A final reminder as to my self-imposed rules for this list: I limited myself to just one theme from a particular title, even if there were multiple themes in a game. Entries had to be a main theme or the closest equivalent of that; they had to be from MMOs, not from MOBAs; and I had to divorce my weighting of the track itself from the popularity of and my experience with that game. So there were no points added or subtracted based on my love of the game. I'm counting down the best music, period.
If you missed earlier parts of this series, check out themes #40-31, #30-21, and #20-11. Otherwise, hit that continue button and get listening already!
10. City of Heroes
While I love the classic theme a lot, I've become smitten with the Freedom login theme even more. It just sounds like a modern superhero theme, a la Spider-Man or X-Men. It doesn't really get good until 1:32, but after that it just creates this atmosphere of tension and excitement that carries the theme out the door and down the street.
9. Lineage II
Don't discount this OST; it's one of the best in the business, in my opinion. The theme song, Call of Destiny, is a good example of the rich sound and technical artistry that runs through the entire score. The beginning is pretty enough, but when it escalates at 1:25, I get goosebumps every darn time. It's just one of those themes you come out of cheering for no good reason.
8. Lord of the Rings Online
As with City of Heroes up there, I'm going with this "replacement" theme (LOTRO Legacy) instead of the older main score. I really have no choice: This track is an amazing medley of older tunes from the game mixed in with a new, powerful theme that I've played many times at top volume. It certainly doesn't get boring!
7. EverQuest II
Not everything that's new is better, of course. I'm a die-hard fan of the original theme from this game. It may be a bit high fantasy and heavy on the full orchestra sound, but for me that's part of the charm. It's not pretending to be what it's not; this theme is fully embracing the game's tone and spirit. Plus it's way memorable!
I've always found it a little odd that somber pianos and horns go so well with sci-fi epics, but I should probably just stop questioning it and embrace acceptance. This theme isn't about blitzing you with sound; instead it devotes its runtime to cultivating emotion and making you feel as though everything's gone all slow-mo while you save the universe.
This was an incredibly last-minute entry to the list, as I wrote up the top 40 before the NDA for this game came down (and thus the main theme could be shared). But I had to include it for its vivacious spirit, unique choice of instrument selection, and downright catchy melody. If I had a spaceship, this would be the theme that I'd be blasting out of my speakers while soaring through the cosmos.
4. World of Warcraft
You can have your pandas, your frozen thrones, and your cataclysms -- I'll be over here enjoying the best WoW theme, period. You young whippersnappers can't appreciate just how good the world used to be when we heard this track play every time we logged in. Oh, the glory! It was enough to put a spring in your step and give you a reason to live again!
3. Runes of Magic
There are lots of great themes for this game, but really the first was the best. It takes a relatively simple tune and comes up with several variations on it while pumping it out like a boss. Even the quiet moments are wonderful because you just know that it's allowing you to catch your breath before you dive right back in. And then a chanting chorus? Perfection.
2. Ultima Online
It pleases me greatly to put this tune on the list because it both has an incredible legacy and it goes against the grain of what we hear in most MMO themes. This percussion-free track allows you to soak in the melody as it takes you on an incredible MIDI journey. If you hate MIDI, then here's a more recent version to soak up.
1. Star Trek Online
Yes, this. Really.
When I was going through 150 or so tracks for this list, over and over again I kept asking myself, "Is there any theme that tops STO's?" And nothing really could. From the familiar Trek overture through the build-up to the explosion at 1:32, I have long held that this is one of the most incredible theme songs in the industry.
Agree? Disagree? Let's hash it out in the comments. Thanks for reading, everyone!
MMOs aren't just about looks; they also have great soundtracks that often go unnoticed. Heroes don't stand for that! Massively's Jukebox Heroes examines game soundtracks and features the best tunes to share and discuss. Your DJ for the hour is Justin Olivetti, and the request line is open!