Final Fantasy is one of the more popular franchises in video gaming history. From great cast of characters, rewarding side-quests, to memorable boss fights, it stands tall above the rest in comparison in the field of RPGs. But the most talked about aspect of the franchise has to be the music. The time and effort put into each composition show in the quality and fan reception. There are different styles and moods all over the world of Final Fantasy that will diversify the consumer’s opinions of preference. Seeing how just 10 songs wouldn’t do my appreciation justice, here are my top 20 favorite and most influential Final Fantasy pieces. Please note that I have played certain titles many more times than others, so they have a bigger impact on me. So please keep in mind: This is an opinion piece; this topic is always up for debate, but please respect my choices, even if you disagree with them.
#20 Seymour Battle Theme (Seymour Omnus) (Final Fantasy X)
This track makes my list solely on the fact that it redeems a character in terms of “theme music”. When you first hear this track, you weren’t expecting it to be this worthy, given whose theme it was. Seymour Guado is one of Final Fantasy X’s main antagonists; it’s only fair that you’ll battle him many times in different parts of the game. Now be this as it may, every play through I can’t help but be reminded of how lackluster his themes from the first three forms are. Easily forgettable in almost every way, it really is quite substandard to be linked with such a fundamental character in the game. However, it is a completely different story when you reach his Seymour Omnus form near the game’s finale. With remnants of Castlevania oozing out of the pores to start the track, followed by a livelier, faster-paced synth beat, this memorable track is a huge turn around and redemption for Seymour’s character. There is a loud and constant crashing sound that plays almost throughout, and it feels a little out of place, preventing it from being higher on my list. Also, unfortunately for the song, the boss fight is not the toughest, so you’re more than likely to only hear a fraction of the full 6 minutes, so it’s definitely recommended to experience the full song in its entirety on YouTube.
#19 The Man With The Machine Gun (Final Fantasy VIII)
Final Fantasy 8 was the first Final Fantasy I played when I started tackling the franchise, and remains one of my favorite in the series. The characters are amiable and relevant, the side-quests are fantastic (completely honest here, Triple Triad is the best mini game in all of Final Fantasy, it needs a revival somehow), the fan theories put a lot into perspective and make the journey all the more passionate, and last but not least, the music is just simply relaxing and curative. Multiple entries from this installment will show up on this list, but first I want to bring up the battle music for when you are Laguna Loire in the Dream Sequences. As with most Final Fantasy battle themes, the music is pretty much repetitive with altered verses here and there, but in this case, damn is it ever one groovy jam of a loop, That’s also saying something, because Laguna is portrayed as awkward and nervous, exclusively when he is around his love interest, Julia. Where Squall’s battle theme is more reminiscent to your “elite mercenary” battle theme, The Man with The Machine Gun is a fast paced hallucinogenic melody that actually sounds like a dream sequence, making it all that more complimentary and necessary to the situation.
#18 Final Fantasy XII Main Theme
Final Fantasy XII, to me, is the very dark horse of the series. The main story has a very different feel from every other installment, in that it’s dead set on the politics and contains absolutely no love plot tied to the story whatsoever. Sure, the gambit system took getting used to and unlocking everything on the license board (the permit to use an item/spell you already bought…….yes) required an unbelievable amount of grinding, but thanks to 4x gameplay speed and certain areas of respawning enemies, you can obtain that in a much shorter amount of time. But we’re talking about the music, right? Well, unfortunately, the music in Final Fantasy XII is, well, forgettable. It’s not unoriginal by any means, and I’m sure I’m in the minority here, but it doesn’t do anything for me. I can’t remember any piece of music in the game and have it remind me of a particular scene. Once I hear a certain song, I want to know where I’m at and what’s going on, and with other installments, I have no issue. That being said, the opening theme you hear before even press start is a light-hearted and triumphant piece. Accompanied by a cavalcade of drums, horns and cymbals followed by a mass array of string instruments, it’s surprisingly one of the better Final Fantasy opening themes you’ll come across. It’s gallant, larger-than-life, and glorious. I remember being on the start menu for a good 15 minutes because I was so awe-struck by this track that I let it loop 4 or 5 times. A song THIS good gets you wondering, what happened with the rest of the game’s soundtrack?
