Most games that end with a vocal song just tend to have their lyrics being vaguely connected to the events of the game in a thematic sense and that just sound nice being sung. The ending credits theme for Rhapsody A Musical Adventure is the opposite.
The lyrics sound nice on their own, but within the context of the game, they carry a lot more meaning and impact. Given the romantic theme of the game, one would assume that the lyrics are directed at Cornet's love interest Prince Ferdinand. However, in a clever twist, the lyrics are directed at both her late mother Cherie and her companion Kururu, and that is all I can really say without some pretty major spoilers. I will just say that, as someone who also has dealt with the passing of their mother, this song touches me on a pretty personal level.
The reason this song doesn't make it higher on the list is because it is rather bland melody wise. It sounds nice and sweet sure, but it is the lyrics that really makes it. Additionally the song is also kinda repetitive at points. As such, I can't put it any higher than number 10, but it is still solid enough to secure a spot in the first place.
This is one of two songs on this list that are from games I have not played. I do recall seeing some parts of a lets play of it but I remember almost nothing clearly and never even finished the LP. As such, this song's placement is based solely on how it sounds as a piece of music, although it does seem to fit the tone of the game from what little I remember of it.
The song starts out quiet and mysterious sounding, but the further it goes on, the more it transitions into a more triumphant piece while still retaining its elegance. You later hear icy strings to bring back the ominous and mysterious feeling until it transitions to its highest and most triumphant point, and then fading back down.
Just hearing this piece, I can tell that Terranigma must have a very emotionally charged ending, and that's without knowing anything about the plot. It would be remiss of me to not include this song somewhere on this list.
I initially thought that it was going to be a tough decision to choose which Final Fantasy entry will make the list. Considering that this is the same series that hosts ending themes like Eyes on Me, Kiss Me Goodbye, and My Hands. However, none of those are eligible for this list because they don't play during the credits so that narrows things down quite a bit. Anyway, about the song itself.
I will say beforehand that, like with Terranigma, I have not played Final Fantasy IX. I have seen a lets play of it, but I can barely remember it, so I do not exactly have the element of context to apply this song to. As such, it is entirely possible that I would have put this higher had I played the game myself and got attached to its story and characters like I did with the rest of the entries on this list.
Even without context though, this song is very pretty. The lyrics are touching and poetic, and Emiko Shiratori's vocals are elegant and beautiful. Even in the English version, she sings it perfectly, which is uncommon when native Japanese speakers sing English lyrics, or at least when it comes to game songs (not that the inverse isn't also true). The song, overall is just very sweet and pleasant to listen to.
This entry may specifically list the version of this song from the DS reboot, but that is simply due to higher quality instrumentation. Otherwise, the version from the SNES Lufia 2 Rise of the Sinistrals is virtually identical, and this blurb pretty much applies to both.
As for the song itself, it can be best described as bittersweet; IE both happy and sad simultaneously. Sad in regards to the fate of Maxim and Selan/Serena and the fact that their child Jeros is left alone after the final battle against the sinistrals, but also sweet in that the world is saved and there is now hope for the future. The latter part becomes even more meaningful considering that the DS reboot has an additional ending where Maxim and Serena may come back home after all.
If one pays close attention, then one may notice that certain aspects of this song bear some resemblance to 1980s pop ballads. Specifically, those first few notes whose instrument I cannot quite ascertain, as well as the light bell sounds alongside them, and the light drum beats that have the tendency to echo throughout the song.
What ultimately makes the song so effective is how it is able to combine these Ballad like features with the same majestic orchestral melodies that take the lead the further it goes in. This song is simultaneously touching and graceful.
When it comes to ending themes, the Hyperdimension Neptunia series is usually made up of the usual upbeat J-pop nonsense that can be admittedly catchy, but doesn't exactly carry much in terms of emotional weight. The ending theme from the second game in the series, Hyperdimension Neptunia Mk2, is an exception. In terms of sound it definitely fits the typical J-Pop style, but this song is not simply something meant to be stuck in your head. Right from the first few piano notes, this song is captivating and joyous, and maintains a smooth transition into an uptempo beat, yet the way the vocals are delivered so smoothly that it feels simultaneously calm and fast, with its use of synth giving it an almost dreamlike feeling.
Ayane's vocals capture such powerful emotion that one does not even need to know what language this song is in to have a tear brought to one's eye, and even the few phrases that are in English tend to resonate the most and are the most touching; lyrics such as "I wish" "I don't forget" and "promise to you." The translated Japanese lyrics are just as good, representing Nepgear's friendship with Uni and how she will never give up to save her sister. Lastly there is that chorus that echoes the feelings of triumph and happiness; the kind that evoke tears.
