I love music and I love video games, so it’s probably no coincidence that the Zelda series is one of my favorites of all time. Outside of rhythm games, I don’t think there are any other game series where music plays a bigger role than Zelda. After all, several games in the series actual require the player to learn melodies and play them back to proceed on his or her quest to vanquish evil.
This list is dedicated to those melodies, and I’m judging them both on value to the story as well as how good I think they are as a standalone piece of music. Mostly the latter.
#5. “Minuet of Forest” – Ocarina of Time
Ocarina of Time has a ton of learnable melodies, especially the 6 that Sheik teaches Link which warp him to the 6 different temples. Of the 6, the “Minuet of Forest” is my favorite and is the first one of these melodies that Link learns. Whenever a piece is in a slow 3/4 meter, I can’t help but think of a waltz. Pro music analysis tip: slow 3/4 pieces are often symbolic of the relationship between two people (like a waltz). Link learns this melody after the time skip, outside the entrance of the Forest Temple where he expects Saria to be since it was their special place but finds Sheik instead.
#4. “Song of Time” – Ocarina of Time & Majora’s Mask
Ah, one of the most important melodic motifs in the Zelda franchise, passed up only by “Zelda’s Lullaby” and the classic overworld theme, the “Song of Time” is a haunting melody that holds a lot of power in both of the games that it formally appears in. Not only is the theme for the Temple of Time, but the melody opens up the Door of Time in Ocarina of Time which allows Link to jump 7 years into the dark future. In Majora’s Mask, Link uses the “Song of Time” to reset the doomsday counter back to the start of the 3 days. Different variations of the melody exist in this game too, allowing Link to speed up or slow down time at his beck and call.
#3. “Song of Healing” – Majora’s Mask
An interesting observation I had about this melody is that you first learn it from the Masked Man on an old and out of tune piano. The purity of the piano, “corrupted” with intonation issues sets the stage for the rest of the game, as Link uses the “Song of Healing” to quell the tumultuous souls of Termina’s troubled people. If that wasn’t dark enough, the primary use of the melody is for Link to obtain the 3 transformation masks, all of which he receives from individuals who have died (or are dying). Oh yeah, the “Song of Healing” also happens to be “Saria’s Song” backwards.
#2. “Oath to Order” – Majora’s Mask
The “Oath to Order” is one of the most ominous melodies in the entire franchise. It’s function is to summon the four guardian giants of Termina to stop the Moon from destroying the world. It’s the only tune, in my memory, that’s taught to you by someone singing even though that someone happens to be a scary looking giant. For those who care, the “Oath to Order” spells out a D-minor chord which happens to be a key that’s come to be known for foreboding. While the melody matches the apocalyptic aesthetic of the game, there’s still a bit of hope and resolve that’s attached to the melody. A sense of wholeness and resolution.
#1. “Earth God’s Lyric” – The Wind Waker
Okay, so I changed this list from “Top Ocarina Melodies” to “Top Playable Melodies” just for this tune, and I don’t know if words can describe how much I love it. Link and Medli learn the melody from the Earth Sage, Laruto, in order to open the Earth Temple. It also forms the game’s main theme with its counterpart, the “Wind God’s Aria,” and I’ve explained before how much I love that. The easy 9/8 meter with the calming plucking of the harp is enough to set anyone’s soul at ease. Like seriously, I could listen to this piece forever.
Honorable Mentions, I know you’d all be furious if I at least didn’t mention these, so here they are!