There’s nothing quite like the feeling of reaching the grand finale of a great video game — particularly if that grand finale is accompanied by an epic piece of music that truly captures what a significant moment you’re experiencing.
The crafting of a memorable final boss theme is a fine art. You need drama, you need emotion, you need a feeling of culmination. You need it to be clear that this is the end, and that there’s no turning back. And it needs to feel like the player’s most significant challenge — even if the game actually plays host to bigger, optional challenges elsewhere.
So with that in mind, lets enjoy seven of the best ever final boss themes. And I’m deliberately excluding One-Winged Angel from this list, because everyone already knows how good that is.
Mega Man VI: Wily Battle
It’s easy to assume that you need powerful sound hardware to deliver an epic final boss theme, but this finale from Mega Man VI certainly proves that the humble NES sound chip was more than capable of producing something that gets the pulse racing.
This theme captures the distinctive “Mega Man” sound to a tee, while providing a minor key melody that makes it clear things are deadly serious right now. When accompanied by the on-screen action, this makes for an exciting, climactic final showdown.
Wild ARMs 2: Battle vs. Lord Blazer
In Wild ARMs 2, main character Ashley Winchester spends much of the game possessed by Lord Blazer, the spirit of an individual who once called a great disaster. Long ago, he was sealed away along with his soldiers by the Sword Magess, but as part of Wild ARMs 2’s story, a demon summoning spell cast as part of a terrorist act caused Lord Blazer to be released and sent into Ashley’s body.
This final boss theme represents the final conflict between Ashley and Lord Blazer, which has, by this point in the game, flared up numerous times over the course of the narrative as a whole. To help emphasise this, the theme is an adaptation of the main theme song for Wild ARMs 2, known as “You’ll Never Be Alone No Matter Where You Are” — an apt description of how Ashley is forced to live with Lord Blazer inside himself.
Atelier Ayesha: MARIA
Gust’s sound team put out some astonishingly good tracks, with much of their best work being heard in the Atelier series. This stirring final boss theme from Atelier Ayesha: The Alchemist of Dusk serves as an amazing conclusion to the game’s emotional story, highlighting how important it is to her heroine that she saves her sister from the bizarre situation in which she has found herself.
This final boss theme is absolutely packed with emotion, but rather than being an epic “save the world” sort of track, it’s a much more personal theme; this is Ayesha finally accomplishing her own personal objective, allowing herself to be “selfish” for once after spending much of the game doing things to help others out. You can imagine her fighting this battle with tears in her eyes, wanting nothing more than to see her sister again — and you’re a stronger person than I if you don’t have tears in your eyes while you’re fighting it, too.
Bravely Default: Serpent Eating the Ground
The whole soundtrack for Bravely Default is amazing — and it kind of sucks that it’s confined to the crappy sound output of the 3DS — and this final boss theme is one of the best examples of exactly why it’s so well-regarded.
We’ve got your typical “scary choirs” that you expect to hear in a lot of final boss themes, but this is also combined with the distinctive heavy use of brass instruments from composer Revo to create something altogether unique. This is also noteworthy as a piece of music in that it doesn’t just stick to the same style all the way through — at roughly the three-minute mark, there’s a distinct “redemption arc” segment, followed by a quieter, peaceful moment just before four minutes and a distinctly “classic Final Fantasy” segment after that.
The variety of styles and instruments heard in this final boss theme helps highlight what a sprawling adventure Bravely Default is — and how you’re fighting for the survival of not just yourself, but many, many others too.
Castlevania: Lords of Shadow – Final Confrontation
One of the most effective things a final boss theme can do is bring back all the main melodies and leifmotivs from throughout the rest of the game — and that’s exactly what happens here in the grand finale to the underappreciated Castlevania: Lords of Shadow.
Of particular note is the gradual build-up to the reveal of the Belmont theme at around the five-minute mark. Truly an epic conclusion to an epic game — and one which I think enough years have passed since its release for people to admit was actually rather good, despite being a bit different from “classic Castlevania”!
Final Fantasy XIV: Dragonsong/Freefall/Revenge of the Horde
This is actually three pieces of music, but they all form part of the final battle in the “Dragonsong War” arc of Final Fantasy XIV — that which began in the base Heavensward expansion, and continued through its next three patches before taking aim for Stormblood. This is also one of the most deeply emotional final boss encounters you’ll ever encounter — and it’s in an MMO, of all places.
The opening Dragonsong is the main theme for Heavensward, with the lyrics telling the story of the doomed love between Hraesvelgr and Shiva — and the rage of Nidhogg — before moving on to the high drama of Freefall and Revenge of the Horde as Nidhogg’s fury escalates and you get closer to finishing the fight once and for all. And in true final boss tradition, both themes incorporate melodies and harmonies that you’ve been hearing constantly over the course of the narrative that led you up to this point.
Truly spectacular, and all the proof you need that Final Fantasy XIV’s composer in residence, Masayoshi Soken, is an absolute musical genius.
Blue Reflection: Sayonara
Another masterpiece from Gust’s sound team — and another theme that will send shivers down your spine and bring tears to your eyes when seen in context. At this point in Blue Reflection, not only is protagonist Hinako staring down her most significant challenge yet, she also knows that her life is never going to be the same again after it’s all over.
Unfolding across multiple phases that highlight Hinako’s changing emotions as the fight progresses, Sayonara as a whole sums up what makes Blue Reflection’s soundtrack so utterly unique. The combination of peaceful, calming, gentle piano lines with thrashing, raging electronic beats and ambient sounds pulled from “reality”; it’s a simply magnificent piece of music and the perfect conclusion to the game’s emotional journey.
What are your favourite final boss themes? Let us know in the comments or via the usual social channels!
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