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RANKING: Favorite "The Legend of Zelda" Themes

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The Legend of Zelda series has birthed some of the most amazing music of any game series in history.
This is my ranking for the 30 best musical tracks to come out of this magnificent story ~

 

The Legend of Zelda (1986)
A Link to the Past (1991)
Ocarina of Time (1998)
The Wind Waker (2002)
 Twilight Princess (2006)
Skyward Sword (2011)
A Link Between Worlds (2013)
Breath of the Wild (2017)

 

 

30 – 26

 

Spoiler

 

30. Dungeon Theme
from "The Legend of Zelda"

Let's start old school. The original Legend of Zelda for the Nintendo Entertainment System had few themes to choose from. Although the game had nine dungeons, they almost all had the same one theme. I will say that while trying to traverse these dungeons, solving mysteries and puzzles, this theme can get a little irritating due to its quick repetitiveness. However, I've always had a soft spot for this theme as it stands. It's little 8-bit flourishes match perfectly with the cold blues and grays of the dark dungeons, and set up the spooky, intimidating aura for Zelda dungeons in the future.

 

29. Forest Haven 
from "The Wind Waker"

This track for the outside portion of the Forest Haven level from The Wind Waker has a funky groove to it, while keeping that somewhat disconnected, funky, tribal sound that other forest-related themes have had in past titles. It boasts an eclectic mixture of sounds and different instruments cycle through the main melody. It's also one of my favorite parts of the game!

 

28. Midna's Lament
from "Twilight Princess"

I vividly recall the first time I heard this melancholy theme: the somber and somewhat frantic piano keys a perfect soundtrack for Wolf Link's nighttime journey to save his friend Midna, who rests unconscious upon his back. This track is a fan favorite, and I can definitely see why. It is unique in that not many themes from the Zelda games use the sound of an "acoustic" piano.

 

27. The Great Sea
from "The Wind Waker"

This overworld theme contains the melody of the one we all know and love, but adds enough flare for it to float on its own sails on this list! I always felt the strings worked so well with the steady rock of The King of Red Lions cruising over bright-blue waves. The drums and brass add an extra element of brightness to the track, promising a memorable – and most importantly, fun – adventure in the times again. 

 

26. Hyrule Castle (Exterior / Interior)
from "Breath of the Wild"

What more could you ask for the final showdown in the malice-coated ruins of a once-grand castle? The theme for the exterior of the castle grounds contain a militaristic march and a bombast – but almost sobering – arrangement that sways into the main theme and back. The interior is a paired-back, synthesized version of the same melody, adding in an organ to switching the mood for the quiet, dark-brick ruins of the empty castle halls. I love the pairing of these two and they are quite possibly the best "last level" themes for a Zelda game!

 

 

25 – 20

 

Spoiler

 

25. Temple of Time
from "Ocarina of Time"

Although this theme might not be something to listen to just on its own, it fits utterly perfectly in its setting within the games. First appearing in Ocarina of Time – and again, almost identically, in Twilight Princess – this theme perfectly illustrates the mystery and sober grandeur of the titular place. The Temple of Time is a spacious, empty cathedral where the enchanted door of time leads to the Sacred Realm. The synths nearly reflect the voices of a monkish choir. The voices are the only thing carrying this song – no musical accompaniment of any kind. Only, it doesn't quite sound like real voices. It's an odd in-between of something natural and something computerized and musicalized: fitting for a place acting as a bridge between two realms.

 

24. Hateno Village
from "Breath of the Wild"

The 2017 game Breath of the Wild is no stranger to calming, tranquil music to accompany the open world format. Along with twists on familiar themes, it added an original, quaint village theme to the library. In the game, Hateno Village is one of the only places in Hyrule to escape the destruction of Calamity Ganon. Its theme marries well to this pastoral, domestic town tucked away in the far corners of the map. It's a perfect place to rest, tend to cows, hunt, or settle down – if you've got the materials for a house! I particularly love the pipes in this song, which really gives me a homey, down-to-earth vibe.

