Something in my eye: Video game themes that throw you off balance


#1

In one of the E3 episodes, I was really moved by Austin’s description of having to catch himself and take a few deep breaths when the Breath of the Wild theme comes on in the Smash trailer.

So waypointers, what game themes can’t you listen to in public without breaking out a tissue? What pieces of music have you saying ohh okay… I’m okay and blink repeatedly?

For me there’s two choices that immediately come to mind, one modern and one more nostalgic. Ghost Synth, one of the Autumn themes from Stardew valley, is maybe the most recent example. The main melody uses the same synth as Maru’s theme (and she is cute), but otherwise it’s just a lovely almost slightly sad thee that matches the season so perfectly.

The nostalgic example is the title theme from Wild World. AC:WW is actually the only Animal Crossing game I’ve ever played, but it’s left a huge impression on me. There’s very few games I think back on as fondly as Wild World; I would give a lot to have a game that could take me to that kind of headspace today.

And a late submission because I can’t not include a disasterpeace track: “Majesty” from Fez


#2

I had my wedding party walk down the aisle to the Great Fairy’s Fountain Theme from Zelda, so probably that. Yes, I’m basic af.


#3

“Everything’s Alright” from To The Moon is an obvious contender.

Weirdly, even though I’ve never played the game, “The Parting Glass” from Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag.

“Bound Together” from Pyre still gets me, no matter what choices I make or how the ending plays out.


#4

I went to look up this song on YT for this thread and then inevitably listened to it all the way through and am now sitting at my work desk all teary-eyed. This game has such an unbelievable soundtrack and this song just destroys me.


#5

Admittedly a lot of the power of this track comes from the context it appears in, but the Heavens To Betsy song that appears in the credits for Gone Home never fails to turn me into a teary-eyed mess. The feelings the game and the song left me with have only gotten stronger as time has went on and I’ve become more aware of my identity and why the game spoke to me in such a way in the first place. Even looking up the song to share it here has me a little misty-eyed:

The Undertale track (simply titled “Undertale”) is so good at conveying the emotional core of the game and it’s also extremely good at getting under my skin and making me very emotional. It’s placement in the story also makes for what I feel is easily one of the strongest parts of the game:


#6

Pretty much every theme from the Final Fantasy 13 series, but especially Wish from 13-2.


#7

I will always have a pang of longing when I hear the opening credits to Final Fantasy IX starting screen theme “The Place I’ll Return to Someday.”

IX is my favorite in the series and that song perfectly captures the melancholy and wistfulness that permeates the game.


#8

This cover of “This World is Not My Home” from Kentucky Route Zero will never not get to me. Not only because of how lovely the track itself is, but also for how devastating the build up to this denouement is. Basically, one of the main characters, a recovering alcoholic, spent 2.9 acts of the game sober, and Act IV shows him completely off the wagon and now a shell of his former self – ultimately being taken away to work at a bourbon distillery/electrical plant as a debt slave. I like to think of this song as a eulogy for him.

After playing 80ish hours of the first game to ever make me reevaluate my entire worldview, Persona 4’s credits sequence is the first one to ever make me cry. To this day, I can’t hear this song without thinking about the time I spent with that game and the ways it impacted me.

And Emily already mentioned it, but I’ll second the self-titled song from Undertale. I still can’t hear that song without listening to it all the way through.


#9

The Final Fantasy theme really throws me off in a way that’s never really expected because I haven’t actually finished any of those games. But I was given FF7 for my 11th birthday, and that first disc made such an impression on me that that music is burned in my brain. I want to like Final Fantasy so much due to my nostalgic experience of those few hours, but they’re all such big time sinks that there’s no way I could make time for them. Also, I don’t know how much I’d enjoy actually playing any of them in a modern context.

Similarly, as someone that’s actively not a Metal Gear franchise fan, I was surprised when watching Metal Gear Scanlon how many feelings were stirred up by the music and sounds of the first Metal Gear Solid. I have distinct memories of playing that game and Oddworld: Abe’s Exoddus during Christmas vacation of 1998. I wasn’t supposed to have it since it was rated M, but my older brother got it and my parents knew that since it was in the house they couldn’t stop me.

Oh, and the Scott Pilgrim Anthem by Anamanaguchi. I experienced the blitz of that game, the movie, and the books all at just the right time in my life, and that chiptune theme is amazing.


