Some time ago, before bbain went Super Saiyan, there was a jukebox. And in this jukebox, there was music. Great music. Music from a wide range of different themes. Everything from music inspired by westerns to the music that plays during a final boss fight could be found in this jukebox. All from video games, and all collected here on the Destructoid Cblogs. But now the artist formerly known as bbain has bigger and better things to do, and the jukebox stands silent. It waits patiently, longing for the day when it can once again assault your ears with sweetness.
I say, no more. The show must go on, the jukebox must play. And I’m just the
man marsupial absence of light to do it. So let me get my quarters, and let’s see what this baby’s got.
Credit where it is due
It may seem like a strange choice, but I’m going to start my take on bbain’s series at the very end. I want to take a look at what is usually the most underrated piece of music of a game. Namely, the Credits theme.
I’ve mentioned before how the Credits theme is actually the sexiest piece of music out of the entire game. But be honest with me, how often have you taken note of the credits music? I'm willing to bet it's not going to be a lot. I can’t blame you either. We lead busy lives, and we play video games for fun. Watching a list of names scroll by usually isn’t fun, so we either zone out, go to the bathroom, or skip the whole thing altogether. And most games let you; at least from the second playthrough onwards very few games make you sit through the entire thing, or they take careful note to distract you in all sorts of ways. But take it from your pal Shade, you're missing out.
Contrary to popular belief, video game credits can be worthwhile. In particular, the music tends to be fantastic. It's easy to see why: the story is resolved, there are no hardships left. The bad guy is dead, and peace returns. All that’s left is celebration. And that’s exactly what the credits theme tends to convey. It's the composer putting in their best efforts to give you a round of applause through music. It's your victory lap, and it should make you feel happy that you managed to beat what hopefully was a great game. In short, there’s no reason not to love the Credits Theme. But because credits are so often skipped or forgotten, the Credits Theme never quite gets the love it deserves.
Below, I'm going to take the first steps to remedy that injustice. Here are some of my favorite Credits Themes in video games.
"End" - Ace Attorney: Dual Destinies
I chose to start with this one, because if perfectly embodies what I'm talking about here. Just listen to that saxophone, this is like the chillest music ever. You've captured all the murderers, so now it's time to sit back and relax. Take special note of the part from 4:00 and 4:30 onwards, where the already chill song becomes even chiller.
Also compare Ghost Trick (beware, spoilers), which captures much the same feel. And for more saxophone goodness, don't forget to check out Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze!
"ENDING - To Each Future" - Pokémon Black & White
In contrast to Ace Attorney above which went with a chill theme to bid you farewell, the composer for these Pokémon credits went the 'epic' route. Rather than letting you sit back and relax, what this music seems to be saying is "My god, you're so awesome for beating Ghetsis!"
If I had to choose a favorite out of all Credits themes, chances are this would be it. This was also the first Credits theme that really jumped out at me as being amazing, and it was the one that got me to pay more attention to these songs. Fortunately, it seems like I'm not alone. Everywhere I go people online seem to agree that the Credits theme of Pokémon Black & White is something else. And it's not just us: even Nintendo recognizes how great this theme is, as they incorporated it in N’s Castle Medley in the new Smash Bros. When your Credits Theme makes it into Smash Bros., you know you’ve won at composing.
"Want you gone" - Portal 2
Whaaaat? No "Still Alive"?
Nope, no Still Alive. Don't get me wrong, that's a good song too. I just think it has been done to death by now. Don't even try to deny it. At the other end of the spectrum though, it seems like "Want you gone" never quite got the recognition it deserves. There's a lot to this song, actually. On the one hand the melody is about as happy as you would expect from a credits song. On the other hand, the lyrics here very dark. I also find it interesting how Valve decided to spell out Glados' origin story in a song of all things. It works really well for me at least. And as always, the Ellen McClain/Jonathan Coulton team nails it.
"Popular Potpourri" - VVVVVV
We've had Ace Attorney with chill, Pokémon with cool, Portal with...something, and now we have VVVVVV with yet another different direction. This one is just all celebration. This is some of the happiest music I've ever heard. It makes you want to dance like a moron and embarrass yourself without a care in the world. Party hard, my 8-bit friends.
In the same vein, here is the massively underrated Wario Land: Shake It!
"Credits" - Metroid Prime
"Credits" - Metroid Prime 2: Echoes
"Credits" - Metroid Prime 3: Corruption
Sure, not the most original titles there on Retro Studio's part. This is actually a common theme for many Credits themes; it's usually a variation of "Ending", "Credits" or sometimes "Staff Roll". Perhaps that's part of the reason they're so overlooked?
At any rate, there's just something about Metroid Prime's credits. On the one hand they're as celebratory as one would hope, but there's something ominous beneath the surface too. Something that tells you the story isn't quite over yet, and many hardships still lie ahead. Corruption's theme is probably the one with the best sense of closure, which is only fitting considering that's where the Prime series finally ended.
Metroid Prime 1's Credits theme also takes the honor of being the first one to make the jump into Smash Bros, even before Pokémon.
If you're looking for something a bit like these Metroid Prime songs, try Shin Megami Tensei IV.
And that’s it! I hope I gave all of you a new appreciation for the all-too-common staff roll. As we have seen, there are many ways to make Credits themes memorable. Be it chill, happy, cool, mysterious or just plain weird, there's a lot of good stuff out there accompanying the names of our favorite dev peoples. So next time, hold off on hitting that skip button for a while.
I’d say we’re done here. Although not really, because there are many, many, more that I didn't have room for. Who could forget Final Fantasy VI, Super Mario World, Metal Gear Solid, Wind Waker, and so many others? And surely there are even more I haven't even heard yet. So sound of in the comments, which credits themes bring the most...credit..to their composers? Which are best of the best?
I'd love to hear it. But for now:
Show’s over folks, roll credits.
And not just any credits. Let’s roll the BEST credits:
"End Credits Theme" - God Hand