Arena, from DW3. THE quintessential track of the franchise. It says something that out of all the old tracks they bring back through newer games and the Warriors Orochi crossover, this song returns more than any other save Lu Bu's theme. And since it is probably the single most memorable soundtrack from the game to veteran players, DW8 gives us this awesome remix.
"Exiles" from 9 is a homage to the March themes of 7 and 8.
Every Climactic Music or "Dominant" theme that plays when your forces is winning or after you successfully executed strategically beneficial plan, such as fire attack at Chibi. These soundtracks give you more motivation to carry out various strategies in most stages.
"Superior" from 3, which gets updated version for 5. There's something about that opening keyboard riff and that guitar that just puts a smile on your face.
"Gain Ground" or "Straight Ahead" from 4. "Gain Ground"'s swing beat gives it a jaunty feeling... "Straight Ahead"'s screaming guitars, on the other hand, say "Now's the time! Finish them off!"
"Overdrive" from 5, besides "Superior" above. Nothing gets you pumped up to charge the enemy like this track.
"Upper Drive" is pretty much Dynasty Warriors 8's equivalent to Samurai Warriors 4's "God of War". Both tracks sound like "Okay, guys, we've almost won. Let's end this!" There's also "Mass Attack".
Yellow Storm's crunchy riffs are perfect for putting you in the mood to crush anyone who would stand against the Han... or to show the infidels and their corrupt government the power of Yellow Turban sorcery.
Jump Into the Battlefield, DW2 (and 3)'s music for the Battles of Sishui and Hulao Gates. The recurring sounds of clanging metal and water dripping give it a mysterious theme that plays off nicely against the soaring riffs.
The last battle from Dynasty Warriors 7 and Last War from Dynasty Warriors 7 Empires, both are remixes of "Crush 'Em All" that scream "This is it! Finish them off!"
Before 7, Dynasty Warriors treated the Battle of Wuzhang Plains as the final battle, especially for Shu. It does not disappoint.
DW4: Sacred Night, a remix of "Sacred Ground" and "Gravity" which doesn't have much in terms of being "upbeat and cool", but serves to give a more anxiety and the "calm before the storm". An epic yet quiet ominous theme.
Entrusted Hope from 7 and Hopeful Pain from 8 made Shu's final level in the historical route so damn bittersweet. You could feel the end coming. At this point, Liu Bei, Guan Yu and Zhang Fei tragically dead, leaving their children to desperately fight on in the name of romantic ideals and vengeance. You could sense Shu's inevitable collapse after Zhuge Liang eventually passed away as well.
DW2 and 3: "Sacred Ground" plays on the Shu side of the battle, mixing guitar shredding and an ominous synth bass riff into a song that exemplifies Zhuge Liang's desperate attempts to stay alive long enough to guide his kingdom to victory, and "Gravity" (which plays on the Wei side of the battle) uses the same shredding and synth bass to create a slower, moodier song... this time you can practically hear Sima Yi snapping "You can't win this, Zhuge Liang! Why won't you just die already?!"
DW6: While previous games have gone for more subtle and somber tracks, "Geniuses' Sanctuaries" takes a different approach, creating a triumphant mood with some of the most intense, blood-pumping riffs in the entire series.
Chibi (lit. Red Wall/Cliffs) has a great selection of leitmotifs as well.
2 and 3 have Divine Wind for the Wu Forces which is subdued yet still pretty damn cool, while on the Wei forces? Power & Glory, which shows Cao Cao means business in crushing the forces of both Liu Bei and Jiangdong.
This track is a refined and more direct variant of Clumsy Expression, another fantastic track from this game.
Remixed again in the sequel in a hybrid of both said theme for Wu's battle theme, The Inherited Fang.
Fan Castle is known for its powerful and heartwrenching soundtrack. DW5 started the trend with Gloomy Shadow. Special mention goes to the part at 1:00... the droning riffs make you feel like you're struggling to win the battle before the rising floodwaters consume you.
Eve. Few piece of music scream "You're screwed!" like this one does.
Every time the Battle of Hefei or Hefei (New) Castle shows up with its own music, it's almost always something grand and epic.
The Men of Intelligence from DW3. Its groovy bass and sweeping synth violins make it a perfect song for infiltrating a giant castle, avoiding traps and enemy soldiers on your way to Sun Quan.
