I am sure some of you remember our staff’s Top 10 Zelda Bosses video we did earlier this year, and we are here to bring you our second edition of staff choices with the Top 10 Zelda Scores. The list itself took some time to compile with fierce debates and much blood shed. In fact, I presently have my lackies ripping up the carpet in the staff meeting room to replace it with some cheap tile to sort of help hide the mess. In the end, I think we came together and got what we feel is a pretty solid top 10 list here. Everyone has their own musical tastes and different songs touch us for different reasons. Keeping that in mind, hop inside to see the staff selections for the Top 10 Zelda Scores.
10. Don’t Want You No More
Some people are not aware of this song, but you’ve certainly heard it. The song was first heard in a trailer for Twilight Princess and was available for download off IGN. The thing about the song, though, is that when it was played it was given the name “Don’t Want You No More” by The Allman Brothers Band. If it was the actual intent for the song to be named that, I am not sure. Most likely not because it is actually a song by the Allman Brothers.
The remarkable thing about this piece is that it is in fact the first time the public has ever heard Zelda music completely, officially, orchestrated. It was written by Mahito Yokota, who also did the soundtrack of Super Mario Galaxy with Koji Kondo. It is an absolutely beautiful piece and perfect to give the feel of what Twilight Princess is about. It starts with a melancholy oboe solo and progresses into a gorgeous orchestra crescendo. The whole piece is a prime example of what Zelda music orchestrated COULD be and SHOULD be. Finishing it just makes you want more.
9. Oath to Order
Majora’s Mask is quite remarkable for its unique music. Oath to Order is one of the songs Link learns on his Ocarina. He learns it after defeating the first boss of the game, Odolwa, releasing the giant inside. The giant teaches Link the song so Link can call the giants when they are needed. Next to the Song of Healing, this could quite possibly be the most important song learned in Majora’s Mask. Playing it literally saves the world of Termina by calling the Giants in order to keep the moon in place as Link fights Majora (Spoilers, by the way).
The song itself is a very somber piece that seems to show sorrow and regret. The melody Link learns is played once at the beginning but does not repeat itself through out the piece, instead moving to a progression of chords and a harp playing arpeggios that imply the melody. It is certainly a classic and the haunting melody seems to echo in your head as it finishes. It is not one that is so easily forgotten.
8. Title Theme of Ocarina of Time
Ocarina of Time did not start off with bang. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. It starts with a feeling of peace. The theme at the title screen perfectly sets the feel for the beginning of the game. Ocarina of Time does start off with a feeling of harmony, as Link begins his story with little understanding of what is going on outside the forest.
The beautiful melody has an equally beautiful backdrop as Link gallops by on Epona as the moon sets. There are scenes of Epona drinking from the river before they again dash off into an unknown fate. It ends with us entering the woods where the journey begins. The music itself, even the first time hearing it, feels nostalgic and one reminisces as if Link, who is an adult at this point, is himself reflecting as he rides around Hyrule Field. Eventually his thoughts drift back to his home, the forest.
7. Title of The Wind Waker
Another absolutely exquisite opening theme, The Wind Waker’s theme again gives an exact idea of what the game itself is going to feel like. It has a distinctly nautical and exotic aesthetic. In this case, it is an extremely up beat, happy melody perfectly matching the then unique visuals of the game.
The piece is a mixture of the two songs learned by Link which he then teaches to the two sages, Medli and Makar, in order to awaken them to their destiny. Both songs, The Wind God’s Aria and The Earth God’s Lyric, are very bright pieces that perfectly interact and weave with each other when mixed. The piece shows exactly how the fates of both Medli and Makar are as intertwined as the music. It gives a slight hint at what’s to come.
6. Dark World
A Link to the Past is remarkable for the egregious amount of music it contained and the amount reused in later games, especially Ocarina of Time. The Dark World, despite its popularity, has not been reused in any game other than Super Smash Bros. Brawl and Four Swords. It is, however, still one of the most recognized pieces of Zelda music. The song is first heard when Link enters the Dark World (thus the name) in A Link to the Past and counteracts the Overworld theme of the Light World.
It has an adventurous and heroic feel to it while also feeling somewhat menacing. The feel of the music pushed the player along into the darker, more dangerous world. It is a classic piece of Zelda music and deserves every bit of attention it gets. It is quite surprising that it has not been reused in more Zelda games, but who really knows if it won’t at some point in the future.
5. Gerudo Valley
This is probably the favorite piece for everyday Zelda fans. Next to Saria’s Song, this is amongst the most lively of all the pieces in Ocarina of Time. It snugly fits into the genre of Flamenco music with lively guitar, horns, and clapping hands. For comparison, see an amazing flamenco guitar performance here.
