Since the beginning of time to the end of time, the Zelda overworlds have been vast, expansive, and the hub of all the game’s action and adventure. It’s only natural that their musical themes should be able to fill these worlds with such ideas and emotions.
In a similar vein to when I talked about my top 5 favorite world map themes, I’ve decided to choose my 5 favorite Zelda overworld themes (almost an entire year later, too!). Unfortunately for many of you savvy to Zelda music, or even video game music in general, these 5 choices are probably no surprise to you at all. Given that I only allowed myself 5 slots to fill, the choices were obvious to me from the get-go, and the only real problem was choosing the order.
5. “Overworld” – The Legend of Zelda (NES), Koji Kondo
Doing a list of best Zelda anything, it makes sense that the father of them all should make an appearance. Yup, you know it, you love it, and it’s become the backbone (both spiritually and sometimes musically) for all of the overworld themes to follow. The original overworld theme sounds very much like a march to victory, embodying an immediate sense of heroism. Even before you really get to do anything, this music is playing and priming you up for adventure. Of course, until you go into the cave to get your sword from some old dude. But then, the music just starts over again to reintroduce you to the world!
4. “The Great Ocean” – The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker (GCN), Kenta Nagata
Taking the number 4 slot is the theme that accompanies Link across the largest Zelda overworld to date. It takes a grand theme to fill the space created by this massive ocean world, and “The Great Ocean” theme does the job perfectly. It takes motif cues from its NES ancestor and mixes it with a theatrical ensemble of brass and string synthesizers that power Link and the King of Red Lions from island to island. This theme almost makes the act of sailing interesting. Well, I suppose with the Swift Sail in The Wind Waker: HD, there’s reconciliation to be had!
3. “Hyrule Field” – The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (N64), Koji Kondo
If the feeling of nostalgia could be immortalized in sound, I think this is the form that it would take. The range of emotions that are evoked throughout this track is pretty astounding, especially for people who played this game has a child. Ocarina of Time cruelly forestalls the introduction of its overworld, the 1st 3-D one in Zelda history, by making you go through the Deku Tree and listening to Kaepora Gaebora. However, once you take those first steps onto the gorgeous Hyrule Field, you’ll realize that it was all worth the wait (as long you didn’t piss off the giant Peahats).
“Hoo hoot! Link… Look up here! It appears that the time has finally come for you to start your adventure!” ~ Kaepora Gaebora
2. “Tal Tal Heights” – The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening (GB), Kazumi Totaka
While this is not the main overworld theme of Link’s Awakening, it does play over a certain of the world map so I feel like it can allowed on this list. That, and the fact that it’s such a badass theme that it practically manhandles its way onto this list. This theme plays over the area housing several of the game’s final dungeons (like Turtle Rock) as well as the egg of the great Wind Fish. It’s interesting because it’s at this point in the game where Link starts to question whether what he’s doing is right. After all, to wake the Wind Fish means to destroy its dream and Koholint Island. The “Tal Tal Heights” theme pushes Link to see his objective to the finish, even reflecting some of the tension and uncertainties that weigh him down.
1. “Hyrule Field” – The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess (GCN), Toru Minegishi & Koji Kondo
So anyone’s whose read my Top 5 World Map Themes list will have seen this coming a mile away. I’ve always believed that Twilight Princess is Ocarina of Time’s older brother (even though it’s a younger game), and the relationship between their overworld themes is no exception. It takes everything that made the “Hyrule Field” theme in Ocarina of Time great and makes it bigger and better. Like The Wind Waker the theme here is much more theatrical, by making use of brass, strings, woodwinds, and an unrelenting snare drum. It creates a strong contrast to the dreary twilight sections, especially since you’re first introduced to Hyrule Field while its in its dark curse. I find that this theme is best enjoyed via horseback while sniping monsters with the Bow.