Well here is part two of the countdown, and this is where the tracks start to get very depressing. I am talking to the point of mood altering so be sure to wait until you’re in a somber or depressed mood to listen, or don’t. Listening to these extensively has had some unpleasant effects so that’s why it took longer than expected to complete this countdown. If you missed it, part one is here. Also SPOILERS in the blurb because I can’t talk about the full significance of each song without mentioning context.
#12: Memories of the City (Persona 3)
Persona 3… *sigh*…
I’ve been replaying this game recently and I just got to the point where you hear this for the first time. I forgot just how bleak this game was. It seems like your typical anime nonsense for the first half, but then you have the deaths of many major characters one after the other all while you have to deal with the existential despair of knowing that not only everything you did was pointless, but may have made things worse.
Yet compared to the apriser of death telling you that the world is going to end in two months and you can’t do shit to stop it, and that you need to make a choice between fighting an unwinnable battle and facing unfathomable despair or having your memories erased so you can die in peace while you forget everything that ever happened… all the hardship and character growth… those first few tragedies were fucking child’s play.
This track plays in place of the upbeat city theme during the last month of the game. You know that the end of the world is coming yet no one else but your characters know it’s happening. It’s like the human race has accepted its fate, not even bothering to resist its oncoming destruction. There is the perfect mix of instrumentation involved. The piano captures the grief and the mournful air of the situation while the rest of the track seems relaxed. Representing how life goes on even in times of tragedy, even if it won’t for much longer.
#11: Farewell Hyrule King (The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker)
Well would you look at that! Another fucking piano track! And it’s not even the saddest one, not that it didn’t come close mind you. The Zelda series may have its own share of sad and emotional tracks such as “Midna’s Lament” and “Song of Healing,” but none are as quick to make you drown to death in tears as this one. Oh and speaking of drowning, that precisely what this track plays during; the post final boss cutscene where the King of Hyrule stays behind as Hyrule begins to flood after Ganondorf is slain.
Those who are familiar with previous Zelda games may recognize this track as an arrangement of of the Hyrule Castle theme from Link to the Past. While the original Link to the Past version was grand and heroic, this one is somber and depressing; almost as if to signify that the once thriving kingdom of Hyrule is nothing more than a memory. The track starts out sad enough but it is really the climax of this track that gives me goosebumps every time.
The violins come in about halfway through and the piano notes start increasing in pace, representing the water starting to pour in. Towards the end multiple piano layers pile on top of each other similar to how Hyrule Castle submerges and Link and Tetra are forced to leave the king behind. Powerful, tragic, yet also grand and majestic; much like the king himself. Farewell indeed.
#10: Catastrophe Drenched in Darkness (Corpse Party Blood Covered: Repeated Fear)
We are now getting into the territory of “if this doesn’t make you cry you’re probably a robot.” Not that it is an excuse, a track this haunting and powerful is one that every listener is OBLIGATED to cry to. You don’t even need to know the lyrics or the language for it to strike you through the heart. The haunting vocals of Asami Imai and Eri Kitamura scream out in the one language every human being to ever exist knows; pure genuine emotion. That’s not to say the lyrics aren’t heartrending if you do know them though. They are so powerful that I even wrote my own lyrics for a hopeful English cover.
Any fan of the series likely understands the significance of when this track plays as well. Between all three Corpse Party games this only plays during one scene. Seiko Shinohara was the first girl to die in Heavenly Host and for many her death was the saddest. Her death was the hardest on her best friend Naomi though. In Heavenly Host, each character is in danger of succumbing to the darkening. If they become too overwhelmed with despair the pained spirits begin to take over their bodies and posses them.
Seiko was taken by the darkening after an argument with Naomi and this resulted in Seiko’s suicide. This is normally depressing enough but people in Heavenly Host don’t go to heaven. They instead repeat the moment of their death on loop for eternity. Naomi essentially doomed her best friend to an eternity of agony and torment from which she can never escape, and she does not take this well. Cut forward to the end of the game where everyone is about to escape Heavenly Host… with anyone who died there being left behind.
Naomi becomes so guilt ridden that she almost succumbs to the darkening but is saved by a single text message from Seiko titled “No Hard Feelings.” The message was written before her death but Seiko’s spirit proceeds to send it over and over until Naomi gets the point, and that’s when this song starts playing. I know from experience that sorrow and guilt are some of the most devastating sensations a human being can bear, but forgiveness can be even more powerful.
