When I think about video game music in general my mind immediately jumps to instrumental music, whether it be old chiptune songs or modern orchestral music. I enjoy listening to a ton of instrumental game music and I often buy limited editions or go on iTunes to purchase the soundtracks for games I love. While I often listen to instrumental music when I'm writing, video game or otherwise, there are a lot of activities like driving and exercising where I prefer listening to songs with vocals.

Recently, an upcoming game I'm interested in, Akiba's Beat, released its full opening video that features an original song from my favorite J-Pop band ClariS. Hearing the song, Again, made me start thinking about my favorite original video game music with vocals. While many games feature licensed songs, very few actually feature original vocal songs. I thought it would be fun to share some of my favorite original vocal songs in games so I decided to make a top ten list. Since I came up with a fairly large shortlist, I decided to expand the list to fifteen songs.

I had three main rules when coming up with my list. My first rule is that I would only choose one song per franchise so I could have more variety in the final list. My second rule is that the song has to prominently feature lyrics that you can sing along to so I would only have songs that best fit the spirit of the list. Finally I decided I would not include new arrangements of songs that originated elsewhere since that wouldn't make much sense either.

With that said here are my top 15 favorite original video game vocal songs!

15: Light of the Day/Dark of the Night - Shadow Complex
Artist: Shaun Barrowes

Light of the Day/Dark of the Night is the end credits song for Shadow Complex, an excellent Metroidvania game. It narrowly edged out other contenders to claim the 15th spot on my list largely because I enjoy singing the song, especially the chorus, and because of its prominent use of the piano. That said, I'm honestly not really sure what this song is about. While parts of the song connect with the protagonist being hesitant about getting involved in his adventure, it overall doesn't fit clearly with the story as far as I'm concerned. Thankfully it still sounds cool.

14: Uncontrollable - Xenoblade Chronicles X
Hiroyuki Sawano

Hiroyuki Sawano virtually only composes songs with overwhelming emotion and energy, so it is no surprise the entire Xenoblade X soundtrack is equally epic and eclectic. A good number of songs feature vocals and while some are fantastic others are completely abysmal. My favorite song on the soundtrack is the tyrant boss battle theme Uncontrollable. While it doesn't top You Will Know Our Names from the original Xenoblade, when Uncontrollable begins playing it feels like your battle has become set to the opening theme song of an anime which always feels awesome.

13: Belief - Dengeki Bunko Fighting Climax
Mami Kawada

Belief is the theme song for Dengeki Bunko Fighting Climax, a crossover fighting game featuring characters from Dengeki Bunko light novels such as Kirito and Asuna from Sword Art Online, and Shizuo from Durarara!!. Mami Kawada frequently sang theme songs for the anime adaptations of many Dengeki Bunko light novels, including all four opening theme songs of A Certain Magical Index, so she was a good choice to represent all the franchises brought together. In addition to a short version of Belief that plays during the opening movie and the full version that plays during the credits, Belief also begins playing if you reach the third and final round of a given match which makes that round feel all the more special.

12: Mamoritai White Whishes - Tales of Graces F

There are a lot of fantastic vocal theme songs in the Tales RPG series and I was ultimately torn between the English versions of Vesperia's Ring A Bell by Bonnie Pink and Graces' Mamoritai by BOA. For a long time Ring A Bell was my clear favorite, but lately I've been giving the edge to Mamoritai. Its lyrics are less complex than Ring A Bell's, but their straightforwardness makes their meaning loud and clear. The happy tone of the song is also a lot more fun to sing along to which I appreciate.

11: Still Alive - Portal
GLaDOS & Jonathan Coulton

I absolutely adored Still Alive when I first heard it. The entire ending sequence of Portal is amazing and the humorous song that follows is a fantastic culmination of the unexpectedly, wild journey. Portal is one of a few games where I had to show the ending to everyone I knew and of course Still Alive was a huge part of it. I was delighted when the song was added to Rock Band as it gave me another avenue to enjoy the song. I realized over the years though that Still Alive is best in its original context so it ranks lower on this list since I listen to it fairly infrequently. 

10: Guitar Hero - Guitar Hero
Artist: Monkey Steals The Peach

The original Guitar Hero had a theme song you could unlock that was performed by members of Harmonix's development team. It was loud, fast, and had a handful of sweet guitar solos to play and master. Despite its punk edge, Guitar Hero had a wonderfully goofy charm with such lyrics as "that's what I use Star Power for!" and a repeating chorus at the end that earnestly proclaims "gonna be a guitar, gonna be a guitar, gonna be a guitar, HERO!" Despite the soundtrack being filled with tons of classics, Guitar Hero's raw energy made it one of my favorites in the setlist.

9: Beat A Nail With Your Hammer - BlazBlue
Hironobu Kageyama

There are a handful of great vocal themes in BlazBlue, as well as a few best forgotten, but one song clearly stands supreme over the rest. Beat A Nail With Your Hammer plays in both Calamity Trigger and Continuum Shift when Bang Shishigami, possibly the greatest video game ninja of all time, activates his Fu-Rin-Ka-Zan super move. What follows is a rush of pure hype as Hironobu Kageyama starts shouting "BANG! BANGBANGBANG! BURNING TAMASHI!!!" while Bang levitates in the air and his burning passion literally engulfs him in flames. Bang is then left with a golden aura that allows him to continually dash around the arena while the song triumphantly plays. I had wanted to share a great lyrics video on Youtube that highlighted the song's amazing lyrics from top to bottom, but sadly it was taken down. Thankfully the BlazBlue wiki has a full translation of the song if you are curious.