 

23. Skyloft
from "Skyward Sword"

As evidenced from the previous entry on this list, Zelda games do well in wrapping you in a warm blanket for the little villages Link either calls home or visits. For the first Link to ever set out to adventure, his home was Skyloft, a beautiful city in the sky. The track that accompanies the area is so calming yet full of pep. If I had to pick a theme music to wake up to, the Skyloft theme would be it. 

 

22. Romance
from "Skyward Sword"

Another entry from Skyward Sword, and another soft, charming song. The fact that a theme titled "Romance" accompanies the first scene where Link and Zelda speak just melts my heart. I'm not often a huge supporter of romantic links between Link and Zelda in every game, but it's hard to deny the adorableness of these two in Skyward Sword, and how much they truly care for one another. This lovely, swooning track is perfect for a little romance.

 

21. Water Temple
from "Ocarina of Time"

This is the first of a few Ocarina temples to show up on this list. I simply love them. There isn't too much to say other than Koji Kondo captured a sense of mystery, uneasiness, and magic to these themes – the magic part really coming through on the Water Temple. This theme just screams WATER.

 

 

 

20 – 16

 

Spoiler

 

20. Faron Woods
from "Twilight Princess"

Twilight Princess loved its twangy instruments, and I think it worked out perfectly for the Faron Woods region of the map. There is an ease and calm to some of these parts, pairing easily with the forests that Link knows and calls home. However, there is an unsettling nature to the way the melody goes and the instruments sound, hinting there may be something more sinister hiding within the confines of the trees.

 

19. Battle Theme
from "Breath of the Wild"

The Zelda series has its share of battle themes, and although they are unique to each game, they are almost always the exact same through those individual installments. The battle theme for Breath of the Wild is particularly unique in that, not only does the accompaniment and style change depending on where and what climate you are in, but there are levels to it. Depending on the intensity or length of fight, the theme can through several iterations, eventually building up to a frantic array of strings, deep echoing beats, and a gorgeous cacophony on instruments layered on top of one another. It's even difficult to find ones that are exactly the same on the internet. I like this version because of how its layered and the different parts build into one another. It also includes the congratulatory bell at the end, signaling a victory and an unlocked treasure chest!

 

18. Forest Temple
from "Ocarina of Time"

As the first temple you enter as an adult, the Forest Temple really makes an impression on you. It's one of my favorite temples in any Zelda game, and I think the theme adds a lot to it. The theme is unsettling and downright odd in many ways, but also has an air of mysticalness to it that's very appealing and draws you in. It's one of the first Zelda themes we hear that uses the wood-chime-like sounds that will become very attached to the Koroks – children of the forest – in later games. The marriage of weird manufactured sounds and the acoustics of earthy instruments make for a perfect forest theme.

 

17. Gate of Time
from "Skyward Sword"

 

It's honestly hard to describe this song and exactly the type of emotions it brings up in me. This track is steady, slow, and easy. But the plucking strings and the soft tattering of the drums add an additional drama to it. The song is somber, in many ways, like a moment of quiet and respite before the hard part is really over. Emotions are heavy, and the hero has a world of burdens on his shoulders, and there is still a quest to finish. It's sobering, but there's a hint of dignity to it. A bit of strength, ready to muster for the final act.

 

16. Ways of the Sword / Hidden Skills Training
from "Twilight Princess"

Although these two themes have a different tone to them, they are essentially the same melody save or the way it is played and the instrumental accompaniment. "Ways of the Sword" is jaunty, bright, and airy, pairing well for the cute scene in the game where the kids in your village ask to see you practice sword skills on a dummy in the yard. This acted as a tutorial of such, before your adventure really begins. However, I believe it served such a wonderful purpose of bringing the side characters to the forefront and making you care about Link's life and world before his adventure.

