I’ve made it clear that I have a very strong appreciation for video game music in the past, enough so that I have done multiple countdowns before in addition to my Amazing VGM series. My Disturbing video games song countdown was a nice way of showing off a variety of different game songs, so this time I will talk about game songs that make your eyes wet and not your pants.
This countdown is precisely for video game songs that make you cry. Game music can be very powerful and emotional, and the following 25 tracks are among the best examples of how. Of note is that I am also sticking to games I’ve played or am remotely familiar with given that context is an important element. Anyway, make sure you have a clean Xbox on hand for this one.
Also there will be spoilers for most of these games to fully describe the context.
#25: One Who Craves Souls (Demon’s Souls)
This track comes from the infamous Demon’s Souls, the predecessor to the even more infamous Dark Souls series that dumb people won’t stop comparing every remotely challenging game to. In addition to being Dark Souls before Dark Souls was Dark Souls, Demon’s Souls also gave the player the option to kill the mage lady that gave you all your level ups right after you beat the final boss. I didn’t get this ending so I don’t know why someone would kill her unless they are an edgelord, but of course the game does insist on making you feel like a prick by playing this over the ending credits.
That piano and those violins at the start have an air of tragedy and bloodshed to them representing how your player character lusts for souls regardless of the pain and suffering he or she causes. You would have been a hero if you just played the game like everyone else but nooooooo, you thought it would be funny if you tried to kill her and didn’t think they would actually program and ending for it. You bastard!
Perhaps what works so well about this track is how it’s not only depressing, but also creepy and ominous. There are a few triumphant sounding moments thrown in because evil doesn’t think that them being evil is sad, but the rest is still sad because you’ve doomed humanity and are a heartless prick. In general, the reason this one isn’t higher is because there isn’t as much of a character for me to be connected to, thus I don’t feel quite as strongly hearing this play as I would in a game where the world and story were more fleshed out.
#24: Be Absentminded (Tales of Phantasia)
There are multiple versions of this particular track to choose from, and considering that I am indecisive as hell I went with all three. All three arrangements have their own advantages and unique quirks. The whistley sound of the Super Famicom arrangement sounds like something you’d hear in an old western movie. It carries a very mournful air to it yet is strangely still optimistic in a way (that’s why it’s not higher on the list). It’s been a while since I played Tales of Phantasia.
Somehow I’d say the PS1 version sounds sadder by having a more realistic flute used and the more subtle violins help emphasize the air of tragedy stronger than the SFC original. The GBA version, despite being of the lowest quality, is probably the saddest of the three simply because it lacks the power of the previous versions. There is still some hope left in it when the brass solo comes in, and that bit with the sax at the end really brings out a tear. I do wish I could remember this game’s plot a bit more, but I do know this played when Cress’s hometown was destroyed. Damn this game had a strong opening… and a strong plot in general from what I could remember. I should probably replay this one soon.
#23: Cry (Time and Eternity)
I may be well known in some circles for my fan girlishness towards Time and Eternity, but I didn’t go into the game expecting to think as highly of it as I did. The entire first act of the game was made up of a bunch of cringey bullshit that I expected to MST3K to myself the entire time albeit while still getting some enjoyment out of. Then I got about halfway through the second act and the game genuinely shocked me. Whoever voiced Netherdrake really did an amazing job at making him out to be a complete evil bastard and genuinely made me feel bad for Reijo who was your stereotypical rich bitch up to that point.
There are likely other points where this track plays but the one that always stick out to me is in the first conversation with Netherdrake. Reijo is forced with the conundrum of having to either give up the thing that is most important to her (which is assumed to be her life) or to murder Toki in exchange for her wish coming true; and she can’t back out of the deal either.
This track brilliantly represents Reijo’s emotional strife, but I know that it was not meant for this one scene specifically. While the melody isn’t the most memorable the arrangement is still breathtakingly beautiful. The slight shakiness of the instruments is perhaps what makes this track work notably well as it represent the difficulty to maintain composure while one is breaking down into a crying fit… the feeling that everything is so overwhelming and hopeless that you can’t possibly overcome it. Yes I am speaking from experience… a lot of experience… moving on.