#17 One Winged Angel (Final Fantasy VII)
Well, well, well. I bet you weren’t expecting to see this track so low on my list now were you? And I totally expect to get crucified by the fanboys when I say that this song is merely a little overvalued for how tremendously touted it is. People will always tell you that One Winged Angel will always be the definitive antagonist theme song alive, and I would respectfully, but passionately disagree. Later on, and much higher on my list, you’ll see my take on the true ultimate baddie song of all time, one that will always triumph over One Winged Angel until the day I die. But don’t let this take anything away from the theme song pertaining to the most talked about Final Fantasy villain of all time, Sephiroth. It is simply an amazing track and definitely deserves all of the attention it is getting. The string work in the beginning has an eerily unsettling Psycho-like feel to it that’ll give you goosebumps. Putting choir vocals in a Final Fantasy song is basically cheating the system to earn bonus points. It simply works in nearly every song in the entire series, and here, it’s no different and extremely effective. Over a steady marching beat, it makes it feel as if Sephiroth himself is trudging toward you, so you know when you hear it play, you know it’s about to get very real, very soon.
#16 Still More Fighting! (Final Fantasy VII)
The boss battle theme of Final Fantasy VII is a prime example of the question “Why was this game made in a time where the budget was focused on other areas of the game and the music still had to be “composed” on electric keyboards and computer programs?” That being said, the opening riff of this track is so badass, you foam at the mouth at the thought of how it would sound being played on an actual electric guitar. The organ-style keyboard, the bass, and the overly ambitious drumline complete the ensemble and play a great compliment to the guitar to make one hell of a rock song. It’s definitely how a reoccurring boss theme should go to make the situation more intense and get the gamer’s adrenaline pumping. My hopes are very high for a face-melting rendition of Still More Fighting for the PS4 remake of Final Fantasy VII, if and when it is finally released.
#15 Fisherman’s Horizon (Final Fantasy VIII)
When Balamb Garden smashes into Fisherman’s Horizon, Squall and his posse are sent to visit the city, speak with the mayor and express regret for the recent events that ensued. Mayor Dobe, although supportive with assisting Balamb Garden in restoring the garden from immobilization, is very adamant that the SeeDs leave immediately, for fear that their presence will lead to trouble, for being a firm pacifist, the town has no militia or weapons, and disputes are only resolved through conversation. The population is small, and not many people come in the city for isolation reasons. So I guess you could say the theme of the song, appropriately titled Fisherman’s Horizon is Peace and Serenity. And that’s exactly what its theme song embodies. Exceedingly pleasant to the ears and purely comforting, this song uses a plucking harp and different styles of flutes to help exemplify a peaceful city that unfortunately senses a bit of tension and quarrel and must use its ways of discussion and do their best not break its moral and ethical code. You’re going to very soon see a pattern of soft, relaxing and emotional songs appear on this list. It’s simply what I’m really looking for in a Final Fantasy song, and Fisherman’s Horizon’s tranquil theme is just the tip of the iceberg.
#14 Clash on the Big Bridge (Final Fantasy V)
Ahhh Gilgamesh, probably one of the more definitive antagonists in the entire Final Fantasy series. He is the only reoccurring non-monster character, acting occasionally as an enemy and sometimes as a summon. Making his debut in Final Fantasy V, Gilgamesh acts as the right-hand man to ExDeath, the main adversary of V. When the time finally comes, and your group is about to go head-to-head with the multi-armed sword wielder, prepare your ears for a fast paced, ADD-riddled , all-in-your-face musical blessing full of bass-lines, drum-fills, trumpet riffs and electric keyboard solo’s a plenty. This is the type of track in which you feel inclined take your time with the boss fight so you can enjoy the music in its entirety, which is fitting because Gilgamesh has become such a fan favorite as of lately, people really don’t want to kill him off. Sure he has some great appearances and themes in other Final Fantasy installments, but none the better than his debut in V.
