I've got a little confession to make; I'm not musically talented or educated—probably not the best way to start an article dedicated to the sickest battle beats in gaming, I know. Though if you think about it, the beauty of music in #VideoGames is that it's something we can all appreciate.
Great music can heighten the drama of a scene, create a sense of pervading dread that haunts you long after you've switched the game off or emphasize the players's actions. A great battle tune mixes elements of the three, fitting comfortably into the mythos of its world. So without the need for a victory fanfare, here's my personal list of...
The 10 Best Battle Themes In Video Games
We drew from a lot of inspiring video game battle themes in order to create this list; where possible we've avoided using music from the same franchise, thus making it harder to nail one track from a series, but hopefully more varied and interesting for you!
Persona 3 - Mass Destruction
It was a close race between this and Persona 4's Reach out to the Truth. While the latter embodies the journey the player has taken, Mass Destruction does the opposite, focusing on the enemy in front of you.
Don't ease your pace, 'cuz enemy's brutal
Moment of truth, There ain't no truce
You're the only one, one world, one love
But the battle goes on, Shadows of Mass Destruction
The catchy battle tune marries the rapping skills of Lotus Juice with an upbeat chorus from Yumi Kawamura, resulting in a song that doesn't tire out no matter how much dungeon grinding you're subjected to.
Devil May Cry 3 - Taste The Blood
Known for its frenetic action, Devil May Cry 3 was a reinvention for a series—surprising considering its age at the time. It swapped the dark 'I-listen-to-a-lot-of-Linkin-Park' atmosphere of the second game for tongue-in-cheek cheese and over-the-top-action.
'Taste The Blood' is one of the first combat songs you'll hear in Devil May Cry 3, it's taunting lyrics aimed to embolden the player and the fast-paced beat suiting the the series's flashy combat.
Final Fantasy VI - Dancing Mad
Who's the best Final Fantasy villain? (Hint: it's not Sephiroth) For me personally, it's hard to find someone more evil than Final Fantasy VI's Kefka, whose megalomania and nihilism would bring about the destruction of the world.
You need a fitting theme for the final fight against a maniac who'd ascended to godhood, and 'Dancing Mad' was created for this epic confrontation. It's built on four separate movements that play during different parts of the battle and at 18 minutes long, is the longest boss theme in the entire series.
"Well, usually when you make a song it's two to three minutes in length, you have the introduction, the main part and the ending. But... for 'Dancing Mad' I didn't really put a stop on it, so I kept on working on it, working on it, working on it and that really let the song... you know... I got to play around with it for something like fourteen minutes, and it's really one of my favorites." —Nobuo Uematsu, Composer
There's a Final Fantasy orchestral concert series called 'Distant Worlds', and if you're every lucky enough to be in a venue that can support 'Dancing Mad' then you're in for a real treat. It's astounding to hear played by a live orchestra, and with a real organ—the one used in-game was synthesized—it becomes all the more wonderful.
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt- Silver For Monsters
The Witcher 3 is a sprawling open-world game, where the map is littered by more ?'s than one of Riddler's wet dreams, but its soundtrack does a fantastic job of drawing us into the world.
'Silver for Monsters' plays when you enter combat with any non-human opponent and the mix between acoustic guitar and haunting vocals really emphasizes the monstrous nature of your opponents.
RuneScape - The Battle of Lumbridge Medley
I didn't think we'd have a browser game in this list, but this track encapsulates the history of the long-running MMO RuneScape. After the death of the god of balance, a new age was heralded for the game's world, Gielinor. As New gods rushed into this world and amassed an army of followers, the stage was set for a bloody battle that would reshape the balance of power in this new age.
This medley is based on the rivalry between two gods, followers chant as they're led blindly into battle and a sinister drum beat is an undertone throughout. It reaches a crescendo toward the end, but the ambiguous end highlights that the battle between the gods isn't over yet.
Undertale - Hopes & Dreams
'Hopes and Dreams' plays during the battle against Asriel Dreemurr, the final boss of the True Pacifist Route in Undertale. Its mix of 8-bit chip music is accompanied by a rip-roaring electric guitar that only emphasizes how truly epic this track is.
It's also mostly a remix of two other songs; a faster paced 'Once Upon a Time', which is the first track in Undertale and a more positive remix of 'Your Best Friend'. You know everything will be okay when you're battling to this song.
Mass Effect 2 - Rescue Tali
I'll admit I've got a soft spot for Tali, probably because my Shepard romanced the hell out of her, and though it wasn't easy to pick only one Mass Effect track considering that it's a series full of awesome tracks, Tali kinda helped. But what makes the 'Rescue Theme' stand out is its mysterious cyberpunk leanings and how it was used as you fought your way across the planet Haestrom to save the masked Quarian.
Kingdom Hearts - Night of Fate
'Night of Fate' is rather minimalistic compared to the other entries on this list, though therein lies its unique charm. Introduced as the battle theme on Destiny Isles, it never lets up and is an accurate reflection of the mood, as a helpless Sora is forced to try and fend off an unrelenting swarm of heartless with nothing more than a wooden sword. Oh, Kingdom Hearts. *sigh*
Pokemon Red, Blue & Yellow - Kanto Trainer Battle
From the opening bars and initial fortissimo, you can instantly tell that some serious stuff is about go down, and that stuff is a #Pokemon battle. This theme is iconic for players of the franchise and has been remixed for almost every game in the series—there was even a rock cover in the anime.
What it successfully captures is the idea that everything is on the line and if your HP was ever flashing in the red, the blaring warning sound only added to that feeling.
Final Fantasy VII - One Winged Angel
'One Winged Angel' was the first song in the Final Fantasy series to feature real lyrics and it's a little overrated—there, I said it. Though the powerful theme accompanies the fight with Safer∙Sephiroth, it has become synonymous with the character as a whole. The vocals are in latin and the original recording was taken and then reduced to fit the game.
Composer Nobuo Uematsu has mentioned that 'One-Winged Angel' was an experimental song, a result that they didn't expect from the beginning.
BONUS: Kingdom Hearts Birth By Sleep - Fate of the Unknown
'Fate of the Unknown' is the Birth By Sleep battle theme you've never heard, maybe because it was for one of the MANY handheld games centered in the Kingdom Hearts universe, but probably because it was never actually used in the game.
Only parts of this song have been used; certain elements were remixed into a boss fight and other parts can be found in Terra and Aqua's theme. Which is a shame cause it's damn cool! Don't you agree?
What's Your Favorite Battle Theme?
So, these are a few of the catchiest battle tunes in gaming, partly influenced by my own experiences and what they meant to me. Which also means I'm wrong, so if you have a battle theme you love that I missed, let me know because I'd love to hear it!
Those might be some of the best battle themes of the past, but 2016 was no slouch either. Should any of the games below be on this list?