#22: Don’t Cry (Dragon Ball Z: The Legacy of Goku)
Well, this track is probably going to make that difficult isn’t it? Dragon Ball Z: The Legacy of Goku is a mediocre licensed action RPG with overly simplistic and linear gameplay. It’s sequel may be a completely different story but there was at least some effort put into the original in regards to music. It didn’t feature any of the tracks from the anime but the tracks it did have were quite effective, the one you are listening to being one of the standouts.
One with a keen ear for Classical music may have noticed the resemblance to the first movement of Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata” in the base melody, as well as the structure being similar. It’s not a complete rip off thankfully (but it still loses points for originality). The higher notes intentionally break the melody in order to create a sense of disarray. The track accompanies Goku’s sacrifice to defeat Raditz as well as inside ruined Namekien houses with scared and grieving children.
Then there is the part towards the end where you hear that flute like sound that takes a slightly more optimistic tone, signifying the ascent into heaven (or King Kai’s place more than likely), yet that somehow makes it all the more sad. It does genuinely surprise me how such a poorly made game can have music like this, but I’ll give credit where it’s due.
#21: Tasogare Nyanko (Nekopara Vol. 1)
And speaking of games that no one expects to have any emotional depth or pull, we have Nekopara. It would be easy to simply brush off this series as otaku pandering tripe, but I’m not the type to dismiss all slice of life media because I’m not a pretentious ass wipe. Nekopara’s main draw is its characters and their conflicts. There have been some pretty strong emotional moments in the series with this track accompanying them.
Most of these moments tend to be the catgirl’s own emotional struggles and hardships getting to them. I only remember the scenes where this track played in Vol. 3 so it is hard for me to touch on all of them. Thankfully I don’t need to since the arrangement of this track is more significant to me than its use. There is something really striking about tracks that only use the piano… you will definitely see more of them on this list by the way… but there is something both mournful and elegant about this track. If you told someone this was from a game about catgirls they’d probably be surprised.
I’m not going to lie, this one probably makes the list because it makes me remember two of my own cats that died back in early 2016 within a few months of each other… as if that year wasn’t shitty enough. I do know that its usage in the actual visual novels is significantly less depressing since no one dies in them, but I’m allowed to mention my personal life every once in a while. But this track does represent the feeling of overwhelming emotion, and it’s hard to not feel sad listening to it.
#20: Ephemeral Memory (Chrono Cross)
Picking a single track from Chrono Cross was tough giving the amount of touching and somber tracks in the game’s OST. I could have gone with the haunting “Girl Who Stole the Stars” or mournful “People Imprisoned By Destiny,” but I still had to go with the eternally ethereal “Ephemeral Memory.” I’ve already talked about this track once before in my Amazing VGM entry on it, but I’m sure you won’t mind me repeating myself here.
Also known as “He Sang of Feeling,” this song feels especially poignant given just how depressing Chrono Cross is. This track is so effective because of the lingering feeling of emptiness that comes from having traveled to an alternate timeline where no one remembers you except your girlfriend… who still remembers the day you died 10 years ago. That off key saxophone represents just how… wrong this scenario feels and to be experiencing it.
Perhaps what is even more poignant of this track is that it’s actually a remix of Marle’s theme from Chrono Trigger, only in a lower pitch to reflect just how more depressing than Chrono Trigger this game is. You have a game where everyone you knew and loved from Chrono Trigger is now dead and that isn’t really much nicer to its own characters. Kind makes you wish there was a third game that strikes a balance between the two doesn’t it?
#19: For River (To the Moon)
See what I mean about piano solos? Although this one is at least for a game that warrants it. To the Moon is infamous for just how much of a tearjerker it is. It was never intended to be some large epic quest upon which the fate of the world rest, and there isn’t even any gameplay aside from simplistic puzzles, but holy shit that story! Some may say that “Everything’s Alright” should have made it instead of this track, but that one never really did it for me.
