A-Side: “Top 20 video game Forest themes” (10-1)

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Welcome back to our countdown. Let’s keep exploring the deep dark greenwood and the recurring concept of the Forest theme. If you haven’t already read the first part of our list, counting down from #20 to #11, you can find that post here.

Let’s get lost in the woods!

 

 

#10. “Forest Interlude” – Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy’s Kong-Quest (1995)

Coming in at number ten is the synth-laden trippy track off of DKC2. You’ll see a lot of SNES soundtracks on this list and that’s no mistake. The Super Nintendo was rich with a huge variety of game genres and music, especially Forest themes. Also, it’s my favorite console of all time, so maybe there’s a slight bias. There, I said it. “Forest Interlude” utilizes naturalistic sounds like wood creaking and birds and bugs chirping. It’s slower ambient tune feels you’re like pushing past the branches and deeper into the unknown, a welcome reprieve from this game’s more hectic and energetic songs.

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#9. “Beware the Forest Mushrooms” (Forest Maze) – Super Mario RPG (1996)

Probably the most famous Forest theme off the SNES and one of the most memorable tracks off of an OST already filled with many great songs, “Forest Maze” has been parodied and lyricized to no end on Youtube. This original rendition of the song sounds very “high middle ages” and has a sense of regality about it. Though it uses a quicker tempo than some other songs on this list, there is still the accompanying sense of following Mario through the 16-bit trees and trying not to get lost. It’s the soundtrack to a mushroom hunt. Just don’t eat the purple ones.

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#8. “Stirring the Forest” (Evil Forest) – Final Fantasy IX (2000)

The first Final Fantasy track scores fairly high on our list, but you expected that, didn’t you? Final Fantasy has always been renown for its soundtracks arranged under the legendary composer, Nobuo Uematsu. His absence from the series really derailed the music of the franchise, but in FFIX at least, his musical magic still reigned. The moment that finds Zidane and co. stranded in the dark woodland of the aptly named Evil Forest triggers this track to play, emphasizing the sensation of peril and what it’s like to be lost in the night. Mystery is heavily laden in this track and the forboding hides just beneath it. Appropriate, just before they’re ambushed by strange, plant-like monsters.

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#7. “Macalania Forest” – Final Fantasy X (2001)

Pure beauty and awe comes in at number seven with another Final Fantasy track. After the horror of the Thunder Plains, FFX’s Macalania Forest is a restful and wonderful realm of glass pools and crystal trees with floating roads of glistening diamond climbing up into the shimmering canopy. This Forest theme represents that visual perfectly with its pervading chimes and piano melodies, sounding as if it is being played on crystal itself. It’s a perfectly stress-free sigh of relief in the pilgrimage of the summoner.

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#6. “Caution” (Jungle) – Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater (2004)

Okay so most of this game takes place in a forest but MGS3’s take on the Forest theme is a viable choice, rendering the musical concept into pure dread and the tension of hiding in grass and behind trees as armed soldiers hunt for you in the thick of bush. Of course, given the series it belongs to, this variation of the “Caution” theme sounds distinctly militaristic and modern compared to some other titles on our list, thanks to its use of muted pickings on an electric guitar. But the woodwind is still there to keep us company and remind us that this is indeed a Forest theme, just a rendition that less inspires wonder and more stresses danger.

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#5. “The Lost Woods” – The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (1998)

Making it all the way to number five, Ocarina of Time is the only game to appear twice on this countdown. Of course it is. This might be the most beloved game in the franchise and it begins in the forest and contains many forested areas. Green is the color of the Hero of Time! “The Lost Woods” is one of the great, iconic tracks off the N64. A kind of dance tune with tambourine and flute, its 3/4 timing signature helps to keep the bouncing melody from dragging, calling Link deeper and deeper into the misty, firefly-lit forest. Koji Kondo is a genius at developing Nintendo’s iconic music and you can’t argue with “The Lost Woods” being as high as it is on our list, indeed it is the highest scoring non-RPG track here. The Legend of Zelda is a franchise that has always been… “linked” to the woods. Heh.

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#4. “Garden of God” – Chrono Cross (1999)

Dispensing with all of the organic, naturalistic noises of other tracks and any sense of real danger, “Garden of God” is majestic. True, this track doesn’t play only in forests, as there are several dragons in Chrono Cross that live in other natural domains, but the song does have the word “garden” in it and it does indeed play in forests. The peaceful harp and the sighing of the choir give this song the sound of its namesake, an air of divinity and the unknown, something ineffable, sacred, and incomprehensibly spiritual. It is the concept C.S. Lewis discussed in The Problem of Pain (ctrl+ F the word), this concept of “Numinous“, the fear of the holy, in audio form. It’s an incredibly selective variation on the Forest theme. Chrono Cross may have suffered from several failings in gameplay and such, but it had one of the best soundtracks of the PlayStation era. Believe me, it was a really close toss up between this track and “Forest of Cutting Shadows“.

