As I've well established both here on Massively and elsewhere, I'm somewhat of a nut for video game music. Whereas others might collect vintage hair metal tracks or the latest Justin Bieber opus, I'm always digging through obscure (and not-so-obscure) official soundtracks to games like Wipeout and Kirby. Video game scores can be right up there with the best that the film industry puts out, and the fact that they tie into personal experiences that we've played through can lend them sentimental weight.
So for the next two Perfect Tens, I scoured all the MMO theme songs that I could get ahold of in an attempt to formulate a list of the very best. It was originally slated to be just one list, but after an hour or so of listening to tracks and having friends and fellow staffers weigh in on the subject, I knew it was impossible to keep it there.
Two important things to note for this list. First, I wanted to keep to just the title/login screen tracks so that I wouldn't be working on this for the next 2.5 years. Second, unlike most past Perfect Tens where there's no significance to the order of the list, in this case we're going to have a genuine countdown to the best MMO theme song of all time. And I expect to take no flak about it, do you hear me? Good. Let's begin.
Most MMO theme songs follow a predictable pattern of charging an orchestra with "Be awesome! Be epic!" Not so with Wurm Online, which is a catchy rock anthem with the memorable line "Welcome to Wurm! We are waiting! Welcome to your home home! Wurm is waiting!" This kind of musical approach signifies that this is a different type of MMO than the rest, and lo and behold, it is.
I've never been as in love with the Age of Conan score as the seeming throngs of people who rave about it. It's OK, I guess, but I don't quite see, as the kids said (back in 1998), why it's all that and a bag of chips.
Still, credit where it's due: The theme track to AoC is haunting and memorable, and it certainly sets a great tone for the game. So here it is. Please don't slaughter my village.
I'm going to have to just link this one, as the only good version of Darkfall's theme has embedding disabled, but it's worth the hop over to YouTube. Darkfall's never been that high on my gaming radar, which is why I never heard the score until today. That's a shame because the theme is quite grand and catchy, and I can imagine myself plundering many a dungeon to its beats. Quite good stuff indeed.
Your preference for the Final Fantasy MMO themes will most certainly be tempered by how in love with/sick of Nobuo Uematsu and his cronies. I've had an audible overdose of these over the years to tip me in the latter category, but I'm not going to be so biased as to deny the generally well-done Final Fantasy XI theme from this list. No sirree. I will suffer for your love!
(It's actually quite pretty and stirring... the song, that is.)
The Wizard101 theme is for those who thought that the Harry Potter theme was far too subtle to their liking. Oh, I kid, I kid! It's a sometimes playful, sometimes bombastic tune that conjures the image of a very gleeful composer going nuts on his synthesizer while his wife yells at him from the other room that his soup is getting cold.
An important lesson regarding soundtracks -- film, video game, or otherwise -- is that you shouldn't prejudge the score by the source. I've watched many excellent films with forgettable soundtracks and heard wonderful compositions from movies I wouldn't be caught dead watching (such as Twilight and Transformers). This means that it's important not to overlook the smaller, perhaps pre-stigmatized MMOs when it comes to music.
And while I have no desire to ever get to know Blade & Soul in the biblical sense, the theme is really top-notch -- and I fear it's not as well known as it should be. That is a shame, so let's fix it. The flute and drums almost sound Celtic in nature, and I found myself listening to it over and over while preparing this column.
I know it's the newest MMO to appear on this list, but I really couldn't leave BioWare's take on the Lucas franchise alone. It's not on this list because of SWTOR's current popularity but because it is, by itself, a gripping piece worthy of Star Wars itself. It starts off with an exciting buildup, then transitions to a choral chant around the two-minute mark. It's Star Wars, yet not a mere rehash of the movie themes, and I appreciate that.
The Mabinogi theme certainly runs contrary to the heavy orchestral compositions of many fantasy MMOs; instead, it's playful and most decidedly Asian in feel and tone. It's a happy theme that says this will be a happy game, and I have no reason to doubt it.
While there are some who appreciate the newerRuneScape theme, the prevailing attitude that I've seen prefer the classic (or as it's called, "epic") version that once ruled the login screen. While it may sound a little older with its synth-heavy bleeps and boops, it's a very solid fantasy theme that deserves a listen or two.
What's better than piratey music? Nothing, that's what! So this should be number one... what was I thinking? Then again, 11 is two ones, so it's twice as awesome as number one will ever be!
Pirates of the Burning Sea boasts a huge, grin-inducing score reminiscent of the popular Pirates of the Caribbean movie themes. The composers were tasked with replicating the spirit of 1930s-era swashbuckling adventures, and I believe they succeeded in doing just that -- with honors.
Next time in this column we'll count down the top 10 best MMO theme songs of all time! Can you guess them? And if I don't include your favorite, just how much are you going to hate me?