Music is an integral part of any game. While pieces that truly compliment their environment are often capable of stirring emotions and conveying a story without the use of words, dull, uninspiring themes can go completely under the radar.
The list below is a compilation of some of my personal favorite “ruins” themes in RPGs. In this list, I have attempted to provide an eclectic mix of tracks from a variety of RPGs throughout the years. As such, it shouldn’t be considered an all-encompassing list – instead, I’d love to hear some of your own picks in the comments below!
Legal disclaimer: we do not claim to own any rights to this music – all rights go to their respective artists.
City of the Ancients – Final Fantasy VII
The City of the Ancients / Forgotten City is hands down one of the most iconic areas in any RPG, and I won’t reveal why here in case you’ve been living under a rock for the past 20 years. Final Fantasy VII features some of Uematsu’s finest work, and this track is a fitting vessel for the culmination of emotion up to this point in the game, with a splash of mystery that any city with such stature should wear on their sleeve.
Thousand Year Slumber of the Blastia – Tales of Vesperia
The definitive version of Tales of Vesperia hit shelves early in 2019 and turned out to be one of my favorite games of the year. Besides a brief stint in Berseria in 2018, I hadn’t played a Tales games since Phantasia almost 20 years prior. Vesperia impressed, no doubt, and I always really liked this track even though it receives very little play time. If anything, the lack of its usage makes it that much more interesting.
Premonition of Trouble – Landstalker
Ah, Landstalker, the isometric RPG adventure platformer that features a protagonist that in no way resembles a certain Hylian hero. Jokes aside, it remains one of the more unique experiences you can play even by today’s standards and features one of the better soundtracks from the SEGA Genesis era. Since dungeon/ruin diving is the name of the tune here, you will inevitably become familiar with this one before you know it.
Flow of Life – Shadows of Adam
Another fantastic retro-inspired RPG from 2019, Shadows of Adam embodies many of the qualities found in the classics from the SNES era. Composer Tyler Mire admits to drawing some inspiration from 16-bit RPGs while composing for Adam, including Mystic Quest which in itself is just fantastic. Providing ambiance for the water temple – appropriately named “Flow of Life” – this track will keep you company as you slowly make your way through the ancient puzzles of this dilapidated, but beautiful area.
Decision Bell – Trials of Mana
Whilst in the calm before the storm that is the Bioshock Collection, Borderlands Collection, and Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition later this month, I’ve been playing lots of Trials of Mana both in its remake and original forms. Whichever iteration you prefer, the excellent soundtrack by Hiroki Kikuta remains very consistent. Decision Bell plays within the Sanctuary of Mana – the heart of the world, if you will – and is one of my favorites from the entire soundtrack.
That’s it for this list. What did you think about my selection? Stay tuned for more musical spotlights in the future!