Lately I’ve been playing The Legend Of Zelda: Breathe of the Wild. Whilst I thoroughly enjoy my time with it, I do miss the grand boss fights of it’s predecessors. Sure, there are bosses in this game but I feel they lack a punch as previous Zelda games have had in the past. They lack character. A big contribution to a epic boss battle is the battle theme though. Be it whimsical, bold and dramatic, eerily silent or some rock track, music can accentuate a great fight to an amazing fight. And so here are 5 that jump out at me from time to time.
Gangplank Galleon-Donkey Kong Country
This one takes me back to my childhood. Sitting on the carpet in front of a CRT TV, SNES controller in my hand and the final boss fight begins. The boss fight itself isn’t too difficult. It’s pattern recognition and timing but as the fight progressively gets harder, the song transforms from a cheery sea chantey to a more dark and foreboding tune. The rhythm picks up, percussion instruments become involved but that calming sea chantey remains there, over the top of the beat. Combine this with a fake out ending, credits or Kredits I should say, included. The scaly King K Rool gets back up after being defeated like the rotund annoyance he is. Then proceeds to wreck havoc once again with a quicker and harder to dodge, attack pattern. And whilst all this is happening you have this amazing song playing through the entirety. A great song especially considering the limitations of 16 bit back then too.
The Calm+Snake Eater-Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater
So, this one isn’t cheating but you would be excused for having an issue with this. Oh and by the way, spoilers for Metal Gear Solid 3. It’s a phenominal game and I wouldn’t want to ruin it for anyone unless they’re willing to ruin it for themselves. I do recommend you go play it. Either scroll down this page and squint your eyes so you can only see the bold of next song title. Or go play the game now……I’ll wait, I’ll still be here when you get back. OK, you’ve been warned. This boss fight takes place in a field of white flowers and a few trees. That’s it. This is essentially the end of the game and throughout all of it you’ve battled an array of soldiers, freakish bosses (A man who shoots bees at you and a delusional man with a flamethrower in a space suit being prime examples) and a nuclear launching tank that’s barrelling after you while you’re in a motorbike sidecar. And yet after all that chaos and noise, the last fight between student and mentor is devoid of music for the longest period. The rustling of leaves is your choir and radar, the petals in the air are your audience. This stays like this for such a long time that many people will have finished the fight long before the low murmur of the titular song Snake Eater starts creeping out of their speakers. It’s an amazing boss fight with a very wise choice to just let it be what it is. No loud music, no orchestral score, just serene. And then the James Bond-esque theme follows slowly and softly. It then proceeds to get louder and brasher but by then the fight is usually over and you don’t get to experience that. Instead you got to experience the fight in it’s purer form, I believe anyway.
Philistine-No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle
This is a guilty pleasure of mine and one that I find myself coming back to every few months. I love the No More Heroes games and am very excited about the new game coming to Switch in the future. The series is full of style and over the top characters that it’s hard not to love each boss encounter. And when Margaret rocks up for a rooftop duel against Travis Touchdown, you know this goth infused sniper knows a good tune or two. And does she ever deliver. Not only is Philistine catchy as hell and irritatingly difficult to shake off when trying to get some sleep at 2am. But the lyrics themselves mesh so well with the game. Pointing out Travis’s own flaws and ideology. A man who in the previous game slayed assassins without barely a look in their direction. Now in this sequel, out for revenge against those that killed his friend. The lyrics go as:
“Reaper, Reaper”, that’s what people call me!
Why? ‘Cause they all die! When I sing, I end their lives
You act as though payback makes you a noble man
Is that a fact?
Well, you’re a goddamn Philistine!
The fight itself isn’t the stand out of the series in my eyes, but it’s locale, interesting opponent and theme/plot surrounding the game are elevated with this spot on catchy song. And the song makes for a memorable fight, so much so that I remember holding off delivering the killing blow so I could listen to it a bit longer.
Life Will Change + Rivers in the Desert- Persona 5
OK I admit it, I’m cheating a bit here. Technically this is two separate songs. Both stand on their own feet and I would gladly put either in this list. But the boss I am thinking of features Life Will Change as the song for the short run to the boss fight and Rivers in the Desert plays during the fight itself. So i’m off the hook, right? Persona 5 as well as it’s predecessors that I’ve played; those being 3 and 4, have phenomenal music. It’s poppy, it’s lively and it’s brimming with as much personality as each individual party member in those games has. Except Ken. Don’t get me started on Ken! Again this is another song that gets you in the mood and ready to unleash your favourite Personas on those that have slighted your crew. But the song gets better with the lyrics being read along.
So you know that we’re out there
Swatting lies in the making
Can’t move fast without breaking
Can’t hold on or life won’t change
And our voices ring out, yeah
Took the mask off to feel free
Fought it out in the debris
Now we know that life will change
In a game all about standing up for your beliefs and taking powers from those that wrongly wield it. Those that use power to perverse their own warped views on the World, these lyrics sum up our band of merry men and women. And Persona 5 is a game where you feel a part of the gang. You can relate to them and when they’re in peril or suffering you feel for them. And so when you know it’s time to take down your latest adversary, and these songs kick in. You feel driven together with the Persona team. Or maybe that’s just me getting too attached to a game again. I didn’t have a lump in my throat when the credits rolled. Nope…..not this guy.
All Songs-Shadow of the Colossus
I thought I could resist putting this on here. I had other games in mind and other boss themes but I would be lying if I didn’t think this deserves a spot. The game is a masterpiece. It’s basic but elegant. The entirety of the game is as summed; bloke has a love, she’s dying or is dead, he wants to bring her back and so to do just that he needs to defeat 16 colossi. 16 lumbering, moss covered stone beings of varying shape and design. The music is perfect in this game and so therefore I’m not going to comb through the songs and pick a favourite. Each song is worthy of its own spot on this list and they feel like a complete package, the way they work with the world and your actions. Each song pairs with their colossi in such a well crafted way that it’s not enough to just listen to the songs. You have to experience it and be controlling the actions of Wander as he slays each creature to feel the full majesty of the music. These beings aren’t out to get you or anything nefarious. They’re minding their own business until you come along and slay them. And as you’re clambering up each colossi looking for it’s weak spots this beautiful soundtrack plays. Dramatic and climatic, but also peaceful at the same time.
If you have any other great suggestions or recommendations feel free to leave a comment and a link. I’ve not played every game in the World so always interested in finding new experiences. Thanks for reading.