When I first conceived the idea for doing a list for the top end credits in video games, I had no idea it would end up coinciding with my college graduation, but I guess some things are just meant to work out magically like that. End credits are incredibly important to me, perhaps even as much as the actual ending to a game’s story. They’re a way for the game’s creators to artistically bookend the adventure by tying together plot elements, themes, and motifs, all while giving credit where credit is due.
Which games’ end credits do the best job of wrapping up their tales? Find out below!
NOTE: There are spoilers!
#10. “Venus☆Megamix!” by Kousuke Oshima – Hyperdimension Neptunia Victory (PS3)
This almost completely missed the list, until I remembered how great the Neptunia credits always are. Set to energetic J-pop, these end credits recap the game’s story through a montage homage to classic games. There’s some Dragon Quest, Final Fantasy IV/V, Tokimeki Memorial, and plenty of other games that my young brain can’t even begin to recognize. This credits sequence deserves a spot on this list if not just for its classy EarthBound shoutout, a reference to the scene at the Summers beach where Poo teleports and joins Ness’s party.
#9. “Memories of You” by Shoji Meguro – Persona 3 (PS2)
Some credits provide an opportunity to bask in success and celebration while some offer a moment to process the game’s story or perhaps a twist that happens right at the end. Persona 3‘s end credits certainly fall into the latter category, providing an upbeat, yet oddly bittersweet vocal number as it catalogues the game’s major events from its exciting introduction to its sucker punch conclusion. Your mind is almost too distracted by what just happened to fully enjoy the credits, until you’re brought back to reality by the sight of Aigis’s tears at the end.
#8. “Super Mario Galaxy 2” by Mahito Yokota – Super Mario Galaxy 2 (Wii)
The staff roll for Super Mario Galaxy 2 does a splendid job of capturing the scope and grandeur of the game that precedes it. Like the many Sling Stars scattered throughout the game, a flurry of cosmic strings pulls in a triumphant brass fanfare and launches us into a playable end credits sequence, befitting of a game that prides itself in gameplay over anything else. The music is stately while maintaining a playful bounciness that sends us soaring through the different ending screens, from a crescent moon see-saw to a chilly snowy cliff side.
The Mario Galaxy sound team had the monumental task of filling the games’ supermassive environments with equally grandiose music and the even bigger task of finding a magnificent way of ending the game. I hope everyone can agree that the team did a stellar job on both fronts.
#7. “Epilogue ~Those Who Remain~” by Kou Otani – Shadow of the Colossus (PS2)
Part staff roll, part epilogue, the end credits from Shadow of the Colossus is the calm after the turbulent storm of the conclusion’s plot twist. It’s a relative calm, really, as the game drops major emotional bombs on the players with Mono waking up and the return of a beaten-up Agro. The tumultuous, introspective music continues as the scene shifts to the locations of the sixteen fallen Colossi.
We’ve defeated our foes as instructed, but these images make us question at what cost. The once abandoned land is again cast into isolation when the bridge crumbles, but the ending feels hopeful with Mono and Agro caring for the demon-baby Wander and shots of a bird flying overhead. It certainly feels more hopeful than the future of the series, at the very least.
#6. “Sanctuary ~After the Battle~” & “Fantasia alla marcia for piano, chorus and orchestra” by Utada Hikaru & Yoko Shimomura – Kingdom Hearts II (PS2)
In Kingdom Hearts II‘s end credits, it’s all about the music. From the catchy yet powerful “Sanctuary” to the absolutely monumental “Fantasia alla marcia,” the credits music captures the charm and beauty that both Disney and Square Enix have become famous for. Even the font changes for both sections, with the words in “Sanctuary” being heavily stylized and the words in “Fantasia alla marcia” being much more formal.
To me, it’s kind of lazy when game’s simply put screenshots of random game moments and call that credits. That’s why I appreciate Kingdom Hearts II for giving us animated epilogues for each of the worlds that Sora visits. We grow to care for each world, and it’s gratifying to see what everyone’s up to at the end. A particularly great one is watching Auron depart and seeing pyreflies fly out – a huge reference to his story in Final Fantasy X.
#5. “To Far Away Times” by Yasunori Mitsuda – Chrono Trigger (SNES)
Up until its final moments, Chrono Trigger can do no wrong; this is an end credits sequence in its purest form. All one really needs are two heroes flying around the world on a handful of balloons and not just any balloons but the same type we see in the game’s opening moments. Couple this with impressive Mode 7 graphics and the masterful Yasunori Mitsuda’s composition, and we have an unforgettable ending credits.
The theme, “To Far Away Times,” begins with arpeggiating harps and builds to a gentle and almost reticent piano part that eventually leads into the theme’s main melody. The music is lyrical, evocative, and the perfect way to cap off this timeless adventure.
