Random encounters or not, if you’re playing an RPG, you’re bound to find yourself in battles most of the time. Finding really good normal battle themes (as in music for non-boss or special battles) proved to be quite challenging. Most of the great music is usually reserved for those important battles. In my experience, the normal battle theme can make or break your RPG battling experience. While I love Final Fantasy IX, I’m not a huge fan of its battle theme (maybe because its battles are so arduously slow and frequent). A good battle theme can instill an excitement for fighting rather than disdain, which I think is the ultimate goal here. I just wish more of them had more creative titles.
It’s ridiculous to think for a second that this list is comprehensive in the slightest. For me, there’s a whole lot of uncovered ground within the genre. What this list does reflect, however, is my history and experience with RPGs, along with my personal preference for some awesome music.
10. “Bell of Battle” – Bravely Default: Flying Fairy, Composed by REVO
While this game hasn’t made its way to the States yet, that doesn’t stop me from rocking out to this awesome battle anthem by one of the guys from Sound Horizon. With a determined trumpet lead accompanied by electric guitars and strings, we have a fairly unique take on the traditional style of JRPG battle music. The reason this track isn’t any higher is because I haven’t actually played this game yet.
9. “Battle Artist” – Tales of Legendia, Composed by Go Shiina
Speaking of unique battle themes from games I’ve never played before, we have our next entry. Just the intro with a flurry of strings is enough to get one excited to kick ass. Again, the use of brass and strings creates an interesting personality which is then amplified by the constantly changing rhythmic flavor. People probably aren’t kidding when they say Legendia’s music is twice as good as the game.
8. “Strike” – Fire Emblem: Rekka no Ken, Composed by Yuka Tsujiyoko
I’m always going to complain about the GBA’s terrible soundchip, but that won’t stop me from praising the amazing music GBA games always seem to have. Here we have a short but sweet theme that goes along with each time your unit engages with an enemy. The way the track starts aligns perfectly with the attacking animation of your unit, which is enough to land this theme at number 8.
7. “Wild Pokémon Battle” – Pokémon Ruby & Sapphire, Composed by Go Ichinose
The world of Pokémon is filled with amazing battle themes. This made it hard to choose just one, especially since they’re all so similar to each other (purposefully so too). I ended up going the Hoenn version, which features a lot of fake brass and rhythmic hits. This track has a very nice adaptation in the anime which uses real instruments.
6. “Battle Fanfare” – Paper Mario, Composed by Yuka Tsujiyoko
I absolutely love the battle system in Paper Mario, and the battle theme just makes it ten times better. It’s an upbeat track with various musical lines popping around each other and has several nods to the themes from the original platforming series as well. With such a great battle theme and addictive combat system, battles never became a chore in Paper Mario like they might in many other games.
5. “Battle!” – Golden Sun, Composed by Motoi Sakuraba
So take a generic JRPG battle theme and put it on steroids, that’s what we have here. The hyper-energetic and chaotic intro literally throws you into the action, which is appropriate considering how fast-paced the battles typically are. There’s even a neat little breakdown section, adding variance and urgency should your battle take a bit longer than expected.
4. “Battle 1” – Chrono Trigger, Composed by Yasunori Mitsuda
Chrono Trigger’s funky take on the bass-driven battle theme manages to propel energy while still maintaining a chilled-out feeling. The cool sound colors and long choral tones keep you relax while you adeptly punch in commands for Crono and the gang. Despite the active-time nature of battles, the music leaves you feeling in control (and probably bobbing your head too).
3. “Fate/Serious” – Mother 3, Composed by Shogo Sakai
For those of you who may not know, Mother 3‘s combat system is completely reliant on performing combos in time with the music. For this innovation, the game boasts a ton of different battle themes, and my personal favorite (and one of the hardest to combo to) is “Serious.” The smooth guitar line meshes oddly well with the underlying bass. In fact, in order to pull off a combo, you have to tap in rhythm with the bass part.
2. “Fighting” – Final Fantasy VII, Composed by Nobuo Uematsu
What would a list about RPGs be without a Final Fantasy entry? While I really like a lot of the earlier battle themes in the series, the one from VII takes the cake for its rhythmic and stylistic variations and its departure from the infamous bass line intro. The metal soundscape (not like metal rock but like metal hitting metal) fits perfectly with the very first area of the game and where you first hear this music. It leaves an impression that never really goes away.
1. “Reach Out to the Truth” – Persona 4, Composed by Shoji Meguro
Persona 3 and 4 could win the award for most unconventional battle themes ever, and I love them both for that. However, I’m going to have to give it P4’s theme for being generally more upbeat. The way the guitar work threads through the vocals creates this forward momentum that excites a soul into battle. It’s this kind of communication that’s reflected in the combat system, through follow-up attacks and all-out attacks. By the way, I also love the visual interface used during battles. Everything about the battle system is perfect, except maybe how hard they can get…
- “Battle Theme” – Final Fantasy VI, Composed by Nobuo Uematsu
- “Battle Theme” – Final Fantasy Mystic Quest, Composed by Ryuji Sasai and Yasuhiro Kawakami
- “It’s Battle Time!” – Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door, Composed by Yoshito Hirano and Yuka Tsujiyoko
- “Fight Against Monsters” – Super Mario RPG, Composed by Yoko Shimomura
- “Mass Destruction” – Persona 3, Composed by Shoji Meguro
As per the usual rules, I had to keep it to one game per franchise. Despite whining about how bad the GBA sounds, there are 4 entries here that are from the GBA. I guess that is pretty good indication for what my RPG background looks like.
What are your favorite RPG normal battle themes?