"Hidden Skills Training" is the previous theme, but amped up! Link is now out in the dangers of the world, and a skeletal, armored figure in a broad, ghostly realm teaches you the ways to be a warrior. The song does away with the light percussion and trades it for the militaristic marching drums, tight strings strokes, and valiant brass. The hidden skills segments were one of my favorite parts of the game, and these theme is probably one of the best themes to really get me excited. 

 

 

 

15 – 11

 

Spoiler

 

15. Desert Palace
from "A Link Between Worlds"

You'll be starting to notice a theme coming up fairly soon. The themes composed for the arid, desert sections of Hyrule are some of my favorite. I like the spiritual, mystical wonder they possess, oftentimes accompanied by middle-eastern-like instrumentation. This theme from A Link Between Worlds is particularly effective in its use of a real vocal choir. 

 

14. Gerudo Valley
from "Ocarina of Time"

What's to really say about this theme? (Other than how much it slaps). Quite possibly one of the most popular tracks from any Zelda game, the theme for the Gerudo Valley is as infectious and eclectic as it gets! This jaunty tune works perfectly for the rocky canyons where the fighting Gerudo call home – and one of Link's last legs of his journey.

 

13. Kass' Theme (Full)
from "Breath of the Wild"

One of the most interesting things about the soundtrack to Breath of the Wild is the instruments they chose to use – particularly the accordion. The accordion is the instrument of choice of Kass, a large Rito bard who you run into in various locations on the map. As you're wandering through the wilderness, with nothing but monsters and animals for your company, it's comforting to hear the distant sound of Kass' familiar tune. Once you find him, this kind bird often gives you a riddle of some sort, which often serves as clues to find a shrine. This particular version of his theme is what you hear after finishing all of his riddles. Back in his hometown of Rito Village, where he plays the full song for you – along with its words. This was the first time I heard the Main Theme in Breath of the Wild, so it was particularly emotional for me, considering I wasn't expecting it to come in after the length of his usual tune. Kass was such a wonderful friend along the journey and it's surprising how well the accordion worked out in the soundtrack.

 

12. The Dark World
from "A Link to the Past"

A Link To the Past was the harbinger of some of Zelda's most famous themes (which we have yet to talk about), although one of them hasn't seemed to make its way back into any titles after it. "The Dark World" is the overworld theme for... well... the Dark World! The shadowy, monster-filled mirror of Hyrule. Although unlike the main Hyrule Field theme, which is bombastic and adventurous, the Dark World has a grittier feeling to it. Yet, unlike other "dark" themes in the series, this one isn't so... dark. Once again we hear hints of a steady marching beat, which gives it a particularly infectious jaunt that makes it one of the most unique and memorable themes from the series. Your adventure awaits!

 

11. Spirit Temple
from "Ocarina of Time"

Rounding out our trilogy of temples from Ocarina of Time is the Spirit Temple, and this is one is truly a stunner. We return to the desert where a hidden temple lies deep through a sandstorm. We open strongly with wind chimes and mysticism, before falling into the steady beat of the temple's theme with a strong middle-eastern flare to it. It's hard to describe this track as well, as Konji Kondo uses synthesizers and computerized instruments to paint such an elaborate and unsettling theme for a dark, spooky temple in the sands.

 

 

 

10 – 6

 

Spoiler

 

10. Outset Island
from "The Wind Waker"

 

Link has called many places home, may it be Ordon Village or Skyloft, and each one has a particularly homey, comforting tune attached to it. None of them, however, have the particular charm that Outset Island exudes. This was the first opening to a Zelda game I ever played, and I feel like it perfectly encapsulates the tone of quaint, friendly island life. I particular love the bass beats within this song, which adds a fun bounce to the theme that is particular infectious.

 

9. Kakariko Village
from "Breath of the Wild"

The theme for Hyrule's most consistent village has gone through many iterations over the years. It first appeared in A Link to the Past, with an almost lullaby quality to it. Perhaps the most famous version could be Ocarina of Time's, which is a slow, somewhat annoying (for my taste) rendition of a lazy village life – perhaps a little unsettling as a hint to Kakariko's shadowy past. Although all versions since then have sounded quite different, they actually all contain Kakariko's signature melody. The village's theme in Twilight Princess and the Windfall Island theme from The Wind Waker just might take some careful listening to figure it out.

