Top 20 Theme Songs: Video Game Edition

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Back in college, my ‘Music in Film’ teacher always said that music is one of the key elements into making something great. It’ll make you cry. It’ll make you laugh. It’ll even inspire you to do great things. Without it, our films, television shows, and video games would be radically different, and frankly, quite boring. Great individual songs aren’t the only things that make a score successful, but also composing a reoccurring melody or riff can help unify a score. All of these components can help create a timeless classic. Then there are those that stand above the rest to be part of the top video game themes of all-time. I’m here to rank these theme songs with my Top 20 Theme Songs: Video Game Edition.

Honorable Mentions:
Top Gear 2 – Canterbury Plains
Katamari Damacy – Katamari On The Rocks
Mega Man X – Spark Mandrill

mass_effect3_theme

Without getting into the criticism of the ending of the Mass Effect 3, Leaving Earth (composed by Clint Mansell) represents everything great about the trilogy and Mass Effect 3. The ominous tone of the song combined with the 3-note piano riff feels so personal and emotional, and combine this with the visuals of the Reapers invading Earth and you have the perfect combination of audio and visual components.

 

wow_theme

For a game that’s epic size and scale should have a song that resembles that. Those who have played World of Warcraft constantly should be familiar with Legends of Azeroth. You hear it every time you login, select your character, or create your character. The song reminds me a lot of An Age Undreamed Of (Conan The Barbarian) by Basil Poledouris with its use of heavy drums then its transition to a violin melody. I guess if you were going to go with a song that best represents the magical open world of Azeroth, then Conan The Barbarian would be a good start.

 

starfox_theme

Star Fox was one of my favorite SNES games as a kid, and the Corneria Theme is by far one of my favorite theme songs in the game. While this isn’t the primary theme song of the game, this is the most memorable one. I remember as a kid seeing the Arwings takeoff, and when that upbeat tempo hits I knew it was go time. The Corneria Theme was just the perfect compliment for the type of game you were playing, and still to this day it’s one of my favorite themes.

 

castlevania_theme

Castlevania has been around for almost 30 years, as it first debuted on the NES back in 1986. 30 years later and two things remain constant, the Belmont bloodline is out to kill Dracula, and the song Vampire Killer. While it’s not a mainstream classic as the other 8-bit songs on this list, but you can’t deny that Konami’s persistent use of the song for every Castlevania game makes this as much of a classic as the original NES game.

 

mvc2_theme

“I wanna take you for a ride.”

Okay, so this song doesn’t make any sense whatsoever, but one can’t help but bob their heads to Marvel vs. Capcom 2’s Character Select theme with its 60s funk melody and simple extremely simple lyric. This is just one of those cases where you like the song, you just don’t know why. If you need more proof just do a search on YouTube for the song and you’ll find nothing but 10-20 minute loops of the song. Looks like we’re all ready to go on that ride.

 

godofwar_theme

Much like the first two theme songs in our countdown, God of War’s Main Titles theme encompasses the epic scale and presentation of this mythical revenge tale. The song reminds me a lot of Hans Zimmer’s work in the way the horns and drums are composed together, and combine that with the Greek chants and you have something akin to the Gladiator soundtrack. It is also, perhaps, the second best example of a theme song matching a saga’s presentation – the other being Metal Gear Solid’s theme, but we’ll get to that soon enough.

 

chrono_trigger_theme

http://youtu.be/fMzkUriqXvs

Frog’s Theme is perhaps my favorite theme song from one of my favorite games of all-time. Honestly, with this game I could have chosen any of the theme songs in the game and there would be no wrong answer. For the purpose of this list, I went with Frog’s Theme because of the majestic composition of the song, and the fact that Frog is one badass character. The song just fits the character so well.

 

portal_theme

The dark horse on the list is Portal’s Still Alive by Jonathan Coulton. The reason why this song is on the list is because of its memorable and funny lyrics and its catchy folk beat. Also, the fact that the song was sung by the game’s antagonist GLaDOS, just makes the song that much funnier. Many people would admit that they wouldn’t skip through Portal’s credits just so they hear Still Alive – and possibly sing along too. I guess that’s another way of getting people to stay through the credits.

 

ffx_theme

Nobuo Uematsu, what can I say but he is one of my favorite composers of all-time. Not just for video games but in general, he’s up there with John Williams and Hans Zimmer. FINAL FANTASY X’s Zanarkand is just a great example of his sheer brilliance. Whatever your feelings are towards FINAL FANTASY X, you can’t deny that the piano composition of the song is arranged beautifully. Too bad that FINAL FANTASY X would be Uematsu’s last score for the FINAL FANTASY franchise as he left Square Enix in 2004. But his last score is the up there with some of his best work in the FINAL FANTASY franchise, and Zanarkand would be the crowning achievement in that score.

 

uncharted_theme

The Uncharted trilogy will forever be placed in the pantheon of the greatest video games of all time. Every great game has to have a great theme song to go along with it and Greg Edmonson’s Nate’s Theme is exactly that. The combination of the horns and violins gives the song that epic action-adventure feel that’s fitting for an adventurer like Nathan Drake. Sometimes when I started to play the game, I wouldn’t hit the Start button just so I can listen to the theme song, it’s just that good. It’s time to go on an adventure!

 

ducktales_theme

Ducktales Remastered is perhaps one of the most anticipated games coming out this summer. Not only is the game highly anticipated, but many fans of the game are awaiting to hear Jay Kaufman’s new arrangement for the game’s most famous theme song: The Moon Theme. The original, composed by Hiroshige Tonomura, is a great mix of melodies. From the catchy primary melody to the background bass line melody, the original Moon theme showed that a classic song in the 8-bit era can from another source other than Nintendo and Konami. The song is so beloved by fans that there are a plethora of great remixes out there for the song – not to mention, YouTube sensation Smooth McGroove’s recently released acapella version of The Moon Theme.

