Chiptune and cover songs. It seems like a perfect match, right?
Who wouldn’t want to hear their favorite artists and hits filtered through their favorite video game console, creating the ultimate nostalgic remix?!
Heck, many actual classic games even tried to include lo-fi, “chippified” covers of “real” songs in their gameplay soundtracks with varying degrees of success. Exhibit A:
At the same time, it’s pretty easy to dismiss this idea of using old video game sound chips to cover well-known tunes as just some kind of novelty gimmick.
But such a dismissal would be disrespectful to the medium, and there are plenty of legit reasons to pay tribute to a beloved song by producing a chiptune cover.
A quick YouTube search shows that there are hundreds of thousands of chiptune covers, ranging from meticulous recreations coming from actual consoles to basic MIDI files loaded up in a modern DAW and run through simple “8-bit” plugins.
Given that sample size, it’s almost impossible to narrow down “the best” without leaving something amazing out. This list simply represents a few of what we consider to be the most impressive, creative, and authentic covers out there in the entire “chipiverse.” Hopefully they inspire you to start creating chip covers of your own (and if you’re looking for a place to get started, check out our free course series, Chiptune Crash Course, and create a 60-second cover of Devo’s “Whip It” for the chance to win a modded Game Boy!).
Let’s start with the compilations, as they represent a commitment to this cover culture worthy of our highest praise!
Pterodactyl Squad’s Weezer Compilation
This Weezer tribute is a true chiptune classic. The lo-fi synth medium really helps emphasize the band’s knack for coming up with poppy, catchy, melodic rock hooks.
8-Bit Operators’ WANNA HLD YR HANDHELD, VOLS. 1 & 2. Beatles Tribute
This Beatles chiptune comp features some of the most imaginative and unexpectedly brilliant reinterpretations of everyone’s favorite songs from everyone’s favorite band.
8-Bit Operators’ The Music of Kraftwerk
Who doesn’t want to hear chippy versions of Kraftwerk’s best tunes? This is a tribute compilation in the truest sense, featuring unique instruments covering some of the most original and important electronic music the world has ever known.
THE 8BITPEOPLES’ THE 8BITS OF CHRISTMAS
This spectacular Christmas cover collection is sure to win over any chiptune-hating Scrooge any time of the year. Bit Shifter’s “Let It Snow” is one of my favorite arrangements of anything ever.
8-Bit Operators’ Crack That Chip!
This Devo cover compilation features minusbaby’s fantastic version of “Whip It,” a track that’s worth listening to if you’re thinking about participating in the third installment of Soundfly’s free Chiptune Crash Course series!
Other Wacky Chip Covers
Knife City’s “Party in the USK”
A silly, but awesome, LSDJ cover of Miley Cyrus’s “Party in the USA” arranged by Anamanaguchi drummer Luke Silas, a.k.a. Knife City.
Hally’s “Blue Monday”
Next is an excellent arrangement of the New Order classic “Blue Monday” by Japanese chiptune superstar Hally (it starts at 3:09 in the video). And if you’re into New Order chiptune covers, be sure to check out my own version of “Bizarre Love Triangle.”
A very neat remix/cover of Scatman John’s ’90s Eurodance hit “Scatman” by BSK.
glomag’s “The Ecstasy of Gold”
Chip It Challenge judge, glomag made a beautiful and impressive Game Boy-and-guitar version of Ennio Morricone’s epic spaghetti western score from The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.
Bud Melvin’s “Boys Don’t Cry”
This is an absolutely insanely great playlist of New Mexico-based chiptune hero Bud Melvin covering selections by the Cure for a recent Halloween set. If you’re interested in hearing some goth, new wave, chiptune augmented with banjo, awesome wacky vocals, and country influences, look no further.