Chrono Trigger, widely considered to be one of the best RPGs of all time, is a Super Nintendo title that combined the genius of Hironobu Sakaguchi, Yuji Horii, and Akira Toriyama into one game. It would be difficult for anyone to be as significant to the development of Chrono Trigger as the creators of Final Fantasy, Dragon Quest, and Dragon Ball. Yasunori Mitsuda managed to do just that by putting his heart and soul into the game’s soundtrack. He not only lost forty incomplete pieces to a hard drive crash, but also contracted stomach ulcers and was forced to hand off the final tracks to Final Fantasy composer Nobuo Uematsu. Despite these setbacks, Mitsuda created music that perfectly characterized every environment in the game. With the limited technology available at the time, he managed to compose an unprecedented number of tracks that is still being praised to this day. I had a tough time making this list simply because there is so much great music to choose from. Remember that this article is just my opinion as a fan.
#10: Epoch – Wings of Time
This music plays whenever you pilot the time-travelling vehicle of the same name. Its upbeat tempo sets a happy mood for exploring the physical world and time itself; it makes you think there must be something new around the next bend, something exciting to discover as you go on this epic adventure.
#9: Schala’s Theme
This fan favorite is one of the more unusual pieces on the soundtrack, with a haunting melody repeating in the background while a multitude of other instruments provoke feelings of melancholy. As the theme for the princess of Zeal, the music foreshadows the fate of that tragic kingdom.
#8: Peaceful Days
Also known as World Map Theme 1, this theme plays when traveling the map in 1000 A.D. The title matches the music perfectly, with soothing flute and string instruments establishing this time period as the happy home you can always return to in a time of need. All of the other world map themes have a foreboding or sad tone, making this one stand out. Speaking of which…
#7: Wind Scene
Also known as Yearnings of the Wind, this plays on the world map in 600 A.D. It is one of the most popular pieces on the soundtrack and for good reason. The theme’s staccato string introduction transitions into a sad, flowing melody that characterizes the dark and misty time period. In the background, there’s often a tapping wood block filling in the gaps between the notes.
#6: Time of World Revolution
The battle music for the second phase of the final boss, this energetic piece pumps you up for the climactic final battle. At first it has a foreboding build up to the pipe organ chords; then the trumpet takes over to deliver a powerful solo. The electronic beat in the background plays throughout most of the track gives it a unique sound that few other pieces have. There’s even a recurring motif, with parts of “Wind Scene” playing amidst the other instruments.
#5: Battle with Magus “…The black wind howls…” – Magus
Also known as Magus Confronted, this popular track plays as blue flames light the Fiendlord Magus before the battle. One of the best elements of this piece is not the music itself, but the creepy wind sound effect that plays near the beginning. That’s not to say the music is bad. On the contrary, the upbeat tempo sets the mood for this highly anticipated and difficult battle. This theme has been remixed and performed by fans dozens of times. It’s not as complex of a composition as, say, “Time of World Revolution,” yet it’s simplicity gives the melody that much more power.
#4: To Good Friends
Also known as the Epilogue Theme, this track combines the innocent chimes of a music box with the beauty of piano and wind instruments. It’s a sad piece signaling the departure of friends, but also holds the happy memories of times shared and the hope of seeing each other again someday.
#3: Frog’s Theme
As the main theme of one of the coolest characters in video games, this music has been remixed and rearranged by fans and orchestras alike. The developers only play this music when Frog, a knight from the Middle Ages, does something particularly awesome. One particular scene in which he unlocks the power of the Masamune is regarded as one of the most iconic moments in the game. Though the track itself is quite short, it embodies the bravery of Frog and his quest for justice.
#2: Chrono Trigger
This track is the main theme of entire game, playing during several significant plot points. It’s exciting and adventurous, befitting the epic scope of the game. Years after the release of Chrono Trigger, Mitsuda said that though the title piece was “rough around the edges,” he maintains that it had “significant influence on my life as a composer.” He even used leitmotifs of the main theme in other tracks to create a sense of consistency in the score. This orchestra version of the main theme was released in an album that came with pre-orders of Chrono Trigger for the Nintendo DS. The full orchestra enhances the majestic quality of the original, making me wish every Chrono Trigger track could get be orchestrated.
#1 To Far Away Times
Also called the Ending Theme, this beautiful piece of music shows how emotionally invoking video game music can be even when constrained by limited technology. I almost put this track at number two, but even the main theme doesn’t impact me as much as this music. Mitsuda originally attributed “To Far Away Times” to inspiring dreams. He later attributed this song to an idea he was developing before Chrono Trigger, reflecting that the song was made in dedication to “a certain person with whom I wanted to share a generation.” After contracting stomach ulcers, Mitsuda returned to watch the ending with the rest of the staff, crying upon seeing the finished scene. There are multiple fan versions of this piece online that are great, but none of them can compete with the beauty of the original. This is the perfect music to end your epic quest across time.
Honorable Mentions: Corridors of Time, Kingdom Trial, The Brink of Time, Memories of Green, Lavos’s Theme, and At the Bottom of the Night.
And that’s my Top 10 Chrono Trigger Music! Please leave comments on your favorite Chrono Trigger tracks and praise the musical genius of Yasunori Mitsuda. All rights to Chrono Trigger belong to Square Enix Co., Ltd. Now enjoy this bonus track, a wonderful orchestrated medley from the Chrono Trigger Orchestra Extra Soundtrack.