The Legend of Zelda series takes us on a wild ride no matter what game we’re playing. Personally, the music is what holds up the personality of each game, really driving home the emotions I feel while watching a cutscene or battling a boss. This is all thanks to one man, who happens to be my favorite composer of all time: Koji Kondo.
Kondo-san has been composing music for Nintendo for over 30 years. In fact, this man is the genius behind that catchy tune from Super Mario Bros. You know the one! Of course, he also composed the main theme for The Legend of Zelda, which happens to be one of my favorite songs in video games. Koji Kondo has had his hands in the music for every single Legend of Zelda game, whether it be straight up composing, supervising, or advising. Maybe that’s why all of the Zelda music is so flippin’ good! Here are some of my absolute favorites that you should, at the very least, give a listen to. Be warned, I’m gonna be using a lot of musical terms in here because I’m a nerd.
Gerudo Valley – The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (Koji Kondo)
I feel weird starting with my favorite Zelda tune of all time, but I can’t help but be excited about it! Gerudo Valley uses a lot of Latin instruments giving it that desert-y feel, which is appropriate for the location this song plays in. I think the most genius thing that Koji Kondo does in his music is that every musical phrase leads into another. It never really gets a “finale,” per se, meaning you could listen to the song over and over and never get that gratuitous ending… which, in the end, makes your brain want to keep listening. It’ll be a trend in most of these songs.
The Dark World – The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past – (Koji Kondo)
The Dark World is meant to play in, well, the Dark World, which is an exact parallel to the main overworld (Hyrule) in A Link to the Past. It still has that triumphant-sounding march as the main overworld theme, using the trumpet and snare drum to lead the way for the movement, but Kondo made sure to keep the dark undertone in the melody. The muted brass in this song are really soothing when I’m trying to focus on a task, and the up beat keeps me chuggin’ along, which is why I included it on this list.
Dragon Roost Island – The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker – (Koji Kondo, Toru Minegishi, Kenta Nagata, Hajime Wakai)
Oops, more Latin instruments! I think what draws me to this song over all of the other songs in Wind Waker is the fact that it’s a 3/4 time signature, but the song sounds like a really fast 6/8 time signature, and if you know my musical tastes, I’m a sucker for triple beats. Plus, the pan flute sounds amazing. In fact, most of the Zelda songs with pan flutes are amazing. But I digress, Dragon Roost Island in particular gets my toe tapping, so you should listen to it. Also, castanets are the best percussion instrument (along side the claves).
Midna’s Lament – The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess – (Toru Minegishi, Asuka Ota, Koji Kondo)
Okay, so Twilight Princess is my favorite Zelda game of all time. Midna is my favorite Zelda character of all time. Piano is my favorite instrument of all time. Of course I’m going to include Midna’s Lament on this list. What I think makes this song so genius is that the three main notes of Midna’s theme are the exact same three notes of Zelda’s Lullaby, but played backwards in a minor key. Spoiler alert: Midna is the Twilight Princess, so the fact that that her theme mirrors the Princess of Hyrule’s theme is iconic. Kondo and friends, you’ve done it again! If you’re super into classical piano music, this song should be right up your alley.
Ballad of the Goddess – The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword – (Hajime Wakai, Takeshi Hama)
And finally, while this song isn’t TECHNICALLY composed by Koji Kondo (but it actually kind of is?) Ballad of the Goddess from Skyward Sword always struck me as one of the most powerful-sounding orchestrations in Nintendo’s discography. This song gave me the chills– especially when the first Skyward Sword trailer dropped. But you wanna know why it’s so good? You thought Midna’s Lament was crazy? Well this song is literally the entirety of Zelda’s Lullaby played backwards and re-orchestrated. Take a listen! That’s what I meant by saying this song was kind of composed by Koji Kondo! Who knew that Zelda’s Lullaby was so good that it sounds amazing played in both directions?