Top 20 Themes in Gaming

Jeni Harrison and DAN_HERE!!! explore the best themes in gaming

Top Themes in Gaming


Victor Hugo said “Music expresses that which cannot be said and on which it is impossible to be silent”. Music has the power to enrich our lives, and bring to life any game. Both me and my fiancé hum game music more than what is in the charts, so we (DAN_HERE!!! and myself) have compiled our top 20 themes in gaming, this list is not exhaustive and could have easily run to 100. 

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Lemmings (Can-Can Music)


Catchy music and surprisingly challenging gameplay abound in this awesome oldschool puzzler from DMA Design (better known now as Rockstar North) released back in the '91.

There were lots of cool tunes to pick from for Lemmings (and lots that I still nonchalantly whistle to myself) but for me it just had to be The Can-Can. The music differed for each port and I have fond memories of my cousin having it for the old Amiga 500 and definitely think it's the best version of them all, so that's the one I'm including here.

Tomb Raider (T-Rex attack theme)

The first time I heard this I knew. I just simply knew something big was coming. However I had no idea just how big it would be until, seconds later, Lara's limp, lifeless corpse was hanging by its legs in the mouth of a massive T-Rex that had just proceeded to completely ruin my day. Thankfully, when I restarted the level (and finished screaming in abject terror) I managed to keep my wits about me long enough to defeat it.

Every time I go back to that game though, the hairs still stand up on the back of my neck when I hear that piece.

Resident Evil (Typewriter Room)

If the Tomb Raider piece mentioned feelings of fear, then this Resident Evil music is the complete polar opposite. Opening a door in that game and hearing this calm, soothing music meant you knew that you where safe, if just for a moment, from the unrelenting horror monsters that you faced in the Spencer Mansion.

It should be noted however, that typing your name and what time it is into a typewriter will absolutely not bring you back from the dead if you enter a mansion full of unrelenting horror monsters and get killed in real life. You have been warned.

Tunnel B1

My dad bought this game with the PS1 back on launch day (or near enough) and ironically, I remember it being quite a forgettable vehicle based FPS. I think I played about two or three levels in before never wanting to play it again, but the one thing I absolutely loved about it was the opening cinematic.

The scene itself was cool and set you up for what you thought would be quite a good gaming experience, but if you watch it I implore you not to fall into the trap. The music for the scene however, was awesome. It was very action oriented and written by the great Chris Huelsbeck (of Turrican fame) so you know it's worth a listen.


Street Fighter 2 Turbo

Have you ever heard a piece of music more likely to get you psyched up for a fight in a playground?

Sure it's short, but it's not about length or anything like that, it's about what it was to be able to listen to the music and know, really know,what you where about to get into.

You were going to be the World Warrior and nothing was going to get in your way, Not M. Bison, or Sagat, or Balrog or not even Tommy Spinson in the grade above you was going to stop you. And if he was foolhardy enough to try, all you needed was this tune, a handful of mud and rocks and the ability to shout “SONIC BOOM” while throwing it at his face.

You should probably watch out for teachers before you do that though.... seriously.

Soviet Strike

Ah, the STRIKE games... Who could forget them? I still remember my dad buying Soviet Strike in the shops and us racing home to play it... My cousins had Jungle and Urban Strike on the Mega Drive (Genesis for the American market) so we couldn't wait to see how this one panned out.

I still remember saving Nick Arnold from the Soviet firing squad by flying in armed with Sidewinders and Hellfires... Good times man, good times...

But the best thing was popping the disc in a CD player and hearing this blast out at you. It's just perfect for the game. It's military, adrenaline pumping, awesomeness. Give it a listen and thank me later.

Halo - Combat Evolved

Picture it: The year is 2552, humanity is under attack from a seemingly unbeatable collective of alien species known as The Covenant. They've already wiped out the second planet humanity has colonised, annihilating millions of human lives in the process. You're one of the only survivors of a space ship crash on an uncharted ring-planet and possibly humanities last hope for survival. What do you need to accomplish your mission? (aside from a two trillion dollar exoskeletal suit and a life time of military training, not to mention bio-augmented upgrades delivered directly to your central nervous system via a series of incredibly painful injections when you where a child?)

That's right, a theme as badass as this one! Get military and finish the fight!

Metal Gear Solid

OK, so this game is basically about breaking and entering (albeit to stop nuclear war, but still...) and I loved it.

Taking up the role of Solid Snake once again, you really needed to feel you where the best. And this theme did a damn good job of convincing you that you where one man. One man, but you weren't alone. You had a lifetime of training.

This theme is awesome. There's nothing else I can really say about it, it just gives you that feeling that you can do it. You're out-gunned, out-numbered and pretty much doomed…

But, dammit, you're Snake. And Snake would do it.....

I Made a Game with Zombies in It

How often does the title of a game sum it up so perfectly? Basically some guy made a game where you shoot zombies (and amorphous blobs and faces to be fair) and that's it.

You compete for high scores. It's pretty cool and very reminiscent of the old Robotron games in the arcades. Well, as straight forward as the title is, the song is even more upfront, basically thanking you for buying it, detailing the plot (Some guy made a game where you shoot zombies) and explaining how much it cost.

It's catchy and about zombies - Doesn't get much better than that in my opinion.

GTA: Vice City (Opening Credits)

Ha! I should be about five years too young to remember this (DAN_HERE!!!), but I can.

I can remember ducking out of last lesson at school to rush to my mates and play it before his parents got home from work.

I remember hearing it and thinking I'd never heard something so eighties in all my life (I was only young at the time, a wee laddie of 15). The pink on blue writing, the cut-out camera angles, the Hawaiian shirt.... All it really needed was shoulder pads and it would be complete.

Awesome theme to go with an awesome game: I love it.

