Just as the right musical score helps set the tone of a film and elevate it to karaoke popularity, music from video games is just as iconic.
The “Ground Theme” from Super Mario might as well be the gaming community’s international anthem. Everyone is at least familiar with the start jingle from Pac-Man, the “Wild Pokémon” battle music from Pokémon Emerald, Ruby and Sapphire, or the Wii Sports theme.
A lot of video game music may have turned into memes in the last couple of years (case in point, the Wii Sports theme), but it’s undeniable that video game music is powerful. Played at the right time, a song can fuel any player’s determination to win the final battle or add nuance to an emotional cutscene.
Here are some original soundtracks from video games that touched our hearts and left lasting impressions in our gaming experiences. Some are nostalgic, and some simply succeeded to get us close to tears.
“Dearly Beloved” (Kingdom Hearts)
“Dearly Beloved” may as well be the culmination of the complex and intricate Kingdom Hearts storyline. The song plays as soon as you load the game, the piano and synthesized voices blending together to create a harmony that alludes to the game’s melancholy (and for some, nostalgia).
“Dearly Beloved” may as well be the Kingdom Hearts’ main theme, as every game in the franchise greets the player with the song, only reprised in later games. It’s strangely moving, especially for those who played this on their first handheld consoles and saw themselves in the young, determined Sora.
“Spanish Sahara” (Life is Strange)
Life is Strange interprets the chaos theory, teaching us that our actions carry weight and have their own consequences when handled without care. It allows the player to decide for the characters in the game and rewind time should they not like the outcome.
For one of the player’s choices in the final chapter, Foals’ “Spanish Sahara” plays in the background as the player watches the aftermath. All of the rewinding done in the game snowballs into those events, which the song admittedly captures well.
“You Can Always Come Home” (Deltarune)
“You Can Always Come Home” is a reprised version of “Home” from Undertale, Toby Fox’s more popular and earlier work, but think of it as an upgraded version. Given the context of the game, it fits perfectly: The Deltarune world that you’re in is the same as Undertale’s yet somehow still very different.
Even if you’ve never played the game, the tune gives a vivid image of returning to a quiet little rural town, of mom welcoming you back home. It feels oddly nostalgic and the game isn’t even that old.
“Somnus” (Final Fantasy XV)
Okay, maybe this is the third time I’m mentioning something from Square Enix, but hear me out—they do a heck of a great job getting you to feel things.
“Somnus” is another masterpiece by Yoko Shimomura, the same person who composed Kingdom Hearts’ “Dearly Beloved.” Its somber mood complements the Latin lyrics, which sum up the game’s story—Noctis awakening in the crystal from perpetual night only to see what the world around him has become.
“City of Tears” (Hollow Knight)
When the player enters the once-famed kingdom’s heart, they are greeted with constant rain. Not to throw in any spoilers, but the music will gain significance if you happen to find the lore of the City of Tears.
This song hits differently when you decide to sit on a bench next to the explorer Quirrel, the calming ambiance complementing the rain sound. In a game that forces you to watch your back often, you let your guard down for a moment and allow yourself to take in the beauty of your surroundings.
“The Last of Us” Opening Credits (The Last of Us)
Not only is the instrumental score moving (for a horror game), but the way it was used sends quite a powerful message.
The strummed guitar strings and subtle accompanying percussion unravel the premise of the game along with the voice-overs of several fictional news anchors and world leaders. It’s eerily captivating how the game portrayed an apocalyptic world that’s not exactly like ours yet somehow managed to be just as relevant.
Still from Life is Strange