One of the most astounding and iconic features of the Legend of Zelda franchise is the music. Overworld themes, town themes, dungeon themes, warp songs...all of these have contributed to a fantastical musical experience barely touched by other games. Odds are even if you're not a Zelda fan you've heard some of these songs in one context or another.
To compile a "true" top 15 best / most iconic list would be next to impossible - there are literally hundreds of songs in the Zelda series. But these fifteen are the ones that myself, fellow fans, and friends have come up after some heated debates and nostalgia trips.
Popularity, composition, and legacy were all considered when making this final list. Of course, feel free to debate and share your favorite Zelda songs in the comments. The more the merrier!
1. Zelda's Lullaby
Since its first appearance in the game A Link to the Past, Zelda's Lullaby has become perhaps the most iconic song of the entire The Legend of Zelda franchise. The core three notes of the song represent everything there is about the series: a rush of adventure, nostalgia, and hopeful charms that, yes, everything will be okay again in the end. Is this song bigger than the main theme when it comes to memory? Perhaps, perhaps not. But over the years Zelda's Lullaby has infused itself into video gaming culture in ways that the Main Theme has not been able to. Zelda's Lullaby *is* The Legend of Zelda.
2. Fairy's Fountain
The Fairy's Fountain theme has two main functions: the first being the obvious theme to the various fairy fountains found throughout the games, the other being the background music to file select screens since the coming of A Link to the Past. Since it is one of the first songs that you hear playing every time you start up most of the games, Fairy's Fountain has become an unmistakable staple in the Zelda series. It's hard to imagine starting a Zelda adventure without this ethereal song tinkling in your ears.
3. The Legend of Zelda Theme
From the earliest incarnation of The Legend of Zelda, the main theme has struck an adventurous chord in many gamers' hearts. Composed by creator Shigeru Miyamoto himself in response to two children rummaging through garbage to find a stone to another world, The Legend of Zelda Theme employs a march and brass in its original incarnation to spur the adventurer on his heroic quest. In the original game it was the overworld theme, and has since infused itself into various other overworld themes, usually as an elaborate orchestration. But it's the very original 2D versions that spark the call to adventure.
4. Lost Woods / Saria's Song
Although the Lost Woods themselves predate this song, and different music was used in the A Link to the Past version, Saria's Song has now become synonymous with everything Lost Woods. This super infectious tune is probably the catchiest of any Zelda song - one listen to the video to the right and you're guaranteed to have it stuck in your head for the rest of the day. Saria's Song is also a song that best encapsulates exactly what it represents: lighthearted, dancey, and if you play it enough times over-and-over you will probably turn into a Skull Kid to protect your own psyche.
5. Midna's Desperate Hour
Perhaps the most celebrated piece of music to come from Twilight Princess, Midna's Desperate Hour (known as Midna's Lament in Super Smash Bros. Brawl) is a somber piano and strings piece that plays spoilerwhen Midna is gravely injured and you must transport her to Zelda at Hyrule Castlespoiler. Since its appearance in this part of the game, fans have lauded its atmosphere and depiction of urgency. While many fans cannot seem to agree on the merits of Twilight Princess as a whole, most can agree that Midna's Desperate Hour is a classic piece in the Zelda songbook.
6. Gerudo Valley
When first playing through Ocarina of Time, players were treated to this tune the moment they stepped into the eponymous Gerudo Valley. As one of the first (and only?) compositions to include guitar and horns, Gerudo Valley offered something quite unique and interesting when compared to the usual legendary piano and strings fanfare. It's a pretty complex tune with multiple guitar and bass layers with horns stacked on top - there isn't really any "one" part to listen to in this song like there are for many of its Ocarina of Time counterparts; instead, it's an entire whole made up of a bunch of really great little pieces. It also just happens to be my favorite piece of music from Zelda's entire catalog.
Backwards begins at 1:05
7. Ballad of the Goddess
As the official song of Skyward Sword, Ballad of the Goddess made quite a splash with fans when it first debuted in the game's trailer. Many were swept away by the majestic melody and the blast of nostalgia that it offered...although many fans weren't quite so sure why it was so nostalgic. As it turns out, this song is really ingenious. The main composition is actually Zelda's Lullaby if played backwards.
SPOILER: since it is revealed in the end of the game that Zelda is the mortal reincarnation of the Goddess Hylia (for whom the original Ballad theme exists), it makes sense that they would use a backwards rendition of Zelda's Lullaby in the theme. Or is it Zelda's Lullaby that is a backwards version of Ballad of the Goddess? Regardless, well played Nintendo. Just for this great nod alone this song has already secured itself a high spot on this list.
8. Great Sea Theme
The Wind Waker offered a new overworld theme to accompany your romp in a tiny boat across the big Great Sea. For many fans coming from the previous incarnations of Ocarina of Time and Majora's Mask, there was still a shock in all the new gameplay and style elements that The Wind Waker had to offer: but from the moment you first cast off across the Great Sea, this song is with you until the very end.