#10

Persona knows how to fuck me up



#11

Anxious Heart is top one for me. Alot of FF7s ost has a great melancholy feel to it that when combined with all the loss and sadness the people hold throughout that game just adds to it.


#12

I get absolutely giddy when I hear any of the vignettes from the Halo themes. The evolution over the years has been pretty dope, and hearing it build on itself from year to year has been pretty cool.

Halo 1 set the bar. The iconic chanting/humming, the galloping drums, the tremendous theme.

Then in Halo 2, you get the electric guitar kicking in (I distinctly remember that “FUCK YEAH!” feeling I got when I heard that the first time).

Halo 3 trades out guitar for strings, and offers a different chord progression underneath the vocals at the start. Then you get the first instance of that piano riff at 8:36. Still continuing to be layered on, in, and underneath the original. Never taking away from the core, always supplementing and augmenting. And the at the very end, that fuckin’ triumphant piano riff comes back. (Fuck, this is making me feel things just as I sit here and listen to write about it.)

Halo 4 is COMPLETELY new to start. You get a chanting melody, which at least gives you that raw, primal feel you’re used to, but there’s nothing familiar. The horns come in, the strings swell, it hits a crescendo, and then… there. In the distance. That piano riff, just slightly different than normal. But you KNOW THAT THEME!!! Even when the rest of it has changed, there’s just that tiny little hook that pulls you in and lets you know that you’re home.

Halo 5 doesn’t matter as much to me. Sounds like the start of a House of Cards episode. Nothing tying me back, which is sad.


BUT THEN! E3 this year. A teaser is shown. You don’t really know what it is (you think you might). At a minute in you see the inside of a ship which you might recognize, but you’re not sure. Is it? Could it be?

And then, at 1:35… there’s the piano. There’s the theme.

Goddamn, I love a good game score.


#13

Recently I think it was Home from Undertale. It comes up again and again throughout the tracks in the game and it makes me well up every time.

Also a big crybaby for Too Late to Love You from Kentucky Route Zero. It comes out of the blue and is super melancholy. First time I played through KRZ it was from 8pm to like 2am on a sad Saturday so it really hit me when I first heard it


#14

The theme that immediately sprung to my mind was the ending theme for Terranigma.

What’s so weird about this is that this piece made me cry, even before I managed to play the actual game. After having played the game last year ago and listening to it in the context of the ending and the game’s story as a whole, it just fits so perfectly.

Generally speaking when a piece of music manages to mix both feeling sad but also being kind of hopeful for the future, it usually gets me.

Another piece that fits that description for me is “The silent beyond” from Final Fantasy V:


#15

I’m very much in the same boat as Austin with Breath of the Wild’s main theme. And same with @Emily for “Undertale”—it of course also doesn’t hurt that I was listening to that when I said goodbye to my dog earlier this year so uh, that one’s a double gut-punch.

But this one has to take the cake:

It’s hard to really convey the emotional weight of this moment if you’re not familiar with these games, but this comes at the end of a hugely emotional climax involving multiple deaths and sacrifices and it’s such a somber, beautiful moment.


#16

Going to second the vote for “Bound Together” from Pyre. Darren Korb is incredible.

Other Supergiant stuff:
Transistor’s In Circles:

Bastion’s Build That Wall:

Also:
Mage Pride from Dragon Age 2:

Distant Light from Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII:

And there’s always been something about the Howling Fjord music from Wrath of the Lich King:


#17

Dragon Roost Island from Wind Waker; I was born on a coastal city and lived some of my early childhood there but I’m now away from the sea, so this game already brings back some memories (I actually never connected the dots before but back then I also lived with my grandparents, sorta like Link). But there’s a certain wistfulness about this particular song that evokes a lot of saudade feelings in general for me.


#18

I actually liked Mass Effect 3 a lot (or most of it) and its theme is still kind of devastating. I really enjoyed ME3’s seriousness and the increasingly desperate odds Shepard was up against, and I think this theme does a good job of capturing that tone:

runner up because I’m not 100% sure this counts as a game theme but I… still have strong feelings about GLaDOS, okay,


#19

involving multiple deaths and sacrifices

Wow I… know nothing about the mystery dungeon games and it sounds like they go some serious places?


#20

I remember the first time I booted up Homeworld way, way back in the day and after the intro movie, there was a sequence of the mothership getting ready to launch set to a choral rendition of Barber’s Adagio for Strings and it just fucked. me. right. up.

And it still does, even in the remaster!