TA Top Five: Main Menu Themes

By Marc Hollinshead,
Don't you just love the feeling of starting a new game? Jumping into the unknown, the excitement of experiencing a new world and hearing a potentially amazing soundtrack are just a few things that come with the sheer thrill of playing something new, but have you ever struggled to get past the main menu? By that, I don't mean it's so ridiculously complicated that you have no idea how to navigate it, but instead, the theme that plays over it completely captivates you. It's something that can regularly be overlooked, but main menu themes hint at what you are about to delve into, and we at TA wanted to examine them closer and see what fantastic pieces of music play right when you load up the game. Press START to continue? Not in this case.

Honourable Mentions

Tekken Tag Tournament 2

Menu themes regularly try to be epic, sombre or simply fade into the background. Not here. The Tekken series is known now for its catchy and crazy dance beats, and this one is no different. Although it can be altered to be any track that plays in the game, the default tune of Tekken Tag Tournament 2's main menu, "Dawn of the Beat" is something that may have you struggling to leave the menu for a little while. Will Tekken 7 manage to reach these levels of catchiness? Only time will tell.

Dragon's Dogma

Before it was given the updated version titled Dark Arisen, Dragon's Dogma had one of the most unfitting, peculiar yet highly addictive menu themes around. Being misled into believing that a simple piano tune would play, and then suddenly hearing drums, guitars and fast paced singing was something none of us were expecting. It's one of the few menu themes that doesn't fit the game it's tied to, but while that may be the case, it's certainly something that fans loved. It's a shame that the newer version doesn't feature this song, contrary to how out of place it feels.

Ori and the Blind Forest

Such a simple, yet highly emotional and beautiful tune plays over Ori's main menu. It's a game that thrives on evoking emotion from the player and this theme definitely gives a hint that it wants to do that. I personally have to say that I haven't played the game yet (although it's on my list) and this theme is enough to get me to realise that it's not going to be all sunshine and roses in this platformer. You don't necessarily need a convoluted track with different layers to it, just a fantastic tune that can loop for hours on end without getting stale.

Top Five

5. Mass Effect

The original Mass Effect set the scene for the rest of the trilogy by showing us a vast galaxy teeming with life. Its main theme, "Vigil" perfectly portrays what the game entails and where it's set. A huge world is ready for you to explore and uncover and the game wants you to know that with this piece of music. It feels like great stargazing music and funnily enough, that's what you can spend a lot of your time doing, in more ways than one. Both Mass Effect 2 and 3 arguably lost that sense of wonder and exploration in the galaxy, but nonetheless, this music feels both nostalgic to fans, and gives any newcomers a tiny flavour of what is to come.

4. The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion

Where's Skyrim, I hear you ask? Not here. Oblivion, going off many fans comments, is superior in the soundtrack department. Its main theme as you loaded the game hinted at the many battles and adventures that were to come, and for a game as old as this, it can still pack a huge punch. The Elder Scrolls isn't a series that's known to be subtle. If it's going for an epic and adventurous feeling, it's going to let you know right from the start. This theme is extremely memorable and even years after playing it, I can hum along to the tune as though I've listened to it every day for the past five years.

3. Dark Souls III

The first two Dark Souls games barely had a main menu theme to speak of, and they weren't nearly as memorable as the music that played in boss battles. Dark Souls 3 obviously decided to do the complete opposite and let you know exactly what you're playing; a game that's going to kill you. Although the menu itself is rather uninspired, this track has you staying on it much longer than you normally would. It's surprisingly loud and doesn't hold back, something that the series itself certainly doesn't shy away from, but at the same time it's extremely elegant in a "I want to kill you" sort of way. For the final game in the series, the developers blatantly wanted to go out with a bang, and before you even start your journey, it's happening.

2. Dragon Age: Inquisition

When a piece of music is able to pull off both a feeling of elegance and something that is epic, it's a track that should be listened to in full. This is just that. Dragon Age: Inquisition was a game that brought fans back to the series after a disappointing previous game and right from the get-go, they were in for something memorable. Fantasy games can have a ton of content packed into them, with plenty of creatures and characters scattered throughout, so if a three and a half minute theme is able to cram all of that in through the power of music before even clicking on "New Game", then the composer of the music has well and truly nailed it.

1. Child of Light

You don't necessarily have to have drums, choirs and loud accompaniments to be a piece of absolutely brilliant music. Child of Light took many by surprise as a great game, and the main menu theme was the start of that. Aurora's theme is beautifully composed, and never fails to evoke some sort of emotional response every time it is heard. It can regularly be the slightly quieter and less chaotic pieces that get the most respect, as you can decipher each sound and instrument as it plays. This was another one that constantly had me struggling to leave the menu as I simply couldn't stop listening to it. Choirs and huge orchestras are definitely great and produce fantastic music, but tracks like these cause you to be completely absorbed in them from start to finish.

I hope you've enjoyed listening to all of those tracks as much as I have. Although it takes a backseat over gameplay and visuals more often than not, the music of a game can tell you a lot about it, even the main menu themes. Did any of your favourites make the list?
Marc Hollinshead
Written by Marc Hollinshead
To summarize Marc in two words, it would be "Christian Gamer." You will usually find him getting stuck into story heavy action-adventure games, RPG's and the odd quirky title when he isn't raving about Dark Souls and Mass Effect. Outside the world of gaming, Marc attends and helps out in his church on a regular basis and has a not-so thrilling job in a supermarket.