Jukebox Heroes: World of Warcraft’s main music themes


Inspired by a news post that a dashing Massively OP writer penned a few weeks back, I thought that it might be an interesting exercise in nostalgia to revisit all of the main themes for World of Warcraft from 2004 through 2016. After all, the expansion is launching this month, so what better time for such a journey!

Music has a funny way of unlocking all sorts of long-buried memories, especially when you associate the tune with an experience. After all, millions of players over the last decade-plus heard these login themes, sometimes for years at a stretch, and so it’s not crazy to admit that they’re burned into our subconscious.

Let’s revisit the seven WoW themes and calmly discuss with hatchets in the comments which one was the best!

World of Warcraft (2004)

The original. The classic. The powerful march of destiny. The call to arms, if you will.

I have always loved how it pulls back from the bombastic opening to a more magical interlude, even if it’s synthy to the core. It’s still so iconic and wonderful that it transports me back to those early days of playing in Azeroth.


The Burning Crusade (2007)

Darker and more foreboding than the original, TBC’s theme kept the same format with a heavy opening, lighter midsection, and a powerful ending. It’s honestly not my favorite except when it starts to mirror the vanilla theme (which is something all of these themes do in some capacity). You can definitely hear more money spent on an orchestra and choir, however.

Wrath of the Lich King (2008)

Was Wrath when the main themes started approaching marathon lengths? It appears so. I’ve had many people tell me that this is one of their favorites, although I suspect that it all comes down to when you started the game and which expansion spoke to you the most.

I love the cold, magical opening, although my interest starts sliding downhill on this one. Too much choir takes a good thing and makes it almost a parody of an epic theme. If you can hear past that, you’ll notice echoes of some of the expansion’s zone themes and instruments, which makes this a neat overture for the journey ahead.

Cataclysm (2010)

Settle in, folks, for the length of these main themes did not shorten going into WoW’s third expansion. In fact, Cataclysm brought out this weighty 12-minute beast that seems to meander all over the place like a giant, angry toddler looking for something to smash. Once again, you can see this as a melody or overture of the entire expansion’s score. That kind of makes it an interesting exercise in trying to identify what part goes where.

Mists of Pandaria (2012)

There’s an interesting mixture of east meets west with this (thankfully shortened) login theme). Sometimes the two tones clash, but more often than not the composer wove the two together to set the tone for this Chinese-themed expansion.

Warlords of Draenor (2014)

This theme just got retired as of mid-July, probably to the rejoicing of many bruised and battered eardrums (OK, so I’m a little prejudiced against Orcish music). Actually, once you’re past the first few minutes there’s a lot of beauty waiting for those pokey puppies who can’t make up their mind on the login screen.

Legion (2016)

And here we are to the brand-new theme from Legion. And you know what? It’s pretty fan-freaking-tastic. Going to take a few hundred listens to get the full effect, to be sure, but there’s a lot to like about this suitably epic and emotive piece.

Which one is your favorite? Sound off below!

MMOs are meant to be heard as well as seen, and chances are that music ties your memories to these games more than you might realize. Every two weeks Jukebox Heroes listens through a game soundtrack and picks out the highlights to share and discuss. And if you like this column, then don’t miss the author’s MMO music podcast, Battle Bards!
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