. that is impossible to put into words. But this is as close as I can come with mere letters:
Belmont's Castlevainia Whip
It may not read like a whip, but it sounds like one—the famous whip of the Belmont clan is a lot less "whaa-pish!" than you might think, opting for cutting sibilance over explosive consonance:
Aah, those silly pink demons. They have a couple of sounds, but the most famous is the roar they emit as they go in for the attack. It's very guttural:
While Mario's jump is a simple, stretchy interpretation of the action on-screen, Sonic the Hedgehog's jumping sound effect is a good deal more ostentatious. It's a long, rolling "Bloooiiii!" as he spins through the air - notice how the sound effect starts broad and climbs up, up, up all the way to the end, never returning to the earth.
Grabbing rings in <em.Sonic the Hedgehog is a streamlined, fast-moving affair, and so the sound effect of grabbing a single ring tends to overlap and duplicate as multiple rings are grabbed (and often, lost) in quick succession. After listening to this one a bunch of times, I have become convinced that there is indeed a "Goi" sound at the beginning, running together to form:
Whether it's from killing a monster, breaking a rock, or simply pruning some hedges, rupees are pretty easy to come by in The Legend of Zelda games. And when you do find 'em, expect to hear a lot of this sound effect (and be sure to upgrade your purse):
We have been conditioned to react to this sound as surely as an AIM notification or of a mail landing in our Macbook's inbox. The little boo-kap! of the "achievement unlocked" notification is so tinnily, cutely satisfying that it is practically a reward unto itself: