Music expresses that which cannot be put into words and that which cannot remain silent
- Victor Hugo
It doesn't matter how picky you might be or what kind it is, everyone loves music. People use music to party, to cope, to escape and to relax. It is probably the most versatile and most moving piece of artistic expression there is.
Throughout the brief history of video games, there have been quite a few moving pieces of music that helped to tell a story and helped set the tone for a scene. Some of these themes have transcended the small world of video games and become widely recognizable by the masses.
In this article, you will find eight such themes. Feel like I missed one or left out a good one? Make sure to let us know on Google+, Facebook or Twitter and get the discussion going!
- Simple and Clean (光 - Hikari) by Utada Hikaru - Kingdom Hearts for PlayStation 2 (Later re-released as part of the Kingdom Hearts 1.5 HD ReMix)
Arguably the biggest collaboration in the history of video games, Kingdom Hearts did the unthinkable and merged the legendary and iconic world of Disney with gaming's RPG juggernaut Final Fantasy. Anyone who listened to J-pop music in the early 2000's would be bound to come across this theme through the grapevine in one way or another and was a huge hit in Japan as Utada Hikaru was one of the biggest names in music in Japan at the time.
- Halo Theme (Mjolnir Mix) by Martin O'Donnel, Michael Salvatori and Steve Vai - Halo 2 for the Xbox
Before the Modern Warfare boom in the mid 2000's there was Halo: Combat Evolved. The game would revolutionize console multiplayer and pretty much single-handedly put Microsoft on the map in the console arena with the advent of being able to hook up multiple consoles in a room akin to a PC LAN party and later the revolutionary and now iconic (or infamous depending on your outlook) service of Xbox Live. The main theme song of Halo would be given the touch of guitar legend Steve Vai in the Mjolnir Mix of the the titular theme and would grow to become the most widely recognized version of the song.
- The Town of Tristram by Matt Uelmen - Diablo for the PC and PlayStation
Any PC gamer of the mid '90s is bound to get goosebumps when they hear the first chord of this song. Many would only hear approximately 3-5 minutes of the song before braving the depths of the old Cathedral to face down the Lord of Hell. The popularity and success of this PC classic would go on to spurn two sequels and arguably lay the ground work for the MMO force that would become World of Warcraft.
- Vampire Killer by Kinuyo Yamashita and Satoe Terashima - Castlevania for the Nintendo Entertainment System
This game, while not necessarily a household name like Mario or Zelda, has a large following worldwide. It is a game that many remember playing on the NES back in the day and the theme above would go on to be included in nearly every Castlevania release that followed it and has been remixed countless times. (This one is my personal favorite)
- Prelude by Nobuo Uematsu - Final Fantasy for the Nintendo Entertainment System
The most recognizable RPG theme by the most widely recognized and popular video game composer to come out of Japan. Final Fantasy would become the biggest name in RPGs the world over for nearly two decades on what was expected to be a last ditch effort to make this video game thing work. Anyone who was a nerd in 1987 when this game was released is sure to recognize this theme and I'm sure many parents of nerds from that era would recognize it as well.
- Overworld by Koji Kondo - The Legend of Zelda for the Nintendo Entertainment System
Unlike Final Fantasy above, The Legend of Zelda was a hybrid action/RPG that would transcend your typical nerd and became a game that was popular among all age groups and genders. This is a game that adults of the 80's who had kids that played video games would play this game along with them and the overworld theme song would come to be played in many other Zelda titles that succeeded it.
- Green Hill Zone by Masato Nakamura - Sonic the Hedgehog for the Sega Mega Drive/Genesis
In the early 90's when everything was injected with a bit of ATTITUDE, Sega's answer to that fat slow plumber was a hedgehog that was too cool for school dude! The Green Hill Zone's theme would go on to be included in many remakes of the first level of Sega's brand new mascot's game for decades after. RADICAL!
- World 1-1/Overworld by Koji Kondo - Super Mario Bros. for the Nintendo Entertainment System
Outside of some arcade jingles like the level start theme from Pac-Man, World 1-1's above ground theme is easily the most recognizable game theme of all time, bar none. There isn't much to be said about the most popular game series, character, and theme that helped the video game industry as a whole recover from the game crash of the 80's and still be having games made with the same formula today.
Mario won't ever have blood, guts, aliens, sex, or guns but he doesn't need those things. People love the Mario franchise for being exactly what it is and that's why the franchise is still going strong almost 30 years later.