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The Top 10 Opening Themes In Gaming
Welcome to Part Two of a five-part series of the wonderful world of gaming music.
Every day this week, I will list my personal Top 10 for a variety of different topics, though there is a definite theme in the topic selection. Here’s the rundown:
Yesterday: Top 10 World Map and Stage Select Themes
TODAY: Top 10 Opening Themes
Wednesday: Top 10 Most Iconic Stage/Area Themes
Thursday: Top 10 Final Boss Themes
Friday: Top 10 Credits Themes
Today I’m focusing on the songs heard at the very beginning of a game. It could be the title screen, it could be the opening cinematic, it could even be the first stage of the game. Wherever they come from, these ten songs are the perfect starting points for the games they come from. Here are the Top Ten Opening Themes!
10. Catherine – “It’s A Golden Show”
Catherine had a lot of great things going for it, not the least of which was its fantastic soundtrack. Remixes of classical music joined with jazzy ballads to create an audio masterpiece. The main menu theme here does a great job of setting up what players can expect to hear throughout the game. It starts out slow and mysterious, eventually turning into an upbeat jam session. I love the music, and I love the game.
9. Pokemon Red/Blue – “Opening Theme”
If you’re reading this and listening to everything I posted here, you know everything you need to know about this song and what it did to a generation of Game Boy-wielding Pokemon trainers. I don’t really have to describe it. Countless games and almost 400 new Pokemon later, you can still hear variations of this song today. Gotta catch ’em all!
8. Super Mario World – “Opening Theme”
For a lot of Super Nintendo owners, this may have been the first SNES game music ever heard. After all, Super Mario World came packaged with the system, immediately giving players SNES excellence before they even opened the box. Every song in Super Mario World is memorable, but nothing gets the nostalgia juices flowing like the first song in the game. I still hear the sound effects of the title screen demo every time I hear this song.
7. Kingdom Hearts II – “Dearly Beloved”
“Dearly Beloved” was my favorite song in the first Kingdom Hearts, so I hoped that it would make the leap to the sequel back in 2006. When I heard the improved version for the first time, I let the game sit at the menu for a while. This was a game I had anticipated since I watched the hidden video at the end of the first game. I wanted to jump right in and get things going, but this song…this song made me stop and just listen. It repeated multiple times, but I didn’t care. Hell, a couple of days later I booted the game up, let the menu loop again, and accidentally fell asleep for an hour just because of this soothing music. Every KH game has a version of this excellent melody, but Kingdom Hearts II is the current champion.
6. Mass Effect – “Vigil”
Another main menu song that has put me to sleep, “Vigil” is an integral part of the Mass Effect experience. In the first game it plays when Shepard meets the damaged Prothean VI Vigil. In the second game it sets the stage for Shepard’s reunion with Ashley or Kaidan. Even in the third game, where the melody can be heard at different points of story closure, “Vigil” has become, for me, the theme of Mass Effect as a whole. It’s the reason I fell in love with the soundtrack, which in turn made it easier to fall in love with the entire series.
5. Final Fantasy X – “To Zanarkand”
Is there a more beautiful piano solo piece in gaming? “To Zanarkand” is a masterpiece, a beautiful piece that highlights a beautiful musical score. The heavy emotions that flow through this song let players know immediately what they’re getting themselves into. While Final Fantasy X isn’t my favorite Final Fantasy experience, it is home to one of the top soundtracks in the series. In fact, I’d like to say this is the best Final Fantasy intro song of all time, but there’s one song that beats it…
4. Final Fantasy VIII – “Liberi Fatali”
FITHOS. LUSEC. WECOS. VINOSEC. Four words that created CHILLS down my spine at the beginning of Final Fantasy VIII. This game was my first foray into Square’s RPG juggernaut, so to be greeted with a serene beach scene and a chorus screaming Latin at me was jarring. Yes, Final Fantasy VII is “THE” Final Fantasy game. Yes, Cloud and Sephiroth are the poster boys for PS1 Final Fantasy. I’ll take Squall and crew over them any day of the week.
3. Civilization IV – “Baba Yetu”
The best version of the Lord’s Prayer I’ve ever heard. This song should be on every top ten best gaming tracks of all time, by virtue of its being the first ever video game song to win a Grammy, one of the top awards in the music industry. We gamers all knew that video game music was serious business, but it takes a special gaming tune to be acknowledged by the music industry itself, and Christopher Tin did just that. With MENU music, no less. Simply incredible.
2. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim – “Sons of Skyrim”
If this list was “Top Ten Best Trailer Themes” then this song would be number one. However, we’re talking about intros here, and while this song does play during the main menu, that menu is merely a symbol and words on a black screen. Nothing more than that. Jeremy Soule has crafted the best single music track of this console generation, but in this case it’s only second best. Sorry, Dragonborn.
1. Mega Man 2 “Opening Theme”
Best. Skyscraper. Ever. I don’t care how advanced video game graphics get, I don’t care how hyperrealistic things will get, nothing, and I mean NOTHING, will ever beat following this building to the top and seeing Mega Man standing there like a boss. I couldn’t tell you how many times I’ve watched this intro, over and over and over again, never skipping it. To a six year old, this was gaming nirvana. I still don’t skip it…how many game intros can you say you don’t skip? Especially one you’ve been playing for over twenty years? It doesn’t get any better than this.
Once again, I’d like all of you to let me know how you feel about my choices and to tell me your recommendations. As much as I call myself a gamer, I haven’t played everything, so anything I haven’t heard is absolutely welcome.
Tomorrow we turn to the icons, the songs that everyone knows inside and out. Until them, enjoy the many excellent beginnings.