#4. “Staff Roll” by Hajime Wakai – The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword (Wii)
Say what you will about motion controls, Skyward Sword’s end credits are on point and never miss a beat. In typical Zelda credits fashion, it sweeps through the game’s beautiful locales from Skyloft, the Lanayru Mines, and the Ancient Cistern. What really sets this sequence apart from the many great credits we’ve received from past games in the series are the flashbacks that detail Zelda’s time with Impa, which end up being emotionally stirring thanks to what happens mere moments before the credits start to roll.
Let’s not forget the fantastic, full-orchestrated soundtrack. The opening fanfare simply embodies adventure and, much like the credits for Super Mario Galaxy 2, matches the scale of the game’s world. Following its bombastic introduction, the music takes an introspective turn with an emotive rendition of the “Ballad of the Goddess” and concludes, choir and all, with as much energy and spirit as it began.
#3. “Cast and Credits” & “16 Melodies (Beginning)” by Shogo Sakai – Mother 3 (GBA)
Mother 3 is a deceptively complex game with many emotional twists and turns, particularly towards the end, and these credits serve as a reminder of how far we’ve come and all the people we’ve met along the way. There is a ton of personality in the credits, like the game itself, and reminds us that this game isn’t all sadness and destruction. After all, there’s an interlude by Club Titiboo’s band, DCMC, as well as a goofier arrangement of the Saturn Valley theme. The other arrangements are spectacular as well, from the upbeat rendition of the Magyspy theme to the extra-exultant Pigmask fanfare, serving as a literal and figurative final call to attention. The way the Pigmask theme leads directly into the “Theme of Love” is brilliant, and the arpeggiated arrangement of the “Theme of Love” brings me to tears.
Of course, we have to end the cast roll with the door knob, a running joke from the beginning of the game and an important symbol in this game about home and family. The inclusion of the “Eight Melodies” from both Mother 1 and Earthbound are a love letter to fans of the series and fans of good music.
#2. “Victory Parade” & “The Celebration Continues” by Yuka Tsujioko – Paper Mario (N64)
This end credits sequence single-handedly got me hooked on video game soundtracks. For the first time, a young me realized that characters, places, and ideas could be attached to musical motifs, and today, an older me will claim that no other medium, not even film nor opera, does it as well. Perhaps it’s because video games are simply much longer than any movie or opera, but the way a game’s credits can crystallize an entire odyssey into a single visual and musical sequence is nothing short of magical. Anyone who has played through the original Paper Mario will tell you, with no risk of hyperbole, that the game’s staff roll accomplishes just that.
In a callback to the end credits of Super Mario RPG, the lovable Luigi leads the cast, villians and all, on a parade through the Mushroom Kingdom, fitting for the storybook, papercraft style that the game is presented in. Mixing this ceremony with the brilliant melding of the game’s many themes creates a festival of celebration that has been stuck in my heart for the past 14 years.
#1. “Ending Credits” by Nobuo Uematsu – Final Fantasy VI (SNES)
Final Fantasy VI is a miracle in a cartridge, and its 20-minute end credits is living proof of that bold statement. It deftly weaves the large cast into a tight-knit fabric, documenting their escape from Kefka’s Tower while sounding off their names as if it were a curtain call at a play. It’s a genius aesthetic choice, given how important stage performance is in Final Fantasy VI. What Paper Mario accomplished with the melding of motifs in its end credits, Final Fantasy VI achieved six years prior and at twice the scale. Nobuo Uematsu’s treatment of the fourteen different character themes is masterful, giving each motif magnificent new arrangements from the triumphant Figaro brothers’ theme to Shadow’s Theme, which was once a wistful whistle tune, now played a big somber, orchestral synth with tinges of developed resolve.
Of course, how can you not tear up at the marriage of Locke’s Theme and Celes’s Theme? If you’ve ever wondered what a musical declaration of love sounds like, look no further than how Nobuo Uematsu handles their themes in the credits. Breathtaking shots of the Falcon flying around in Mode 7 lead us into a reprise of the main theme of Final Fantasy, with shots of the world being rebuilt and new life beginning, reminding us that there’s always a reason to live and to love.
“Sometimes in life, you have to FEEL your way through a situation.” ~ Setzer Gabbiani
“Still Alive” by Jonathan Coulton – Portal (PC)
The view count on YouTube alone warrants a mention on this list. Aside from its memetic fame, the song’s cheekiness matches the game’s tone, and the simple black and orange GUI is a great way to represent our favorite talking AI. Plus, you gotta love the shifting ASCII art that constantly changes to match the song’s lyrics. Out of the ten other end credits themes on this list, “Still Alive” is certainly the most recognizable and the most hummable.