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#3. “Phantom Forest” – Final Fantasy VI (1994)

The mysterious forest resounds with the haunting cries of phantoms in this track off of one of the greatest RPG’s of all time. This track emphasizes pure mystery. Wispy notes like laughter fill the dark air just before you hear the whistle and the engine of the Ghost Train. A high, lone flute plays like the mourning of a man who has lost his family in some tragedy, echoing the melodies that play in the background. FFVI had a massive, complicated soundtrack and its Forest theme of sadness and loss, wonder and wandering, represents the essence of what we’re trying to describe with this musical motif.

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#2. “Chasing the Black-Caped Man” – Final Fantasy VII (1997)

The number two spot is occupied by what is undoubtedly an RPG that has achieved the greatest fame and the largest following. Final Fantasy VII was the king of the PlayStation One era, without a doubt, and it came not only with a cast of memorable characters, a story that spanned three discs, an awesome villain, a host of sidequests, and a fully realized fictional world but it also featured one of the greatest soundtracks ever. Cloud’s search for truth, meaning and Sephiroth leads him and his team through a maze of wondrous environments. “Chasing the Black-Caped Man”, with its heavy bell tolls, underlines everything that’s great about the Forest theme concept and is a trip back down memory lane for many of us.

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#1. “Secret of the Forest” – Chrono Trigger (1995)

Square dominates the final selections of our countdown which ends with one of the most beloved RPG’s of all time, whether you’ve played it or not. Chrono Trigger is a unique and beautiful role-playing, time-traveling experience, but we’re not here to talk about its gorgeous SNES graphics, its moving subplots or its wealth of narrative. We’re here because of Yasunori Mitsuda’s vast and variable soundtrack, one of the best for any game you can find. Mitsuda created a tapestry of musical themes to represent an array of settings, time periods, moods and emotions whether you look at songs featured in the middle ages or in the kingdom of Zeal. But “Secret of the Forest” is a title that really says it all and perfectly encapsulates everything about the recurring concept of the Forest theme. It’s mysterious, elusive, meandering, placid, reflective, contemplative, wild, calming and deep. In short, it’s everything a Forest song should be. It’s everything that mankind has felt when confronted with the beautiful indifference of nature’s forests. In my opinion, it’s the best example you can find of the Forest theme.

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As a bonus track for our number one winner, here’s a sweet jazz rendition of “Secret of the Forest” from the album The Brink of Time!

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ragemage   Deez Honorable Mentions!
“Forest of Cutting Shadows” – Chrono Cross (1999)
“Navel of the World” – Chrono Cross (1999)
“Forest’s Requiem” – Golden Sun (2001)
“Forest Frenzy” – Donkey Kong Country (1994)
“Lost woods” – The Legend of Zelda: a Link to the Past (1991)
“Flow” – FEZ (2012)
“Forest Dwellers” – Super Mario Galaxy 2 (2010)
“Black Forest” – Suikoden (1995)
“Owl Forest” – Dark Cloud (2000)
“Lost Woods” – Dragon’s Crown (2013)
“Wood Man” – Mega Man II (1988)
“The Jungle of Jyuraika” – Rogue Galaxy (2005)
“Dark Jungle” – Jurassic Park, part 2: The Chaos Continues (1994)
[suggested by Hatm0nster]
“Sleepywood” – MapleStory
“Passing Through the Forest” – Threads of Fate

 

 

Disagree? Think there was a particular theme that doesn’t deserve an unfair coldshoulder? Let me know in a comment below! Thanks for reading!

The Well-Red Mage & The Black Humor Mage rmage2 avatar30177_36

 

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27 thoughts on “A-Side: “Top 20 video game Forest themes” (10-1)

    • #1? I can’t conscience it being higher than those Square titles. And a lot of the other ones that score higher approach the aesthetic from a unique angle. Plus Chrono Trigger’s track is penultimate and exemplary. Interlude is a great song but my bias is showing. Haha! Thanks for your comment!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Eh, I find David Wise always wins. DKC music > all other video game music. I enjoy Square (especially Chrono Trigger over FF), but David Wise always wins.
        Beware the Forest Mushrooms should also be a tad higher. Definitely a better “stuck in a forest” theme than OoT’s Lost Woods, if you ask me. 😛

        Liked by 1 person

        • I haven’t heard of David Wise before, but I can’t argue against DKC music. And here I thought I’d be crucified for not putting Lost Woods higher! Just kidding. Personally Beware the Forest Mushrooms loops too quickly and sounds somewhat tedious for it.

          Liked by 1 person

          • David Wise is the primary composer of the DKC series, having done most of the music for the first game, and composed the entire DKC2 soundtrack (which I still consider to be the greatest video game soundtrack ever) himself. He only did a couple tracks for the third game for who knows what reason, but redid the score for the GBA version. He returned to the series with DKC: Tropical Freeze (another favorite and possibly the most underrated gaming soundtrack ever), and it’s heavenly.

