Video game music has always been a staple of the industry and its importance to the games themselves is often times very profound. At times these soundtracks are shown off brilliantly through intros, cinematics, and even marketing and advertisements. Other times, however, amazing compositions slip under the radar and go very much unnoticed. Sure, there are iconic tunes that everyone knows such as Super Mario and Tetris, but this list isn’t just about catchy melodies. For the most part I tried to stay away from classics that already have their fame and popularity.
For huge fans of video game music, I know there is a seemingly endless assortment of songs out there that are wonderful and outstanding. For that very reason I am focusing solely on the main themes of all those games out there. This list would be impossible to create if I had to compare the many thousands of amazing pieces that make up even a fraction of my favorite soundtracks. Hardcore fans are well aware of the brilliant scores and countless compositions that are out there for video games. A majority of the general public, however, are barely even aware of the existence of music in video games, belittling it as just something that interrupts the silence. One of this list’s major purposes is to help spread awareness for these great works of art that too often go unnoticed.
As a trumpet player I am obviously a little bit biased when it comes to some of these themes, so I apologize if the list isn’t constructed exactly to your liking. Among the songs that I have chosen, some of them pick at your emotions, while others simply aim to blow you away with their grandeur. Sit back, relax, and appreciate them for what they are. I applaud all of the talented composers that poured their hearts and souls into crafting these inspiring masterpieces.
10. SSBB Main Theme – (Super Smash Bros. Brawl)
Composed by Nobuo Uematsu
The Super Smash Bros. Brawl theme is well known to many gamers; That is, for about the first 30 seconds or so. Because of the immense popularity of the Super Smash Bros. franchise, the theme has undoubtedly began thousands of times in gamers’ homes across the country. The entire length of the piece is just as good as its intro, and it deserves all the credit that it is due.
9. Warhawk Title Theme – (Warhawk)
Composed by Christopher Lennertz
Warhawk’s theme fits it perfectly in every sense. The game is all about epic dog fights, soaring through the sky while maneuvering through bullets and performing intense acrobatic feats. It’s about being the hero that flies in and saves the day. It lends itself strongly to Air Force One’s main theme. Only brass could be this majestic.
8. Allied Assault Main Theme – (Medal of Honor: Allied Assault)
Composed by Michael Giacchino
Anyone that has ever played a Medal of Honor game knows that it’s all about brotherhood and comradery. The focus is just as much on the emotion between characters as it is on the other elements of the game. Allied Assault’s theme echoes the struggles and hardships that all soldiers face once they reach the battlefield. I apologize for the video, but there was a copyright issue with uploading this song to SoundCloud.
7. Dungeon Siege Trailer Theme – (Dungeon Siege 2)
Composed by Jeremy Soule
Although this song isn’t the title theme of the game, it was the theme for one of the announcement trailers. After surfacing, this theme became increasingly popular and prompted the developer, Gas Powered, to make it available for download on their website. The deep low brass and powerful vocal choir work very nicely with one another.
6. Icarus – (Deus Ex: Human Revolution)
Composed by Michael McCann
Deus Ex: Human Revolution’s theme song gets its power by building the listener up over time. It starts out very softly and grows to be quite chaotic. This makes it perfect music for a cinematic, and was originally teased back in 2010 in the Human Revolution E3 Trailer, one of the best trailers that I’ve ever seen.
5. Prologue [To The Ancient Land] – (Shadow of the Colossus)
Composed by Kow Otani
The world of Shadow of the Colossus is filled with darkness and mystery. You never fully realize what is going on until the very end of the story. The subtleness of the opening theme sets the stage for the grand world that is laid before the protagonist. The vastness of the lands that are available for exploration is truly awe inspiring, complemented by the moving soundtrack throughout the entirety of the game.
4. Nate’s Theme – (Uncharted)
Composed by Greg Edmonson
The Uncharted series has received numerous awards on behalf of their original soundtracks. It stars protagonist and adventurer Nathan Drake on his search for riches and lost treasure. Nate’s Theme, a common piece between all three of the Uncharted games, has evolved through each iteration. The entire song screams adventure and compliments Drake’s heroic personality. Appropriately titled Nate’s Theme 2.0, the version below is from the second game, Uncharted 2: Among Thieves.
3. Dragonborn – (The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim)
Composed by Jeremy Soule
The Elder Scrolls has always been one of the most popular open world RPGs in existence. With the newest release of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, Bethesda Studios successfully broadened the franchise fanbase more than they could have ever imagined. Skyrim’s theme is a variation on the original and very familiar theme of the Elder Scrolls, only sung by what game director Todd Howard likes to call a “barbarian choir.” You can take a behind the scenes look at the creation of Skyrim’s theme in the The Sound of Skyrim. Also, check out our review of the The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, right here on The Young Folks.
2. Hikari – (Kingdom Hearts)
Composed by Utada Hikaru
Kingdom Hearts fans are extremely passionate about the franchise and its characters. With some of the best storytelling in the business, the game’s soundtrack complements the countless worlds that the player can explore. Mixing Disney influence with classical epicness produces some of the most beloved and memorable music in all of gaming. Kingdom Hearts has several “theme songs” but the orchestrated version of Hikari takes the cake with all the makings of a grand adventure. It resonates with the many themes of the games: friendship, teamwork, and adventure. Hikari undoubtedly brings back wealth of memories for any fan of the franchise.
1. Metal Gear Solid 2/3 Main Theme – (Metal Gear Solid)
Composed by Tappi Iwase
Metal Gear Solid is one of those blockbuster franchises that sits alongside the likes of Zelda, Kingdom Hearts, Final Fantasy, and others that have an amazing amount of fan support and loyalty. The franchise has been acknowledged for its amazing soundtracks and has been continually praised since its release. This incredible piece is brilliantly performed by the Eminence Symphony Orchestra, based out of Sydney, Australia. Countless instruments are featured in this arrangement, allowing almost any fan of music to appreciate it. From sweeping, elegant string sections to powerful brass-heavy melodies this song has it all, complete with acoustic guitar solo and full choir. The adventures of protagonist Solid Snake are nothing short of grandiose, constant hero and savior in many dangerous and tense situations
Feel free to also watch Eminence perform this piece on stage below.
Honorable mention: Skyward Sword
The main theme to the latest Legend of Zelda game departs from the familiar melody of Hyrule Kingdom that many fans have come to know and love. Compared to some of the iconic songs from earlier Zelda games it is easily forgettable. The brilliance behind Skyward Swords theme, however, isn’t while the song is playing normally. Upon playing the song in reverse, the legendary and well known ‘Zelda’s Lullaby’ begins to play, as if by magic. It’s amazing that the quality of the reversed melody is so clear and crisp, and for a Zelda fan it’s definitely a treat to hear one of the series’ most important songs hidden away in a different game like an Easter egg.