By Chris Melchin / May 26th, 2017
- Music in games is something that interests me greatly. Music, as well as sound design in general, plays an important role in the emotional impact of a given scene, whether evoking feelings of joy, sadness, anger, fear, or any others. The song that plays during a game’s ending credit roll (if there is a standard one) is of particular importance, since it will stick in the player’s mind and must properly accentuate or reflect the accompanying finale.
With this in mind, I’ve compiled a list of my ten favorite ending themes in games. I’m keeping this list restricted to games I’ve personally played, and I will also be limiting the list to including only one game from any given series. All that being said, let’s get started:
10. His World – Sonic the Hedgehog (2006)
I know what you’re most likely thinking here. Sonic the Hedgehog (the 2006 game, not the original) is not a good game by any stretch of the imagination, but one thing it had going for it was some great songs on its soundtrack. Unlike other songs on this list – and the main reason why it’s ranked at 10 – I mostly include His World because I think it’s a rad song on its own, divorced from the horrible mess that is Sonic ’06. I actually like all of the character themes in that game – this, All Hail Shadow, and Silver’s theme Dreams of an Absolution – but this one deserves recognition by virtue of being the main ending theme and easily the most iconic of the bunch, plus it sums up Sonic as a character perfectly.
9. Want You Gone – Portal 2
The Portal games are fantastic puzzle games, with both intricate first-person puzzles and some of the best dark humor I’ve ever seen. The ending themes, both the original’s Still Alive and Portal 2’s Want You Gone, carry this sense of humor forward incredibly well. While I prefer the first game mostly for being a cleaner, more tightly-contained package, the improved production values in the sequel really show in the ending theme. Composed by Jonathan Coulton and sung by voice of GLaDOS Ellen McLain, Want You Gone provides a perfect ending to the “relationship” between GLaDOS and protagonist Chell and closure to the story itself.
8. Staff Credits – The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD
This is the only instrumental song on this list, but in my mind it deserves its place. Wind Waker is easily my favorite game in the Zelda series, in no small part due to its soundtrack. It has an adventurous, somewhat Celtic sound unlike any other game in the series, perfectly exemplified by its ending theme. It takes the game’s distinctive main theme and expands upon it, adding more robust accompaniment to round out the sound and using other melodies from the game as countermelodies and bridges. It’s a more traditional take on a closing theme than other entries on this list, suiting itself to the game by revisiting other motifs rather than being an independent song to fit the themes of the story.
7. Kimi no Kioku – Persona 3
Considering I was trying to keep this list to only one entry from any given series, which of the Persona series endings to use was a difficult decision. It’s hard to talk about Kimi no Kioku – or any of them for that matter with their respective games – without spoiling the ending of Persona 3, but the lyrics apply directly to the final scene. More generally, the lyrics fit the central theme of the game, namely dealing with grief and finding it within oneself to move on while still keeping the past in your heart. Kimi no Kioku, which translates to Memories of You, is the perfect ending theme for Persona 3.
6. Tiny Palms – CLANNAD
At least for me, Tiny Palms, the ending theme for CLANNAD’s After Story route, is a demonstration of how we attach emotions to music. The song is forever associated with that ending, and with the way it made me feel. It is the original vocal adaptation of Nagisa’s theme, and an incredibly powerful piece of music that can move me to tears long after having finished the visual novel and anime adaptation. If for no other reason than that, Tiny Palms deserves a place on this list.
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