Music is an integral part of any game. While tracks that truly compliment the situation and environment are often capable of conveying a story without the use of words, leaving a lasting impression, dull, uninspiring themes can go completely under the radar.
The list below is a compilation of some of my own personal favorite desert themes in RPGs. As usual, I have attempted to provide an eclectic mix of tracks from all sorts of RPGs throughout the years, and I’m sure that I have missed many amazing tunes as a result. But that’s where you come in – be sure to leave your own personal favorites down in the comments below.
Horace – Secret of Evermore
So, I learned something new today. Secret of Evermore was one of the first gigs of Jeremy Soule, the composer best known for the amazing works in the Elder Scrolls series. Now that I know though, it makes more sense why I’ve always loved this soundtrack. Although very similar in feel to Secret of Mana, Secret of Evermore is not related to that series. I’ve always appreciated the “boy and his dog” approach that the game touted, and I would love to see it brought to modern consoles one day.
Super Dry Dance – Earthbound
This one is weird, as you should expect with it being from Earthbound. As strange as it is, it is so fitting to its setting. Ness and friends get stuck in the worst traffic jam in the middle of a desert, and this piece paints that picture completely and with precision. As someone who once spent the better part of a decade traveling across the US, getting in many traffic jams in blistering heat, I can attest to the accuracy of this track.
Fossil Labyrinth – Final Fantasy Mystic Quest
Say what you will about Mystic Quest and its extreme levels of handholding – it still features a pretty sweet soundtrack. This plays while you’re traversing a dungeon made from the bones of gigantic monsters – pretty awesome in my opinion.
Lut Gholein – Diablo II
The iconic desert in Diablo II’s second act, Lut Gholein, is something that disturbed me as a kid. With undead monstrosities taking shelter in the sewers below, and unspeakable horrors happening within the city’s palace, the town used the term “safe haven” quite loosely. This track nails the feeling of questionable safety within an arid landscape.
Scavenger’s Market – Earthlock
Earthlock was one of the first games I had the pleasure of reviewing for this site, and although it has its share of issues, it remains one of my fondest experiences on the platform. Something about the art design and the soundtrack have kept me coming back to the title, despite its flaws. Appropriately named Scavenger’s Market, this track provides ambiance to your hometown, which is smack dab in the middle of a desert.
Dalmasca Estersand – Final Fantasy XII
Although the Dalmasca Westersand is more thematically appropriate, I’ve never been able to get enough of its exhilarating eastern counterpart. This grandiose composition is responsible for setting the feel of one of the very first open world sections of the game, and wears the badge of wonder and excitement that should go hand-in-hand with exploration quite well.
That’s it for this list! I’m sure I missed some noteworthy tracks, so please be sure to share those in the comments below.