Wednesday, June 21, 2023

Top 20 Title Screen Themes In Gaming


Been a while since I did a top list. The usual top list disclaimer applies: This is my personal take and it's off the top of my head. Plenty of great things are going to be missing, either because I never played them or just straight-up didn't think of them. Your mileage may vary. There's a special hell reserved for the people who post "No [X Y or Z]??" comments on every top list. However, if you have any suggestions, totally drop them in the comments. I'm grading off of a few criteria here: How good the track is, how well it fits / sets the tone for the game, and how memorable/iconic it is overall.

Dishonorable Mention: Bebe's Kids (SNES) - The dulcet tones of this title screen theme are like ambrosia to the ears. The "Hey Yo! Bebe's Kids!" lets you know what game you're playing, and accurately reflects the 'tude that the game brings to the table. Truly one of the most memorable tracks produced by Mandingo Entertainment. Yes, that was their real name. That's what they went by.

#20. The Legend of Zelda (NES) - Not the best theme in the world on its own, but it sets the tone for this game and is the basis for so many other tracks that built off of it throughout the series.

#19. Mega Man 2 (NES) - The first track in what is overall one of the best soundtracks on the NES, so of course it's good.

#18. Super Mario World (SNES) - Very happy and light-hearted track here that sets the mood for a whimsical romp.

#17. Metroid Prime 2 (Gamecube) - Was a tough call whether this game or its predecessor should crack the list. The original Prime also has a great title screen theme, very biological and virus-like if that makes any sense. I feel like Prime 2 has a more refined and exciting title theme, though, and it gets me pumped for the game. Also sets the mood quite nicely, with less "loose virus" sound and more "mechanical menace" and Chozo sound to it.

#16. Zelda: A Link to the Past (SNES) - Outstanding bit of music, and in action it's complete with the sword stabbing down into the title of the game. Sets the tone perfectly. The main thing preventing this from being higher is the extremely short length.

#15. Super Metroid (SNES) - This is a pretty iconic bit of sound here. Not the best "music track" in the world and might even be more like ambient sound, but it's instantly recognizable as the starting theme of this game and sets the mood very well going into it.

#14. Metal Gear Solid 2 (PS2) - Maybe the eeriest theme on this list. Gives the feeling that something bad is about to happen, but also conveys the feeling of the overall game incredibly well.

#13. Final Fantasy IX (PS1) - A truly outstanding track that gets remixed a few times over throughout the game, never ceasing to evoke some kind of emotion each time.

#12. Mega Man 3 (NES) - One of the first video game tracks I ever heard that made me sit up and take notice that game tracks could be as good as anything you'd hear on the radio. I think there's a strong case to be made that some of the great game tunes of the 80's and 90's were as much their own respectable music genre as anything else going at the time.

#11. Zelda: Ocarina of Time (N64) - Some great wind instruments in this one, and it really gives you that feeling of being about to go off on a grand adventure.

#10. Xenoblade Chronicles (Wii) - Probably belongs higher because it's quite a piece of music. Combined with what might be the prettiest title screen of all time, this would be #1 if the list were factoring in the overall look/sound of the title screens as a package presentation. Also probably the latest game on the list chronologically. Hard to think of iconic title screens from post-2010 for some reason.

#9. Donkey Kong Country (SNES) - Iconic as heck, this track instantly punches anyone who grew up in the 90's right in the ear and lets them know it's time for bad-ass graphics! Sega isn't the only one with 'tude anymore! Nintendo is BACK, BAY-BEEE!

#8. Mega Man 8 (PS1/Saturn) - This is almost undoubtably placed too high on this list. My personal favorite title screen in the Mega Man series, which puts it up against some steep competition. This one just has a lot of Feeling.

#7. Persona 4 (PS2) - Such a light, airy theme, and sounds like something that'd play while walking to school in a perfect world.

#6. Secret of Mana (SNES) - Kind of a somber one here, that lets you know you're in for a somewhat somber game. The music for this game punches so far above its weight, and the actual game, while good, actually lets the soundtrack down just a bit. I still wish we'd gotten the original CD-based concept of this game before half the world and story were removed. That version might have fully lived up to its soundtrack.

#5. Chrono Cross (PS1) - Another game that punches above its weight on soundtrack, to an even greater degree. This game's soundtrack leaves the actual game in the dust. Title screen is a little on the somber or haunting side, but so majestic and hopeful at the same time. Part of me wants to put this at #1, and maybe I should have. Main issue is that it never plays all the way through, and continually loops. Which is really unfortunate. Later in the game the full track plays quite a few times.

#4. Zelda: The Wind Waker (Gamecube) - A much happier, more jovial theme picks things back up after those last few. This one is so pleasant on the ears, and probably iconic to a lot of young people who grew up with the Gamecube and Wii eras.

#3. Elden Ring (PS4/5) - Lots of brass and percussion punctuate this masterpiece, and it fits the world and story of the game very well. The only downside is that most people only hear the very beginning of it. Let it run!

#2. Ogre Battle (SNES) - The track I had in mind when I started this list. Truly a spectacular piece of music, though limited by the SNES hardware, and sets the tone for the whole game. But wait! What I actually had in mind was the even better version, in...

#2b. Tactics Ogre (PS1) - Now that's more like it. Remove the SNES hardware limitations and this track/title just explodes off of the screen. Has a legit claim to #1 on this list. It's so good. I actually prefer this PS1 version to the even newer version in the recent Tactics Ogre Reborn.

Honorable Mentions: Mega Man 7 (SNES), Wild Arms (PS1), Persona 3 (PS2), Metroid Prime (Gamecube) - All of these are pretty rad and just barely didn't get onto the list.

And now...

#1. Halo (Xbox) - It actually couldn't really be anything else. As much as the previous track could have been #1, this one wins on sheer length. It just keeps going, and has multiple crescendos. This damn track makes you want to grab a sword and go fight the redcoats at Culloden.

1 comment:

  1. Fantastic post here and I agree with a high number of these.