Hot, harsh and full of sand - is any videogame location as ubiquitous as the desert?

Many Square Enix games lead players deep into the sandy wastes, yet despite the familiar scenery, these areas often feel completely distinct. That’s largely thanks to the music.

We took an audio tour through some of the best desert-filled games in the Square Enix library - and what’s interesting is that no two sound alike.

See (or rather hear) for yourself - here are 10 of the most memorable desert themes in Square Enix games:

Secret of the Arid Sands - Secret of Mana

There are plenty of reasons why Secret of Mana is still such a beloved game, from its unique combat system to its ingrained sense of humour - we talked about that very topic when we took a look at Collection of Mana. But there’s one more element that plays a major role in giving the game its identify - the soundtrack.

The Secret of the Arid Sands is a great example of how eclectic the music really is. The strong melody is driven along by pounding drums and incessant xylophone - and perfectly sets the mood of Kakkara Desert.

Sandstorm - Deus Ex: Mankind Divided

Deus Ex: Mankind Divided goes straight to the desert course, with an incredible opening mission set in an abandoned hotel complex in Dubai.

Augmented agent Adam Jensen has to contend with jamming devices, argumentative colleagues and gun-toting terrorists who are eager for a scrap. But the most thrilling moment comes at the climax of the mission, as a vicious sandstorm rips through the hotel.

Adam has to extract a valuable asset from a firefight with little to no visibility - with the sandy action underscored by this exhilarating soundtrack.

Desert Wasteland - FINAL FANTASY VII

In the middle of Corel Desert, you’ll find the Gold Saucer - a glitzy theme park full of rides, games and awkward amateur dramatics. But look deeper - literally - and you’ll see that underneath is a much less desirable destination: Corel Prison.

It’s a bleak and dangerous place, full of violent criminals who are getting their just deserts.

That’s reflected in the music - the melancholy desert theme contrasts with the upbeat Gold Saucer theme - and perfectly captures the sadness of the prison and the lost souls who find themselves trapped there.

Dalmasca Estersand - FINAL FANTASY XII THE ZODIAC AGE

The sands east of the city of Rabanastre are a dangerous place at the best of times. - over-populated with threats including but not limited to - extremely hungry dinosaurs.

And yet, we happily spend hours wandering the dunes - largely thanks to the game’s amazing soundtrack. The sweeping melody of Dalmasca Estersand makes one of the most well-known tracks of all.

The Burning Sands - FINAL FANTASY X

The sheer expanse of Spira’s Bikanel Desert is emphasized through the swirling, constantly shifting soundscape. Unlike many of the desert themes in the series, this eschews a strong melody in favor of a more ambient, rhythmic approach.

I’ve highlighted the remastered track from FINAL FANTASY X|X-2 HD Remaster because personally, I think the fuller sound brings the piece to life. But if you prefer the original soundtrack (and I know that some people do) relax - that’s on streaming services too!

The Sunlands - OCTOPATH TRAVELER

OCTOPATH TRAVELER has one of the most evocative soundtracks of the last few years, and its desert area is a perfect example of this.

Composer Yasunori Nishiki has chosen a stunning, flowing melody for the Sunlands that makes this track a pleasure to listen to both in and out of the game. It drives home the feeling of a party of brave adventurers pushing through the sandy wastes.

Rise of the Tomb Raider - The Prophet’s Tomb

Lara Croft’s search for the Divine Source leads her to snowy peaks and geothermal valleys, but before all that, she takes a brief trip to Syria.

A run-in with the sinister organization Trinity leaves Lara exposed in the rocky sands, and searching for a way into - what else - an ancient tomb.

This section of the game provides a concentrated blast of everything great about the series - tight platforming, satisfying puzzles, dramatic set-pieces and an exciting story - all underscored by an excellent soundtrack by Bobby Tahouri.

The Dead Dunes - LIGHTNING RETURNS FINAL FANTASY XIII

LIGHTNING RETURNS FINAL FANTASY XIII’s soundtrack goes places - often within the same track.

The Dead Dunes moves fluidly from gentle ambient music, to pulse-pounding drums and electric guitar, through to epic orchestral action themes before settling down again. All with fragments of FINAL FANTASY XIII’s recurring themes to add familiarity. It all makes for a particularly memorable section of the game.

Sands of Amber and Deep Down - FINAL FANTASY XIV: Shadowbringers

The most recent game on this list, FINAL FANTASY XIV: Shadowbringer’s soundtrack is a tour de force. One of the great things about it is the way that tracks link, with themes and arrangements developing as the area or situation changes.

The Amh Araeng desert theme, called Sands of Amber, is a great example - the lilting vocals and gentle drums create a hazy, dream-like atmosphere.

But head into Malikah's Well (the track’s called Deep Down on the soundtrack) and the melody and arrangement takes on a much more sinister vibe, as befits such a dangerous dungeon.

Memories of Dust - NieR:Automata

Speaking of soundtracks like no other… how could we not mention NieR:Automata?

The game features powerful, evocative music throughout, and the desert theme, Memories of Dust, is a particularly striking piece.

The mournful melody and beautiful vocals of J'nique Nicole combine to create a desert theme like no other.

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