Top 10 Underappreciated Legend of Zelda Game Tracks
If I were asked to pick the video game series that is most renowned for its music, there would be not the barest hint of hesitation. It’s The Legend of Zelda. The series has some of the most memorable and widely recognized music in all of gaming history. From the original 8-bit style theme of The Legend of Zelda to the heartwarming melodies of Ocarina of Time to the sweeping symphonies of Skyward Sword, the series has long featured soundtracks that rightfully draw copious praise and adoration.
But some of those elegant compilations have been remembered better than others. A few of the most beautiful and (at least in our opinion) noteworthy pieces of music from the series that earned its place in history as the inaugural inductee into the Video Game Hall of Fame have become all-but-forgotten relics of their individual games’ glory days and, in modern times, have fallen into the depths of obscurity. Until today.
What are the Top 10 Most Underappreciated Legend of Zelda Tracks from the series’ 3D installments? Find out after the jump. Warning: Nostalgia and Awesomeness imminent.
Serenade of Water – Ocarina of Time
In terms of gameplay, it was a simple shortcut to teleport Link to the entrance of the Water Temple at Lake Hylia. But musically, the Serenade of Water is a lovely (if short) composition that fits well with the theme of the eerie and complex Water Temple. Playing this melody on the ocarina at once brings forth a sense of serenity and an air of mystery. This song also served as the compositional basis for Queen Rutela’s theme in Twilight Princess.
Makar’s Prayer (The Wind God’s Aria) – Wind Waker
One of the final pieces of the puzzle in Link’s quest across the ancient and hallowed grounds spread throughout the Great Sea is learning to conduct Makar, a Korok who embodies the spirit of a Sage, in playing the Wind God’s Aria. It is a slight variation of the tune that plays on the game’s opening screen. This piece is a great example of a composer taking a simple melody and turning it into something original and symbolic. It is probably one of the first things that comes to people’s minds when thinking of Wind Waker music.
Ilia’s Theme – Twilight Princess
Since Ilia is often associated with Link’s faithful steed, Epona, it’s no surprise that her theme should bear a close relation to Epona’s theme from Ocarina of Time. This arrangement, however, is much more than just the simple (much more well-remembered) ocarina melody, using elegant undertones and harmonies to give it a tranquil, beautiful tone that amplifies the gentle, compassionate nature of the character it represents.
Title Theme – Spirit Tracks
One of the most underappreciated tracks from one of the most underappreciated games, the main theme from Spirit Tracks perfectly conveys the free-spirited, open environment you’ll experience in the game. The track starts off with a blatant homage to the traditional Legend of Zelda theme, and then suddenly and skillfully veers off into its own unique direction. The upbeat rhythm and graceful woodwind-like sounds are a tantalizing combination that creates an aura reminiscent of discovering new worlds. Quite appropriate to the game itself.
To Hyrule – Wind Waker
A simple melody that transforms into a grand and mysterious tune of anticipation and unknown beauty as Link descends into the monochromatic land of Hyrule hidden deep beneath the surface of the Great Sea, this song is probably at least half the reason that moment is one of the best in any Zelda game from a cinematic perspective. I’ve watched scenes from blockbuster movies with less depth and meaning than when this track reaches its climax as the camera shifts up to the bright sun shining from above the water’s surface. There’s no other way to say it: It’s breathtaking.
Grandma’s Theme – Wind Waker
This melody isn’t quite on the grand scale that the series’ other famous compositions take. In fact, this theme is much more subtle. However, there’s just something about it that radiates feelings of warmth and comfort. From the very beginning of Wind Waker, your home on Outset Island always offered a sense of closeness. Link’s grandmother was left to her lonesome due the events unfolding in the game’s plot. This must have been an incredibly difficult thing for poor grandma to cope with. When Link visits her partway through his journey and this tune begins to play, it’s hard to not feel the love and support from her. I especially connected to this song when none other than the series composer, Koji Kondo, performed it live at the premier events of the Legend of Zelda 25th Anniversary symphony concert last year. You owe it to yourself to take a listen:
Song of Healing – Majora’s Mask
There’s something quite magical about this piece. It encompasses the entire Majora’s Mask story in one song: a world on the brink of destruction and in desperate need of healing. This song has also touched various characters with an insight into their hearts and souls, such as Darmani and Mikau. With each strike of a key, I felt connected as I witnessed the touching moments of each character’s spirit being liberated through the melody’s enchantment. Its healing powers will forever be shrouded in mystery, just as the song’s teacher.
Forest Temple – Ocarina of Time
This temple set the tone for your first adventures as an adult in Ocarina of Time. The temple took advantage of your newer abilities as an adult, contained an eerie atmosphere, and housed one of my favorite bosses in the game. Though the dungeon’s track is usually disregarded, there’s just something about it that leaves players with a twisted feeling. Like the dungeon itself, the music instils the player with a sense of deception, challenge and, trickery just as the phantoms lurking within each portrait.
Deku Palace – Majora’s Mask
The Deku Palace theme emphasizes the essence of the tribe’s royalty, elegance, and authority. The moment Link approaches the palace’s gates, it’s clear that it’s a fortified fortress with exclusive rights of entry only granted to those of the Deku race. The intro begins with a subtle but short percussion beat and into a fully realized triumphant theme of pride. The melody feels very fitting for the series but also offers a completely exotic experience the same time.
Stone Tower Temple – Majora’s Mask
The score opens with a continuous hymn that slowly escalates into something on a much grander scale. A simple drum beat begins to pair alongside the incessant chanting followed by a hypnotic combination of woodwind and string instruments. The music establishes an overwhelming hallucinogenic sense for the player to press onward as he or she climbs to the peak of the temple where a pair of oversized insects awaits.
Special thanks to Senior Editor Joe Puopolo for initiating this project and contributing half of the list above.