Part of what makes the Final Fantasy universe so enthralling is its soundtrack. Piano keys, violin strings, and trumpet horns gleefully whisk audiences away to worlds beyond their wildest imagination. Solemn themes like Final Fantasy 10‘s “To Zanarkand” contrast sharply with excited melodies like Final Fantasy 13‘s “Blinded By Light.” Few other video game franchises can rival the impressive scores that Square Enix’s series has crafted since 1987. Let’s take a look back at the best Final Fantasy songs so far.
Best Final Fantasy Music | “To Zanarkand” (Final Fantasy 10)
Final Fantasy 10‘s “To Zanarkand” is a melancholy piano melody that sets up a beautiful tragedy. The tune gently ushers the franchise into the PlayStation 2 era and departs from the sweeping orchestral pieces that games like Final Fantasy 7 relied on in the previous console generation. Watching Tidus grieve over the loss of his home while this song softly harps in the background is telling of how the franchise has evolved musically, as the notes paint a moving portrait all on their own.
This song and scene are what greet players when they begin the game. There are no explosions, daring heists, or thrilling escapes to captivate fans at the outset. Final Fantasy 10 isn’t afraid to wear its heart on its sleeve, and “To Zanarkland” proudly blares the somber emotion in the face of hopeful, uplifting adventures.
Best Final Fantasy Music | “Blinded By Light” (Final Fantasy 13)
Final Fantasy 13‘s “Blinded By Light” serves both as an exhilarating battle theme and a perfect representation of Lightning’s character. Sharp strings enthusiastically build to a long and satisfying burst of sound by wind instruments. The electric guitar and drums that follow ramp up the melody further, motivating fans to put a stop to whatever new menace is plaguing Gran Pulse.
The song is punchy and dynamic, just like Lightning. Her no-nonsense attitude helps her stand out from other protagonists in the franchise, as she’s determined from the get-go to topple whatever obstacles stand in her way. Lightning is also a self-sacrificing leader that puts the needs of others before her own. These qualities are excellently represented in “Blinded By Light,” which is just as well-arranged as it is badass.
Best Final Fantasy Music | “Celes’s Theme” (Final Fantasy 6)
In Final Fantasy 6, protagonist Celes sings her own theme while posing as a famous opera performer named Maria. Though the lyrics are part of the show, fans can’t help but draw comparisons to the warrior’s own journey. As Celes tells a tragic story about a lonely woman waiting for someone to save her, she unknowingly foretells her situation after Kefka triggers the apocalypse. She too winds up completely isolated from the world, with no one but a dying old man to keep her company on a deserted island.
When this old man eventually passes away, Celes succumbs to her loneliness and attempts to commit suicide. “Celes’s Theme” is evocative, as one can’t help but recall a desperate time in his or her own life when all seemed lost. The melody is also tinged with hope, however, as if urging listeners to persevere against whatever struggles they’re up against.
Best Final Fantasy Music | “One-Winged Angel” (Final Fantasy 7)
Many fans argue that Final Fantasy 7‘s “One-Winged Angel” is one of the best villain themes ever crafted. It’s hard to combat against the claim, as the song manages to distill all of the character’s emotions down into one menacing piece. The introductory strings immediately establish Sephiroth’s psychotic nature. The song then adopts a marching beat, simulating the silver-haired villain creeping closer. The choir arrives in a rush of anticipation, announcing the one-winged angel’s presence amidst the burning ashes of Nibelhiem.
It’s clear that Square Enix pushed the original PlayStation’s audio technology when the game released in 1997. Sephiroth should be glad, as his legacy wouldn’t be what it is today without “One-Winged Angel.” The two go hand-in-hand, just like mass murder and global domination.
Best Final Fantasy Music | “You’re Not Alone” (Final Fantasy 9)
Final Fantasy 9‘s Zidane shares a lot in common with other protagonists in the series, as he’s calm under pressure and overconfident in his ability to make it out of any situation unscathed. This changes when Garland reveals that Zidane is really an Angel of Death, destined to destroy everyone he’s ever grown close with. “You’re Not Alone” begins to play here, shocking fans with an unusual tribal drum beat and screeching guitar solo as they struggle to decipher the far-reaching implications of this newfound truth.
It’s no surprise that Zidane ditches his signature bravado and distances himself from his party members shortly after learning his true identity. The fact that “You’re Not Alone” continues to play even during fight sequences illustrates the internal battle that the protagonist is dealing with. However, it also serves as an allegory for his friends. They’ll never leave his side, no matter how often he tries to push them away.
Best Final Fantasy Music | “Theme of Love” (Final Fantasy 4)
As its name suggests, Final Fantasy 4‘s “Theme of Love” is about finding the good in other people and leaving one’s misdeeds in the past. Rosa chooses to see beyond the evil acts that Cecil carried out on behalf of the king while Cecil doubts if he has the bravery to act on what he believes is morally right. The two come together as an otherworldly harp evokes the gentle unease of falling in love with another person and learning to love oneself.
Love is a concept that we as human beings may never fully understand. This mysterious nature is what makes “Theme of Love” so unforgettable, even after one is finished playing the main game and its sequel, The After Years.
April 2019 is certainly a great month to be a Final Fantasy fan. Final Fantasy 6 celebrates its 20th anniversary on April 2, and Final Fantasy 10/10-2 HD Remaster and Final Fantasy 12: The Zodiac Age arrive on Xbox One and Switch on April 16 and April 30, respectively. Those that have yet to experience the moving sounds that the franchise has to offer should consider themselves lucky, as they’ll be able to listen to each beautiful song above for the first time. Gran Pulse, Gaia, Ivalice, and more patiently await, so long as players are willing to hear what these distant worlds have to say.