8: Still Alive - Mirror's Edge
Lisa Miskovsky

In addition to being the end credits song, Still Alive was frequently used in promos for Mirror's Edge and I quickly fell in love with both its powerful instruments and lyrics. The world of Mirror's Edge has a stark beauty to it and Still Alive's instruments effectively expresses its epic scope and freedom alongside its inherent loneliness. The core phrase of the song that is continually repeated "I'm still alive and cannot apologize" reaffirms the desire to embrace individuality even as the world pushes conformity. I've always felt Still Alive was a bit underappreciated, but I've been glad to see over the years just how many others deeply love it.

7: The Whereabouts Of Light - The Legend of Heroes: Trails In The Sky
Falcom Sound Team JDK

Since I had purchased the limited edition of Trails in the Sky that included a soundtrack CD, I actually had heard The Whereabouts of Light a few times before it plays in the game. I thought it was a nice song, but I had no idea then how much it would eventually mean to me. At a few points in the game, Estelle's brother Joshua plays the song on his harmonica and you quickly begin to associate it with him. The vocal version plays after a very emotional moment in the story and it brought a tear to my eye hearing it in both of my playthroughs.

6: Break Out Of... - Persona 4 Arena Ultimax
Hirata Shihoko & Lotus Juice

There are a ton of amazing Persona songs including Burn Your Dread, Reach Out To The Truth, and Maze of Life, and choosing just one was a bit painful. After thinking about it for a while, Break Out Of..., the theme song for my favorite Persona game, Persona 4 Arena Ultimax, stood out as my favorite. To me Break Out Of... is an excellent cross between the music styles of both Persona 3 and Persona 4 which is what elevates it above the rest. In Ultimax you can set the music for the main menu so of course I set it to Break Out Of... and I frequently listened to it on loop when I was done playing for the day. 

5: Heavy Day - Guilty Gear Xrd SIGN
Daisuke Ishiwatari
Vocals: Naoki Hashimoto

Heavy Day was used in the debut trailer for Guilty Gear Xrd and it perfectly represents all the burning passion in both the game and series. I love Daisuke Ishiwatari's guitar heavy music in both Guilty Gear and BlazBlue and the addition of Naoki Hashimoto's vocals gives Heavy Day even more bombastic energy. I always thought the song would be awesome in a music game so I submitted it once on Harmonix's Rock Band song suggestion form. While they haven't added it yet, I was legitimately shocked when I unlocked it in the Vita DJ game Superbeat Xonic. Even as a 90 second version, it was just as amazing as I hoped it would be.

4: Sanctuary - Kingdom Hearts II
Utada Hikaru

It was tough choosing between Simple and Clean and Sanctuary for my favorite Kingdom Hearts theme song, but ultimately I prefer Kingdom Hearts II's theme song. Hearing Sanctuary instantly reminds me of what I love most about Kingdom Hearts, especially its characters and fun sense of adventure. Compared to the original version of Simple and Clean, I appreciate that each major section of Sanctuary has its own distinct flavor which further highlights its more diverse lyrics. While both songs are amazing, I think Sanctuary is a bit richer overall and it is still a blast to sing along to.

3: Ageage Again - Hatsune Miku Project Mirai 2
Mitchie M

Ageage Again is the extremely energetic theme song for Hatsune Miku Project Mirai 2 which released in the West last year as Project Mirai Deluxe. Ageage in Japanese roughly means to be active and excited which is absolutely reflected in Mitchie M's super hyper and joyful song. In addition to its appearance in Project Mirai 2, Ageage Again also appears as part of an original medley of songs in Project Diva X which was one of the highlights of the game. If I'm ever feeling down, listening to Ageage Again never fails to make me smile.

2: Calling - The World Ends With You
Takeharu Ishimoto

Calling is the most iconic song from The World Ends With You and it is far and away my favorite. Its infectious core beat and lyrics feel effortless in execution and I especially like how the energy of the song continually rises throughout to build the way for a powerful final verse and chorus. Calling ranks near the top of my list not just because I really love the song, but because hearing it immediately invokes everything The World Ends With You stands for. The song, like the game, inspires you to cast aside whatever is holding you back so you can push forward and positively contribute to the world with whatever makes you special. It's a fantastic message that deeply resonates with me which is why it has remained one of my favorite original video game vocal songs for nearly a decade.

1: Reincarnation - Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE
Yoshino Nanjo

When I heard Reincarnation during the first real trailer for the game formerly known as Shin Megami Tensei X Fire Emblem it immediately grabbed my attention and captured my imagination. I love loud, J-Pop music and Reincarnation absolutely screamed that. While I was very excited for the potential of a more traditional crossover, I was much more excited by the fresh, overflowing personality Reincarnation promised. Hearing the full song and looking at the lyrics in the context of the story further fostered my love for the song. Like The Whereabouts of Light, it's awesome having a song that is actually part of the world and further adds to it. What pushes Reincarnation to the very top of my list though is that the singer, Yoshino Nanjo, pours her whole heart into singing it which makes it such an incredible rush.


That concludes my list of my favorite original vocal songs in games. I hope you enjoyed it! Be sure to share your thoughts and any of your favorite video game vocal songs in the comments below! I always enjoy reading and responding to your comments.