This song, combined with the very cleverly made ending credits that replay scenes from the game in the format of retro eight bit games help this song evoke both a strong feeling of nostalgia for both the game in question and for the classic games. It was upon completing Neptunia Mk2 and seeing the end credits along with this moving song that implanted this game into my memory even though it had its fair share of issues, and is largely what sold me on all future entries. The downsides are that the game does not play the full song, and that it was replaced in the Vita and PC remake.
You know this is going to be a sad song when the first three notes sound like they were lifted directly from Aerith's theme. Tsuki No Nukumori (The Moon's Warmth) is sung by Aoi Teshima, who is best known for having sang and acted for the anime films, Tales from Earthsea and From up on Poppy Hill. This song shows just how much can be done with only a piano, a guitar, and a voice. Despite the small amount of instruments involved, this song harmonizes perfectly, especially when it gets to the chorus.
The softness of this song represents Fragile Dream's post apocalyptic setting that is devoid of life, but the increasing sense or harmony throughout the song represents Seto and Ren's hope for the future that maybe life will one day return to the earth, thus giving this song a sad feeling but also hopeful and optimistic.
The vocals are poignant, the lyrics are beautiful, the instrumentation is on point. Everything about this song is powerful.
The next four entries are songs I consider to be some of the best songs to ever appear in interactive media, and possibly media in general.
The first word that comes to mind when I think of this song is "grand." Right from the way it opens up with those first few piano notes and those icy strings, it gives off a very strong yet majestic presence. The way that it then proceeds to provide a much more grandiose rendition of the already beautiful velvet room theme through the use beautiful operatic vocals (even if they are obviously artificial) glass harmonicas, strings, and pianos, in addition to sparing use of drums and horns is absolutely breath taking.
Fitting the theme of the Persona series's high school setting (even if it is nowhere near as pertinent to the plot of the first two entries), this song sounds like something that would be appropriate to be played at a graduation ceremony. This fits even more considering the philosophical nature of the game's story, and the proclamation in the ending that "You have found your way back to the world as it should be. The Smile on your face is no longer a mask, but your true self. No longer do you have to fear when you encounter problems, troubles, or pains. Just ask yourself who you are. You now will be able to withstand any adversaries or conflicts that arise in your life. Go now, into a bright and promising future." Additionally, this song is given more meaning when it starts playing over a text description of how the cast went their separate ways ending on the main protagonist with the words simply being "How he came to be.. Well, that's up to you to decide..." and being topped off with the end screen quote of "cogito ergosum."
Even though the first Persona is a rather mediocre game, even without the horrendous localization, the sheer amount of effort put into the presentation of its ending is admirable and leaves a lasting impact. Not only is this song beautiful in its sound, but it also carries a lot of symbolic meaning within the context of the game itself. It represents the desired future that everyone looks to, where the worst of what you will face is finally over and you no longer need to hold any fear. It almost represents a sort of Paradise or Nirvana, yet not in the "escapist haven" sort of way more so that you have created your own and that no one can take it away. This song does far more than most ending themes ever bother to do, and there is nothing that could have fit the ending of Persona more than this... which only makes it all the more baffling that they replaced it in the PSP remake.
Aka the song that most likely first popped into your head upon reading the countdown title.
I have stated that a good ending theme can create a lasting impression on the listener in the game's favor. Well, Chrono Trigger just so happens to have this beautiful ending piece as its ending credits theme, and is also one of the most beloved games of all time. Coincidence? I think not!!!
To Far Away Times (or Outskirts of Time as it is sometimes called) is a song that stands out in its remarkable quality even by the standards of Chrono Trigger's already amazing musical score. The song combines melodies from both Corridors of Time and the Main Theme of Chrono Trigger in a song that is notably upbeat and moving, which sets it apart from most end credit themes that are slow paced. The sheer emotion expressed by this song is almost magical and surreal, which is all the more fitting because Yasunori Mitsuda said that this song came to him in a dream, something that can also be attributed to Yesterday by The Beatles.
The first half of the song accompanies images of a time machine zooming across a night sky, or Chrono and Marle holding on to a a bunch of balloons as they rise up into the air of the night. These images greatly fit the upbeat nature of the first half of the song. Additionally, the song has an amazing sense of harmony and beauty that sends chills down my spine every time I hear it. The second half slows down and becomes a bit more silent, focusing on the sounds of a ticking clock and a piano melody similar to the game's opening theme. Afterwards the song fades out and Marle's simple yet emotionally touching theme plays on loop until the system is shut off.
I'm just going to make it clear that it was very hard to choose between this and my number one pick, and I could probably create a lengthy argument for both of them being at the top. Even listening to it as I'm writing this, part of me still wants to put this at number one, but my decision is already made. Ultimately the choice was between something that is pretty much the definitive ending theme for a JRPG and one that is completely unique and could not fit any other game, and gives off unique feeling that no other song I've ever heard gives off. Ashes of Dreams is the latter.
