Who wrote the Final Fantasy soundtracks and what are the most famous themes?

21 June 2023, 13:47 | Updated: 21 June 2023, 14:58

Thousands of pieces of music have been composed for long-running the video game series
Thousands of pieces of music have been composed for long-running the video game series. Picture: Getty / Alamy

By Sophia Alexandra Hall

Ahead of the release of the anticipated sixteenth instalment of the Final Fantasy franchise, we take a look at the game-changing soundtracks and the composers behind them...

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Final Fantasy XVI is the latest instalment of the Japanese role-playing video game series which changed not only the world of gaming but perhaps the definition of classical music itself.

Thanks to an influx in soundtrack popularity, video game scores have made their way onto orchestral albums, into concert halls, and on our radio stations.

The music of the Final Fantasy games is probably one of the main reasons video game music has been able to enter the concert hall, thanks to its orchestral and operatic-inspired motifs. Multiple composers have worked on the various franchise instalments, including the legendary mainstay, Nobuo Uematsu, whose music in 2013 became the first video game soundtrack to be featured in the Classic FM Hall of Fame.

But with over sixteen games and multiple extension packs, who else wrote music for the epic soundworlds of these critically acclaimed adventures? We explore the history, themes, and composers behind the music.

Read more: Here’s how Nobuo Uematsu changed the course of classical music with his Final Fantasy score

Final Fantasy X by Nobuo Uematsu, arranged for piano trio

Who composed the soundtrack to Final Fantasy?

For the first nine games of the series (Final Fantasy – Final Fantasy IX), Nobuo Uematsu worked as the sole composer for the franchise.

The first time another composer was credited in the series was in Final Fantasy X, when Uematsu was assisted by Masashi Hamauzu and Junya Nakano.

Following the success of this composer trio, Uematsu was joined again by two different composers for Final Fantasy XI, Naoshi Mizuta, and Kumi Tanioka.

The following Final Fantasy XII was written again by a different team of three composers, this time sans Uematsu – though he did write that game’s theme song, ‘Kiss Me Good-Bye’. This compositional team was made up of Hitoshi Sakimoto, Hayato Matsuo, and Masaharu Iwata.

For Final Fantasy XIII, Uematsu’s assistant from Final Fantasy X, Hamauzu, returned to score the thirteenth instalment as its lead composer.

Final Fantasy XIV, though a commercial failure, involved a much bigger team of composers, including, Masayoshi Soken (the most credited of the team), Nobuo Uematsu, Naoshi Mizuta, Ryo Yamazaki, Takafumi Imamura, Daiki Ishikawa, Yukiko Takada.

Read more: The 20 best video game soundtracks of all time

Final Fantasy XV - Somnus Orchestra

Final Fantasy XV was written by Yoko Shimomura. Like Uematsu, Shimomura has also featured in the Classic FM Hall of Fame, for both her Final Fantasy soundtrack and her work on the magical score for Kingdom Hearts.

Finally, for the upcoming Final Fantasy XVI, the music has again been written by Masayoshi Soken (the most credited composer on the XIV soundtrack).

In 2021, it was revealed that Soken battled cancer during his time working on music for the Final Fantasy game series. Concerned about ‘distracting’ the other developers working on the games, he kept his chemotherapy treatments private and even worked on music for the games while in the hospital for six to seven hours a day.

He told fans at a convention that year: “Seeing the reactions of all the players around the world, it helped me conquer this cancer.”

Read more: 7 of the best pieces of music by video game composer Yoko Shimomura

Final Fantasy XVI OST - Ifrit VS Phoenix

What are the most famous musical themes from the Final Fantasy video game series?

Thousands of pieces of music have been composed for the Final Fantasy series, as due to the length of these games, each instalment requires hundreds of pieces to soundtrack the adventure. For example, Soken has reportedly composed over 200 tracks for the upcoming Final Fantasy XVI.

These are the top five musical themes every video game music fan should know.

Listen to the Classic FM Video Game Music playlist on Global Player here >

  1. Aerith’s Theme from Final Fantasy VII

    This orchestral pastiche featuring an opening of heartfelt woodwind solos combines the mystical timbre of a piano and celesta monophonic duet, creating a picturesque pastoral landscape.

    The heartbreaking music by Nobuo Uematsu is played during what has been described as “the most shocking moment in video games” as the theme’s titular character, Aerith, dies. Listen below.

    Read more: Here’s why Aerith’s Theme from Final Fantasy VII is a symphonic masterpiece

    Aerith's Theme (Final Fantasy Vii)

  2. Aria di Mezzo Carattere from Final Fantasy VI

    For anyone still doubting video game music’s place in the world of spectrum, we present Final Fantasy VI, which featured a specially composed opera by Nobuo Uematsu.

    The four tracks which complete this ‘opera’ include an overture, an aria (Aria di Mezzo Carattere), a waltz, and of course, a grand finale. Listen to the Kanagawa Philharmonic Orchestra perform the score below.

    Opera de María y Draco Completa (Subs Español)

  3. The Promise from Final Fantasy XIII

    Featuring a melancholic piano and dreamlike soprano vocals, the main theme of the thirteenth instalment of the video game franchise features a heavy woodwind orchestration enough to make any fan sentimental. This theme was written by composer, Masashi Hamauzu.

    Listen to the peaceful track without lyrics below.


  4. Zanarkand from Final Fantasy X

    Zanarkand is the main theme of Final Fantasy X composed by Nobuo Uematsu.

    Uematsu didn’t originally write the tune for Final Fantasy but found the music fitted perfectly with the opening of the game. The opening melody was inspired by a flautist whom he was working with at the time, and the flute is the first instrument you hear asides from the piano in the peaceful track.

    FINAL FANTASY X OST - To Zanarkand LIVE ORCHESTRA [HQ] FFX Soundtrack Music ファイナルファンタジーXザナルカンドにて

  5. Final Fantasy Main Theme

    Performed here by the London Philharmonic Orchestra, the main theme composed by Nobuo Uematsu, has been used in almost every instalment of the video game franchise.

    The theme was even performed at the opening ceremony of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics to symbolise the importance of video game music. Listen to the triumphant orchestral version below.

    Final Fantasy Main Theme (Orchestral)