“We are an impossibility in an impossible universe.”
Hello, NPCs, and welcome back to our stellar countdown. No, really, it’s that great. I, Red Mage, am here to talk about the top 10 greatest video game Space themes and chew bubble gum. And I’m all out of bubble gum.
If you haven’t already, beam up to the beginning of our list (songs #20-11) and then make sure you hit the hyper-drive back here for our space odyssey! We’re immortalizing these Space themes before they’re lost in time… like tears in the rain. Hold on to your butts…
#10. “The Leviathan” – Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic
‘Twas only a matter of time before the most popular science fantasy franchise forced it’s way onto our list. But it’s not John Williams’ magnificent score, it’s KOTOR! Arguably the best Star Wars game ever, Knights of the Old Republic features some pretty solid music. “The Leviathan”, though brief, is moody and underscored by an intense bassy rumble and roar like the engines of the colossal ship. This is what it’s like to travel the immeasurable distances between the stars in a galaxy far, far away.
#9. “Leaving Earth” – Mass Effect 3
At number nine comes a track from Mass Effect 3 that brings on the feels. A brooding set of minor chords on a piano turns hopeful before being drowned out by the blasts of what sounds like several rockets doing what the title of the song suggests. Departing our blue cradle has never been this full of regret and sadness, fear and adventure, foreboding and hope. Again, this is not a long song, either. But it says everything it needs to say about humanity in space with its echoing, haunting, cyclical melody.
#8. “Reflected Moon” – Star Ocean: Till the End of Time
How can you pass up a series like Star Ocean’s for a list of Space themes? I’ve always thought that classical music fits the setting of space more so than any other genre of music. “Reflected Moon” goes a long way to try to prove that assertion. Listen and imagine Jupiter churning slowly on its axis off the starboard windows as you pass it by or the rings of Saturn filling up your vision like a gray knife’s edge cutting through the blackness. Only the ultimate achievement of human music, classical, can capture the essence of the grandeur and transcendence of space. Not to sound pretentious or anything.
#7. “Halo theme” – Halo
You may have heard of Halo. It spawned an immensely popular franchise. This choral introduction (and conclusion) sounds like it’s out of the Dark Ages. A perfect bridge into a dark age of intergalactic exploration. But the song quickly moves on from the pious and reverent voices and turns primal. I can see all those alien planets scrolling beneath our ship, their topography and biology a total mystery. Halo’s theme would remind us that the universe is far from an empty and lifeless place.
#6. “Supermoon” – No Man’s Sky
That’s right. We’re including a game that hasn’t even been released yet! Suggested by our dear Timely Mage, this track comes from a game that may just be the most anticipated space adventure of the year, if not ever. It’s certainly one of the most anticipated games right now. “Supermoon” of No Man’s Sky endures as a testament to the value of “oohs” and “ahhs” to convey space. That, and the touch of a piano’s keys, echoing guitar riffs, shrill synthetic cries. Center stage in “Supermoon” is the percussion that almost replaces the melody being invoked by the female vocals behind it. We can imagine the collision of two armadas, silent dogfights in zero gravity, spacecraft careening out of control. If anything, “Supermoon” has us even more pumped for No Man’s Sky.
#5. “Theme of Super Metroid” – Super Metroid
The mother of all space video game franchises, Metroid has delivered some amazing experiences with the intergalactic bounty hunter, Samus Aran. Often times, the series has gone borderline horror. Heavily influenced by Ridley Scott’s Alien, an ideal space-horror film, Super Metroid gave us some dark and scary scenes. The laboratory with dead bodies lying about the floor at the beginning of the game still shocks, considering this is Nintendo. The “Theme of Super Metroid” is one part adventure and two parts scare-fest with its heroic trumpet and eerie noises. It’s bleak. It also beat out the title theme of the original NES Metroid for a few reasons: to my mind because it’s more listenable and because Super Metroid is the crown jewel.
#4. “Main Menu theme” – Alien: Isolation
Speaking of Ridley Scott’s Alien, we’re now talking about a track off of one of the best video games ever to be based on a movie. Usually those suck. Not in the case of Alien: Isolation. It’s deliberately dated, claustrophobic, suspenseful, terrifying gameplay is the perfect homage and the perfect adaptation of the 1979 Alien. If any soundtrack has ever encapsulated the fear of the unknown, the darkness of space, the terror of the infinite blackness before us, it’s the Alien: Isolation OST. This kind of attention to sound design is what made this game so successful. And so horrifying. In space, no one can hear you scream over this freaky music.
#3. “Testament” – Xenosaga Episode III: Also Sprach Zarathustra
Also suggested by the Timely Mage, I’ve convinced myself that this track doesn’t score so high on our list simply because of the subtitle of the game it belongs to (see below). “Also Sprach Zarathustra” might be the title of the opening song from the greatest science fiction film ever made, but we’re talking about Xenosaga Episode III’s “Testament” for now. It’s entirely comprised of pure religious gravity, a kind of weight of glory. It’s musically expressing the majesty and magnificence of the universe. Verging on baroque-era opulence, it’s quintessential space opera. This is the theme that plays while falling into the indescribable beauty of a blue sun. I’m not sure what the lyrics mean (I’m a bit rusty on my ancient quasi-Latin), but the indescribable grandeur and hostility they convey are at the core of the Space theme motif.
