I was reading this article on Kotaku last night and was struck by how much of the video game music I love was composed by one man, Nobuo Uematsu. I spent at least two hours going through the comments, listening to the other songs readers posted and then finding myself going from song to song on Youtube. I decided I wanted to gather my own personal favorite songs composed by Nobuo Uematsu. It was harder than I thought it would be! Almost all of them are from the Final Fantasy series, but that’s because they’re what I’ve played the most of from his discography.
In no particular order, here are my favorites.
1. Final Fantasy V — My Home, Sweet Home
FFV was definitely not my favorite game of the series. Honestly, I’d put it way at the bottom. I’m always surprised to remember just how good some of the music was. I’d easily rank My Home, Sweet Home as one of my favorite songs composed by Nobuo Uematsu. It evokes a sense of nostalgia, with undertones of adventure. I love it.
Bonus: the vocal version.
2. Final Fantasy VI — Terra’s Theme
This song makes FFVI. It embodies many of the emotions you feel playing through the game — desperation, sadness, and intense longing, with just the faintest hint of hope, resolve, and fortitude. It sets the stage for a game that has one of the most captivating and intense stories of its generations. FFVI was a game ahead of its time.
Bonus: probably one of the most widely-loved RPG remixes on the internet, Terra in Black.
3. Final Fantasy VI — Locke’s Theme
Locke’s Theme is a reminder of everything good that takes place in FFVI. It’s a reminder that there’s light even in the darkest of places, or hope in the hardest of times. It’s courageous, and cocky, and every time I hear it, I have to smile.
4. Final Fantasy VII — Cosmo Canyon
I had a lot of trouble loving FFVII the same way others have. I had a lot of trouble relating to any of the characters. I found it tedious at times. Parts of the story literally made me sit back and ask “are you kidding me?” But when I think of things I did love about the game, this song is up there at the top. I would literally sit around in Cosmo Canyon just to listen to this song. It might be the greatest “town” theme in the entire Final Fantasy series. Did I mention Nobuo Uematsu’s ability to evoke hella emotion?
5. FFIX — Rose of May
It doesn’t help that this song is the theme for one of my ❤ all-time favorite video game characters ❤ , but even without that fact, I think Rose of May is one of the best songs Nobuo Uematsu has composed. Full of confidence, grace, and devotion, this is a song I can listen to forever.
Bonus: someone made a fan version with lyrics.
6. FFIX — You’re Not Alone!
One of the most emotional songs in one of the most emotional scenes of any video game I’ve ever played, You’re Not Alone! is almost unbeatably good. It’s about friendship, and loyalty, and sticking together, and I’m instantly transported back to FFIX when I hear this song. It’s just so good.
7. FFX — To Zanarkand
I’m actually replaying FFX right now, and I had forgotten how great the soundtrack is. It was a huge change in style from FFIX — really, I think it was the beginning of Nobuo Uematsu’s more recent style of composing — but it was a great evolution and fit the atmosphere of the game perfectly. To Zanarkand is undeniably one of the most touching, tender, and beautiful songs ever composed for an RPG. It’s almost haunting.
Bonus: listen to it paired up with some rain.
8. FFX-2 — Eternity: Memory of Lightwaves
Let me be honest — I think I played maybe two hours of FFX-2. I just wasn’t feeling it. The first time I heard this song, though, I was blown away. I could listen to this song on repeat for hours. It’s very different from To Zanarkand, but still evokes the same kinds of feelings. It’s almost a direct sequel, or an answer to To Zanarkand, directly from Yuna.
Bonus: this song also has a lyrical version.
9. Lost Odyssey — Demonic Infringement
Tender, wistful, reminiscent — this song represents many emotions I felt playing Lost Odyssey, a game I consider to be the best JRPG released in the past decade. Though slightly sad, the song makes me think of moving on. You can — and should — remember, but you can’t let your memories hold you back. You need to keep going forward.
10. The Last Story — Main Theme
I have to admit, I only just heard this song for the first time tonight, but now I have an intense desire to play this game. It reminds me a lot of the music in Lost Odyssey. The theme is sweet, and sad, and strikes all the right emotional chords in my heart. There are points where I just want to tilt my head back, close my eyes, and soak it all in.
Note: I really struggled with not posting anything from FFIV, which is one of my all-time favorite games. It’s definitely my favorite Final Fantasy game for nostalgia. While there are a lot of great songs, and it overall has a solid soundtrack, I think it lacks a lot of the finesse that started appearing in FFV and later. While I might hum along, I’m not sure there’s any one song in FFIV that I would say I like more than the songs I listed here.