Anyway this piano track is a more subdued version of To the Moon’s title theme. Limiting that composition to just the piano makes the entire track feel more haunting and emphasizing the tragic and emotional nature of Johnny’s life. He even titled the track after his dead wife. It is hard to think of any other song that is more appropriate for the emotional journey through Johnny’s subconscious as you explore his memories and past.
The track itself works so well precisely because of the melody is powerful enough that you will always remember those first few seconds. It may come across as jarring to hear that it slow down in the second half, almost as if it represents the decay of Johnny’s health and is signifying that he is not long for this world.
#18: Law of the Defeated (Senran Kagura Burst)
Senran Kagura has the practice of mood whiplash down to an art form. One second you will have silly fanservice moments involving Katsuragi groping tits and the next will deal with the harsh realities of being a shinobi in far greater detail than one would expect from this type of game. I’ve already talked about the first game at length, but the point is that this game get really fucking bleak. The game fully intends to subvert the traditional narrative of “black and white morality” and makes it so that the so called “evil shinobi” are all just as likable and endearing as the good ones, which makes the fact that you need to fight and even kill them all the more saddening.
You have this track playing whenever the Hebijo girls are defeated. The girls have each fully accepted their roles as human killing machines and you see this track really capture the tragic nature of their defeat. This is another game that I have not played in a long time and am not entirely sure of the details, but there could also be a suicidal implication put forth given that I’m pretty sure the Hebijo are expected to die if they lost a battle.
The series has always made excellent use of traditional Japanese instruments in their music. The use of the Bamboo Flute in the first half is striking enough but what really brings this track onto the list is the second half with the Ichigenkin. It harmonizes beautifully with the chorus and strings. It is so overwhelmingly powerful and fierce yet also beautiful, much like the girls themselves. It represents the sting of defeat and the resulting shame for one who has put everything at stake all too well.
#17: Enclosure (Metal Gear Solid)
And now we have one from a true classic. The original Metal Gear Solid is the only game in the series I played thus far and that was over a decade ago so I don’t remember too much. I do remember liking it though, but I only knew about this track from looking up material for this list, and some of it comes rushing back when I listen to this.
Metal Gear Solid is surprisingly comparable to Senran Kagura when you think about it. Both deal with a cast of characters under fucked up circumstances rather than straight up evil characters, and both touch upon the harsh realities of war and eternal conflict. All that Metal Gear needs is a bit of tits and ass to-HOLY SHIT!!!!!!!!
But silly gags aside, the original Metal Gear Solid was home to some pretty depressing moments. This track plays in just about every major character death, highlighting the tragedy of death and loss quite effectively. I believe the most potent instance of this has to be if you fail the torture sequence and let Meryl die. The way that the track slowly builds up to that powerful climax with the strings matching up to how grief and sorrow can build up in us until we explode and lose all faith in both ourselves and the world around us.
#16: Goodbye Chao (Sonic Adventure 2)
This one makes the list based on the quality of the track alone. This track starts up if you select the option to send your Chao away because this game really doesn’t want you to do that for some reason. Even if you don’t care at all about the Chao, hearing this track start up will make you change your mind quickly or feel like you just sent your own child away. After all, you are told that you will NEVER see your chao again.
This track is only on the list because a friend of mine suggested it jokingly, but the track itself is brilliantly composed. The chime used for the first part of the song captures the essence of emotional strain while the strings in the second half are intentionally piercing, attempting to invoke that parental instinct. The clangy sound of the instrumentation actually makes this sound even more potent than if it were arranged with real instruments. Well you can at least rest assured that your Chao will have a happy life in a forest far away right???
