As great as a game is often they are just made better by the musical scores that accompany them. Music can be a powerful part of a game used to convey a specific piece of emotion in a certain sequence or simply add power when needed. There are many great scores scattered across games and it is hard to just pick five from all the ones that I truly love. The only rule I made for this list is that I could use one score per franchise (at least this time), so we get a good amount of variety, so here we have my personal top five sad video game scores.
Zelda’s Lullaby (The Legend of Zelda Ocarina of Time)
There are many musical scores which warrant this place in my top five but while I considered some great ones including the main theme to Ocarina of Time, but there was only one score I could justify. Zelda’s Lullaby is a beautiful score that has been used in many places in the Zelda franchise but this score has seen no better placement then within Ocarina of Time, there are many great moments for this score to be used in the game but personally my favorite instance is the end of the game. Whether you are hopelessly in love with Ocarina of Time, or you are like me and don’t hold that same enthusiasm for the game you can never doubt just how beautiful and well placed this score is. The very end of Ocarina of Time uses the score to great effect to add a decent amount of heartfelt power to the closing credits, in the end the world is saved, everything is at peace but one final sad moment occurs. As Zelda discusses the way of the world and sending Link back to his own time, back to a world where he no longer belongs this score makes you feel empathy for Link especially with the following loss of a friend. Everytime I hear this score during this moment I get overwhelmed and start to tear up but this score is as beautiful as it is sad and I love it for that.
Main Theme (The Last of Us)
The Last of Us is an amazing game, the story is brilliant and really emotionally driven, and the gameplay perfectly complements the beautiful story and world as well as all its hardships. But the thing that complements and improves it more is the music, more particularly the main theme, and wow is it amazing. The reason this particular score works so well is simply because it is fine-tuned with the story, the score is sad and regularly helps to convey the feeling of what’s happened which for me works, The Last of Us is not a happy game it deals with a whole lot of difficult subject matter. To all the sadness that the game throws at us this score just acts as the icing on the cake developing the further connection between the player and the games world as well as our two main protagonists. In the end a good score can be the difference between an okay game and a great one and this score proves it, I am not afraid to admit it makes me cry particularly when used after a couple of the games really heavy hitting moments.
Organization XIII’s theme (Kingdom Hearts 2)
It is not often that I find reason to relate a villain’s theme to a feeling of sadness but yet it is undeniable just how sad this score truly is. The villains of Kingdom Hearts 2 are some of the most complicated enemies I have come across in my years of playing videogames (until they were ruined in Kingdom Heart’s Dream Drop Distance), their motives seemed mostly vague and they always seemed sad for obvious reasons and all up this adds to the beauty of the score. The Organization XIII score is the perfect culmination of placement along with character, the melancholy tone plays in perfectly with the characters themselves and their story and really tackles a feeling hopelessness and deep seated sadness and this feeling never dies across the entire extent of Kingdom Hearts 2. To some degree the sadness in this score is reflective of my enemies and made me sympathize for their problem, but to a wider extent it is two characters that got my true sympathy. Like many other scores when placed in the right spot they hold a greater power and Kingdom Hearts 2 is no different, in a flashback scene concerning the character Roxas we see him running from a series of nobodies with this depressing score playing in the background, this also continues through many other flashback scenes and in all it makes me feel more connected to Roxas as a character. By further extension I also felt more for his friend Axel who shows a deep care for Roxas and he became a character I truly cared for. It is rare that an enemy theme can induce sadness but Kingdom Hearts 2 uses it to great avail and the feeling of sadness is worth it to make these enemies actually count to a much higher degree.
Unwavering Emotions (Pokemon Black and White)
Pokemon is not a franchise that many of us would think of when it comes to beautiful scores that deliver an emotional impact, in fact for many when we think of Pokemon we think of the happy scores that encompass each route and drive each battle. But on one occasion Pokemon has delivered us that one beautiful score that it may sound wrong to say but it honestly got to me, this particular score Unwavering Emotions puts things into perspective and allows us to be more compassionate and sensitive to a characters plight. This score is beautiful and works hand in hand with the story to deliver a truly emotional scene, but in this case I might actually have to talk about the scene in question to fully elaborate. During the events of Pokemon Black and White we meet a character named N, this person is special and has quite a history but the important thing is his abilities, he had the ability to speak to Pokemon. We meet N on multiple occasions throughout the game each time we hear more of his story and we see his ambitions which I think are noble, N dreams of a world where Pokemon are not enslaved by trainers and are free, he is unable to comprehend any other viewpoint. During this you also learn that he runs the regions criminal organization Team Plasma helping him with his goal of freeing Pokemon, or so he thought. For all the right he thought he was doing the game culminates down to the reveal of him being used so that the group’s real leader could seize power and control the world. It is claimed that N is a broken boy but in truth he is a person of such high beliefs that it is all he cares for, of course this sad betrayal shuts N off, but once you defeat Team Plasma N rethinks things. The score chimes in such a beautiful way as N pours his soul out and realizes that maybe his goals were wrong and he shouldn’t be trying to force people to release Pokemon. Unwavering Emotions made me feel deeply for N and even sympathize and understand him more, this score is just beautiful and works perfectly with this games story.
Eleanor’s Lullaby (Bioshock 2)
Bioshock 2 is one of my favorite games of all time, the game holds a beautiful story that is both thoughtful and very thought inducing. The biggest point to be made is just how deep things go in this tale and honestly at least in my books the game evolves into being quite an emotional experience. All this culminates towards the end of the game which varies based on player choices and results in different endings, each ending presents a different vision of a future be it happy, unknown or bad, and with each a different musical score is used. These scores are all good in their own rights, in fact I don’t think Bioshock 2 has a bad score in it but the one that is more important is the Eleanor’s Lullaby score. This is an article all about scores that convey a feeling of sadness, and as it turns out here this is actually one of the rare examples of happy sadness. This actually comes down to the score itself for me I personally think it is a beautiful score that actually helps me relax when I am angry, but strength wise it does come down to the character Eleanor and the game ending where the score plays. While the neutral ending score is equally good it is Eleanor’s Lullaby that plays during the good ending that truly holds power, this score is so beautiful and so full of emotion and in part almost seems like a reward for the good you have done. This score really does culminate the experience of the game especially if you played it as the good guy, mercy is victory and when given the chance you forgave and you presented Eleanor with the chance for a better life. This score perfectly closes out Bioshock 2 and makes me both happy and sad at the same time as I reflect on my experience.
The thing is it is easy to talk about our own experience and love of these scores but music is a listening medium and to full appreciate these scores you need to hear them, and respect them.