As for the arrangement itself, it is powerful and soul piercing all the way through. From those opening piano notes onward everything is emphasized in such a haunting and otherworldly fashion. This song is beyond beautiful and is one of the most powerful pieces of music I’ve ever heard.
#9: Fate (Breath of Fire)
The original Breath of Fire didn’t click with me as much as I hoped… but that was mostly due to poor localization that prevented the plot from really grabbing me until close to the end. I reviewed the game a while back but I was probably too harsh in hindsight. I recall it was only the sixth game I wrote a review for and I had a habit of being harsher on certain games in a lot of my earlier reviews. I am hopeful that it gets a fan translation in the same vein as its sequel though.
As for this track, it not only is another piano track but it also uses a music box at the start. This song is arranged in just the right way that will evoke tears the moment one hears it. The melody is powerful and the instrumentation is perfect. The scene that comes to mind the most is that of Alen and Cerl. Seeing this song playing along with the flashback of them as kids after their death scene is downright heartbreaking and I can only imagine how I must have felt if I grew up with this game.
There is also some personal significance that this track holds in that it makes me think of my mother who I established is dead. It comes to mind purely because I played this game around the same time she died and I now associate the two. Admittedly it might be a bit lower if I didn’t have that association but it’s still an amazingly powerful song.
#8: Noble Requiem (Dragon Quest V: Hand of the Heavenly Bride)
Koichi Sugiyama, your music really is amazing. It’s almost one quintillionth of a percentage point of the quality required to make up for your wretched worldview and fascist bullshit! Note that this is pretty high praise that I would not sing if it were not for the fact that a degenerate gaijin trans woman like me even talking about anything he created probably causes him to break out in hives, but credit is where it’s due in that he’s an amazing composer.
Similarly to “Be Absentminded,” I decided to feature all three arrangements of this track from all three versions of Dragon Quest V. The audio quality of the Super Famicom version of Dragon Quest V is infamous for sounding like crap and that is an assessment I agree with for the most part. The jankiness of the audio quality actually adds to the sense of emotional strain in this arrangement and it thus has a stronger atmospheric effect despite being harder on the ears.
I would have specifically included the PS2 version above the other two if it were not for the fact that the drums are comparatively silent and thus have less of an impact. This does not change the fact that the orchestral arrangement carries even greater weight in every other area and the end result is just as breath taking. The DS version isn’t quite as piercing as the SFC version nor does it have the elegance of the PS2 version, but I do think this is the definitive arrangement of the track.
What is so special about this song is how unlike every soft and somber track that has made the list up to this point, this one is powerful and abrasive. It captures the feeling of shock and disbelief that come with grief. Most tracks on this list are fit for a funeral, but this one is more fit for an execution; your execution. As you see yourself slowly losing everything and your life turns to ash, that harsh drum beat represents the heartbeat slowly rising as you watch in horror until it fizzles out and you accept your fate.
Considering that this plays in the scenes where Madason/Abel/whateverthehellhisname sees his father murdered before his eyes and is sold into slavery as a six year old child AND where he is turned to stone and helplessly ripped from his wife and carried away while he is unable to move for another decade… this track fits perfectly, and Dragon Quest V likely would not have been as powerful without it.
#7: Sento Nel Core (Ending Theme) (Splatterhouse)
The original Splatterhouse is perhaps one of the most underrated games of all time. I am hardly one to discredit retro titles, but the atmosphere of this title was incredible even by the standards of today. There is so little dialogue or cutscenes present in the game but they are all used for maximum effect. Take the game’s ending theme for instance.
This track is an arrangement of the classical piece “Sento Nel Core” by Alessandro Scarlatti, but I don’t feel quite as strongly about the original composition to be honest… plus I only slightly hear the resemblance. Unlike most of what was included on this countdown until now, what really gets me here is the sense of emptiness and loss.
Most games of the era have you rescuing a damsel in distress of some sort that serves as nothing more than a macguffin to motivate the plot. The original Splatterhouse went against this by transforming Rick’s captive girlfriend Jennifer into a grotesque mutant that tries to kill him and giving both Rick and the player no choice but to kill her. Once Rick leaves the mansion alone there is a sense of emptiness and grief. You got out alive but at the cost of the one you love who you will never see again… ignoring the sequels where they pulled a DBZ on you.