#15 : Aerith’s Theme (Final Fantasy VII)
Yeah yeah I know, this one is predictable as hell. I initially planned to put “Interrupted By Fireworks” instead, but this track is still the most emotionally powerful track in the series. Yes even above the Final Fantasy VI opera which is beautiful but not necessarily sad. I also almost went with Celes’s standard theme given that the scenario it played in got to me more than Aerith’s, but I’d still have to say that Aerith has the better theme for this list. And it’s not as if I cared too much about Aerith’s character either… we really didn’t have enough time to get attached to her and Cloud’s grief sticken reaction was a bit too over the top for my taste.
I won’t deny that the sequence was beautifully animated and I still cried because of the music alone. Those opening piano notes pierce my heart right from the start while the melody captures the air of grief. It’s almost as if her this track was written for her death scene rather than as her character theme (contrary to popular belief, it does play at other points in the game than when she dies).
This really captures the shock of sudden loss all too well, and the sense of disbelief and mourning. It sounds perfectly fit for a funeral. The way how it still plays during the battle with Jenova LIFE as opposed to the usual epic battle music to represent the sting of loss while fighting a giant monster was an amazing way to make sure the emotions carried all the way through. That you won’t just forget what happened while fighting. And then there’s that final shot of Cloud letting Aerith’s body sink to the bottom of the water… any Game Theory references will be sent to hell where they belong.
#14: Tsuki no Nukumori (Fragile Dreams: Farewell Ruins of the Moon)
Be sure to listen past the first three seconds because they sound almost identical to that of Aerith’s theme. I went over this one in my Top 10 JRPG Ending Credits Themes countdown and I do think most of that still applies. I actually kinda cheaped out on the description in that countdown so I would very much like to give this track a better description. First of all, note that this track is another piano piece, and it won’t be the last on this list either. There is such a simplistic arrangement for this track yet it is so effective and tear jerking. Fragile Dreams takes place in a post apocalyptic world and the simplicity of this track serves to represent a planet devoid of human life except for two people; and the epilogue says that Seto outlives Ren and dies alone so that’s pretty depressing.
The track is almost meant to serve as a tribute to Ren’s life, showcasing her greatness of Seto’s love given it playing after you find out, as well as that of hope for the future. Despite the somber melody, the lyrics are optomistic and hopeful, as well as being beautiful. The line “Lured into a deep slumber, I dreamt of life—a dream I never woke from” (the English translated version obviously) probably hit me and spoke to me the hardest… damn I really need to play this game again, and so should you.
#13: Bounding Through Time (Super Paper Mario)
Ahh Super Paper Mario, back when the Paper Mario series had some balls and decided that Mario RPGs didn’t need to be limited to silly cartoony shenanigans and decided to smuggle grimdark plot elements invoking the destruction of entire worlds and tragic love stories into a kids game behind cheesy game related euphemisms. Seeing the destruction of an entire planet and Luvbi having to sacrifice herself to take the form of the final pure heart were pretty depressing, but that ending really wanted to make kids cry.
It always feels weird describing Super Paper Mario’s plot simply because the entire nature of this game’s storyline is so dark that it’s out of place for the series. Kids games usually have villains that are evil for the sake of being evil, yet Count Bleck is one of the most tragic JRPG villains I’ve ever come across. His entire reason for wanting to annihilate all worlds comes down to pure nihilistic grief over the loss of his one true love. Having known what that feels like, this is something that I grew to understand more as I grew up than as a kid.
This track comes in at the end where you realize that Bleck’s one true love Timpani is still alive and merely reincarnated as a small fairy like creature that accompanies you on throughout the game. Upon noticing that she’s still alive, Bleck does not desire to continue destroying the universe. In the final scene of the game, you see Timpani and Bleck getting married in order to counteract the effects of the Chaos Heart… it makes more sense in context and save the universe. The only catch is that it comes at the cost of both their lives.
The triumphant portion of this track is perfectly fit as the two exchange their vows knowing full well their fate; that “until death do us part” doesn’t give them much time. There is an air of tragedy throughout this track that makes it fitting for not only a wedding, but also a funeral. The way that it builds up to such a triumphant finale while then settling out into “Memory” gives off a haunting ethereal feeling; leaving a feeling of emptiness when you see they are gone and not coming back.
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