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Bootstrapped Leitmotif

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A Bootstrapped Leitmotif is born when a piece of Background Music becomes tied to a character, place, or other specific part of the story that it was not originally intended to represent.

This is often because the song in question is played during scenes that focus heavily on a specific character. In video games, this commonly occurs with music for stages or levels strongly associated with a certain character, or the character's Boss Battle music. Sometimes a character may already have a Leitmotif, but a different song that is more readily identified by the audience usurps it and becomes more widely accepted and recognized.

A Sister Trope of Bootstrapped Theme, where a leitmotif or other piece of music comes to stand for the series as a whole.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • In Legend of the Galactic Heroes the use of Mahler's Sixth Symphony, first movement has become associated in the minds of fans with character Oskar von Reuenthal.
  • Dragon Ball Z applies for the original and English versions:
    • Original version: Many Dragon Ball Z characters' leitmotifs fall into this trope, although some do have an official leitmotif, such as kid Gohan, adult Gohan, and Piccolo (even Krillin has one, although it's quite unknown among fans).
      • Frieza is usually associated with two tracks. The first, M814A, is a battle rendition of Garlic Jr.'s leitmotif from Movie 01, but it was used a lot during battle scenes in the Frieza arc (to the point it's the most used track in all of Dragon Ball Z when counting the 3 specials; it's pretty much the Battle Theme Music of the anime), so it ended up being associated with him. The second (actually two, M912 and M919, but they're so similar that they're usually considered as one), is actually a rendition of Dr. Wheelo's leitmotif from Movie 02, but it was the track that usually appeared in scenes featuring Frieza other than battle scenes, so it became Frieza's leitmotif.
      • Similar to Frieza, Cell is associated with two tracks: M1308 for battle scenes, and M1314 for other scenes. They were originally renditions of Metal Cooler's leitmotif from Movie 06.
      • Majin Buu is usually associated with M1914, which is actually the Super Saiyan theme rendition for the Majin Buu arc (both the Frieza and Cell arcs have each its own rendition of the theme), but it appears so many times during the Majin Buu arc as a battle theme, that it ended up associated with him instead of with the good guys, and therefore, it's difficult to find anyone who doesn't think of Majin Buu when hearing it. The former were better in the sense that, at least, they were exclusive to that arc, but still fit here because they were not exclusive to Frieza and Cell respectively as they both originate from movies. M1525 would be the other track associated with Majin Buu, more specific of that arc. Strangely, M1922, the track that usually appears in scenes featuring Majin Buu other than battle scenes, isn't as well remembered among fans.
      • M727, the Saiyans' theme, ended up being Vegeta's theme, because he's by far the most important of the (evil) Saiyans, and the only one who survives. Although it appears whenever one of the evil Saiyans is on screen (it first appears with Raditz), after Raditz and Nappa die it can only appear with Vegeta on screen (it doesn't help that it's used much later than even the Frieza arc). This particular case is notable because Vegeta does have an official leitmotif, first appearing in Movie 07 with M1413.
    • English dub:
      • Gohan's Super Saiyan theme. It's actually the Hyperbolic Time Chamber theme, as the first comment says, but everyone knows it either as "Gohan's Super Saiyan theme" or "Gohan's Super Saiyan 2 theme", because of the 5 seconds or so that can be heard when Gohan transforms to SSJ2 for the first time. It doesn't help the fact that Gohan doesn't have an official Super Saiyan theme.
      • Inverted with Ginyu Transformation. Introduced for Captain Ginyu's body-switching ability, it ended up being used for generally "epic" moments (Super Perfect Cell's death, Kid Buu blowing up Earth) long after Ginyu's death - all without changing its name.
  • Franky in One Piece got this with the third part of a soundtrack tune called "Serious Games." The only other previous use in the series had been for one of Usopp's Crowning Moments of Awesome. It is now heard regularly when Franky does anything and on his eyecatches.
  • Susumu Hirasawa's "Forces," due both to its use during Guts' first battle with the Hawks and its use in the "next episode" trailers, has come to be considered the main theme of Berserk.
  • Kimi wa Dare o Mamotte Iru is this for the title character of Rurouni Kenshin, given that his official theme (the aptly-titled "Himura Kenshin Theme") is far less remembered and the former is usually the first thing people hear when they think of the character and the show itself.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Jason's theme from the Friday the 13th movies (you know the one - ki-ki-ki-ki/ma-ma-ma-ma) was originally his mother's theme from the original movie, in which Jason didn't even appear. It was derived from her Jason personality telling her to kill Alice ("Kill her, Mommy!") It only became his theme in the next movie.
