Level 1 Music Represents
The background music of the first level in many video games frequently becomes the theme associated with the series. Sometimes, the "first level" theme becomes so representative of the series that it supplants the planned Main Theme in later games and advertising material. After all, chances are that people will spend more time on the first level learning the ropes rather than admiring the title screen. Since most developers are aware of this, they'll be likely to spend a little more time on the Level 1 music, and perhaps put it in a higher number of levels due to the extra work put into it, further feeding into this trope. This trope is more common in linear games (like platformers and shoot-em-ups) as opposed to Sandboxes or RPGs, where level 1 is often either not clearly defined
or played after spending an appreciable amount of time on the Traversible World Map
A Sub-Trope of Bootstrapped Theme
. If sequels continue to use the level 1 music from the first game, it's also a form of First Installment Wins
Straight Examples of this trope include:
- Super Mario Bros.:
- Sonic the Hedgehog: Green Hill Zone. Due to copyright troubles, the original title theme never appears these days unless as a throwback (such as the title screen in Sonic Generations, itself a throwback to the whole series).
- Kirby: Green Greens
- F-Zero: Mute City.
- Kid Icarus: Underworld. It has the same intro as the title screen music, but the two themes differ from there.
- Castlevania: Vampire Killer.
- Also Bloody Tears, the overworld theme for the second game.
- Also Beginning, the Level 1 theme for the third game. These three tunes are featured more than any others across the series. For example, in Castlevania: Judgment, they're used as the respective themes of Simon Belmont, Carmilla, and Trevor Belmont.
- Contra: Battle in the Jungle, which is remixed in Contra: Shattered Soldier and Contra 4.
- Donkey Kong Country: "DK Island Swing", also known as "Jungle Level", "Jungle Groove", or by the name of its rearrangement for Donkey Kong 64, "Jungle Japes". Slightly unusual in that the music changes tone halfway through in the original game, due to it actually being a mashup of two different pieces, but only the first half is usually remembered.
- Metroid: Brinstar. They played with it in Metroid: Zero Mission—in it, the item/save tunes are versions that sound far closer to the original game's, which has a different melodic focus than the versions that came from Super Metroid and on that gamers tend to be more familiar with. This is used to great effect when Samus gets her power suit back after being shot down by the Space Pirates, causing the modified later-game jingle to sound out, reorchestrated, in full force. Theme of Super Metroid is also considered to be this by some as well.
- Doom: At Doom's Gate for the first game, Running from Evil for the second.
- From, Final Doom, TNT: Evilution has Sadistic, while its sister game The Plutonia Experiment has The Imp's Song.
- Final Fight: BGM 1 was remixed as Guy's theme in almost all of his fighting game appearances (starting with the original Street Fighter Alpha), and also served as Haggar's theme in Marvel vs. Capcom 3. A hip-hop version of the title theme would be used as Cody's theme in Super Street Fighter IV.
- Star Fox: Corneria.
- R-Type: R9, To the Front!
- Ghosts 'n Goblins: Haunted Graveyard, which was used as Arthur's theme for Namco × Capcom, Marvel vs. Capcom 3 and Project X Zone. Also used as an alternate Easter Egg theme for Shade Man's stage in Mega Man 7.
- Raiden: "Gallantry".
- Gradius: "Challenger 1985", whose melody also appears in the intro to the Stage 2 music for Gradius V.
- Blaster Master: "Area 1 (Forest)". Remixes of this appeared in the first levels of Blaster Master: Blasting Again and Blaster Master: Overdrive.
- Journey to Silius: "Space Colony Ruins", which is better remembered than the title theme (although the former uses the same bassline as the latter in its refrain) and is reused for the last stage.
- The NES Batman game's first stage theme is closely associated with the title and there are plenty of covers and remixes of the song, both because of its sheer coolness and because the Nintendo Hard nature of the game made it the most frequently heard tune for players.
- Valis: "Flash of Sword"(Stage 1), although the series also has an official recurring title theme, "Fantasm Soldier".
- Metal Gear: The Theme of Tara, the main infiltration theme in the MSX2 version, was later reused as Metal Gear's theme in Snatcher, as well as the VR Training theme in Metal Gear Solid and plays during Solid Snake's debut in the story mode of Super Smash Bros Brawl.
- Ganbare Goemon: The Stage 1 theme was remixed as the background music for Sundowner's Garden in Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance.
- The opening section of Dungeon Siege features music that seems to have been written with this idea in mind, as the name of that track is "Main Theme 1," and variations on the theme are used in places throughout the game, including during the Final Battle and the credits. The Final Battle theme was also carried over into the tutorial level for Dungeon Siege II.
- Dynamite Headdy uses a variation of the level 1 music as its title theme.
- While Ikaruga has a few songs to choose from, the level 1 music is especially infectious and the main part of it is used again near the end of the game. The only other recurring song is a tune that plays for three bosses, including the one in level 1.