#6: Morphogenetic Sorrow (9 Hours, 9 Persons, 9 Doors)
Those who know me personally may know of a certain incident that occurred six months ago. After what hopefully always will be the worst breakup of my life, I was taken to the ER because I called 911 to prevent my own suicide. That day will always be etched into my memory. I remember how dead inside I felt. Even my worst episodes prior did not compare. I could not hold back the feelings of hopelessness and grief. I lost all hope of living and it’s a miracle that I recovered.
This track, “Morphogenetic Sorrow,” was what was playing in my head throughout the entirety of that hospital stay. I happened to listen to it earlier in an attempt to cope with the sudden grief but this song just happened to follow me the entire time; and it was so appropriate. The melody is somber and melancholy and that cold synth feels lifeless and devoid of hope. Like someone is calling out for help despite knowing it will never be heard.
The context of this track in 999 is not much better. It plays while June is attempting to use a morphogenetic field to communicate with Junpei from the future in order to solve a puzzle within five minutes in order to prevent herself from being burned alive. It makes a bit more sense in context but is still pretty out there and it captures the feeling of lingering hopelessness so well. This song is basically a cry for help, the equivalent of a message in a bottle when you are stranded on a deserted island… an island with a volcano that just erupted and you only have five minutes left to live. You have no reason to believe it will work but you still make one last attempt with what little will power you have left.
And by some miraculous chance it works. It worked not only for June but also for myself.
#5: Sayo-Nara (Doki Doki Literature Club)
In case one was not aware, I already wrote an entire piece about this track before but I STILL have more to say about it. If I had played Doki Doki Literature Club when I made my Disturbing Video Game Songs countdown then this track would most likely have beaten my previous number 1 pic. And yes, it also makes it pretty damn close to number 1 here as well. This may be one of the single most brilliant pieces of video game music ever created and this legendary scene may not have been the same without it.
Doki Doki Literature Club is a flawed game but Sayori’s suicide was one of the most genuinely shocking moments I experienced in all of gaming. I said it before and I will say it again; listening to this song hurts my soul. It hurts because of precisely how real it is. I know many real people who I fear one day ending up like Sayori… and I often fear MYSELF ending up like her.
The off key nature of this track just perfectly captures how wrong everything feels and the sheer shock and disbelief that comes from this… the regret and guilt that comes from seeing the person you care about the most hanging from a noose dead. Even the title is fucked up in that it sounds like the game is mocking you. The title of the track that represents Sayori’s death is a fucking pun! It just goes to show how uncaring and tragic life truly is.
#4: Mother’s Lullaby (Rhapsody: A Musical Adventure)
It doesn’t matter what mood I’m in when I listen to this track, as soon as I hear it start my heart begins to ache. To those not familiar with the game in question it may just sound like a soothing lullaby, but it is perhaps the saddest lullaby ever written.
Like many other tracks on this list, this one is used quite sparingly throughout the course of Rhapsody. The most prominent one is during the ending. This track is an arrangement of “Let’s Go On,” one of the game’s signature vocal tracks. The song is pretty much a leitmotif of Cornet, Kururu, and of Cornet’s deceased mother Cherie. While I cry like a bitch every time I listen to “Let’s Go On,” it is a fairly happy and uplifting track. “Mother’s Lullaby” is much more feint than Let’s Go On. Almost as if to represent the sense of loneliness that comes from losing your mother. I would know… I’ve lost my mother as well.
There is a small bit of warmth that comes from this track despite the loss of Cherie, and it is still powerful enough to make your heart feel all the heavier. It becomes even more sentimental in the ending where it was revealed that Kururu was the spirit of Cherie taking the form of a puppet who then became Cornet’s best friend. When Cornet is finally reunited with Prince Ferdinand, it means Kururu is no longer needed. This effectively means that Cornet lost her mother twice. It makes one feel so lost and alone, like the one who cared for you the most is gone… but she’ll never be forgotten.
#3: Ashes of Dreams (NieR)
For those of you that read my Most Beautiful JRPG Ending Credits Themes countdown, you have heard me talk about this one before. Unlike with “Tsuki no Nukumori” however, I went all out of the description for this track. It still wasn’t enough though. For the purposes of this countdown, I have included all four arrangements. The first version is titled “Ashes of Dreams – New” and is in English. The remaining versions, “Nouveau,” “Nuadaich,” and “Aratanaru,” are in heavily modified versions of French, German, and Japanese respectively.