But no Kakariko theme comes close to its appearance in Breath of the Wild. In fact, I'd say this is one of the most gorgeous compositions in a video game in recent years. The village was revamped with an ancient Japanese flair to pair with the Sheikah tribe, and the theme uses all Japanese instruments in its construction. It sounds full, live, and acoustic, and adds so much to the already beautiful village hidden in the mountainside.

 

8. Overworld Theme
from "The Legend of Zelda" and "A Link to the Past"

And here we are. The main theme for The Legend of Zelda is ingrained in popular culture and is one of the most famous compositions of all time. The melody can be heard in snippets in many other compositions throughout the series, but it only appears in full in the first game and A Link to the Past, where they serve as the the theme for the Hyrule Field Overworld. This theme perfectly signifies the breadth of grand fantasy adventure the series promises. What more can I say? It's Zelda!

 

7. Hyrule Field
from "Twilight Princess"

Although this theme has its origins in Ocarina of Time, it comes back in full force in one of its many sequels: Twilight Princess. The main theme for the many field of Hyrule is like a symphony, with many parts and arrangements, evoking images of adventure, danger, and exploration. Unlike the field in OcarinaTwilight's field holds many dangers and secrets, and is the grounds for a few major battles within the game. The theme is amped up vibrantly, sporting a full orchestration and different moods for the many things you'll find along the way. I would say it's somewhat darker and urgent, pairing well with the tone of the field – which is much more treacherous than the one in Ocarina

 

6. The Legendary Hero
from "The Wind Waker"

This accompanies the prologue cutscene for The Wind Waker: It is simply a text with image affair, but the combination of the old, wood-cut-style artwork and the tone of the backstory makes for probably the best opening Zelda has pulled off. It truly makes you feel the legend of the story you’re about to play – connecting it with Ocarina of Time while giving you more information in the time that has passed since then: the triumph of the Hero of Time, but the somber, daunting realization of the Hero’s failing to return and Hyrule being swallowed into darkness yet again. Although the main portion of this track is an adaptation of the Main Theme, it's the additional compositions and unique arrangements that really pull this theme to the forefront. With flourishes of despair and uncertainty through an accompaniment of renaissance instruments, "The Legendary Hero" serves as a truly memorable track.

 

 

 

5 – 1

Spoiler

 

5. Dragon Roost Island
from "The Wind Waker"

This is probably the most famous level theme from The Wind Waker. This uplifting track is truly one of the best compositions to arise from the series; with jaunty, quick strums of guitars, percussions claps, and an airy whistle-flute singing a memorable melody. It adds a new flavor to Zelda we haven’t quite seen before – something a little foreign, maybe a little tropical – while inspiring a familiar tone of uplifting adventure, calling to mind the vibrant blues and greens of the ocean and the grass on the titular island.

 

4. Title Theme
from "Ocarina of Time"

Even though I never played Ocarina of Time when I was younger, I can't tell you the amount of nostalgia and pure emotion I felt when I first started this game. The flourish of piano keys, the clopping of Epona's hooves, and Link emerging on the horizon in front of a sunset. This is not the bombastic theme of adventures, this is a song that sings the tales of Legends.

 

3. Lost Woods / Sacred Grove
from "Ocarina of Time" and "Twilight Princess"

The Lost Woods is a location found in many Zelda games, but it's the theme of its second iteration in Ocarina of Time that really solidified it as one of the most memorable tracks of the series. This energetic track, brimmed full with percussion and a flute, is fun and appealing for a listen. But, perhaps, it's just a ruse to lure you into the Lost Woods. If you cannot find your way through it, you'll become a Stalfos and will be lost forever. The dark nature of the Lost Woods comes through in its score moreso in later games, including Twilight Princess, which slows down and arrange's Ocarina's theme with a spookier, foggier atmosphere. It's perfect for a forest maze: don't get lost!

