Sunday, June 2, 2024

The Top Twenty Classic Final Boss Themes in Gaming

Today I'm listing what I consider to be the twenty best final boss themes in the lexicon of classic gaming. There are many final boss themes that I've never heard, so your mileage may vary. RPGs will be over-represented, as most of the great epic final battle scores that come to mind are from those very games.

(Originally posted many years ago as a top 17. Now with several more added and all of the broken music links fixed)

Honorable Mentions: Super Metroid, Final Fantasy VII, Super Mario Bros 3, Mega Man 7

20. Secret of Evermore: Omnitopia's Control Room - This battle theme is driving and powerful. Much like the rest of the music in this game, it combines a sense of antiquity with a darker onset of technology. At this point in the game, technology is winning out. A great battle theme to top off a procession of great battle themes in this game.

19. Legend of Mana: The Mana Goddess - Mana games universally have great music. Silence of Time is a dark, eerie theme that fits the scene of the finale perfectly. Now, I'm no fan of this game and found it to be a complete chore to get through (and this was in 2000 when I could play and enjoy just about anything Squaresoft did). However, the music is damn good, and this theme brings things to a close in a good way.

18. Metroid Prime: Metroid Prime - The final fight with Metroid Prime is intense and action-packed, and the theme that accompanies it could not be any more perfect. It exudes alien menace. Nice Super Saiyan 2 lightning in this video.

17. Final Fantasy VII: Crisis Core: The Shinra Army - Crisis Core isn't the best game in the world. It's decent, if somewhat Mid for an FF game. But that final fight... wow. It is full of meaning and poignancy, and the music - while not your average final battle fare - fits it perfectly. It reminds me of Alice in Chains' "The Rooster", which is fitting considering what happens in the game. Another good moving image in this video. Youtube song-posters are stepping their game up.

16. Secret of Mana: Mana Beast - This game has some great tunes, which is a big part of why it has a mythical stature among gaming veterans of the 90's. The final battle theme is triumphant, a great accompaniment as you battle a dragon atop a flying fortress to decide the fate of the planet. It's hurt a bit by the 16-bit instrumentation and heavy percussion, and I'd love to play a disc-based version of this game with updated music. For the time, though, this tune was amazing, and one of the more hopeful tracks on the list.

15. Breath of Fire 3: Myria - A bit of an otherworldy track that sounds like it uses the Mega Man X soundfont. It's got a good amount of creepiness, and a sense that you're dealing with something that you shouldn't be anywhere near.

14. Earthbound: Heavily Armed Pokey - It starts out with a very NES-like riff, which is only fitting for this tradition-minded game. After that it kicks into rad-to-the-max rocking out. There is technically another final battle theme after this one, but as part of the final battle this counts for the sake of the list.

13. Shadow Hearts Covenant: Susano-O - Not the first time Yasunori Mitsuda will appear on this list. It is my firm belief that Mitsuda is the greatest game music composer of all time. This is one of the darker games that he has composed, which definitely reflects in the final battle music. Like a lot of the music in this game, this is full of discordant noise. It's a sharp departure from his usual pure-sounding music.

12. Chrono Cross: Time Devourer - The sequel to Chrono Trigger leaves a lot to be desired on most levels, but one place where it completely succeeds is the music. This game has an incredible soundtrack, debatably the greatest game soundtrack I've ever heard. Yasunori Mitsuda did this one too. If Chrono Cross' gameplay and story were as good as the soundtrack, it would be held in much higher regard. This track sounds like a stampede of valkyries marching into battle at the end of the world.

11. Muramasa: The Demon Blade: Various Final Bosses - The final battle theme of Muramasa: The Demon Blade is intense and conveys a struggle that one may or may not emerge from. Standing as a piece of music on its own, it doesn't amount to much; however, place it in the chaos of the final battle in this game and it becomes quite fitting and memorable. Probably the best "lots of moving parts" chaotic battle theme on the list.

