It’s starting to get serious now.
As we well know, people are highly opinionated about everything, but when it comes to music, there seems to be a (pardon the pun) higher pitch to the passion of those arguments. I’ve been doing an MMO music podcast for over three years now, and believe me when I say that there have been countless times when myself and my cohosts were aghast when someone hated a tune we liked and vice-versa, even though we shouldn’t have been surprised.
So as we head into the top 10 of the best MMO theme songs, as voted on by the Massively OP community, expect a lot of opinions and controversies. You may not like the picks, the order, or the comments, but hopefully one or two of these will make you happy (and there’s always room to be pleasantly surprised by a track you never heard before!). Suck it up and jump with me!
To my knowledge, this is the only track from ESO that series composer Jeremy Soule came back to do. It’s a variation on the same theme that he’s been doing since Morrowind, and while it’s decent, to my ears it sounds a little too phoned in, especially compared to the other three versions. It sounds a little more timid and foreboding without much of a glimmer of hope. The choir is a stream of soft emotion here that sounds more like a cathedral choir than the harsh Nordic barkings of Skyrim.
11. Grenado Espada
Consider me more than a little gobsmacked to see that players knew enough of this game — and its music — to nominate it for a place on this countdown. But here it sits, just outside of the top 10, and I continue to find the universe surprising.
While the soundtrack as a whole might be very eclectic, the main theme is a restrained, soulful piano piece that channels pure melancholy while sounding a bit like something from the classical era. I enjoyed the lighter and more playful intermission, but the rest sounded a lot like an intro to Silent Hill or a sad lifetime drama on cable. Very interesting pick, this.
The high fantasy world of Arborea gets a rich and upbeat theme in this original track. It’s a little odd in a way that’s hard to articulate, but I found myself warming up to it about midway through. It’s a very distinct melody with a slow and steady percussion track and heartfelt strings, and it might be interesting to compare against all of the later login themes that this game has sported.
World of Warcraft’s third and final entry on this list scoots a theme into the top 10. Again, if I was to predict, I would have guessed vanilla or Wrath for a fan favorite main theme, but it’s all good. Hard to go wrong with one of WoW’s titles. Like all of the other expansions, this track mixes portions of the original theme with its own focus, which is a very classic-sounding Chinese soundtrack. It’s definitely warmer and less bombastic than some of the other themes, which is perhaps why players took a shine to it.
Over time, this main theme has steadily crawled up my all-time favorite list — if not in the top spot, than to at least in the top three. I love the slow burn at first, then the explosion into a rollicking track that begs to be played at top volume. While the bulk of this track is done with an orchestra, there are some weird and alien synth sounds tossed in to give it a nice sci-fi bent. Every day in my house should begin with this playing on the radio.
“Unique and rousing, I miss the sound and atmosphere,” reader Socontrariwise wrote, “but not the game.”
FFXI’s soundtrack has not aged the best (c’mon, admit it), especially when compared against the juggernaut of FFXIV’s OST, but there are plenty of gems here to enjoy. The main theme, Vana’diel March, feels more like it belongs back in the older days rather than the modern era. However, I kind of dig its steady, toe-tapping march and how it weaves in the prelude notes here and there to fit between the beat.
Next time on Jukebox Heroes: the six most popular MMO themes!