Explore the history of FINAL FANTASY through its musicTake an audio tour through the soundtracks of the FINAL FANTASY series
Which FINAL FANTASY game has the best music?
It’s a hotly debated topic among fans of the series - and it’s a tough one to answer because all the games have absolutely incredible soundtracks. As a result, ask five different people, you’ll likely get five different answers.
The news was announced as part of the Square Enix E3 Live event and will give users of streaming services access to full original soundtracks and arrangement albums from the FINAL FANTASY series.
A lot of you are probably streaming Liberi Fatali we speak (well, type), but for everyone else, you may be wondering: with all this music, where should you start?
To help answer that question, we thought it would be interesting to take an audio tour through the history of FINAL FANTASY. We’ve picked a track from each game that we think represents the unique sound and feel of that entry in the series - and would make a good starting point for your audio adventure.
FINAL FANTASY - Opening Theme
If we’re talking iconic, how could we not start with the Opening Theme to FINAL FANTASY. Composed by the great Nobuo Uematsu, it’s one of the tracks that defines the entire series. It may change in style and instrumentation across games, but it stays FINAL FANTASY through and through. Simply put, this is where it all started.
FINAL FANTASY II - The Rebel Army
Uematsu could do genuinely impressive things with the limited sound capabilities of the NES. If you need evidence, look no further than The Rebel Army from FINAL FANTASY II. With a powerful melody, and a rich, full sound, it’s one of the most recognisable pieces of music from the early games.
FINAL FANTASY III - The Boundless Ocean
The adventure and endless possibility of FINAL FANTASY III shines through in the music, and The Boundless Ocean in particular. It’s a hauntingly beautiful track - but unfortunately you don’t hear it for very long in the actual game.
Now that it’s on streaming services though, you can play it for as long as you like.
FINAL FANTASY IV - Main Theme of FINAL FANTASY IV
This theme, which plays when you’re exploring the overworld, has a sense of momentum that makes for perfect travel music.
What really makes it stand out though, is how elegantly it fits into the game’s central themes of longing and redemption.
FINAL FANTASY V - Four Hearts
Another overworld theme? Why the heck not?
Four Hearts from FINAL FANTASY V makes for a fascinating counterpoint to FINAL FANTASY IV’s overworld theme. It’s much more strident and optimistic - appropriate for when you hear it in the story.
Of course, fans will know that Four Hearts isn’t the only overworld theme in the game…
FINAL FANTASY VI - Maria and Draco (starting with Overture)
From the melancholic beauty of Terra’s theme, to the utter insanity of Dancing Mad, FINAL FANTASY VI has one of the most iconic soundtracks in the series.
It’s also one of the most ambitious - and nowhere is that clearer than in the famous opera scene, which sees party member Celes forced to step into a major theatrical production.
On the FINAL FANTASY VI soundtrack, the opera is split into multiple tracks, starting with Overture, moving onto Aria Di Mezzo Carattere, Wedding Waltz - Duel and finally Grand Finale.
That’s right, we’ve technically picked four tracks - deal with it.
This sequence demonstrates Uematsu at the top of his game. Despite all the excitement, drama and petulant octopi in FINAL FANTASY VI’s opera, it’s the music that holds it all together.
Oh - and a bonus mention for the version from the Distant Worlds: Music from FINAL FANTASY, which orchestrates the whole suite into a full 12 minute performance. It’s a mini-epic.
FINAL FANTASY VII - One Winged Angel
FINAL FANTASY VII is one of the most famous soundtracks in videogame history, and One Winged Angel is arguably its most famous tune.
An expected choice perhaps, but when something’s this good we don’t mind being predictable.
FINAL FANTASY VIII - Love Grows
The fledging romance between Squall and Rinoa sits squarely at the heart of FINAL FANTASY VIII (coming to Switch, PS4, Xbox One and Steam later this year as FINAL FANTASY VIII Remastered - yay!).
Love Grows captures that theme beautifully and reminds us that while FINAL FANTASY VIII does bombast well, it’s the human drama that holds it all together.