#13 You’re Not Alone (Final Fantasy IX)
Final Fantasy IX took a step away from the Final Fantasy VI-VIII “fantasy meets technology” roots and went back to a more cartoony and medieval setting. The music was ebullient and light-hearted virtually throughout the entire game. Zidane, the main story’s protagonist is calm, cool, collect and (over)confident, and it seemed like no matter the situation, his ego’s poise seemed to be rock solid. That is until Garland, the secondary antagonist of the game, reveals to Zidane that he is an Angel of Death, a weapon of death that could and would eventually destroy everything he’d ever known and loved. And just like that, Zidane just had his character ripped away from him and everything he ever believed about his existence had just changed. And that’s when You’re Not Alone works it’s magic. With a blaring guitar solo, tribal drum beats, and the plucking of a certain Eastern string instrument, it’s a song sounding completely different than the entire soundtrack. Zidane finally loses his cool, basically has an existential crisis, and stumbles across several fights in which his friends try to help him, but he insults them and pushes them away. What’s very special about this song is how it plays through the entire scene, including the battles in which the typical battle theme should be playing. But instead, the game lets the song write the tragic story of someone questioning their fate in life, where home really is, and the value of friendship.
#12 The Fierce Battle (Final Fantasy VI)
I bet every single one of you is wondering why it’s taken so long for a Final Fantasy VI entry to make the list. Well, there’s a reason why I’m writing these entries piece by piece beginning from the bottom. Trust me when I say: You’re going to want to stick around until the end. Anyways, up until this precise moment, Terra and her friends have been clashing all over the World of Balance. From the caves of Narsche, to the caverns of Mt. Kolts, all the way to the open field of The Veldt (seriously you guys, don’t invest in Gau, just teach him magic during the end game preparations, Rage learning can be extremely mind-numbing and not really worth it). Every battle is accompanied by the same Battle Theme, and boss battles are complemented by The Decisive Battle. At some point, Kefka, the absolute best protagonist in all of Final Fantasy (fight me) has stolen the power of Magi from many espers and makes his way to the Floating Continent, where he plans to combine all esper powers to destroy the World of Balance. Aside from Kefka’s Tower at the end (depending on how many people you rescued and how many you invested in), the Floating Continent is your first true test of how prepared you are. The enemies pack a giant punch and some battles cannot be fled. Not to mention, the entire place is a maze, so unless you know where you are going, you’re going to be in a world of hurt (should I capitalize World for motif purposes?). When you finally reach the end, you come across a large figure, Atma Weapon, standing in your way. But instead of the normal boss them, an absolutely breath-taking masterpiece The Fierce Battle ambushes your senses. This upgraded boss theme is such a step up from the already amazing Decisive Battle, you are instantly made aware that this isn’t any ordinary boss fight; this is one that is going to destroy your hopes and dreams unless you have leveled up appropriately. In my first play through, Atma Weapon absolutely destroyed me and my confidence. You can feel the sense of urgency in the very beginning of the track and it puts the pressure and fear in the gamer’s psyche. But most importantly, it just sounds better in comparison to The Decisive Battle: it sounds more musically inspired and has more operatic components for that additional dramatic flair. The Fierce Battle is simply, well, fierce.
#11 Terra’s Theme (Final Fantasy VI)
Terra Branford is considered by the game itself as the focal protagonist of Final Fantasy VI, even though in act two it’s clear the main emphasis shifts to the other female lead, Celes, but we will definitely get to her much, much later on this list. Terra is the offspring between a human and an esper (a magical creature), and has the capability of converting from human to esper, thus significantly augmenting her magical powers. In the beginning cut scene, Terra’s powers are being used against her will by Kefka by means of the Slave Crown. She is then instructed to board a MagicTek Armor and guide two other Gestahl soldiers (oh Biggs and Wedge) to obtain an esper deep in the caves of Narsche. During the credits, we are introduced Terra’s theme, which is also used as the music that plays when you are venturing on foot in the world map. You can tell by the slow methodical whistling in the beginning of the song that Terra’s character is troubled; she is a half-woman-half-esper used as a killing machine who doubts her ability to find true love. But as the song progresses, the tempo picks up and more instruments are presented, and you begin to sense that Terra is trying to fight the odds against her. This song is very special to me; I consider it to be my favorite world map theme. I can spend hours and hours roaming the world map, doing as much as I possibly can, because I know that each time I enter it, this classic and memorable song re-enters my life.
To be continued…