Final Fantasy 8 (attack on Dollet)

This theme to me is perfect for a do-or-die situation, which is sort of what Squall and co. are placed in during the epic raid that is the Attack on Dollet. To add more pressure to the poor guys, it needs to be successful for them to pass the SeeD exam that they've been training for nearly their whole lives!

I hope for their sake that you know what you're doing because you're going to need your wits about you to make it to the top of the tower, then outrun the robotic nightmare-crab that chases you all the way back!

And for God sake make SURE you save that poor dog!

The Secret of Monkey Island

Another childhood favourite of mine (DAN_HERE!!!), this here is the re-mastered version released in 2009. Though it still retains everything that made the original theme an absolute classic, with its chirpy, happy and generally upbeat sound to it; it really sets you in the right mood for the game, which is a quite light-hearted piece of computer game history that is clearly not going to take itself too seriously.

The Secret of Monkey Island is one of my favourite games of all time (you can read an interview about it here) and with good reason. It’s fun and still takes a degree of skill (if you can't play through it with your eyes closed like DAN_HERE!!! can, anyway) and has a great musical score.

What more could you want?

Portal (Still Alive)

Right, straight off the bat we have to admit that personally we’re not fans of the Portal series... I'll just wait patiently while the collective internet is finished murdering us and desecrating our corpses... All done?

Good, maybe we can move on now. While we can see why people do like it, it's just not personally for us, the humour is a little too dry and obvious and the whole cake thing just seems a bit too out-there. BUT, saying that, it does have one of the best ending songs ever heard in it, so I guess that kind of makes up for it. Here it is now, enjoy it. Sorry......

Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker (The Great Sea music)

Once you find a sail for The King of Red Lions, your adventure is truly under way, and personally, we can't think of a better theme to give you a sense of adventure and exploration in a world that you've never seen before.

It really does a good job of setting the tone for the rest of the game and makes you truly feel that it's just you (and your talking boat) versus the world! It's the kind of tune that makes you feel that you can go anywhere you want, and once you get a hold of the fabled Wind Waker that the game is named for, you basically can. Albeit you have to have complete the story in a certain order. 

Medal of Honor: Frontline

And when I get to Heaven,

To Saint Peter I will tell,

One more soldier reporting sir,

I've served my time in Hell”

A very moving verse to the start of an amazing WWII shooter; while nothing could ever match the feeling of actually taking part in a war, this game did it's best to make you feel as if you where a soldier during one of the worst conflicts in human history.

Though it's quite tame in comparison to some of today's WWII shooters (World at War springs to mind), back in the day it was truly ground breaking, and has a theme to match. With a couple of instruments and a choir singer, this theme really does give you a sense of loneliness in the face of danger. It's almost haunting.
Still, a beautiful piece that DAN_HERE!!! still finds himself humming to this day.

Sonic The Hedgehog (Green Hill Zone)

Ah so many childhood memories. The first console I ever played on was my uncles Sega Mega Drive (Genesis to you Americans), and the amazing first Sonic the Hedgehog game (JeniHarrison). I was never able to get more than a few levels in, and almost always ended up playing Green Hill Zone every 20 minutes or so when I'd have to start all over again.

Mix it in with the noise you get for the power up and the elation you feel when freeing all the baby critters it is firmly lodged in my head as one of my fondest young memories. 

Super Mario Bros

This was basically the soundtrack of my youth (DAN_HERE!!!). I don't think a day has gone by since I picked up my first NES controller that I haven't heard this theme in my head or on TV or hell, just coming out of the NES I have in my back room (I like to plug it in and play the old school way every now and again).

Absolutely no top game themes list should be without this classic.

I could have posted the original theme here, but to be honest, I prefer this version from the GameCube’s fantastic Super Mario Sunshine. Also, I am a total sucker for acappela music. 

Dead Island

Aw, man. Once you've seen the amazing trailer for Dead Island, you simply can't forget it. It's moving, beautiful and incredibly unnerving all at the same time. It follows a little girl (looks no older than nine) as she dies in reverse. Crumpled on the ground, she begins to lift up, moving through a window high up in a hotel where her parents are getting torn apart by zombies. Never, in all my years of gaming has a trailer made me feel so much (DAN_HERE!!!).

Unfortunately the game turned out to be a bit of a buggy mess, but at least we've always got the trailer and this unbelievable score to go along with it.


The twinkly of those notes gives me an instant smile, and I have employed it in many aspects of my life. Filling the freezer with too many groceries, trying to pack a suitcase with too many clothes or even just trying to fit one more thing in my handbag (JeniHarrison).

All of these less than monumental life events receive the treatment of me singing the Tetris theme, much to the amusement and annoyance of anyone in the general area.

World of Warcraft: Elwynn Forest Theme

I (JeniHarrison) remember taking my first steps into addiction pit known as World of Warcraft 7 years ago. I was a Human Priest, starting fresh-faced in Northshire Abbey. Once I'd done the first few quests and murdered enough bandits and wolves to satiate my unrelenting blood-thirst, I finally stopped to listen.

I heard leaves rustling in the trees. I heard the banter of the guards, bored on duty. I heard the bells of the Cathedral of Light ringing in the distance of the great Stormwind City. But, over all of that, I heard the music. And it was beautiful. I've played WoW for about six years now, and still, no music in any game has ever matched Elwynn Forest for me. I just love it that much. 

Special Mention:
Saints Row 2 – South Street – Call in the Debts

We both love this song, not only is it independent rock, but we love the lead singer, as he is DAN_HERE!!!’s  cousin, (and kicked his ass once) and South Street have some amazing singles. Sadly no longer together as a band, we miss their gigs at local bars and pubs. 

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Jeni Harrison
English, Priesty Heals, Geek Chic Original, Nerd.