Video game music is sometimes considered by fans to be its own “genre,” but that sweeping category includes any and all established music genres. Games’ original soundtracks can be incredibly popular, often being sold physically and available via streaming. This is especially true in Japan, where video game soundtracks and themes somewhat frequently make it onto music charts and can even get radio play. Japan also famously uses its home-grown video game characters as mascots for special events. Pokémon, which just turned 25, is particularly well-known as the highest-grossing media property of all time and is often used to represent Japan on other global stages.
The 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games opening ceremony used music from several popular Japanese video games, including songs from the Final Fantasy, Sonic the Hedgehog, and Monster Hunter franchises. However, while the video game songs included in the time-honored Olympic tradition are no doubt beloved, there were a few glaring omissions.
During the 2020 Olympic Games opening ceremony, music from several Japanese video games was played, and a complete list of songs has been catologued by Polygon. The music came from companies such as Capcom, Square Enix, and Sega. “Roto’s Theme” from Dragon Quest kicked things off, a controversial choice considering composer Koichi Sugiyama’s controversial anti-LGBTQ+ and ultranationalist political stances (via Yahoo!) Rival JRPG series Final Fantasy had its iconic songs “Victory Fanfare” and “Main Theme” play, as well. From Sega, the theme from “Star Light Zone” from Sonic the Hedgehog appeared. (Interestingly, that song also appeared as a remix in Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games on the Nintendo DS.)
This was only the start of the video game setlist, however. From the classic RPG Chrono Trigger came “Robo’s Theme” and “Frog’s Theme.” Capcom’s Monster Hunter series was represented by “Proof of a Hero” and “Wind of Departure.” Even classic arcade titles like Gradius were given a spotlight. Finally, Soulcalibur’s “The Brave New Stage of History” rounded out the lineup.
However, one well-established video game company wasn’t heard from at all, as not a single song from any Nintendo title was included in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics opening ceremony. This is especially bizarre since Pokémon, Mario, and The Legend of Zelda are huge Japanese properties known the world over. In particular, Zelda game soundtracks are often considered to be some of the most iconic of all time. The reason why Nintendo songs didn’t appear during the event is unknown, but some speculation suggests that even the Olympics may fear Nintendo’s copyright policies.
Regardless of that major absence, the inclusion of video game music at the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games makes perfect sense. The goal of the opening ceremony is to share the host country’s culture, and video games are a major part of Japanese history and pop culture. It would be more baffling if there was none at all. Even with the lack of Nintendo tunes, a wide of Japanese game companies’ and composers’ music was on display at the opening ceremony. (However, a little music from Mega Man would’ve been a nice addition.)
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