Game That Tune


Marathon Man

Canabalt’s soundtrack is a frantic dash for your life.

By Derrick Sanskrit • July 25, 2013

Game music has the power to earworm its way into your heart long after you put the controller down. Each week in Game That Tune, we highlight a great tune from a great game (or a great tune from a just-okay game).

Unspeakable horror is just over your shoulder. Don’t look back, just run. Run for your life. Run across rooftops and through plate glass windows. Run through the billowy clouds of doves straight out of a John Woo movie. Run because—oh man—that music just gets your heart pumping something fierce.

“RUN!,” the original theme from Canabalt, is everything you could possibly want from an action score, with heaping helpings of grim, unknown sci-fi horror and don’t-ever-stop-running chase music. There’s the slow crawl of distant bass swells over the cycling arp of a heavily flanged square synth—textbook “foreboding alien presence of doom” stuff—before the machine gun snares and grunged-to-Seattle-and-back pulsewave kick in with an immediacy that yells “Oh snap, it’s going down!” It is terrifying and exhilarating as the adrenaline rush takes over and the audience is compelled forward. An ominous space clears, and we are briefly at peace, but there are phantoms, the pangs and haunting memories echoing in the distance. The respite is brief. Armageddon is nigh. Here come those drums again. Only certain doom waits behind you, and the future lies ahead. Never stop running.

Share this with your friends and enemies

Write a scintillating comment

17 Responses to “Marathon Man”

  1. I wish I could ‘like’ the actual Gameological articles.  I have nothing to say but this song and game RULE.

  2. SamPlays says:

    Run for your life… The Beatles are coming after you, little girl!

  3. Chalkdust says:

    Glad to finally see some Danny Baranowsky up in this place!  What is my favorite piece from the Super Meat Boy soundtrack?  How can I choose?  I’ll limit myself to three:

    Hot Damned (Okay, actually this is definitely my favorite)

    Betus Blues, recalling the game’s hardcore 8-bit pedigree with some lovely square and triangle wave melodies

    Forest Funk serves as a generally welcoming and relatively low-key piece of music compared to other tracks, lulling the player into believing that hey, maybe they can beat this game after all.  There are ominous hints throughout, but never enough to swallow up the piece’s leisurely groove.

    Bonus because why not, Track D from Gravity Hook HD.

  4. NakedSnake says:

    Never heard of this game, but this song is awesome and if the game can match the intensity of the tune, I’m in.

    On a sidenote: Derrick, is there any chance of you doing any longer features on music issues? An all-music Inventory? It would just be cool to have some kind of compare-and-contrast a couple different tunes. Or an introduction to a composer’s body of work or something. I’m pretty into video game music (I like it), but I find deeper exploration daunting. Dunno where/how to look. 

    • BobbyMcE says:

      Never heard of Canabalt?!?

    • Dude, play Canabalt right now. Depending on who you talk to, it either invented or perfected both the “infinite runner” and “one-button” game concepts. We wouldn’t have like half the mobile games that are popular on smartphones today without it (particularly Temple Run and Robot Unicorn Attack).

      Longer features had not occurred to me, because frankly I’m pretty lazy, but I’ll sketch up some ideas and see what works. Thanks.

  5. BobbyMcE says:

    I don’t think I’ve ever lasted beyond the 2 minute mark so it’s nice to finally be able to hear the whole thing.

    Definitely one of the best fits between song and mobile game.

  6. TheBryanJZX90 says:

    The music in Ziggurat is great in a lot of the same ways as Canabalt. The music itself is part of the drive to keep you going, trying to stay alive longer just to hear how the music progresses. Or I guess you could just listen to it online but I’m waiting until I get good enough at the game.

  7. Sir Legendhead says:

    That’s a lovely gif.

  8. J M says:


    is this an article