The 11 Best Songs in Video Games

– by Brendan Reid, Editor –

Much like the score of a film, music is used to set the mood in a video game. Whether you’re playing an adrenaline fueled shooter or a laid back platformer, the accompanying music is designed to suit the action, and a great deal of care goes into creating the right soundtrack for a game. Here are the 10 best original songs in video game history.

11. Final Fantasy Victory Fanfare 

The Final Fantasy victory fanfare plays after every battle you win in the long series of games, and immediately evokes feelings of triumph and confidence. Composed by Nobuo Uematsu for the first Final Fantasy game, the song has been used in almost every game in the franchise. Final Fantasy VII was the first game to break the cycle and use a different fanfare, but later titles have since returned to the faithful tune to celebrate their victories.

10. “Snake Eater” From Metal Gear Solid 3

There could be no better song then “Snake Eater” for an espionage game taking place in the 1960’s. You could easily imagine it playing before an old James Bond movie, and the song captures the feelings of Snake’s sorrowful mission through the Soviet jungle perfectly. Written by Norihiko Hibino and sung by Cynthia Harell, the song won the “Best Original Vocal Song” award from the Game Audio Network Guild in 2005. With its soaring vocals and wildly appropriate orchestral section, the award was aptly given. And thanks to “Snake Eater,” climbing an oversized ladder has never been more entertaining.

9. Korobeiniki (Tetris Theme Song)

Known in the West as the Tetris theme song, Korobeiniki is actually a traditional Russian folk song. Based on a Russian poem that was published in 1861, Korobeiniki tells the tale of peddler who falls in love with a young maiden, but is murdered on the road before he has a chance to marry her. Though the lyrics are dark, the music associated with the poem is very upbeat and dance oriented, and was adapted by Hirokazu Tanaka for the Game Boy version of Tetris in 1989. From that point on, Korobeiniki became known as the Tetris theme song, and has become synonymous with Russian culture and falling blocks alike.

8. “Demise Of The Ritual” from Shadow Of The Colossus

Bleak, epic, and powerful, “Demise Of The Ritual” is the perfect song to play during the final fight in Shadow Of The Colossus. Composer Kow Otani created a a rich soundtrack for Shadow Of The Colossus, and “Demise Of The Ritual” is the best of the bunch, a dark crescendo to an unforgettable journey. Throughout the game, it is clear there is something terribly wrong with the acts you are doing. Each colossus you slay causes your character great pain, and adds a demonic tinge to his appearance. At the end of the game, you are pitted against the largest creature yet. Victory seems utterly hopeless, but you know you must persevere if you wish to revive your lost love. “Demise Of The Ritual” then kicks in, and shows just how important music is when it comes to storytelling in games.

7. The Last Of Us Main Theme

Composed by two-time academy award winner Gustavo Santaolalla, the main theme for The Last Of Us oozes atmosphere. The song is chillingly beautiful and ominous, and perfectly meshes with the post-apocalyptic America of the game. The world of The Last Of Us is overrun by fungal-headed zombies and desperate survivors, and is slowly being reclaimed by nature. Santaolalla’s theme haunts the player as they explore this world, and is a constant reminder of the beauty and danger lurking around each corner.

6. “Gourmet Race” From Kirby Super Star and Smash Bros.

“Gourmet Race” first appeared as the song for a minigame in 1996’s Kirby Super Star, and gained even more popularity through Super Smash Bros. as the music behind Kirby’s Dreamland stage. Composed by Jun Ishikawa and Dan Miyakawa, “Gourmet Race” has become the anthem for many a Smash battle between friends, and through it’s infectious intensity, has earned the title of Kirby’s theme song.

5. “Gerudo Valley” From The Legend Of Zelda: Ocarina Of Time

One of many songs composed by Koji Kondo, “Gerudo Valley” is an exceptional mood setting piece. Its galloping pace, flamenco guitars, castanets, and horn sections all evoke images of a wild, untameable land, which describes Gerudo valley and its surrounding desert perfectly. You first encounter the song when you visit the valley as young Link, and find the bridge impassable. Things are different when you return as an adult, armed with new equipment and experience. Suddenly the perils of Gerudo valley are open to you, and you are free to explore them (once you escape the dungeon, of course). The whole area is set against its infectious theme, and Gerudo valley becomes one of the most memorable areas in the game as a result.       

4. “The Sun Rises” From Okami

The entire soundtrack of Okami is a masterwork, and shows just how much care can go into creating a video game’s score. Composed by Rei Kondo, “The Sun Rises” embodies the theme of light triumphing over dark that Okami revels in, and is inspired heavily by traditional Japanese music. The song is played at the very end of your journey, when all hope seems lost. As the Japanese sun god Amaterasu, you are defeated by the lord of darkness, but the love of your people quickly reinvigorates you. As this happens the song kicks in, and you suddenly have an advantage over an enemy that once seemed insurmountable. It’s a fantastic end to a great game. Now how about that sequel?

3. Super Mario World Theme

Another song by legendary composer Koji Kondo, the Super Mario World theme is surely the most joyful tune ever written for a video game. Super Mario World is one of the best platformers around, and this track is an embodiment of its colourful levels and characters. Along with numerous gameplay innovations, the game introduced Yoshi the dinosaur, and he has become a central character in the Mario Universe since. Super Mario World is a timeless classic, and its carefree theme has helped the game maintain that status.

2.The Legend Of Zelda Overworld Theme

Koji Kondo strikes again with The Legend Of Zelda overworld theme, a song that will forever be associated with adventure. Players first heard it while exploring Hyrule field in the original game, and it has been used in just about every Zelda game since. The series is one of the most influential in the industry, and has inspired modern open-world and role-playing games alike. The Zelda overworld theme set the bar for what a video game song could be, and few have been able to match its grandeur and longevity.

1. Super Mario Bros. Ground Theme

Arguably the most recognizable video game song of all time, the Super Mario Bros. ground theme was the soundtrack to a revolution. Shigeru Miyamoto popularized the side-scroller genre with Super Mario Bros., and as it sold incredibly well, it helped to reverse the video game market crash of the 1980s. Gaming’s most resilient mascot was popularized through Super Mario Bros., and for decades the mustachioed plumber has inspired old and young alike to find enjoyment in video games. A mascot wouldn’t be much without his theme song, and thanks to master composer Koji Kondo, Mario surely has the most memorable.

Brendan Reid is an avid gamer and music enthusiast. He can often be found hiking through the woods, or looking for reckless adventures to embark on. 

Follow Brendan on Twitter @brendanhreid and follow Q-Avenue @QuincyAvenue