Lectures
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The Best Video Game Menu Music of All Time

The Main Menu. It’s the first thing you see from a video game. From 8-bit melodies to full orchestral scores, over the years it’s become the unsung hero of video gaming. Many take it for granted, racing for ‘New Game’ or ‘Load’ or ‘Continue’. However the enchanting songs that soothe or entrance our ears are rarely forgotten for years to come. Here, in this post,  is what I consider to be the best video game menu music of all time.

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I found the music in this game far surpassing that of the original. In fact I thought the entire game was better than the first, not only in terms of performance on my computer but in gameplay as well. The foremost thing that struck me was how melodic and strong the main theme was as I adjusted my settings. There was nothing at all as striking about the first game’s theme as this one’s. In fact I would find myself lingering at the menu instead of hopping directly into the game. Good main menu music does that.

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This game made J-Pop cool. Okay, nothing could do that, I’m sorry. That was mean. But it did make it less annoying – okay, maybe not. Can we agree at least that it was good for J-Pop and catchy too? This played right after “Pursuing My True Self,” a song I had to ask Heretic about (he was a tester on the game). I couldn’t understand a word of it. However, once it ended, my ears were treated to a smooth mysterious, almost ethereal tune that I didn’t have to strain to enjoy. It fit the game very well, like all the music, but this opener was more set for what laid in store. Simplistic, but very precise. I’m not a licensed music connoisseur, but I liked it.

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How good was this song? Really, how amazing was the entire soundtrack? As soon as I bought the game I dropped $60 on importing the entire OST. Let’s put this in perspective. It was Y2k. I had just dropped $50 on the full game, a price that meant I had saved for weeks and had done all my chores without complaining. The 10 year old me had dropped $110 on this game, paying more for the songs than the game itself. But enough about my childhood, the menu music in this game was awesome. Naturally I had my favorite songs across the four discs so a mixed CD was a must. I even spliced the opening theme into it at various intervals – that’s how much I loved this song. Kudos Uematsu. Talk about knocking it out on the first try.

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I played this game a lot, and I mean a lot. So naturally I was exposed to this theme for a good duration of time. It’s a very good thing it was great or I could imagine myself going insane. Granted, there are some of you reading my choices and believing I already did. That’s okay. But you cannot deny how awesome this song is if none other. It captures the Jungle/Exploration theme of the game perfectly while still managing to sneak in some kick. Although I would say that the Uncharted 2 theme is way better, it hasn’t come out yet. Although I don’t know if you’re supposed to revise these “Greatest of All Time” lists, I’d put that here upon its release.

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The greatest JRPG soundtrack for a game made by Square that wasn’t composed by Nobuo Uematsu. The whole game had a very mystical and magical theme to it that wasn’t traditional to anything at the time or since. The opening song carried that feeling in every note made every time I played it feel fresh and new. If I could only pick one game from the PS1 era to be remade, it would undoubtedly have to be this one for the powerful theme alone.

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It’s about time Nintendo got on this list. I bet you thought Sony was going to run away with it. I’m not technically sure how I’d classify this theme (who am I kidding about classification). It has an undeniable space attribute to it, a bit of a Gregorian chant, and then some 80s beat. It feels very Retro (no put intended) without necessarily feeling dated. Almost as if it’d be at home in any generation it was placed into. Although the sequels to Metroid Prime both had great openers, the original hits home the best.

4m

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What is this? Nintendo again. And probably the most unexpected. “What is this I don’t even – ” If you owned a Gameboy then you’re familiar with this theme. Simple, powerful and iconic, it’s better than all the Pokemon after the 151 combined. My only regret is not being able to find the original theme. Still, in any rendition, it’s going to shine through.

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Sony’s back. Everyone who experienced this will understand why this is one of the best menu themes of all time. Harry Gregson-Williams composes for movies, yet Hideo Kojima called him in to finish it off for his epic, like a Boss. I can’t really think of anything more epic than the the new twist on the old theme for Old Snake. It’s got a bit of military/scifi elements thrown in but that simple guitar string sends it all home. Even though it takes a few seconds for it to get to the good part no one will be sad that they stuck around. It’s one of those rare game songs that transcends the medium.

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Technically from the original Killzone, the sequel’s theme sounded sharper and enhanced. Undoubtedly the coolest piece of orchestral work ever to be heard in a video game, the Killzone theme is simply tremendous. No matter how many times I heard this starting the game it wasn’t enough. The trailers, the offscreen videos, the demo, the singleplayer, the multiplayer – it never got old. When I stopped the game and moved on it was the thing I missed most. I can’t say that the music wasn’t better than the actual game, but when you have a main theme this good it’s impossible to match it. I mean, there are Oscar nominated films that don’t have a theme as epic as this. As much as I like Marty O’Donnell, Sony threw money at another great composer and said “BEAT HIM! FOR THE LOVE OF GOD BEAT HIM!” and he did.

THE NEXT GAME IS HALO OR YOUR MONEY BACK

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Well technically you didn’t pay any money to read this, and if you did then don’t look at me. But simply put, this is the best. It just is. It’s not extravagant, over the top, flashy, or any of that. It belies its true purpose. It’s the calm before the storm. As you witness Link riding Epona through the Hyrulian valley, you’re beset with emotions new and old. Nostalgia or nostalgia to come, this theme will stick with you for as long as you play video games. That to me is more important than anything else.

Well I hope at the very least this article provided some great music all in one spot for your listening pleasure. Granted there’s a lot of main menu music out there, and as many games as I’ve played I’ve heard a fraction of it. If you think Hello Kitty 2000 has better menu music, write a comment. I’m not saying that’s going to be an atypical response, or close to it. But comment. Hey, Super Mario didn’t make this list! Someone comment about that! Halo wasn’t on here either yet Marty O’Donnell is opposite Nobuo Uematsu in the thumbnail image! What gives?! All valid criticisms. The only invalid criticism is the kind that doesn’t fit on the internet. And so far I haven’t seen any that don’t.

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