I have read a lot of… mixed opinions on Breath of the Wild‘s soundtrack from Zelda fans. This is mainly due to the minimalist themes that play while you explore the world, a style far removed from the thrilling, marching themes of the past. It’s still a little early to say if it’s my favorite soundtrack from a Zelda, but Breath of the Wild doubtlessly has one of the greatest soundtracks ever composed in a series with consistently fantastic music.
Surprisingly, Nintendo brought on the talent of Manaka Kataoka, the composer responsible for one of Nintendo’s best ever soundtracks, that of Animal Crossing: New Leaf. It’s easy to see the link between the quiet, beautiful soundtrack of New Leaf and the new Zelda. In any case, she’s a fresh face, and it’s nice to see Nintendo tap into new musical genius that not only matches the old songs from The Wind Waker or OcariThisna of Time, but at times even surpasses it.
Here are 15 tracks from Breath of the Wild that I love, in no particular order.
1. Horseback (Night)
The dancing piano notes that play while exploring the desolate overworld of Hyrule ring and pop at just the right moments. The best example of this is the theme that plays while riding a horse at night. It starts with chirping piano notes, played seemingly at random, but the bass notes play an oddly familiar progression. Then, all of a sudden, a lonely violin breaks out into the classic Zelda overworld theme from the original NES game.
It only lasts for a few seconds; a fleeting moment. Like Hyrule, this version of the theme is quiet, desolate and lonely, and it fits the mood of this game perfectly.
2. Stone Talus Theme
Zelda has a history of fantastic battle music, and Breath of the Wild is no exception. The theme for the overworld Stone Talus bosses is one of the best. It’s almost playful, with percussive hammer strikes and deep horns calling to mind the goofy, lumbering stone beasts, but at the same time, it still keeps a looming aura of danger.
3. Revali’s Theme
I’ll come right out and say that Breath of the Wild has the greatest character themes out of any Zelda game. A lot of them will be in this list, and they absolutely are some of the best pieces to ever come out of Nintendo. A fantastic example is the theme of Revali, the Rito champion. It begins with a simple melody backed by a guitar, but explodes in its second half. It’s such an emotional and beautiful theme, backing a character that is cocky and abrasive, but good at heart.
4. Hyrule Castle
Breath of the Wild doesn’t have a plethora of brooding, epic location music, but when it does it, it does it ridiculously well. Case in point, the theme of the dangerous Hyrule Castle. Infiltrating the beast-ridden castle for the first time is one of the most epic experiences you can have, and a lot of that is due to the epic music that recalls back the classic castle theme from A Link to the Past.
5. Kass’s Theme
Kass is one of the characters you see most often while traveling in Breath of the Wild. Being a traveling bard, he is also visiting obscure locations in Hyrule, trying to decipher the meaning of the songs passed down by his late teacher. His theme is a simple melody played on Kass’s instrument of choice, the accordion. It may be simple, but it is also one of the most recognizable and catchy themes in the game.
6. Hateno Village
Hateno Village is one of the largest settlements in Hyrule, and the peaceful music reflects its status as one of the few locations untouched by the catastrophic calamity that struck Hyrule. Still, there is a kind of solace to the theme, as the town itself is isolated from the rest of Hyrule, tucked away in the remove Necluda province.
7. Lost Woods
In past games, the music for the Lost Woods tended to be playful and melodic. This led to some of the most memorable themes in Zelda, particularly in both Ocarina of Time and in A Link to the Past. However, none of those themes have done what this theme does. Breath of the Wild‘s Lost Woods music makes me feel lost. Like, hopelessly lost, unsure if you’ll ever escape the magical forest. This theme lends an aura of mystery that make the Lost Woods one of the most memorable locations in this game.
8. Molduga Theme
Breath of the Wild doesn’t have a shortage of bad ass battle themes, but one of the best is undoubtedly that of the giant beasts of Gerudo Desert, the Molduga. The pounding cello and drums are just intense, and easily make this one of the best battle themes int he entire series. Sorry Molgera Theme, move over.
The Nighttime Horseback theme might have been my favorite rendition of the main Zelda theme ever, if not for this gorgeous, melancholic rendition that appears at the end of the game. This song is a lot of things, it is quiet, mournful, triumphant, sad, happy… Awe inspiring. It’s an insane rush of emotions packed into two short minutes.
10. Daruk’s Theme
If you’ve followed the pre-release information about the game, you will surely recognize (part of) this theme. It was most notably used in the “Life in the Ruins” trailer that came out last year. This song has two very distinct halves, beginning with loud orchestral swells that quickly give way into a quieter piano melody. The most incredible part is the end, where it builds and builds and builds, and simply trails off without resolving the musical phrase. It’s absolutely breathtaking.
11. Breath of the Wild – Main Theme
Let’s not forget the defining piece of music in this game, its main theme. Like any good main theme, this music reappears and is referenced often in-game, but the original version is by far the best. It is uncharacteristic of most Zelda main themes in that it has many phases and sections that are distinct from one another, but all sum up to one of the best main themes in all of the games.
12. Rito Village
One of the most emotional moments for me in this game was the first time I walked into Rito Village. I didn’t expect the music to be a gorgeous rendition of the classic Dragon Roost Island theme, so when I first heard this, I was absolutely floored. I was mostly shocked at how good this is. This is so much better than the original, and the original was already one of the most recognizable songs in all of Zelda.
13. Mipha’s Theme
Mipha is one of the more impactful characters in the game due to her storyline, but she also has gorgeous music to boot. It’s a simple, mournful piano melody, recalling the quiet and shy Mipha. I don’t want to give away much more here, but if you’ve played this part of the story, you know that this particular theme is tied to (and perfectly complements) a quite emotional moment.
14. Tarrey Town
Tarrey Town is a location in the remote Akkala province, and it is unique in that you help build this new town through a long side quest. The theme evolves as the town itself grows, but the blissful and peppy theme remains constant through all of the versions. The music makes Tarrey Town of the best places to simply hang out in Hyrule.
15. Divine Beast Vah Rudania
Zelda is known for wonderfully ambient dungeon music, and Breath of the Wild easily matches some of the best the series has to offer. Look no further than the mystical theme of one of the game’s dungeons, the Divine Beast Vah Rudania. It has a mystical vibe, but partway through, it evolves into a melodic swell that make it much more than a simple mood-setting piece.