Just about every song on this list up to this point has been about reflecting on your journey and how you have successfully accomplished your mission. Nier, however, does not have a happy ending, and as a result, Ashes of Dreams is meant to reflect on how your journey was for nothing and that you have been fighting in vain the whole time or even made things worse despite the apparent victory.
Lyric wise, the first part sums up the events of the first Drakengard, where one of the game's optional endings lead to the events of Nier. The song then describes the plot of the game and the backstory of the game with the Gestalts and the Replicants. Lastly, it describes how everything was ultimately in vain. The song exudes an air of both tragedy and beauty to it that is almost indescribable.
Even without the lyrics, the base melody alone is enough to express this feeling of tragedy through the use of strings and pianos, in addition to Emi Evans' fantastic vocal performance. The song starts out small but continues to get larger and more harmonious about halfway through when the key changes to a higher pitch. The violins also give this song a haunting vibe that is reminiscent of older black and white movies, and even gives off a "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" vibe, except much more tragic.
Lastly, what works so well about this song is its versatility. The lyrics are subtle enough that they don't directly spell out the meaning, but are not overly vague or cryptic either. These lyrics can apply to all four endings, and some parts may even apply to one ending more than others. Hell, there are even four separate vocal versions of this song, one in English, and the other three being in far future version of existing languages that naturally sound like gibberish to us now, so I guess we'll be able to understand them in a few thousand years.
No exaggeration, this song is one of the most breathtakingly beautiful songs I have ever heard, and every time I listen to it, I'm tempted to say it was THE most.
Throughout this whole countdown, I have emphasized at how a good ending credits theme should make the player feel after their journey is over and should give off a sense of accomplishment yet also invoke nostalgia for their own respective game, and there is no ending theme that does that better than Earthbound's Smiles and Tears. Earthbound is a game that is known for connecting with players on a personal level and being heavily immersive despite the storyline not being all that complex. The game does everything it can to make you feels as though you actually are Ness, and not just playing a game, so it would only be natural that the ending theme would go out of its way to make you feel both happy yet also sad that it's finally over.
The ending credits themselves are over a photo album pictures that a cameraman has been taking of you throughout the game. The credits are even personal enough to list the player in the credits, and the scene beforehand listed off the game's entire cast of characters beforehand. The song itself, however, is where the most effort of all went. The song is a remix of the soundstone melody that you have been collecting pieces of throughout the game, and is what allowed Ness to access the realm of his mind. The in game rendition of it sounded more like a music box tune that serves as a lullaby, but this version is played on a piano and trumpet complete with harmonization using effective and smooth drum beats, and extended icy string notes, symbolizing how Ness has grown throughout his journey with his friends.
Additionally, I cannot think of any song that evokes a greater feeling of nostalgia for not just Earthbound, but for my childhood in general. Keep in mind that this is coming from someone who not only does not have fond memories of her childhood, but also has not even played Earthbound until the early 2010s. That is probably what the best thing about Earthbound is; it's almost a symbolic representation of childhood, but it does not glorify everything. There were some infamously unpleasant moments in the game, but what is more important is remembering all of the good times and the friends that were there for you; the smiles and tears if you will.
The truly amazing thing about this song though, is that unlike Ashes of Dreams, this song is entirely instrumental with the exception of three words, and those words hit me harder than anything in Ashes of Dreams ever has; I miss you. This perfectly sums up the feeling of nostalgia for most people, but it carries even greater meaning with the hindsight of Iwata's death, who was practically responsible for saving this game from being canceled.
The fact that this tune carries so much meaning and feeling to it even years after the game's release demonstrates how brilliant it really is, and I cannot possibly think of any better choice for not only the best JRPG credits theme, but possibly the greatest video game song in general.
Well, this countdown was in the making for a long time. I have been working on it since late November, yet did not finish it until now. The reasons why include getting caught up in a lot of other stuff and not being in the mood to write for this thing again until recently. Either way, there are probably enough options out there to do a seperate list, but I would need to find something else on the same level as my number 1 or number 2 choice before doing so, and would need to play some more games. Anyway, time for the obligatory honorable mentions portion.
HISTORIA - Radiant Historia
Lullaby for You - The World Ends With You
If you Still Believe - The Legend of Dragoon
Staff Credits - Super Paper Mario
Rewind - Time and Eternity (Was left off because I cannot find an English translation of the lyrics)
A Night Without Lovers - Soul Blazer (One per series and already included Terranigma's)
EXEC_PHANTASMAGORIA - Ar Tonelico (Might have made it if I knew anything about Ar Tonelico)
Ending Theme - Final Fantasy II (Would have made it over MOL if it wasn't too repetitive)
Moonless Starry Night - Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles
The End - Earthbound Beginnings (left off due to one per series rule)
16 Melodies - MOTHER 3 (See above)
Ghosts in Flight - MOTHER: Cognitive Dissonance (had no chance anyway cause it's from a western made fangame, but is good enough that it deserves a mention regardless)
List by Iyamtebist (04/11/2017)
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