In The Hall of the Gaming King

Illustration for article titled In The Hall of the Gaming King

I've been playing a bit of Escape Plan on the Vita; it's a charming puzzle game that places you in a series of incredibly dangerous rooms and tasks you with helping the two hapless, goofy main characters survive. It's got a neat, clean black & white art style, and a humorously mournful style.


It's also got "In the Hall of the Mountain King," the famous composition by Edvard Grieg, featured in his "Peer Gynt" suite. It plays, steadily building, as our heroes navigate challenge after challenge, splattering, frying, and electrocuting themselves in the process.

I got to thinking how funny that song could be, and thinking about some other times it's cropped up in video games. Turns out there are a whole bunch! Here goes:

Escape Plan

Here's the version that plays in Escape Plan, which gives a sense of the humor it adds to the game. I'd love to see a playthrough of Limbo accompanied by this song…

"Mountain King" for the Atari 2600

The music for this Atari game comes in at around 2:09, but it's actually not "In the Hall of the Mountain King," it's "Anitra's Dance," which has actually been repurposed a number of times by jazz artists. My favorite version is "Annie's Dance", arranged by Melba Liston for the Dizzy Gillespie big band.

At any rate, the tune itself comes in at the 3:00 mark, and… totally gets the melody wrong. Maybe that was a copy protection thing? You'd think that if you were calling your game Mountain King, you'd at least get the tune right!

Manic Miner

Now this is old-school - I had to hit up our resident historian Luke Plunkett for some recommendations, and he pointed me towards Manic Miner, a 1983 video game that also used Grieg's composition. I dig this version.


Return Fire

In the 3DO game Return Fire, the piece is used a bit like "Ride of the Valkyries" in Apocalypse Now.


Boom Boom Rocket

This version is very cool - taken from the XBLA game "Boom Boom Rocket," it's called "Hall of the Mountain Dude," since it's basically "Mountain King" yet dudlier. Love the reharmonization.


Pix 'n Love Rush

In my searching, I dug up this version of the song by the musician SidABitBall (whose site is temporarily down). Super cool.


And hey, since we're listing versions of this tune...

Duke Ellington's Version

...I'd be remiss if I didn't include Duke's take, which is included in an entire re-arranged version of Peer Gynt that he did. So excellent. His version of "The Nutcracker Suite" is possibly even better—if anyone would have new musical statements to make about such a classic composition, it would be Duke.


The Social Network

Okay, and let's close out with this one, Trent Reznor's arrangement for The Social Network, which was easily my favorite part of that film. Nice.


It's a metaphor, you see! The river is the internet, and the twins just weren't fast enough.


Smug Anime Face

I've gotta say, I was astonished by Katawa Shoujo's soundtrack. There are so many great tracks that it's hard to count. From the smooth piano melody of Parity to the tastefully "romantic" To Become One, other soundtracks this year are going to have a hard time matching up to this.

The entire soundtrack, as well as the game, can be downloaded for free here: