From fairly early on in the Zelda series, music has been an integral part of the story, whether it has been something as small as howling stones or as massive as the goddess harp and the ocarina of time. There have certainly been games where music is not as important, but there are rarely spaces without a theme composed for it that sets a tone.
Musical artists of all kinds have recognized this and have attempted to recreate Koji Kondo’s brilliantly composed pieces in their own ways. While searching around the web, I found many, including some I could not use due to a desire to include as many different artists as possible and as many different instruments as I could. Admittedly, I have a large bias towards the console games, and it shows here, though the original Legend of Zelda and a few handheld games do get a small amount of representation later on in the slideshow. I will, however, say that finding covers for certain handheld games was difficult and frustrating, if not impossible.
Here are 15 covers that I picked out that ought to bring back a flood of nostalgia:
Midna’s Lament (also known as Midna’s Desperate Hour), by itself, is a beautiful piece. The piece plays throughout the period after Zant exposes Midna directly to Lanayru’s light, nearly killing her in the process. You bear Midna to Hyrule castle in hopes that Zelda will be able to save her.
This particular cover, by SamiaAntha, features the harp. Though the piece is usually played with a piano and perhaps a string instrument somewhere in there, the harp seems to fit well for this piece and SamiaAntha recreates the mood perfectly. Due to the nature of the piece, two separate parts were edited together.
Samantha Ballard, also known as SamiaAntha, is a professional harpist from Winnipeg, Canada, and received a Bachelor of Music degree at the University of British Columbia. She makes nerdy music covers, and sometimes writes original music. All the work that goes into making a cover is typically time consuming. To help keep the videos free she has a Patreon page.
The Temple of Time has featured in a few games, but probably most prominently in Ocarina of Time. I cannot help but feel a sense of awe whenever I step into the echoing halls, especially in Twilight Princess, where the place is utterly massive and full of statues you can control.
Admittedly there is not much variation in the Ocarina of Time Temple of Time theme, as it is a few repeated lines, but I have always liked it for what it is. Pedro covers the theme here on alto saxophone. I am not usually a fan of the saxophone, but that is probably tied to a dislike (and lack of understanding) of jazz music. Despite my concerns about this one, I was impressed. The instrument change does alter the feel of the theme a little, making it a bit reminiscent of the Spirit Temple, as a few commenters noted.
Pedro plays a number of different reed instruments and when not doing game or pop covers and parodies, writes his own original songs.
I was not able to dig much up on the artist, Sp0ntanius, but this cover is so cool that I had to include it. Most covers do not use atypical instruments such as wine glasses. Another cover by the same artist actually uses rubber bands to play Ballad of the Goddess.
There are some silly things that happen in this video (such as Sp0ntanius passing glasses or pouring water between different panels) that may distract from the piece. There are also some noises such as water pouring and glasses being moved that are unnecessary. Normally the Song of Healing, from Majora’s Mask, is played on the piano, but surprisingly the use of wine glasses gives the song a more unearthly feel that seems to fit its in-game role of soothing restless souls.
Have you ever wondered what that battle theme for King Dodongo and Volvagia would sound like with a metal spin on it? Probably not, but now you do not need to. Artificial Fear has taken the theme and made it about 10 times more awesome with some guitars and drums. Mat Graham also threw in a random solo towards the end to crank things up a notch.
Mat Graham (sole band member of Artificial Fear) composes and records his own songs but is mostly known for his arrangements of video game music.
In truth, I am not particularly fond of a cappella music. However, I could not overlook Smooth McGroove’s channel, and when I found this cover of the original Legend of Zelda dungeon music, I was surprised at how appropriate the cover was. His voice seems to work with 8-bit music very well given how he breaks down each sound and part.
Smooth McGroove, also known as Max Gleason, records video game music in a cappella for YouTube. He does take requests, though according to Wikipedia, he prefers to work with older tracks, saying that, “music for video games today serve a more atmospheric role with less of a focus on memorable melodies.” For those who are curious, the cat that popped up in one of the panels is named Charl.
There are so many fairy fountains in the Zelda series that I would have felt like a bit of a failure if I had not included a version of the theme. Tom Winter, a solo acoustic fingerstyle guitarist and composer from the UK, covers the theme in this video. He does not alter much about the theme, which seems to be from Ocarina of Time, but instead sticks to what Koji Kondo composed. The cover is done well, however, and maintains the original warmth of the piece.
The Wind Waker has an unusually whimsical title theme given how bittersweet the ending of the game is. The title theme mixes several different themes from the game, such as the Outset Island theme, Earth God's Lyric, and Wind God's Aria.
Fredrik Larsson, an immensely talented young musician from Sweden, covers the theme, by himself, using lots of different instruments edited together. A guitar, a drum, an accordion...even filled water glasses and spoons are used. If the sheer amount of instruments he seems to be capable of playing is not impressive enough the cover itself is excellent.
Though it was recorded all the way back in 2008 it is still worth listening to and appreciating.
Fredrik Larsson has his own albums now, some of which include original music and others that include covers.
With the recent release of Majora's Mask 3D, many Zelda fans have been spending time in Clock Town. This cover, performed by Patti Rudisill and Kristin Naigus, combines the Clock Town themes from days 1, 2 and 3. The cover manages to maintain the upbeat nature of the theme.
Patti Rudisill has been featured on country albums, film scores and video game soundtracks, and arranges and composes as well. Kristin Naigus specializes in reed instruments and plays with orchestras around the state of Florida.
Here is another Twilight Princess cover! For those of you who spent a lot of time in Hyrule field (hunting bugs or whatnot) this may bring back some memories. The intro is a bit slow, but what is neat about this cover is it seems to be arranged to sound like a typical day in Hyrule field, starting at night and ending in the late day. The replacement of the original instruments with guitars certainly gives the theme an adventurous, “epic” sort of vibe that it rightfully deserves.
TheDelRe and jam2995 feature in this video. They both typically do guitar covers, though information about jam2995 is a little on the scarcer side. TheDelRe is from Suffern, New York, plays both guitar and bass and often remixes, masters and records covers of game music.
Ballad of the Goddess is Skyward Sword's theme, and is played and sung by different characters throughout the game. Link primarily uses the song to find the sacred flames to strengthen the Goddess Sword.
The neatest part of this video is that there was no editing involved, just two talented harpists playing in one take. Since the instruments involved in this cover are similar to what is used in-game, it is very reminiscent of the Wing Ceremony at the beginning of the game and the cutscene after the end credits.
Camille and Kennerly, referred to also as the Harp Twins, perform on identical electric rock or acoustic harps. They are also actors.
Ganondorf obviously needs his own final battle metal cover, because so does every other manipulative villain with an epic final battle theme. Admittedly, the final phase of the battle itself in Twilight Princess is a bit disappointing, but given it spans 5 parts I think the theme is fitting.
LittleVMills takes this theme and covers it with various instruments...including a Hello Kitty guitar. Somehow that is completely amazing. The cover itself keeps the ominous feeling of Koji Kondo's original composition alive and well.
There is not much direct information about him out there. He has a Patreon, however, to help support his YouTube career.
The Stone Tower Temple is the last dungeon in Majora's Mask, and has the sort of foreboding theme you would expect out of a place separated from you by a giant chasm.
130Grit Sound Studio's cover recreates the sounds of the wind with someone's voice, which is pretty neat. Overall, the cover remains faithful to the piece, although it does introduce some slightly different sounds to it than were present before.
130Grit Sound Studio is, surprisingly, a music label and recording studio, though the artist featured in the video is the producer for the studio, Andrew Moniz.
And now, for some medleys! Let us start off with one you might actually know, an arrangement of the Legend of Zelda theme, the Hyrule field theme, Saria's Song, and the Gerudo Valley theme (Ocarina of Time) by Lindsey Stirling. Some of the parts were created first for the violin, her instrument of choice, while others are well suited to it. I never thought the Gerudo Valley theme on a violin would sound appropriate, but somehow it sounds just right here.
Lindsey Stirling has two albums: Shatter Me and Beyond the Veil. She combines celtic, classical, electronica and dance music in her songs. In her free time she does requests from fans and records her own covers of famous television, game and movie themes. She is currently on tour.
