Twilight Princess’ soundtrack isn’t impressive quality-wise, but regardless of the game’s MIDI music, these compositions are timeless and masterful in the emotion they can invoke from players. One of the game’s recognizable strong points is its presentations, and beautiful themes often play in the background of heartfelt and somber moments. Many fine selections exist in TP’s soundtrack, so it’s difficult to choose a Top 10. Dungeon themes aren’t particularly memorable, but cutscene tracks and area background music are simply magnificent.
Now I realize that I have failed to recognize Lake Hylia, Zora’s Domain and Hidden Village in my top ten songs in Twilight Princess. The former two are very peaceful songs, but their theme has been covered better by other songs. Neither is particularly moving, and neither carries the heavy sadness that the rest of the game’s BGMs do. Beautiful and simple music is overflowing with abundance in TP, and Lake Hylia and Zora’s Domain don’t do enough to stand out in my opinion. The Hidden Village song sounds like it was taken straight out of a western and is probably the only song in the franchise’s history that has this theme. However, while it is charming, there are more beautiful songs in the game that deserve just as much attention.
1. Staff Credits
The credits themselves help us reflect on the gaming experience as a whole and nearly brought me to tears. Koji Kondo and the music team at Nintendo match the beauty of the slideshow with an equally elegant credits theme that lasts a good twelve minutes in total. The exposition of this theme is subtle and nostalgic, playing Twilight Princess’ main theme with only snare drums, the plucking of violins, an oboe and other quiet instruments. However, not all of them are present at the same time, providing a wide assortment of different sounds that emphasize the peace and serenity of the aftermath of TP.
A glorious orchestra plays the staff credits theme, which is astonishing since Zelda games never featured orchestrated music before Twilight Princess. The credits shift from happy to sad with ease. The beginning of the piece progresses by adding more and more layers to the sound. Several different instrument chime in until the classic Legend of Zelda theme is played by blaring trumpets. These are then joined by violins and flutes. After a beautiful section that follows the Legend of Zelda theme, Twilight Princess’ theme is played with louder instruments.
The song reaches its climax in this section, putting the entire adventure into perspective. It matches the game’s epic qualities and provides the player with a sense of accomplishment. A chorus even joins in to revel in the game’s glory. From then on, the song is a dénouement and jogs our memory by playing music very similar to that at the beginning of the credits to lead up to the cutscene of Midna’s departure.
Midna leaving sends a chill down my spine every time, and it’s all thanks to the music that accompanies the moment. The credits then take on a somber note to correspond with the new sadness in our hearts. This gloomy feeling gradually transitions into a more optimistic tone. It sends the message that Link is embarking on a new adventure, and the past is far behind him. No Zelda game’s credits have such an effect, and for that reason, Twilight Princess’ staff credits music is one-of-a-kind and is a highlight of not only the game, but the franchise.
2. Ganondorf (Final Phase)
Link’s one-on-one swordfight with Ganondorf will go down as one of the series’ most satisfying finishes. The music, much like Twilight Princess’ main antagonist, is intimidating and epic. The ringing of bells along with the main melody is chilling and really lets the player know that this is the end of the game. Ganon’s theme plays in the foreground with a chorus of men adding their voices to set the rhythm.
I can see no better way to end a game like Twilight Princess than with a battle of such grandeur and fittingly grand music. Granted I’s not the best quality, but does a lot to sound fully orchestrated. It is easy to mistake the final battle music for more pure, orchestrated sound because of the choir and brilliant use of brass instruments. To top it all off, the choir even sings along with Ganon’s theme, adding extra emphasis on the weight of Link’s situation.
3. Death Sword/Phantom Zant
There’s nothing like the constant sound of snare drums to improve an already unforgettable melody. Only one melody and a composition in the background comprise the song, but the melody is just so catchy. It is reminiscent of Egyptian music, because (of course) Arbiter’s Ground is located at the end of a desert, and these areas are often associated with Egypt. The music doesn’t instill fear in the player, but one must marvel at how cool the song sounds - really.
4. Sacred Grove
How do you take a song as upbeat as the Lost Woods and turn it into such a depressing and calm piece? That is the magic of the Sacred Grove, Twilight Princess’ twisted take of Ocarina of Time’s Lost Woods. When enemies approach, an offbeat bass drum kicks in. The Lost Woods tune is arguably the catchiest tune in OoT, and is made into an exquisite and sad song that captures the mellowness and dark atmosphere of Twilight Princess.
5. Midna’s Lament
Most of TP’s great background music is disheartening. Midna’s Lament is one of the saddest compositions in the entire game - that’s a mighty big statement. During this segment of TP, Midna has been injured by Zant and is in an ill state. Surprisingly, the music lacks a sense of urgency. Instead, a single lonely piano plays a theme that focuses mostly on scales that will sometimes sound off-tune to represent the miserable state that Midna is in at the time.
6. Hyrule Field (Horseback)
Hyrule Field sounds pretty great normally, but it realizes its full orchestrated glory when Link is riding on Epona. The melody and instruments remain mostly the same, but a magnificent chorus joins the team and it just sounds as if there are several instruments playing each part as opposed to just one in the MIDI version. The Twilight Princess theme plays throughout, and the Hyrule Field orchestrated theme changes as the day wears on, adapting to the flow of time and going off-tune with the approaching of enemies.
7. Blizzeta Boss Battle (Second Phase)
An organ plays both the melody and harmony. In the background is a repetition of four ascending notes that plays continuously, but the main attraction is the booming noise of the organ that plays notes slowly. The song eventually shifts into full gear, featuring (once again) a chorus that doesn’t sound at all human-like. A large drum beat joins the fast-paced organ and as Link starts to gain the momentum during the battle with Blizzeta, a violin and trumpet fanfare begin to play. However, Blizzeta is able to regain some ground and the trumpet fanfare becomes twisted and the original melody resumes.
8. Queen Rutela
The Serenade of Water, one of Ocarina of Time’s most revered tracks gets the Twilight Princess treatment in Queen Rutela’s song. The charming melody remains intact, but instruments and echoing effect with the piano makes Queen Rutela sound like more than a remake - it’s a reimagining. Like the Serenade of Water before it, Queen Rutela’s theme is simple and tranquil but has a unique flavor that is unlike anything we’ve seen in Zelda games.
9. Faron Woods
A dark underlying tone is present in Faron Woods’ theme. The woods are mysterious and just waiting to be explored, and that feeling is marvelously depicted by Twilight Princess’ sound team. Much like the rest of the game’s soundtrack, Faron Woods has hints of sadness and is slightly depressing, especially compared to Skyward Sword’s take on Faron Woods. A lonely guitar plays a mellow melody that could is soothing and eerie at the same time. I have to give props to Kondo on this one.
10. Gerudo Desert
Gerudo Desert has a distinct Spanish flavor. The maracas and cowbells are peculiar instruments but are used to full effect with this song. When the melody enters, the Spanish-sounding theme takes on an Egyptian theme as well. Gerudo Desert was probably one of the cheapest pieces to produce and certainly isn’t on the level of Gerudo Valley, but it definitely strays from the beaten path.