- The Tales Series has several main battle themes for each game. However, most crossover games tend to feature the first battle themes of each game.
- Rad Racer: BGM 1, AKA Sunset Coastline.
- The first stage music of Supra Mayro Bross returned for Supra Mayro Kratt as the stage select theme. Since then, it is considered the main theme of the series.
- Final Battle, the theme of the titular fortress from Lufia & The Fortress of Doom.
- The first stage's theme from the first Rushing Beat game has appeared in all of the games. However, the theme plays in the last levels of the sequels instead of the first.
- Panel de Pon: Lip's stage theme. Notable in that the series has its own theme song, heard in the title, ending, and map themes from the original game.
- Most Zone A and Alpha themes in the main Darius games, several of which also appear in Groove Coaster, another Taito series. Examples include:
- "Captain Neo" from Darius.
- "Olga Breeze" in Darius II. The conversation between the pilots, including the infamous "I always wanted a thing called tuna sasimi" line, is actually hard-coded into the music.
- "VISIONNERZ" from Darius Gaiden.
- "Good-bye my earth" from Dariusburst.
- "Photoconductivity Suite No. 1 'Iron Fossil'" from Dariusburst Another Chronicle, which is actually only one part of a three-segment track that plays if you pick the game's uppermost path.
- "Freedom" from Dariusburst Chronicle Saviours, notably the only in-game track in the series with lyrics and is either seen as Awesome Music or Narm mixed with So Bad, It's Good; either way, it's quite the Ear Worm.
Subversions, aversions, and inversions include:
- The Legend of Zelda: Hyrule Overworld isn't quite a straight example, because the Overworld theme is a remix of the Title Screen music, which also sometimes appears in its original form (such as in the ending credits of The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past).
- The Bionic Commando theme appears to be a straight example, being the zone 1 music from the NES game but in the original arcade game the music is used on the second level.
- Super Smash Bros.:
- In the original game for the Nintendo 64, this trope was in effect for most of the stages (including the aforementioned Mario, DK, Zelda, etc.). However, Kirby's stage uses the "Gourmet Race" from Kirby Super Star instead.
- Melee stepped it up with the Rainbow Cruise level, which uses "Slider" from Super Mario 64; said theme was used for the Grand Finale of the live orchestral rendition of the soundtrack (a recording of which was used as a subscriber bonus by Nintendo Power). Though the theme plays in multiple levels, and actually gains its name because it's used in all of the slide sub-levels (one of which is accessible very early in the game, though not right at the start), the level also cemented the song as being associated with the absolute last non-Bowser level, Rainbow Ride.
- The Mega Man series is all over the place with this trope:
- Double Dragon: the title theme is played during the final boss battle, but during the bonus sibling match that occurs when two players complete the game together, the music changes to the Mission 1 theme. This also holds true to the NES version, which has Machine Gun Willy as the penultimate boss and Jimmy Lee as the final boss.
- The arcade version of Double Dragon II uses a Boss Remix of the title theme in its penultimate battle (again with Willy), prior to the final battle with the Lee clones. In the NES version, where Willy is absent, this remix plays during the tractor battle in Mission 6.
- Super Double Dragon has a different title theme and the classic Double Dragon Theme is instead used as background music for Mission 5. The Japanese version (titled Return of Double Dragon) restores the Double Dragon theme to its rightful place and uses an arranged version of the Mission 1 theme from the original arcade game for Mission 5.
- In Dynasty Warriors 2, the theme for the Battle of Hulao Gate, "Jump Into the Battlefield", is extremely popular and well known, even though the Battle of Hulao Gate is the second stage in the game after the Yellow Turban Rebellion.
- MOTHER: "Pollyanna" is the overworld tune that plays at the start of the game when Ninten is the only party member. It is not considered the theme song for the game (that is usually either the title screen theme or Eight Melodies), but it is considered the theme for the MOTHER series as a whole.
- Ni GHTS Into Dreams plays with this trope. While the main character's theme, Dream Dreams, is considered the series' main theme, the first level's song, Paternal Horn, is treated as a secondary theme and is used in every Sega Superstars game that features a NiGHTS level.
- Anarchy Reigns has many Leitmotifs for its characters, but the theme that caught on most is Tre-Dot's Ruthless, which was used as the first song in-game from the demo.
- Reversed in Mega Man Zero where the first level's theme was Zero's theme from the original X game. Marvel vs. Capcom 3 averts this by using the Copy Zero battle theme from X2.
- The Stage 1 music in Shockman is the title theme.
- Typically played straight in Namco Arcade games but there are exceptions.
- Bombing Mission from Final Fantasy VII continue from the opening cutscene to the first few screens, with a musical transition between the two. The whole thing is iconic to the game.
- CAVE games, particularly the DonPachi series, are known more for their True Final Boss themes than their Stage 1 themes, simply because of the viral popularity and infamous difficulty of the TFB battles.