RPG. The game many associate with mashing the A button over and over, with grinding, with Final Fantasy.. and with music. Music is an integral part of any RPG, especially since many RPG's feature passive battle systems or random encounters. Many RPG's would not have been nearly as well-received if it had not been for the ingenious soundtracks that composers had written for the otherwise nondescript games.

Magna Carta is yet another RPG whom many have never heard of, yet Sung-Woon Jang's score to the game is outstanding. The entire game is filled with heavy percussion, be it the epic battle themes or themes for more peaceful situations as "The way of life". Sung-Woon Jang's ingenious design appears in entirely different styles as well, as evidenced by the majestic blend of harpsichord and choir in "Treasury of Knowledge".

When people think of RPG's today, they think of orchestral scores and, in smaller cult followings, rocking synth. Chiptunes have fallen sadly out of fashion, but Koichi Sugiyama's soundtrack to Dragon Quest III is still catchy to this day. Upbeat chiptunes serve as town themes, chaotic-feeling chiptunes retaining distinct melodies serve as battle themes, and even beautiful and sad chiptunes are present in this old Enix RPG. Although Dragon Quest III was remade for the Super Famicon, the conversion from chiptune to virtually all-strings made the game's music significantly more boring on the SPC sound chip than with the original chirpy NES. This game's music is a true oldschool treasure.

Children of Mana has an impressive soundtrack for a DS game, filled with catchy melodies using string synths and driving percussion. Spearheaded by Kenji Ito, Masaharu Iwata, and Takayuki Aihara, the game features such sweeping themes as "Grasslands of Eternity", "Evil Beast", and "The Thunder Emperor's Aloofness". I would daresay this installment of the Seiken Densetsu series outshines Kenji Ito's work on Seiken Densetsu 4 for the PS2, as well as Yoko Shimomura's work on this game's successor, Heroes of Mana.

Say what you will about Pokemon as an RPG, but there can be no doubt that it would be a different, and decidedly inferior, game without Jun'ichi Masuda's soundtrack. From the peaceful "Pallet Town" to the catchy "Cycling", and filled in-between with exciting themes as "Battle (VS Gym Leader)" and the mood-fitting eerie "Team Rocket Hideout", Pokemon would be a completely different experience without its kicking chiptunes.

Granado Espada is scored by a variety of composers, each with different styles: it has Ragnarok legend SoundTeMP, supplying a range of (admittedly generic, but catchy) trance and electronica; S.F.A., composed of several ex-SoundTeMP members, supplying hardcore rock, and fusions of rock and classical; it has Kubota Osamu, a contributor to Beatmania, supplying piano, orchestral, and rock songs; and even Korean film composer Kim Junsung is onboard, providing orchestral and electronica collaborations with SoundTeMP. From Kim Junsung's beautiful piano theme song "Granado Espada" to S.F.A.'s piano-rock fusion "Honor winds", the score to this MMORPG is simply spectacular. The fact that the game also features well-known acts as DJ Tiesto is simply icing on the cake.

If Gust was to be praised for one single aspect in its RPG's, it would have to be the music. In this installment of Atelier Iris, Ken Nakagawa scored the game alone, without usual supporters Daisuke Achiwa and Akira Tsuchiya, but the score to this RPG far from suffers. Although Grand Fantasm's style differs slightly from its predecessors, the usual Gust synth-rock can be found, as seen in such masterpieces as "Thunderclap", "Breath of Beast", and "Criss Cross".

Sure, the Gust Sound Team has already been represented in this list, but Ar Tonelico stands out for quite different reasons than Atelier Iris. Although Gust's typical synth-rock is present, as evidenced by "Loki", the game is littered with vocal tracks. These tracks aren't just your typical J-Pop tracks serving as the openings and endings to virtually every RPG in Japan, but catchy tribal chantings like "EXEC_LINCA/." and "EXEC_PAJA/.#Misya extracting". These tracks definitely add something extra to the environment of the game which couldn't be achieved with purely instrumental tracks.

Known in Japan as Eternal Arcadia, Skies of Arcadia's score is filled to the brim with glorious orchestration, from the opening theme to the impressive battle themes. In addition to these proud songs, Yutaka Minobe and Takayuki Maeda compose beautiful pieces like "Legendary Sinking Continent" and quirky percussion-heavy pieces as "Kingdom of Ixa'taki". Skies of Arcadia is definitely not an RPG to miss for music enthusiasts.

Yeah, "Final Fantasy" is almost synonymous with "RPG" in this world, but it hardly represents the best of the genre in gameplay or music. However, Final Fantasy V is a shining exception to Final Fantasy's mediocrity. For one, V's sound quality is much cleaner than the other main Final Fantasy games on the Super Nintendo, IV and VI, and the compositions in V seem like a perfect fusion between IV's primitiveness and VI's seriousness. The opening theme "Ahead on Our Way", for example, is a catchy song filled with xylophone, simple percussion, and woodwind/brass playing the melody. The rest of the compositions in V benefit from a similar disregard of the typical orchestra only too apparent in VI. Such a style enabled Nobuo Uematsu to compose legendary classics such as "Clash on the Big Bridge".

This remake of Ys III was almost like a new game, but while the graphics were gorgeous and gameplay energizing, the music was simply spectacular. Yukihiro Jindo's arrangements of original Falcom Sound Team jdk compositions were simply over-the-top: catchy but modest chiptunes were upgraded with new intros, sweeping orchestration, or rocking instrumentation, almost to the point where songs became nearly new compositions. Indeed, many fans even claim some music became obnoxiously showy, but few can deny the grandeur displayed by tracks like "Be careful", "Valestein Castle", and "The Strongest Foe", or the beauty in the piano of the title theme, "A Premonition =Styx=".

There are just too many RPG's out there with good scores, but I've tried to fit the best of the best into this list of 10, trying to cover both the well-known and the obscure. Granted, as with every Top 10 list, fanboys will be furious games were left out, and others will be furious games got in, but I hope this made for an above-par reading for you.

List by neothe0ne (08/01/2007)

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