Hello there, ladies, gents, and non-binaries. I hope you’re all doing well. So something I don’t talk a ton about on this here blog are video games. And that’s quite strange, because they’re such a huge part of my everyday life. When I’m not watching movies/TV or eating, I play video games. Fuckin’ love ’em. And recently I got an itch to write a little something about games. I wanted to write about video game music. Specifically boss music. The music that plays as you take on a special encounter in a game. Not your regular background music, but those special themes that play as you fight a bigger bad.
I should preface this list by saying that these aren’t definitive rankings, but rather it’s just a collection of boss themes I like a lot. So yeah… here we go. Oh, and I guess beware some minor video game spoilers. I’ll try to keep it somewhat vague, but there will be times where I can’t avoid spoilers due to needing the context for the fight.
One Winged Angel – Final Fantasy VII (1997)
Could I kick off this list any other way? No, no I couldn’t. People who play games know how iconic this boss theme is, there was no legal way I could leave it out. So for those not aware, “Final Fantasy VII” tells the story of Cloud Strife, an ex-SOLDIER (which isn’t just a regular ex-soldier, don’t make me get into it) who teams up with a ragtag group of people to travel across the world to stop the legendary warrior Sephiroth from destroying the world. So as you play through the game and and experience its story, it of course builds up to you eventually facing off with Sephiroth in a big ol’ battle. And that’s exactly what happens. And in that battle is when we’re introduced to this bombastic boss bop. What I love about it is that it’s a weird mix between a sort of war march, mixed with a bit of a tango. And within the synthesized orchestra is also a latin choir which makes the track somewhat haunting. And it is awesome. It’s also been redone and remixed in so many ways, so if you’re not too fond of the original version of the track, then you got plenty of options.
Gehrman, The First Hunter – Bloodborne (2015)
Jumping ahead almost 20 years (crikey), we get to “Bloodborne” a 2015 action-horror game where you play as some dumbass who came to the city of Yharnam, only to find yourself embroiled in a nightmarish quest to slay monsters and find out the truth surrounding them. But as you get to the end of the game, you don’t find yourself fighting some huge beast… but rather an old man. An old man who you’ve had as a friend since the start. But at the end you get the choice: Submit to his mercy and die, not having to suffer the consequences of knowing the cosmic truth any more… or resist, which means that you have to fight him. So there is a bit of a tragic element to the fight. This is reflected in the music, which isn’t big, bombastic, and badass. But rather it’s sad, somber, and subdued. Just listening to the music makes me feel the sadness I did as I finally laid Gehrman to rest. And hell, it’s even making me want to play through “Bloodborne” again.
Eternity – Blue Dragon (2006)
Man, shit got real sad in the previous part, so let’s lighten the mood with some “Blue Dragon”! This game follows a boy named Shu as he and his friends end up away from their village, which leads them on a quest to save the world from a selfish and evil creature called Nene. “Blue Dragon” is a decently fun game, if a bit derivative. What does make it stand out in my mind though is the music for 99% of all boss fights. Just imagine: You’re playing through this Japanese fantasy game, you’re enjoying the art style and the gameplay, nothing’s out of the ordinary… then you suddenly hit a boss fight and Ian fucking Gillan starts screaming down your ear… yeah. Seriously, when I first heard that in the game, my jaw hit the floor, I was baffled, it was so strange. And even in the last few hours of the game my eyebrows were hitting the ceiling. How did this strange collaboration happen? I have no clue! Not that I’m complaining though, because the song’s a banger, and it made the game a lot more fun and memorable.
Last Judgement – Resident Evil 2 (2019)
Back in 1998, a little game called “Resident Evil 2” came out, and people loved it. In 2019 it got remade, and people (myself included) loved it. The game follows Leon Kennedy and Claire Redfield as they both find themselves caught within a mysterious zombie outbreak in Raccoon City. It’s scary, it’s exciting, it’s fun, and it’s arguably one of the best AAA horror games of recent years. And one of the reasons for that is a little fella simply known as Mr. X. And by little fella I mean he’s a ten foot tall motherfucker who shows up partway through the game and starts chasing whichever character you’re playing as, which does add another challenge to moving around the environment as you try to solve puzzles and not fucking die. But yeah, he’s a terrifying bastard that you can’t harm. But then you get to the end of the game, specifically within Leon’s storyline. You’re stuck on a huge freight elevator, and he comes crashing down. There’s nowhere to run, no safe room to hide in, no shortcuts to lose him in… you have to fight. And in that fight you get this orchestral track in the background. Some overwhelming brass to remind you of the horror, but while still feeling somewhat empowering, like “Okay… guess we’re bringing this bitch down for good”. It’s a good one.
Pledge of Demon – Yakuza 0 (2015)
And to wrap up this list is this absolute banger from one of my favorite games. “Yakuza 0” is a prequel to the rest of the “Yakuza” series, and follows younger versions of series mainstays Kiryu and Majima in 1988 as they deal with some huge conspiracies within Japan’s criminal underworld. It’s a big, bombastic, and dramatic narrative which manages to flawlessly hit all the emotional beats one could want. Speaking of beats, it’s really fun beating up dudes in this game. Especially with the game’s bosses, which of course put up even more of a fight than the regular goons do. Especially one dude you encounter during Kiryu’s side of the story… One dude named Daisaku Kuze, an older member of the Yakuza, a man who isn’t really fond of Kiryu. At a point you get to fight him, and that is what brings this amazing track into our lives. Heavy guitars, thumping percussion, some electronica, it features elements heard through the franchise’s soundtrack, but does it in a way that feels fresh and exciting, while also pumping the player up for a brutal brawl. And that’s why I fucking love it.
So yeah, those are some video game boss themes that I love. I decided to cut it off at five because this list was getting rambly as it was, and I might also want to do another part of these in the future (if you guys would be interested in that). So yeah, I hope you enjoyed reading this. And if you have a favorite boss theme (if you play games), feel free to let me know, I’m always in the market for good music and games.
Have a good one.