It may sound strange to some that the Japanese role-playing game (JRPG) genre is so strongly defined by its country of origin, Japan. When we talk about JRPGs, we normally refer to the styles or trends that are commonly used in Japan for their games, be it their graphical style, aesthetic, game design, or music.
Out of these different elements, JRPG music is an interesting subject because JRPG music is rarely traditionally Japanese. Classic Japanese musical styles aren’t necessarily lost, but most developers go for broader styles and genres, plucking a little bit of something from different cultures across the world.
Despite the openness in embracing new styles, there remains one important thread that keeps a JRPG distinct from, say, a western RPG. Whereas western games prefer atmospheric music that blend into the background, JRPG music is typically differentiated by having identifiable melodies. If you aren’t noticing what the music sounds like, then something’s wrong.
This list explores a vast pantheon of relaxing JRPG music and picking some of the best and memorable ones from the lat. Think of the melodies you hear whenever you enter a new town, or whenever a crucial event occurs.
These are the tunes that you’ll have listened for hours, and then can’t help but hum to while going about with your daily life.
#30. Final Fantasy XV – Crystalline Chill
Final Fantasy XV‘s “Crystalline Chill” is, as you might expect, a chill take on the series’ classic Prelude theme. All the familiar beats you love are here, complemented by a slow and steady percussion that soothes you as you browse the in-game menus.
Final Fantasy’s decades-long history has spawned many iterations of Prelude, and these often share an epic scale due to the series’ fantastical nature. Yet FFXV’s version stands out, boasting a relaxed and unworried mood that contests with series tradition yet also remains perfectly in its element.
#29. NieR – Song of the Ancients
Whether you played NieR: RepliCant or NieR: Gestalt, the “Song of the Ancients“ is a sombre piece that expands on the game’s surreal world. Sung in an incomprehensible, ancient language, you’ll sometimes hear the characters Devola and Popola belt to its tune in the village where the titular Nier lives.
There are many ways to read into the meaning of such a vague song, but what’s important is how the song beautifully sets the tone for a game like NieR, which is equal parts dark as it is hopeful.
Perhaps the most relaxing version of this song appears as part of a unique quest, which ends with Devola and Popola singing a jazz-like version of the song in a tavern.
#28. Persona 5 – The Days When My Mother Was There
Persona 5 is undoubtedly, in many eyes, stylish and versatile. Its innovative and modern take on a game’s soundtrack has made the title a standout in not just JRPGs, but also games in general.
“The Days When My Mother Was There” exemplifies that ethos further. The tune plays in an Egyptian-inspired dungeon with mellow acid jazz-like elements. The repeating synths grab the listener while a soulful guitar lead hammers in the emotional context that the dungeon and its story represents.
#27. Bravely Default – Land of Immortality
A civilization that’s frozen in time at the edge of nowhere can be a romantic idea to think about. Such the town of Eternia in Bravely Default, a place that is also home to one of the game’s protagonists, Edea Lee.
Its snow-covered lands and perpetual whiteness lend to the ideas of loneliness and melancholy that you hear in the music track, “Land of the Immortality”. However, notice that the music escalates in intensity as the flute becomes heard, as though also acknowledging the town’s ability to thrive in spite of its harshly cold environment.
#26. Dragon Quest VIII – “Strange World ~ Marching Through the Fields”
Dragon Quest VIII’s “Strange World ~ Marching Through the Fields” begins with a sequence that may sound like something straight out of Julie Andrews’ “Sound of Music”. Yet this shouldn’t be surprising when you consider the age of its composer, Koichi Sugiyama.
The classical symphony begins lazily, yet steadily climbs from naive wonder into that of a grand adventure. It’s a fantastic piece and well-suited reflective journey for the players exploring this game’s vast world map as the chosen Hero.