FINAL FANTASY IX - Vamo alla Flamenco
FINAL FANTASY IX is a much more light-hearted adventure than its immediate predecessors, and this is reflected in its soundtrack.
A few seconds of Vamo alla Flamenco is all you need to understand exactly what FINAL FANTASY IX is going for - fun, humor and sheer, unadulterated joy.
FINAL FANTASY X - Zanarkand
FINAL FANTASY X begins on a desolate landscape, and the plaintive piano of this beautiful piece of music.
It’s an effective opening - the world of Spira is defined by loss and sadness, and Zanarkand gets this across better than 100 lines of dialogue ever could.
FINAL FANTASY X-2 - Real Emotion
Spira is a far less oppressive place following the events of FINAL FANTASY X, and that’s clear from the opening cutscene of its sequel.
Real Emotion is a fantastically upbeat slice of J-pop that sticks in your head like it’s made of brain-glue. It’s silly and fun and will almost certainly put a smile on your face - much like the game itself.
FINAL FANTASY XI - Opening Theme
The Opening Theme of FINAL FANTASY XI is a long track that covers a lot of ground musically. The highlight is a vocal section known as Memoro de la Ŝtono. It starts relatively sombre, but as more and more voices join, it reaches a dramatic crescendo that will send shivers down your spine.
FINAL FANTASY XII - The Dalmasca Estersand
Wide open space, dangerous beasts and starkly beautiful scenery make the Dalmasca Estersand one of the most memorable early locations in FINAL FANTASY XII.
Actually, there’s one more thing that helps - this piece of music. We advise you to go with the remastered Dalmasca Estersand from FINAL FANTASY XII THE ZODIAC AGE - it has a slightly richer sound in our opinion. But honestly, you can’t go wrong with any version of this track.
FINAL FANTASY XIII - Blinded by Light
It’s something of a musical departure from the earlier games, but FINAL FANTASY XIII’s soundtrack really works. The battle theme, Blinded by Light, is one you’ll hear over and over in the game, but somehow it never gets old.
A serious earworm warning before you listen though - it’ll jam itself in your head and refuse to leave.
FINAL FANTASY XIII-2 - Etro’s Champion
As one of the few direct sequels in the series, FINAL FANTASY XIII-2 has a rare opportunity to directly build on its predecessor’s musical themes. And oh boy, does it.
Etro’s Champion takes the central melody of Blinded by Light and puts a whole new spin on it. It’s familiar and fresh at the same time - and if that’s not a perfect description of FINAL FANTASY XIII-2 as a whole, I don’t know what is.
LIGHTNING RETURNS: FINAL FANTASY XIII - Luxerion
The town of Luxerion is one of the most interesting areas of LIGHTNING RETURNS: FINAL FANTASY XIII - both visually and musically.
The track that plays as you explore the town - appropriately called Luxerion on the soundtrack - is incredibly dynamic. It moves from mellow and hypnotic, to up-tempo and back again. It’s not a conventional FINAL FANTASY track, and that’s exactly why it’s worth a listen.
FINAL FANTASY XIV Online - Torn From the Heavens
The FINAL FANTASY prelude is almost as famous as the original Opening Theme itself - it appears throughout the series. It’s typically pretty gentle, but not so in FINAL FANTASY XIV Online.
Composer Masayoshi Soken’s incredible Torn From the Heavens deftly works those famous notes into a thrilling track that sparks wonder and excitement.
FINAL FANTASY XV - Apocalypsis Noctis
The most recent FINAL FANTASY game has one of the most eclectic soundtracks in the series, ranging from breezy guitar riffs to brassy battle tracks. But when it goes big, its soundtrack really sings.
Apocalypsis Noctis is about as big as you can go. This choral track is almost overwhelming in its intensity - but my word, it’s exciting.
Those are just some of the incredible tracks ready to stream right now on your streaming service of choice! There’s so much more to discover though - so dig in and get lost in a world of music.
Oh, and by the way - the definitive answer to which FINAL FANTASY has the best soundtrack? THEATRHYTHM FINAL FANTASY CURTAIN CALL.
Now that’s how you dodge a question.
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