What makes a game? Is it good storytelling? Unique and interesting characters? Solid level design? Good gameplay mechanics? Well, yes, all of those things, but also the soundtrack. While a good game doesn’t necessarily need a stellar soundtrack to match, it certainly helps tip the scales in one direction or another. There have been games that I thought were pretty bad, but I had kept playing because of the amazing music. Similarly, there have been great games that I struggled through because the music was so awful. S
o what are the most important tunes in a game? The stage themes? Overworld tunes? Personally, I believe it’s the battle themes and stage themes. They’re the ones that you’ll be hearing the most after all. But the ones that are the most memorable? The ones that will stick with you the longest? Definitely the boss themes. Those tough battles against powerful foes, or maybe a gimmick boss that you just love, these tunes will be stuck in your head well after you finish the fight, and here are a couple that got stuck in mine. Warning, may contain spoilers. All the following will be purely “normal” boss fight themes, not final boss fight themes. The songs here are not character specific themes, so while games like Monster Hunter have tons of stellar monster themes, they tend to be specific for a certain creature, not a boss fight in general.
First up we’re heading back to the days of the PS2, and a song that’s been stuck in my head for the past two months. Yup, that long. First song we have up is “Death to Squishies” from Ratchet and Clank: Up Your Arsenal. A parody song by robot singer “Courtney Gears”, this song is played not only as a sort of intro to the character, but also during the fight with her later in the game. Just all around super catchy. Comes in battle theme and actual full out pop-star parody with lyrics. This song definitely stuck in my head.
For something a little more recent, how about the Shantae series? Not too long ago a new installment in the series was announced, so how about we drop the boss theme from half genie hero on you? Here’s a boss theme that really nails the feeling of fighting something more powerful than you with something at stake. It may not be long, it may not be super complicated, but it certainly packs a punch. With a hectic sounding tune and some power chords, even without playing the games you could peg this as a boss theme right off the bat.
We move onto our next title on the 3DS, Seventh Dragon: Code VFD. This game was great. I really like turn-based RPGs, but for a while I lost a lot of my drive with them. I thought I may not find a title that really rekindled my love for the genre, but then Code VFD happened. The gameplay, storyline, and characters were all really great. And then there’s the music. The full soundtrack is amazing, and while it’s hard for me to pick one track out of all the amazing ones to pick from, for this list I’m choosing “Pole of Predators”. Is it my favorite? Actually it isn’t, but it really emphasizes what a song can do in a game.
The “common” dragons, which are technically bosses are monsters you will fight throughout the course of the game. They’re touted as apex predators, strong creatures able to scare everyone and their grandmothers out of town. The song “Pole of Predators” gives off this feeling of fighting against an immense wall blocking humanity’s path to survival. You will fight, you will die. The catch? The dragons are actually pretty weak, apart from the major bosses. Maybe only the first few can cause some trouble, or if you fight a bunch at once, but they’re actually rather weak. This is where the music kicks in, and suddenly these pushovers feel like a towering murder machine.
The last two on my list make it here for two completely different reasons. First up is “Edge of Green” from Radiant Historia. A game I loved for the story, the characters, the battle system, and the music. I mean, come on, DAT VIOLIN, MMM. While it may be more of a “Midboss” theme, this right here is the reason I picked up the game to play. No, seriously, I heard the song, then decided I wanted to play the game. I was not disappointed, with either the game or the music. Something about a full orchestral sounding boss theme just really drives it home with me. As someone who has always been really into music and plays three different instruments, hearing these kinds of instrumental tracks just really draws me in.
Now we come to our last title on the list. This one holds a special place for me. Back when I was younger, this song came from probably the first real multiplayer game I owned. Maybe even my first JRPG, there were many a night where me and my friends would sit down and play through this game. We played it so much that we actually started speed running it on the hardest difficulty without any new game plus bonuses. We did all the sidequests, fought all the bonus bosses, collected all the special items and weapons, learned all the skills. This boss theme though will always stick with us though, because of the first boss it was introduced for.
If you’re wondering who the hardest boss in the game is on mania, it isn’t the last boss, it isn’t the bonus boss who uses all your party’s weapons against you, no no, it’s the clumsy ninja assassin who falls into pits. I believe my first reaction when hearing this song was something along the lines of “Man, this song is pretty co- OH GOD WHERE DID MY HEALTH GO. NOOO, LET ME STAND UP. USE THE APPLE GELS!!!” For those who don’t know the song I’m referring to, it’s “Fatalize” from Tales of Symphonia. The two major song that will always stick with me are this and the last boss theme, both of which I went and learned how to play on my own just because I liked them so much.
While song preference is much akin to taste in food, with everybody’s being different, I suspect some people my not agree with what I’ve given here, some even who write for this site, but I can definitely say these are the boss fight themes that I’ll probably always look back on in the future. Whether they are full of memories, soul, or some demonic essence that won’t leave your brain, these are some of my most memorable video game musics.