10. Lufia and the Fortress of Doom: Guard Daos - Kind of limited by the hardware, but what gets it so high on the list is that guitar section. Not sure what a "Guard Daos" is. Perhaps a censor of "God Daos"? ...though Daos itself is already a spin on God in some languages. I just wanted to fight Arek in Ruins Chasers, dammit. In any case, this track is the single best thing about the first game in the series, and I was surprised when it didn't show up in the second.

9. Chrono Trigger: Lavos - This is a classic in every sense. I could do without the alien screaming, which is why this isn't higher on the list. The actual theme is rife with majestic awe, though. Chrono Trigger is said by many to be the greatest game of all time, and one major reason behind that is the Yasunori Mitsuda soundtrack. I also really enjoy the way the music moves back and forth between your left and right speakers, especially at the beginning of the song.

8. Legend of Zelda, A Link to the Past: Ganon - Of the many fights with Ganon throughout the Zelda series, this one might be the most iconic. The theme for the fight is one of near-desperation as Ganon teleports about the room and taunts Link. This game set the standard for everything that came after, and I don't think any other game in the series managed to top this final battle theme.

7. Donkey Kong Country Returns: Whatever The Hell That Final Boss Was Supposed To Be - Donkey Kong Country Returns may well have the best soundtrack you'll find anywhere on the Wii. Retro Studios, the people responsible for Metroid Prime, were also behind this game... and it's obvious. This final battle theme is the most Metroid-like tune you'll find outside of a Metroid game.

6. Persona 4: Izanami - Persona 4 is one of the great RPGs of the PS2 era, and the final battle theme is one of prowling menace. It ranks so high on this list because of the way it evolves as time goes on. Much the way the battle itself evolves as the final boss begins to pull out all the stops, this theme transforms along with it.

5. Ys VI: Napishtim - This tune could fit all kinds of games. Another "otherworldly" theme that sounds inscrutable. It should be inscrutable given that it's dealing with ancient technology superior to what exists in the modern era. The Ys series' tendency to explore the concept of ancient civilizations and lost cities/artifacts is something I'm really into, even if the games themselves often let me down in various ways. Ys VI was one that didn't let me down at all though, great game from start to finish.

4. Final Fantasy VI: Kefka - There are plenty of people who would say this belongs in the #1 spot. It is undoubtedly the greatest final battle theme of the main Final Fantasy series. Kefka is a terrifying villain, and in the final fight he takes on truly demonic proportions. This... is battle music at its finest. If you include the three phases of music before this (the "Soul Tower" as some call it), which flow into one another under ideal circumstances, then the entire piece is pretty much the pinnacle of game music direction.

3. Saga Frontier: Diva - This relatively less-known Squaresoft game was sub-par in some ways for the era, but had incredible music - especially the battle themes. This final battle theme is the best of the lot. It's too bad that it wasn't in a better game, attached to a more meaningful final battle. The fight this plays for is basically this Kali demon that pops up out of nowhere. Regardless, the amount of stages this track goes through are impressive, and each stage is incredible.

2. Xenogears: Uroboros - Another Yasunori Mitsuda soundtrack, Xenogears has incredible music. As a whole, I would say the soundtrack isn't as good as that of Chrono Cross, Chrono Trigger, or Shadow Hearts: Covenant. However, it's all pretty subjective, and some would argue it's better than any of the above. One thing is for sure... the final battle theme? It blows away every other final battle theme in the Mitsuda lexicon. I don't even need to go into why; just listen for yourself. This is game music at a level of emotion that many game soundtracks don't even aspire to, let alone reach.







1. Dark Souls: Gwyn, Lord of Cinder - A tune that says a lot with every chord and helps tell the story of this world as the game winds down. A tune played entirely on the white keys of the piano, symbolizing that Gwyn himself is afraid of darkness and the prospect of literal light going out in the world. (Fun Fact: His name also means "white" in Welsh). He's fighting a losing battle, and by the end of the third game that light does indeed go out.


  1. ::cough::

    1. Good call, I completely forgot about that game and its brilliant final fight music.

  2. "It's too bad that it wasn't in a better game, attached to a more meaningful final battle."

    This is true of the entirety of Chrono Cross.

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  5. I'd add FFVII's final battle theme to this. Sooo memorable.