Of note is that “Nouveau” and “Aratanaru” have unique piano based intros that are not featured in the other two versions. Some people have actually created edits of the English version with both of these intros intact. The Nouveau intro version can be heard here and the Aratanaru one here. I actually am unsure which version is the best. The saddest may be Aratanru simply because of that haunting piano piece at the start representing the sense of emptiness that comes from Nier’s sacrifice of his own existence in ending D.
As for the song itself, I may be repeating myself from my previous countdown when I say this, but there is such a tremendous air of tragedy and regret to this song. It was a tough choice deciding between this and “Emil Sacrifice” but I had to go with this one. Everything about this song contributes to the overwhelming sense of sadness. Those breathtaking vocals, the instrumentation, and those tear jerking lyrics. I’m actually struggling to put the words together to describe this track so I may just end it off here. The song speaks for itself.
#2: Theme of Love/It’s Over (MOTHER 3)
This entry is a tie between two tracks from the same game, although they are both arrangements of the same composition. The first of these is the “Theme of Love.” Mother 3 is the quintessential “sad video game” for many people and it was one of the first games to show me just how powerful this medium is. The story is almost indescribably touching and the “Theme of Love” is game’s signature track. Chances are if you think of any track from Mother 3, it will be this one.
And yes it is a music box tune as well. Saddest fucking instrument EVER! You hear this track in most of the saddest scenes throughout the game. Considering how you hear this from your tragic beginnings throughout all the progress you made on this journey all the way up to the even more tragic ending, there is a certain sense of power and influence that is conditioned into the player with this song. Hearing it almost instantly makes my eyes well up.
The arrangement is also equally soul piercing. The notes are at just the right pitch that they will register right from the start. The melody can be interpreted as both sweet and sad, and this track can just overwhelm anyone with a wave of sentimentality. But the power of it still pales in comparison to its variation during the last phase of the final battle.
“It’s Over,” otherwise known as “It Is Finished” was for the longest time the single most heartrending piece of music I ever heard and I initially planned for it to be number 1 until I played a certain game for the first time earlier this year. Those breathing noises at the start are occasionally heard in other tracks throughout Mother 3, but they are used to their best effect here. Similarly to “Sayo-nara, the distortion of the “Theme of Love” touches upon just how wrong the scenario of fighting your brainwashed twin brother to the death feels. The way how it builds up to one last tearful reprisal of the “Theme of Love” before settling into a more soothing music box variation at a slightly lower pitch signifies that this long and painful journey is finally at its end; that it’s over.
But this isn’t a happy end though. Claus was thought to have been dead ever since the end of chapter 1, and finally seeing him alive only for him to kill himself… to have to experience that same sense of loss all over again…
“It’s Over” very similar to that of “Mother’s Lullaby” in that they are sad reprisals of beautiful songs and are used primarily in the endings of their respective games. They also are used to represent the death of the main character’s mother. Funny thing is that I have not touched Mother 3 ever since my mom died, but considering how much it tore me up the first time I’d probably be ripped to shreds.
Mother 3 is a very powerful and tragic game, yet it’s pretty much all sunshine and rainbows compared to the game my number 1 entry is from. Prepare yourselves.
#1: Buddy’s Theme/Rando’s Dead/He’s My Dad/Voices (LISA: The Joyful)
Similarly to my number two entry, these are all from the same game and are all arrangements of the same composition. LISA is a very bleak and depressing game. The game has often been compared to Earthbound in its style of humor and presentation, but there is a stark difference between the two. That difference is that while even Mother 3 had its happier and light hearted moments, LISA is bleak and relentlessly dark all the way through. Even its humor is of the “that’s funny but also seriously fucked up” variety like “haha you accidentally burned a whole bunch of orphans alive while you were trying to save them.”
The DLC episode LISA: The Joyful goes even further by removing humor completely. In the main game you see Brad relentlessly trying to save his daughter Buddy and in the process cause untold harm to everyone around him, including Buddy herself. What really hits hard about this game is that it makes you sympathize with Brad despite the fucked up shit he does in the second half of the game. While I never did anything as fucked up as Brad did, I regrettably know the feeling of your past trauma breaking you to the point that you hurt those around you, and that you are left with a feeling of deep seeded regret that you can never relieve. I know what it’s like to feel like a miserable and helpless failure.