9. Song of Healing
This melancholic song from Majora's Mask is a symbol of just how dark that game can really get. Link plays this song on his ocarina in order to heal distressed souls he meets along the way, most of them turning into the transformation masks he needs in order to save the world of Termina. Since then this song has become synonymous with Majora's Mask (even after its appearance in two other games down the line) Fun Fact: it's technically Saria's Song backwards, or at least the three core notes are in reverse. Not too surprising considering Link discovers Termina after climbing into the depths of the Lost Woods.
10. Hyrule Field
What would any list including Ocarina of Time songs be without the whimsically adventurous melody of Hyrule Field? (Hint: it wouldn't be a very good one.) While this song may not have had many lasting cultural affects like some of the songs higher up on the list, it's still super nostalgic of the very first time Link stepped out of Kokiri Forest and discovered a whole world outside of his tiny village. This composition also contains some samples of the series theme.
11. Dark World Theme
This classic piece from A Link to the Past has filled the hearts of fans with pride and nostalgia since its debut in the early 90s. The first time Link is blasted to the Dark World (or, Ganon's corrupted Sacred Realm) this song immediately fills the ear with that sense of heroic urgency. Too bad the first time Link pops up in the Dark World he's a little bunny rabbit. Oh well, at least he's got great music to back him up!
12. Song of Time / Temple of Time
Fans of Ocarina of Time and Majora's Mask (and even Twilight Princess) will know this melody well: three grave notes that hold the power of all Time inside them. In Ocarina of Time it is one of the keys to accessing the Sacred Realm, and in Majora's Mask its power allows Link to travel back in time three days over and over again in order to save Termina. While the total powers of this mysterious song have yet to be fully explored in the series, it is still without a doubt one of the most "powerful" songs in Zelda history. The nicest touch with the composition itself is how the Temple of Time background music incorporates a sound stylized after Gregorian chants, promoting an even more serious air to an already serious song.
13. Inside Ganon's Castle
Ah, yes. Inside Ganon's Castle from Ocarina of Time. That song that gears Link up for the final battle against Ganondorf at the top of his tower. In the game itself it's revealed that it's Ganondorf playing the organ to this song - if that doesn't spell "classic Zelda song" then I don't know what will.
14. Ballad of the Wind Fish
"The" song of Link's Awakening, The Ballad of the Wind Fish is not only the song of awakening, but also the song of ethics and morality of the Zelda series. When played it not only has the ability to awaken sleeping people and beings, but to also awaken the Wind Fish - but when he's finally awakened, the entire island that Link has come to know and love will disappear. Thus the choice between living in a literal dream world or "destroying" it with a simple, sad song is presented to the player. Naturally, the point of the game is to leave Koholint Island, and thus the song must be played for the game to end, but still, the choice was there the entire time. Anyone who has ever played this game knows how moving this song can be.
15. Temple Warp Songs (All)
I tried to pick just one Ocarina of Time warp song to post here. I really tried. But it's impossible! Which one would I pick? Minuet of Forest? Bolero of Fire? Nocturne of Shadow? Requiem of Spirit? By the end of the game, each warp song has been seared into the player's memory from having played them over and over and over again to progress with the game - and each one of them is simply divine. To end this top 15 list of the most iconic Zelda songs, I present to you a medley of some of the best little pieces to come from any video game...
...in electric guitar.
BONUS: Item Get
DUN DUN DUN DUUUUUN!
And that concludes The Top 15 Most Iconic Legend of Zelda songs. Did your favorite make the cut?
Amanda Bowles from Arizona on April 10, 2018:
Awesome list! I've been an avid fan of the series for years! The music is simply one aspect of the games success.
Robert E Smith from Rochester, New York on April 12, 2014:
You have helped me greatly. I can't tell you how tired I had become of hearing the Zelda songs over and over again. I recently took up the ocarina and they, of course, are what every person must learn as the first tunes of the instrument. So if you are listening for ocarina music every third or fourth song recorded is a Zelda song. You have helped me to appreciate the music (which I never thought anyone could possibly do. I love the ocarina and have been swept away with its beauty. I am not a gamer so here I am with anyone that speaks to me of my instrument speaking in nerdy tech and fantasy speech. Then there are all the cosplayers that take that nerdy thing to a whole new level. Don't get me wrong, I love them all. They are all dear friends and I have them scattered all over the world, but this is so hard for a person just interested in the instrument itself. You have put versions of the songs on here that I never have heard and made them very enjoyable. Thank you. Bob.
Michelle Widmann on August 19, 2013:
Great list of songs! The music for the entire Zelda series really is enchanting and captivating. And catchy - Saria's Song is my ringtone, lol!
FE11 on June 20, 2013:
Me likey Farore's Courage. It's by far the best of the trial trio
UnsungRhapsody from Houston, TX on May 17, 2012:
Great list, and I agree for the most part. I think an honorable mention should go to the title music for A Link to the Past. A remix of that song and Fairy Fountain were used in Scott Pilgrim vs the World.