            That’s why Beware the Forest Mushrooms is perfect for what it does though, plus it’s just catchier than Lost Woods. 😛 I don’t know, speaking as a Nintendo fan I’ve just always found Ocarina of Time to be kind of overrated, including the soundtrack. It’s great, but I can think of far better games/soundtracks.

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            • Has David Wise done anything else? You’re the first person I’ve met to label DKC2’s OST as the greatest video game soundtrack ever. It is undoubtedly a tremendous soundtrack.
              “Catchier” might be purely subjective. I think Lost Woods is catchier. I grew up in a forest and played the game on a generator on afternoons, so I suppose that helped to enmesh the imagery and mood I’ve always associated with Lost Woods. It’s not my favorite game in the Zelda franchise though, and I can agree with you that it is somewhat overrated. (Link’s Awakening is my favorite, to be precise)

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              • David Wise also composed the music for past Rare games like Battletoads and Diddy Kong Racing, among a number of others. He strangely didn’t do much video game music aside from the aforementioned GBA version of DKC3 during the 2000s, but he returned with Tropical Freeze and is currently co-composing Yooka-Laylee with Grant Kirkhope.

                I definitely enjoy Ocarina of Time’s soundtrack, but feel Zelda has had better. And I like Mario RPG and its soundtrack more than any Zelda. 😛

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                • Coolness! I’m going to try to pace myself on music posts and limit my lists to once a month, but it’d be awesome to coincide our respective posts at or around the same time. It’d be cool to see a broader selection like that.

                  Liked by 1 person

                • I may just do a simple top 10. I’ve found I needlessly stress about numbering these lists when they get to big, so I prefer to just do top fives and top tens, and name a couple of runners-up. I will, however, make an exception when I eventually do my list of favorite video games (and maybe when I do favorite live-action and animated films). So it will probably be a top 10 for me. Definitely going to be a tough one to figure out, Mega Man alone has many memorable ones. I have a feeling my list will favor platformers.

                  I will also make my own list of forest themes soon, if you don’t mind (I can link to yours), and one for ice themes just makes too much sense (I already know number one there).

                  I’ll get cracking at it. Also, I will add a link to your site in my “Links” page, if you don’t mind.

                  Liked by 1 person

                • Hey hey hey so I made an executive decision today. I’m going to be splitting my top twenty into two separate series: Ocean themes first and then later on for the summer Beach themes. Sorry if that throws a wrench in things but of course you’re free to do whatevet you like with your own list. I just found too much of a musical distinction between the ocean and beach themes.

                  Liked by 1 person

                • That actually works out just fine. I was unsure how well Treasure Trove Cove from Banjo-Kazooie qualified, but now I know where to place it. However, I will say I will probably do my oceans/underwater themes first, and do my list of beach themes at a later time.

                  Liked by 1 person

  1. Great list! Forest music tends to be some of my favorite tunes in video games. All of these songs capture the calmness and mysteriousness of the forest setting. You definitely put it eloquently in your comment what kinds of feelings they convey. To me, they also tend to sound more medieval which fits quite a few of the settings on this list. One of my favorites is the Lost Woods from The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, so I’m glad that it at least got an honorable mention.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hey thanks for the comment! Yeah, forest themes are the best, very relaxing. They do seem to be sort of renaissance-ish, celtic-ish. Glad you’re happy with the honorable mention! Super Mario World’s “Forest of Illusion” is what beat out TLOZ: ALTTP’s “Lost Woods”. Both loop pretty quickly so I felt like I couldn’t have both on the list.

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  2. It’s interesting how even though all of these themes are so different, yet still all fit the concept of a forest. Maybe it’s just me, but all of these songs appeared to possess feelings of mystery or whimsy, or even both. The Legend of Zelda forest themes do this particularly well; all of them carrying elements of both while still sounding very different from one another. Forest Temple is a prime example of this, I think.

    Also, here’s another SNES forest theme you might not have heard before. It’s from a game called “Jurassic Park – Part 2: The Chaos Continues”. It’s not the greatest SNES game out there, but man does it have some good music! This theme titled “Dark Jungle” is probably the best of the lot. It carries a sense of mystery and wonder while also having a quick and nervous tempo; a great compliment to levels where raptors can show up an attack you at any time. I highly recommend giving it a listen!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, that’s what I tried to explain in this article. It is a mystifying thing that musical tracks can be so tonally diverse (apprehensive, rustic, pensive, frightening, care free, wondrous, mysterious) and yet they’re all reminiscent of a very specific and profound reaction to nature that we can all seem to relate with. This is what we think a forest is supposed to sound like.

      Thanks for sharing the Jurassic Park track! I remember the game but not its songs. I’ll add it to “honorable mentions” and give you credit for suggesting it. I’m encouraged by the response these posts have gotten so maybe soon I’ll do another countdown of songs that evoke different topography!

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