 

2. The Goddess Appears / Great Fairy Fountain
from "A Link to the Past", "Twilight Princess", and most titles

The Great Fairy Fountain theme is possibly the most present theme throughout the series – usually because it doubles as the theme for the Save File screen. The song first appeared as both the save screen and the fairy fountain theme in A Link to the Past (titled "The Goddess Appears") and after getting a more orchestral-like accompaniment of harps in Ocarina of Time, it has pretty much remained the same throughout the years. (I've included the version of Twilight Princess, simply because it's my favorite version). The quick trickling of layered notes is magical to listen to, evoking a feeling of safety, for the Great Fairies are some of the most altruistic and helpful creatures in the series. Whether it's healing your wounds or upgrading your weapons, when you hear this theme, you know you're in good hands.

 

Spoiler

 

1. Princess Zelda's Lullaby
from "Skyward Sword" and most titles

If not the Great Fairy Fountain theme, it's Zelda's theme that has been the most recognizable tune you hear while playing any addition to this series. From when you first rescue Zelda from the dungeons of Hyrule Castle in A Link to the Past, to when Zelda reemerges after a century of holding off Calamity Ganon in Breath of the Wild, this theme is sure to accompany the series titular princess. Although it very clearly has its origins in A Link to the Past, it is the cutscene in Ocarina of Time that has stuck most with people: where a child Link comes across the young princess in a quiet grove in the castle, and thus gives him a task that will not only start his adventure, but change the future of Hyrule for generations. Link plays this theme on his ocarina many times throughout the game, solidifying the tune in many players hearts. Although one could argue that the Main Overworld Theme is the most recognizable tune from the Zelda series, I believe it is Princess Zelda's theme itself that truly represents the heart of these games. She is in the central character, after all, so why shouldn't it be her theme? I've included the themes rendition from Skyward Sword, as I believe the full orchestration is Zelda's Lullaby at it's most beautiful.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Midna's Lament being so low personally hurts me, but I can agree with ZL being #1. It's simply iconic in every way possible. If I were to make a ranking, I think my #1 by far would be Vah Ruta's battle theme. Everything about it is amazing.

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Legendary! Surprised you didn’t mention Rito Village containing a callback to Dragon Roost Island’s theme. When I found out about that, it just made me love both themes even more.

Did you intentionally not include boss themes? Those are always incredible, but the way Blizzeta’s theme transitions into a straight up BOP will never not be iconic.

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1 hour ago, Jake said:

Midna's Lament being so low personally hurts me, but I can agree with ZL being #1. It's simply iconic in every way possible. If I were to make a ranking, I think my #1 by far would be Vah Ruta's battle theme. Everything about it is amazing.

Tbh it was difficult to not just include everything from BotW. I love a lot of the Divine Beast dungeon themes, as well! It was getting a little difficult to narrow it down to 30, haha.

1 hour ago, Hylia said:

Legendary! Surprised you didn’t mention Rito Village containing a callback to Dragon Roost Island’s theme. When I found out about that, it just made me love both themes even more.

Did you intentionally not include boss themes? Those are always incredible, but the way Blizzeta’s theme transitions into a straight up BOP will never not be iconic.

I think Rito Village was a fantastic theme and I loved the callback to Dragon Roost Island as well – although I would consider them different enough not to include them on the same ranking. There was a lot from BotW that I had to spare for some other themes.

To be honest it was both intentional and unintentional, lol. I'm not too familiar with all of the boss themes, so I was sticking with the general "level" or "area" themes of the game. For some reason I sort of categorize the boss themes differently (or I'm just not as attached to them). I'm a huge fan of the Calamity Ganon themes from BotW. I can easily go back and make an exclusively "Boss Theme" list! That could be fun. This list was already getting heavy, haha.

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