#2. “Stardust Road (Space Junk Galaxy)” – Super Mario Galaxy
Probably the funnest space game ever made, Super Mario Galaxy is a delight. Before playing it, I had it recommended to me by a friend who described it thus: “It gives you that magical feeling you had when you were a kid and everything was wonderful”. As grim as several of the tracks have been on this list, “Stardust Road” would have us remember that not everything has to be scary or frightening. Space can be a final frontier of joyful adventures and meeting new friends. All of the 21st century’s cynicism and obsession with alien-invasion destruction-porn may be a naysayer, but Super Mario is here to greet our journeys into outer space with a triumphant “Wahoo!” Piano is the key to “Stardust Road”, along with the electric tinkles and warbles: the music of the spheres. No starship could be happier. Moving from the bizarre reggae-jam sound of the original Super Mario Bros. games, Nintendo made a great decision to opt for an orchestral soundtrack for Super Mario Galaxy. The game couldn’t of worked otherwise. Only the orchestra pit could conjure up the necessary splendor to launch us toward the heavens. My only regret with our #2 choice is that I couldn’t include pretty much all of the sensational music from Super Mario Galaxy. I mean, “Gusty Garden Galaxy” alone is one of the finest pieces of video game music that’s definitely an example of art.
#1. “Theme of the Universe” – EVE Online
And the top spot goes to a game I’ve never once played! Is that journalistic integrity or what? EVE Online is a space MMORPG and it looks like it takes itself very, very seriously. What won me over with EVE Online? It’s masterful soundtrack. Every single song I listened to was the epitome of the Space theme. Bravo for having an entire OST dedicated to the subject at hand, EVE Online! The trouble was, as in the case of Super Mario Galaxy, picking just one track. I ended up going with “Theme of the Universe”. How could I not with a title like that? This track is exemplary of the music from EVE Online: atmospheric, effectual, percussive in small doses, rhythmic, echoing, mysterious, brooding, hostile, frightening, adventurous, modern, synthetic. It’s everything the Space theme embodies. Also check out “Red Glowing Dust”, “In the Depth of Space”, “Primordial Star Clouds”, and “It’s Full of Stars”. I’m partial to that last one for reasons that may be apparent to some readers for my film of choice (see bonus track below). With EVE Online, I think I’ve found a new favorite musical accompaniment for writing.
Bonus Track: “Also Sprach Zarathustra” – Strauss
Half a century ago, directorial visionary Stanley Kubrick introduced the world to the greatest musical work to accompany the imagery of space: Strauss’ “Also Sprach Zarathustra”. The classical music played over the opening scene of an Earthrise of the lunar surface, followed by a true sunrise viewed from space. That iconic sequence introduced the world to the enigmatic, unconventional and highly open to interpretation 2001: a Space Odyssey. It would’ve topped our list at #1 if I could’ve found a game that used the song in space. I’ll just have to be satisfied with the iconic score’s place as a bonus track.
–The Well-Red Mage, Black Humor Mage, Timely Mage & Green Screen Mage
Deez Honorable Mentions!
“The Moon” – DuckTales
(suggested by CheapBossAttack)
“Main theme” – Super Star Wars
“Title theme” – Metroid
(suggested by SnapperTrx)
“Tallon Overworld Depths” – Metroid Prime
(suggested by Nick the Gent)
“Phendrana Drifts” – Metroid Prime
“Title theme” – Metroid Prime 2: Echoes
“Title theme” – Metroid Prime 3: Corruption
“Another Moon” – Final Fantasy IV
“The Extreme” – Final Fantasy VIII
“Title Screen” – Star Fox
“Andy Asteroids” – Earthworm Jim
“Overture” – Super Mario Galaxy
“The Galaxy Reactor” – Super Mario Galaxy
“Gateway Galaxy” – Super Mario Galaxy
“Space Fantasy” – Super Mario Galaxy
“Star Child” – Super Mario Galaxy
“Battlerock Galaxy” – Super Mario Galaxy
(suggested by The Shameful Narcissist)
“Unidentified Planet” – Super Mario Galaxy 2
“Star Maze” – Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins
“Star Man” – Mega Man V
“Galaxy Man” – Mega Man 9
“Main Theme” – Mass Effect
“Mars” – Mass Effect 3
“The Image Theme” – Xenosaga Episode II: Jenseits Von Gut Und Böse
“Fatal Fight (Jin & Margulis)” – Xenosaga Episode II: Jenseits Von Gut Und Böse
“Cyberspace” – System Shock
“Zerg 3” – StarCraft
“Terra 3” – StarCraft
“Hidden Mementos” – EVE Online
“The Green Nebula” – EVE Online
“Primordial Star Clouds” – EVE Online
“In The Depth of Space” – EVE Online
“It’s Full of Stars” – EVE Online
“Theme of the Universe” – EVE Online
“Chaotic Space Zone” – Sonic Pocket Adventure
“Intro Song/Beyond the Bounds” – Z.O.E.: The 2nd Runner
“The Origin” – Z.O.E.