Iron Monarch from DW9. This could also be the unofficial theme song for Man Chong who built New Hefei Castle.
Interceptor from DW4 mixes groovy wah-wah riffs and gorgeous Chinese stringed instrument riffs into an awesome blend of old and new.
The King of Sadness in DW5, and now remixed in DW8. The amazing slap bass keeps you hypnotized for the first minute, then the solo starts...
Despite its Broken Base status you can hardly say that DW6 didn't have great music:
Welcome to China. Guitar and flute trade off in one of the most upbeat tracks in the series.
Chaotic Field. Powerful riffs backed up by some truly insane drumming and synth work.
The theme for Jin in 7, the way it sounds its as if they are saying, "Alright, we've been fighting for so long, time to bring an end to the chaos once and for all."
All of the faction themes in 8 are really good, but one that stands out is the Majestic variation of Wei's theme, which illustrates absolutely perfectly their will to do whatever it takes to bring peace and stability to the land.
Dance Macabre from 5, as its name suggests, wants to make you perform a war dance. This is also played in some stages for Warriors Orochi. One of, if not the, the most awesome one is in Battle of Nagashino for WO1, where Takeda-Uesugi-Huang Zhong Coalition are in their Darkest Hour, but then Shingen-Kenshin prepare a plan to unleash the cavalry. Then, eventually the literal cavalry really comes with Kanetsugu Naoe in command, and the gloomy music of Nagashino is changed into this awesome music.
Karma Against Hard Invasion from 8:XL, used in the first part of Lu Bu's version of the battle of Xiapi, is different because of just how it reflects how screwed and hopeless Lu Bu's forces are in their current situation. It doesn't make it any less awesome though.
Vanish from the same battle, which is aptly transitted from "Karma Against Hard Invasion" just after Wei forces activated the flood attack, is mixed with the dread of facing defeat and solemness of a Last Stand, giving the Fan Castle themes a good run for their money.
For the more optimistic Hypothetical Route, you get to hear Strength, Weakness while both showing the bonds of loyalty Lu Bu has formed at Dingtao, and especially during the Recapture of Chang'an, when you must face the combined forces of ALL of Han Dynasty China on your own.
And after the battle, during the final cutscene you get The Eternal Power, which basically says "I just kicked all of China's ass".
While conquering Xiapi there's Invincible Power, an intense theme that expresses Lu Bu's desire to conquer.
Restart, the track for the final battle of Jin's historical path, perfectly reflects how this is the final battle of the Three Kingdoms era, as well as the sacrifices and losses it took both all four factions for things to lead to this final moment. It also perfectly showcases the end result of Sima Zhao's Character Development in that he is no longer an aloof slacker, but a hardened leader determined to end the chaos for the sake of not only his slain brother, but for everyone who has died up to this point.
A Rising Feeling from 5 plays when you encounter an enemy officer that is present as an important character in certain stages such as Huang Zhong/Xiahou Yuan in Mt. Dingjun, Xiahou Dun in Guan Yu's Escape, Ma Chao in Baidi Castle, etc. They will also turn into hyper mode once the music changes to this track and they declare their name in a cutscene.
While "A Rising Feeling" plays for notable boss officers mid-battle, "Unusual Gravity" or "Acid Gangs A Go-Go" play for the last enemy commander of a character's last Musou Mode stage, aka THE final boss of a character's story.note 90% of the time. Sometimes a mid-battle officer will be the hyper mode boss; for example, Ma Chao at Baidi Castle will be the cutscene boss instead of the generic Liu Shan, or Lu Xun at Yiling instead of Sun Quan, or Pang De at Fan Castle instead of Cao Ren. Some don't even have a theme, like Gan Ning at Xiakou for Sun Ce/Daqiao's story or at Hefei for Zhang Liao's story. Complete with a pre-battle cutscene, special dialogue between the boss and your character and the boss being in hyper mode and using rage mode at ~30% health, these themes make for a fitting and satisfying showdown.
Unusual Gravity plays for the "positively-portrayed" characters such as Guan Yu at Fan Castle, Liu Bei at Yiling, Zhuge Liang/Jiang Wei at Wuzhang Plains, Sun Quan at Hefei Castle/Baidi Castle, and Yuan Shao at Hulao Gate for Dong Zhuo's story.