LISA: The Joyful follows Buddy, a woman whose way of coping with her trauma is to become so feared and powerful that no one else can hurt her like Brad has. “Buddy’s Theme” represents the harsh and uncaring nature of life. How it feels coping with negative event after negative event. Trying desperately to find the few fleeting moments to cling to in order to make life worth living… as rare as they may be. It also represents the way Buddy continues to cut off every and all ties she may have, and the harsh and uncaring nature of life. No matter how harsh and tragic your life is, it never stops to wait for you.
“Rando’s Dead” is a slightly edited version of “Buddy’s Theme” that plays after the death of Rando. Rando’s death was especially tragic since he was the only character that showed a sense of kindness and sensibility to Buddy, yet Buddy still reacts to him with constant hostility. Once she hears that it was Rando that ordered her kidnapping, Buddy outright lets Rando die and takes it as a betrayal. Everyone she has ever been close to has hurt her in some way, and the distortion of this track just shows how further gone her mind is.
“He’s My Dad” may not sound special out of context, hell it may even sound cute, but context IS important after all. This theme plays during a boss battle against one of Buddy’s hallucinations. A major theme of LISA is that of addiction. Both Brad and Buddy are addicted to a fictional drug called Joy that We Happy Few shamelessly stole from this game, and a side effect is increased strength and hallucinations. This plays during a boss battle against Brad, or at least what Buddy perceives as him. Brad does not attack Buddy rather than sit there is self loathing and do nothing as his own daughter tears him to shreds. This scene is especially hard to watch considering you played as Brad and you end up feeling especially sorry for both Brad AND Buddy.
The track itself is a child like remix of “Buddy’s Theme” that sounds light hearted most of the way through until that bit with the organ that gets me every time. The ironic echo of this song makes remembering the fact that Brad genuinely loved Buddy even more painful, but it hits me especially hard due to some of my own regrets. Due to my own ties that I severed through my own carelessness that I can never get back.
And then there is “Voices,” possibly the saddest of the four. This is the ending credits theme and I did not expect to encounter any of these that were more depressing than “Ashes of Dreams.” The lyrics are so sad and are delivered in such a somber fashion that this song speaks to me. It captures the feeling of loneliness and hopelessness all too well, a feeling I’m all too familiar with. There is not a single ounce of positive uplifting emotion in this song and it is quite simply the most depressing song I have ever heard, game or otherwise.
Well there you have it. This countdown was quite difficult to make but I am proud of it nonetheless. I took longer than I expected to with the second part but that was mainly due to distractions and the intensity of some of these songs. Anyway thanks for reading this and hopefully all the depression didn’t get to you, or me for that matter.
Event: Sadness –Sonic Adventure
Devastation – Dragon Quest V
Undertale (Unused Version) – Undertale
To Zanarkand – Final Fantasy X
Celes’s Theme – Final Fantasy VI
Rebel Army Theme – Final Fantasy II
Grandfather’s Clock – Nekopara Vol. 3
Sadness Arrives – Criminal Girls
Where the Wind and Feathers Return – Radiant Historia
Interrupted Moment- Radiant Historia
Emil Sacrifice – NieR
Testimony of Memory – Cthulhu Saves the World
At the Bottom of the Night – Chrono Trigger
Marle’s Theme – Chrono Trigger
People Imprisoned By Destiny – Chrono Cross
The Girl Who Stole the Stars – Chrono Cross
Two – Corpse Party
Final Hours – The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask
Song of Healing – The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask
Midna’s Lament – The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess
Interrupted By Fireworks – Final Fantasy VII
Living With Determination – Persona 3
Shoes of Glass – Saya no Uta
Godom Lullaby – Paladin’s Quest
Never Forget – Halo 3
To the Future – Lufia II: Rise of the Sinistrals
Lavender Town – Pokemon Red & Blue
She was Like a Sunflower – Mother 3
Ending Sol’s Demise – Final Fantasy Legend III
The Great Warrior – Final Fantasy VII
Anxious Heart – Final Fantasy VII
Elia, The Maiden of Water – Final Fantasy III
The Other Promise – Kingdom Hearts II Final Mix
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