Two well known songs from Ocarina of Time, the Song of Time and Song of Storms, are combined into one song by Taylor Davis in this cover. I think it is kind of cool that it starts with the Song of Time, transitions to the Song of Storms, and then heads back to the Song of Time, as if we have been traveling back and forth through time with Link. The composition reminds me a bit of Guru Guru's tale of the "mean kid" who ultimately messed up the Kakariko windmill.
Taylor Davis has done numerous game covers and has her own original album. She will be going on tour soon (this September) across the United States.
This particular medley covers so many Zelda songs and themes, and does it well. As such it is impossible to compare it to shorter medleys or single song covers. The song is almost 30 minutes long, and not only weaves together individual songs into a narrative but also mashes several together in their own new themes.
Another thing that I love about this cover is the silliness of it; all across the screen can be seen different images of the same man conducting himself with a Wind Waker baton, or playing instruments dressed as Mario. Someone who enjoys making music this much is really worth watching.
The String Player Gamer, or Diwa, (also known as "that dude from the internet who plays violin while wearing a Mario costume") has spent time as a film, commercial and television composer, and wants to make YouTube covers and compositions his full time job. His Patreon page can be found here.
Take a look on YouTube for covers of your favorite Zelda songs, or even covers of other game songs. Chances are, you'll find some incredible artists and awesome covers. Many of them deserve your attention and support. So, if you have the time, take a look on Patreon for your favorite cover artists as well!
Ballard, S. [SamiaAntha]. (2013, January 28). Midna's Lament - Harp Cover - Legend of Zelda [Video file]. Retrieved June 8, 2015.
[Camille and Kennerly]. (2012, February 24). ZELDA: Skyward Sword: Ballad of the Goddess (HarpTwins) Camille&Kennerly [Video file]. Retrieved June 8, 2015.
Davis, T. [Taylor Davis]. (2013, November 21). Song of Time and Song of Storms (Zelda OoT) Violin – Taylor Davis [Video file]. Retrieved June 8, 2015.
[jam2995 and TheDelRe]. (2011, May 17). Hyrule Field (Twilight Princess) Guitar Cover Feat. TheDelRe [Video file]. Retrieved June 8, 2015.
Gleason, M. [Smooth McGroove]. (2014, March 10). Legend of Zelda- Dungeon Theme Acapella [Video file]. Retrieved June 8, 2015.
Graham, M. [Artificial Fear]. (2011, January 22). Dodongo/Volvagia Theme (Metalized) – Artificial Fear [Video file]. Retrieved June 8, 2015.
[130Grit Sound Studio]. (2015, February 16). The Legend Of Zelda Majora’s Mask- Stone Tower Temple (Cover) [Video file]. Retrieved June 8, 2015.
Larsson, F. [Freddie25]. (2008, December 28). Wind Waker Unplugged (FreddeGredde) [Video file]. Retrieved June 8, 2015.
[LittleVMills]. (2015, March 7). Zelda Twilight Princess- Ganondorf Theme “Epic Metal” Cover (little V) [Video file]. Retrieved June 8, 2015.
[Music by Pedro]. (2014, June 2). Temple of Time (From “Zelda: Ocarina of Time”) Alto Saxophone Game Cover [Video file]. Retrieved June 8, 2015.
Rudisill, P. [Patti Rudisill]. (2015, Febraury 24). Clock Town (Majora’s Mask) – violin, flute, oboe, ocarina cover [Video file]. Retrieved June 8, 2015.
[Sp0ntanius]. (2010, December 1). Song of Healing on Wine Glasses [Video file]. Retrieved June 8, 2015.
Stirling, L. [Lindsey Stirling]. (2011, November 26). Zelda Medley – Lindsey Stirling [Video file]. Retrieved June 8, 2015.
[String Player Gamer]. (2014, May 3). Legend of Zelda Ultimate Medley – Mini Mario Orchestra [Video file]. Retrieved June 8, 2015.
Winter, T. [Tom Winter]. (2015, April 7). Legend of Zelda- Great Fairy Fountain- VGM Acoustic [Video file]. Retrieved June 8, 2015.