Flamenco is primarily meant to dance to and the Gerudo Valley theme is no different. It’s also interesting to note that Gerudo Valley itself somewhat resembles the deserts of Spain and that the Gerudo people resemble Gypsies, who were generally native to Spain, to a degree. However, I’m not sure how Spanish would react to the ultimate antagonist of the world being spawned from their country.
Gerudo Valley is a fantastic and extremely memorable piece, and will likely be remembered for a long time. Unfortunately I couldn’t find any good live versions of the song played in the proper flamenco style. If anyone can find one, feel free to pipe up in the comments.
Best Part: The trumpet solo at 1:02. Great stuff and certainly makes me want to dance.
4. The Legendary Hero (Introduction to The Wind Waker)
I personally know this song very well as it is one of the few pieces I can even play a part of on piano (next to Moonlight Sonata.) Much like Gerudo Valley, this piece is also in a particular style, in this case classical Baroque music. It starts off simple enough, just a piano arpeggio introducing the prologue to The Wind Waker. The fantastic thing about the piece though is how it tells a story without even needing to read the text on your screen.
The beginning is obviously the introduction to the story which then progresses into reminiscent flute solo that gives the feeling of a minstrel telling a long past story. Then, with the build-up into the classic Zelda theme, the story progresses into a feeling of adventure. It continues with the hero’s adventures and the quelling of Ganon’s power until the hero runs off into another adventure; then things take a turn for the worst.
The storytelling in the music alone is glorious, and there’s never been any piece like it before or since. It is certainly a unique piece of amazing song writing and tone poetry.
Best Part: The Violin cadenza starting at around 2:08. It perfectly sums up the condition Hyrule and is astonishingly beautiful.
3. Dragon Roost Island
I loved this piece in the game but, straight out from the beginning, I need to point out the absolutely mind-blowing live version played during the Mario & Zelda Big Band Live! concert by Mr. Yoshihiro Arita and his band. Hearing it played by actual instruments in the exact style in which the piece was written was, and is, a dream come true. If you have never heard, please click this link now and listen. In fact, click this link and watch the whole concert.
For the actual in-game piece, it is no less fantastic. The Wind Waker is chock full of great music, but this song stands out from the rest primarily for when it’s first heard it is shocking and uncommon for Zelda but also for the addictive theme. It’s honestly not a complicated piece in any way, mostly a repeating theme with background guitars twiddling some chords; but for weeks, maybe months (for me, years) you can come back to this piece and get almost endless enjoyment out of it.
Interesting to note here, this piece is also a flamenco piece like Gerudo Valley hence the urge to dance every time I hear it.
Best Part: The theme. Basically every time it is played is the best part. One of the single most addictive pieces in all of Zelda.
2. Stone Tower
The Stone Tower theme is unique in that there are two of them: stone tower and inverted stone tower. I know, personally, I heard these themes around, oh, a billion times each. See, the first time I played Majora’s Mask, I was completely unaware of the Inverted Song of Time so I played through most of Majora’s Mask at normal day speed. Hence I lost, a lot. The great thing about it is that the piece genuinely never gets old. It’s beautiful but not obtrusive during my intense concentration on figuring out the 3D Rubix Cube that was Stone Tower.
An interesting fact about the Stone Tower Theme is that it is similar to the Elegy of Emptiness played backwards. There are also certain parts of the piece itself that are the same backwards, primarily the bass part.
1. Song of Healing
While songs from Zelda generally evoke some sort of emotion, the Song of Healing is especially known for its sentimental, melancholy tone. It’s really an extremely simple song, but sometime simplicity is the most effective. The first time we hear the Song of Healing was Majora’s Mask when it was taught to us by the Happy Mask Salesman in order to save Link from his Deku curse. It is quite possibly the most important song exclusive to Majora’s Mask, perhaps next to Oath to Order. It is used to save Link, release Darmani from his regrets, and help Mikau save Lulu’s eggs. In the process Link releases their souls and creates the Deku, Goron, and Zora mask which can be used in his adventure. This song also appears in Twilight Princess as one of the songs Wolf Links sings at a Howling Stone.
The song is all together both memorable and beautiful. Some of the most memorable parts of the melody are the cut scenes that follow each time it is played. Darmani sees a large group of Goron who seem to be cheering for him, either cheering for his heroism or wishing him goodbye, as he sheds tears and gathers the courage to move on. Mikau sees Lulu, who takes his hand and encourages him to move on. It’s all very heartfelt and memorable, enhanced by the Song of Healing playing in the background.
And that’s it folks. Did you enjoy the list? Credit for the compiling, writing, and collecting of the music on the list belongs to one of our local staff, Phil Stetson. Thanks Phil, as I know it can be bothersome tallying up the entire staffs votes to get a definitive list. Keep in mind folks, this list represents the ZI staff as a whole and not an individual staff member’s personal list. Do you agree? Do you disagree? What’s your favorite Zelda song?