3. Final Fantasy IX
Many may have ignored this game because of its childish appearance and regression to stock fantasy, but let it be known those people are missing out on a superbly rich soundtrack. From the hard crunching battle tunes to whacked-out noisemakers "Qu's Garden" and "Quina's Theme," this game delivers an auditory overload. The whole thing isn't spotless, but many tracks nail the game's pre-technology mindset - lots of trumpets, pianos and classical sounds, not so much techno stuff. That said, "Black Mage Village" and "Ukulele de Chocobo" should get you bouncing... just in time for "Freya's Theme" to make you want to slit your wrists. FFIX 's main theme, "Melodies of Life," is one of the few lyric-based tunes from a game we actually dig, appearing throughout the game in various forms. Overall, an excellent collection of moving pieces with a few "meh" bits of music to make you appreciate the rest even more.
Above: FFIV's opening tune "Red Wings" instills a sense of impending peril, while "Freya's Theme" from FFIX goes straight for the heartstrings
2. Final Fantasy IV
Letting FFIV miss the top spot was like cutting off one of our arms, but its meager size keeps it from taking the trophy. Even with a small set list, the fourth game soars near the top by delivering a sizzling set of tracks that'll stay with you long after the credits roll. Like decades. The instant you turn the game on you're treated to the best version of the immortal "Prelude" theme, then straight into "Red Wings," a call-to-arms fanfare that bookends the entire game. Pretty much any song here outranks its correlating music track in another Final Fantasy game - FFIV 's overworld, airship and battle music are bar-none the best versions of each, and the boss music ranks as one of the greatest tunes in all of gaming (dig that bass!) For more on this game's greatness, check the unapproachable genius of "The Big Whale," "Into the Darkness" and "Within the Giant." Sheer brilliance.