 

mortal_kombat_theme

While many out there associate this song with the Paul W.S. Anderson film, The Immortal’s Techno Syndrome was actually created to coincide with the home release of the video game. What can I say, the song makes me want to kick some ass, take names, and then kick some more ass. I suggest listening to this before you get into a fight, as the energetic, upbeat tempo makes it perfect for any ass-kicking situation.

 

halo3_theme

The Halo saga has had its share of theme songs, but One Final Effort is the one that stands above the others. While it’s similar to the initial theme song of all three games (minus the chanting), this one just has that sense of closure and a sense of urgency to it. It’s a very fitting song (and title) to the final chapter of the Halo trilogy.

 

killer_instinct_theme

If you’ve bought Killer Instinct then chances are you’ve heard this epic theme song. Words cannot describe the feelings of epicness I feel whenever I listen to the guitar riffs in The Instinct. To me it’s one of the best intro songs to a fighting game ever, and that’s saying a lot considering the amount of fighting games on the market.

 

tetris_theme

Fun fact: Most of you probably never knew that the most famous song in Tetris is actually a nineteenth-century Russian folk song. Korobeiniki tells the tale of a meeting between a peddler and a girl, in which they haggle over the price of goods in a veiled metaphor for courtship. You probably also had no idea that the song had lyrics too! Regardless, Tetris remains one of the most played games on a handheld system to date, and Korobeiniki will always be attached to the game as its theme.

 

ffvii_theme

FINAL FANTASY VII is also one of those games where any theme song chosen would be right for this list. There are no wrong answers here either. For the sake of the list, I chose the most popular song One-Winged Angel. While I’m partial to the Battle theme or Aerith’s Theme, One-Winged Angel struck a chord with just about everyone who has played the game. The choral Latin chants and orchestral composition makes One-Winged Angel a fitting theme song for one of gaming’s most famous villains of all-time. Hours of your life were spent preparing your characters with the inevitable battle with Sephiroth. Composer Nobuo Uematsu does an amazing job of creating a sense of atmosphere for every moment in the game, and when One-Winged Angel started playing you knew that you were in for an epic battle.

 

street_fighter2_theme

If you’re wondering why Guile’s Theme is ranked #3, then I have five words for you: Guile’s theme goes with everything. Street Fighter II is chock full of memorable stage themes, but Guile’s theme has topped above the rest because of the Internet meme. The use of the song can instantly bring any video a sense of hope, freedom, and majesties. There’s just something about the song that cannot be described, it really does go with everything. SONIC BOOM!

 

mgs2_theme

The Main Theme to Metal Gear Solid 2 is one of the most epic theme songs composed for a video game period. Harry Gregson-Williams has composed what is likely to be the quintessential rendition of Metal Gear Solid’s theme to date, and that’s saying something. Two games later people still consider Metal Gear Solid 2’s theme song to be the best one of them all. A badass theme for a badass franchise.

 

zelda_theme

The Legend of Zelda’s Overworld Theme is one of the most beloved theme songs of all-time. It’s not surprising as it’s the theme song to one of the most loved video game franchises of all-time. Searching for the Zelda theme on YouTube just tells you how much people love this theme. There are at least 200 thousand YouTube videos dedicated to the theme song, and some of them even have at least a million views on YouTube. If it weren’t for the popularity of my #1 song, this would definitely be first.

 

mario_theme

As if it was any surprise to have the Super Mario Bros. Overworld Theme as the number one theme song of all-time. It goes without saying that not only is this song one of the most recognizable theme songs, but it’s also one of the most popular. The Mario theme song is also one of the rare songs ever composed that can be hummed on a whim without much thought. That’s when you know you have a timeless hit.

The great thing about theme songs is that everyone has their favorites, this is my list and my fellow writers have their own. Check out their top 3 theme songs, and tell us yours in the comments section below!

Staff Picks:
John “Spartan” Nguyen
1. Metal Gear Solid 2 – Main Theme
2. Super Mario Bros. – Overworld Theme
3. Tetris – Korobeiniki

Mike Villareal
1. Red Dead Redemption – Exodus in America (Piano Version)
2. Shadow of the Colossus – Open The Way
3. Punch-Out! – Training Theme

Chris Del Castillo
1. Chrono Trigger – Main Theme
2. Metal Gear Solid 2 – Main Theme
3. Devil May Cry 3 – Devils Never Cry

Narvin Seegoolam
1. Halo 2 – Main Theme
2. Super Mario Bros. – Overworld Theme
3. The Legend of Zelda – Overworld Theme

Jose Guiterrez III
1. Mortal Kombat – Techno Syndrome
2. Super Mario Bros – Overworld Theme
3. FINAL FANTASY VII – One Winged Angel

Alex Rodriguez
1. God of War – Main Titles
2. Kingdom Hearts II – Overture (Passion piano)
3. The Elder Scrolls V – Skyrim Theme

Kyle McArthur
1. Chrono Trigger – Frog’s Theme
2. Yoshi’s Island – Flower Garden
3. Super Metroid – Brinstar, The Jungle Floor

Be sure to check back soon for our Top 20 Theme Songs: TV Edition!

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Mark Pacis
Mark Pacis 1621 posts

Self-proclaimed "Human IMDb" and comic book geek. Biggest Iron Man fan you'll probably ever meet.