Sun Quan: The ambition of the Sun family burns in my blade! Ma Chao: I hope you're ready to see that ambition shattered!
Acid Gangs A Go-Go plays for the "villainous-portrayed" characters such as Cao Cao at Chibi, Cao Pi at Hefei Castle, Sima Yi at Wuzhang Plans for a number of Shu characters, and Dong Zhuo at the Yellow Turban Rebellion on Zhang Jiao's side. It even ironically plays for Zhuge Liang in the Nanman's last stage because Meng Huo and Zhurong clearly see him as unjustly invading their homelands.
Wei Yan: Die... Sima Yi: Ah, it's the man of few words, and even fewer brains!
Although eventually Lu Bu's theme will override it, anytime you're up in Hulao Gate to kick Dong Zhuo's tyrannical ass, you're bound to listen to awesome tracks as heard here.
"Beyond the Destiny", Wei's own "battle" theme. It's a hybrid of "Epic Man" and "Frenzy Moon" from the previous game. There's no better theme to start Wei's story where the main trio of Wei (Cao Cao, Xiahou Dun, and Xiahou Yuan) escape from Luo Yang!
"Quiet Howl", Jin's "battle" theme isn't so bad, either. It perfectly reflects later Wei's state, and is an updated version of "Male Roar", Jin's battle theme from 7. Unlike "Male Roar", however, "Quiet Howl" sounds more optimistic. It sounds like encouraging you to survive, or even conquer, the End of an Era, compared to "Male Roar" which is more depressing because Jin's story is the End of an Era.
The gallery theme for 8, "Talesbox". Kinda reminds you of good memories from your past, doesn't it?
"The Mountain", the track for Battle of Mt. Dingjun in 8. Perfect music for a battle on the mountains.
"Mighty Sweep" is played in some stages, but the most memorable one is Guanqiu Jian and Wen Qin's Rebellion in 8, the battle that introduces Wen Yang, to the point some fans consider it Wen Yang's unofficial theme.
The theme for The Battle of Yi Ling in 5, titled Fate Corrodes Me, highlighting Liu Bei's fury and rage as he attacks Wu.
"Scrolls", the music theme for Encyclopedia. A perfect theme to play while you're reading the harsh reality of Three Kingdoms era.
The Nanman themes are always a highlight:
"Exotic Traitors" from 3 doesn't have any tribal elements at all, but it makes up for their absence with an infectious wah-wah riff and some absolutely killer shredding.
"Primitive Power" from 5 mixes frenetic tribal drumming, mysterious chants, and xylophone licks to create a damn catchy song.
"Evolutionary Dawn" from 9 is played during Sima Yi's coup d'etat against Cao Shuang. As the title shows, this music marks the rise of the House of Sima over Wei.
"Climb the Crisis" is the theme for the Battle of Hanzhong in 9, and has a distinct guitar riff and Chinese flair.
"The Epic Remains Forever" is the theme for the Battle of Chengdu in 9. Like all the other themes for the last battle, this one is really telling you that this is the beginning of the end of Three Kingdoms era.
"Slash It; Thrash All", the theme whenever you're sieging a castle and gaining the upper hand, has a great, intense rock feeling to let you know you're succeeding the siege for good.
''Gaze at the Fate'' is the theme that plays when it comes to big decisions characters make in the game, like the pacification of Chengdu and the second battle between Cao Cao and Pang De at Tong Gate. It gives a very heroic and calm feel of battle.
Limit of Ability from DW4 which plays when your forces is at disadvantage in several stages such as Wan Castle and Chibi (post-fire attack for Wei).
DW 4's "Verge of Despair": Another soundtrack that plays when your forces is at disadvantage.
"Smileless", the track that plays when your force is at a disadvantage in DW5. The arpeggiated guitar feels like it represents the despair your character feels, and when the main riff comes in, it's like it's giving way to your character's determination to go down fighting.
"Struggle for Existence", DW4's theme for the Battle of Chengdu. The slow pace and kick drums give it a march feel... fitting for a song that features Liu Bei's army slowly marching through Yi Province to establish a kingdom for their lord.
"My Bad Fellow", 4's "rival" theme. The call-and-response guitar licks are catchy enough before the muffled distortion kicks in at 1:50.