With a smile and a song
Over the past two decades, the Kingdom Hearts series has wowed its audience with powerfully emotional music fitting for the keyblade wielder’s grand adventures. From the calming wonder of “Dearly Beloved” to the rocking “Rage Awakened,” composer Yoko Shimomura brings a magical sound to each game.
With this list, we’ll discuss the best Kingdom Hearts songs from Sora’s beginnings on Destiny Islands all the way up to his stepping foot in Quadratum. Let us know your favorites in the comments section below as this article is just scratching the surface.
There will be spoilers for the Kingdom Hearts series within this article. You have been warned!
10. The 13th Struggle (Kingdom Hearts 2)
“The 13th Struggle” successfully brings the chaos of an Organization XIII battle and turns it into musical form. The threat of danger signaled by the constant deep strings, the manic melody, and the heavy percussion all make this an epic battle theme that will keep your blood pressure rising until the end of the fight.
9. Edge of Existence (Kingdom Hearts 3)
In the mysterious new world of Scala ad Caelum, this music piece by Yoko Shimomura heightens the drama unfolding in the story of Kingdom Hearts 3. The combination of brass, strings, and percussion all make for an epic track to explore this final level with. In addition, there is a beautiful few seconds of the piano playing that spins off from the main melody, adding to the mystery of this long-forsaken place.
8. Rage Awakened (Kingdom Hearts 2)
Epic is one word to describe “Rage Awakened.” During the boss fight with the Enigmatic Soldier, the stakes are raised and the music elevates with a rocking backdrop. The strings in this piece tell of the soldier’s sad past as the thunderous drumming reflects his might as he strikes you down over and over again.
7. Vector to the Heavens (Kingdom Hearts 3 Re Mind/ Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days)
In Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days, two friends are torn apart by fate, and “Vector to the Heavens” is an emotional piece that also works as a battle theme. Piano forward in 358/2 Days, this song hits you to your core as the stunning Xion’s theme is impacted with drama from the strings and secondary piano backdrop. The central theme of Kingdom Hearts’ “Dearly Beloved” is also woven through it as Xion is deeply connected to Sora and decides to return to him. The Kingdom Hearts 3 Re Mind version takes a wholly different approach with a rocking guitar and deep drum baseline. Both work well within the context of each game.
6. Destati (Kingdom Hearts)
Yoko Shimomura is a master of bringing atmosphere to her music, and “Destati” absolutely nails it. In the deep darkness of End of the World, the chilling vocals of the choir mixed with the dramatic piano all make for a groundbreaking piece. It’s absolutely incredible how the pace picks up as the strings and percussion begin to reveal themselves throughout it. The Kingdom Hearts 3 rendition of this song is also striking.
5. Traverse Town (Kingdom Hearts)
If you want to talk about nostalgia, “Traverse Town” is certainly that. It’s like a warm hug. The jolly melody embraces Sora and the gang as they explore the characteristic town. While it’s not as epic as a song like “Destati,” the song is a wonderful jazzy piece that elevates the world and makes us feel welcome within it. This context also makes sense as Traverse Town is a place many have escaped to, like Pinocchio and Leon (Squall). The charming vibe of Traverse Town’s theme makes it one of the best Kingdom Hearts songs in existence.
4. Lazy Afternoons (Kingdom Hearts 2)
If you want some chill vibes after a long hard day, you can’t go wrong by listening to “Lazy Afternoons.” This is the song in Kingdom Hearts 2 that sets the tone for Roxas’ version of Twilight Town. The beautiful playing of the flute next to the melancholic strumming of the guitar makes this yet another nostalgic-sounding piece. There is a subtle use of the xylophone in the background, calling you back to fonder times. If you want a nice Sunday walk, it’s recommended to play this while strolling through your hometown streets.
3. Scherzo Di Notte (Kingdom Hearts)
When Sora enters Hollow Bastion, it is a time of uncertainty. He loses his keyblade, his friends, and almost his hope. However, he carries on forward with The Beast beside him. “Scherzo Di Notte” carries that brave attitude onward with strong instrumentals and a marching drum beat in the background. The melody is upward and onward, while the brass instruments add wavering one-off melodies that stray away, representing Sora’s struggles. It’s an epic piece that is fitting for a late-game world such as Hollow Bastion.
2. Roxas / The Other Promise (Kingdom Hearts 2)
Roxas’ story throughout the majority of the Kingdom Hearts series is emotional. He is pulled away from his friends, stuck inside Sora’s heart, and holds anger within him. He is the counterbalance to Sora’s upbeat attitude, but Roxas holds much compassion within him too. His theme, otherwise known as “The Other Promise,” shows that perfectly. The flute playing is absolutely tragic as the melody is beautifully charming while the backdrop of the piano is emotionally strained. The playing mid-way through the track in “The Other Promise” version is then intensified, adding to the drama.
“What I try to remember is not to repress your emotions,” Shimomura said in an interview with Hatalabo (translated by KH13). “If you need to cry, cry outrageously [..], especially since music is an expression of emotion.” She also mentioned, “the more expressive you are emotionally the more expressive the music becomes.” You can certainly hear the emotion in this piece by the legendary game composer, and that is why it’s one of the best Kingdom Hearts songs.
1. Dearly Beloved (Kingdom Hearts 2)
For any great JRPG, you need an amazing main menu theme, and the Kingdom Hearts series delivers that in spades. “Dearly Beloved” is an awe-inspiring piece that has chronicled Sora’s journey up to this point. It’s highly adaptable, with each title in the series having an alteration on the piano-led track. Kingdom Hearts 3‘s version sounded momentous as it was the last entry in the Dark Seeker saga, while Kingdom Hearts: Melody of Memory has an eccentric jazzy take on the familiar song.
After much consideration, Kingdom Hearts 2’s version of “Dearly Beloved” is the one that stands out the most. It has a sensational held string section at the top of the number with a stunning harp elevating the introduction. The piano then hits alongside the sweeping strings, stirring the heartstrings. It’s melancholy and has plenty of tones within the piece that revolves around the main piano melody that resembles the adventurous and dramatic spirit of the game. This version of “Dearly Beloved” is simply perfect, and the piece itself has been featured in the ClassicFM Hall of Fame six times, according to KH13.