  • Godzilla has two main themes: the slow, dark "horror" theme from the original movie when he rampages through Tokyo, and also from the original movie, the up-tempo Self Defense Forces march, which become so associated with the monster that even the composer began calling it Godzilla's Theme. Nowadays, both are used relatively equally, depending on what kind of mood is being called for.
  • "Hooray For Captain Spaulding" from Animal Crackers became Groucho Marx's theme song in this manner (most explicitly as the theme to You Bet Your Life).
  • This is more of an in-development bootstrap, but in The Lord of the Rings you first get glimpses of the Gondor and Minas Tirith themes in The Fellowship of the Ring, but once it comes their time to shine in The Return of the King, they've changed meaning: since there isn't that much of a distinction between Gondor and Minas Tirith, the Gondor theme is used for both, while the Minas Tirith theme seems to be used for Isildur's heritage (the line of kings and, most prominently, the sword Andúril).
    • The "nature" theme originally associated with the Ents in The Two Towers is eventually shifted to the Rohirrim, with a Triumphant Reprise as a build-up to the Charge in The Return of the King to represent their force of nature with a cavalry charge.
    • Used purposefully in The Hobbit: After Smaug's death in The Battle of the Five Armies, the bulk of his thematic material now comes to be associated with Thorin, who is suffering from a bad case of Dragon-sickness and begins acting just like his arch-enemy.
  • Star Wars:
    • The "Imperial March", as the name implies, was originally intended to represent the Empire as a whole; however, it famously came to be associated primarily with only Darth Vader. This can be confusing when it occasionally is used for both like in the prequels, since Darth Vader was an agent of the Emperor with vast resources and power, but did not represent the Empire as a whole.
    • Duel of the Fates became the leitmotif for the Prequel trilogy as a whole, even though it was primarily scored for The Phantom Menace. In Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith, the score is used, respectively, in the scene in which Anakin goes to rescue his mother from the Tusken Raiders and for segments of the Final Battle between Yoda and Palpatine. Although Maul actually has a separate motif in The Phantom Menace, "Duel of the Fates" has since become his leitmotif particularly with its use in Solo despite it originally serving as a battle theme.
    • In The Force Awakens, the Rebellion fanfare from the original trilogy is essentially used as a theme for the Millennium Falcon. The score for Solo uses it similarly (apparently as John Powell learned that John Williams had originally intended for it to serve as the Falcon's theme), while in The Last Jedi it's used for the Resistance heroes. It helps that both movies use the famous "TIE Fighter Attack" piece (originally used for the Falcon's escape from the Death Star) for their major Falcon-based setpieces, which heavily features this theme.
    • The track "Reminiscence Therapy" from Solo uses the Death Star motif from the first movie when the Star Destroyer appears in The Maw.
  • Terminator: The Terminator leitmotif (Dum-Dum-Dut-Dum-Dum) was first created in the second film. In the first film, a similar but different leitmotif is heard during key scenes (opening credits, police shootout, closing credits). Further, in the first two films, the Terminator actually had an entirely different leitmotif when it appeared in most scenes. It wasn't until the third film (headed by an entirely different production crew) that the leitmotif was attached to the character himself, but it has remained that way ever since.
  • In the original Jurassic Park, the main theme stood for the park and/or the dinosaurs. As of Jurassic World Dominion, that music seems to instead stand for the returning characters from that first movie, i.e. Grant, Sattler, and Malcolm.

    Live-Action TV 
  • On Arrested Development, the "Oscar is Buster's real father" theme became the general theme for Oscar and I'm Oscar Dot Com.
  • Star Trek: The Original Series: The episode "Amok Time" had a leitmotif for the Vulcan traditions driving the episode, including the ritual fight between Kirk and an enraged Spock. The fight scene version was reused out of context during fight scenes in several other episodes that had nothing to do with the planet Vulcan, and the "Star Trek fight music" became one of the most-remembered (and most-parodied) aspects of the series as a whole.
  • Lost: When it first appeared in "Stranger in a Strange Land", the piece "Ocean's Apart" was simply a melancholy tune to accompany the end of the episode. It was later repurposed as Juliet's theme.
  • On NCIS, Tony and Ziva are a rare television couple with two themes. One written specifically for them, and a tidbit from a piece of score entitled "Aliyah," from the episode of the same name. The scene in which it originally plays does not involve the two of them, it's primarily a Ziva and Gibbs scene. And while the bit that was lifted plays over Tony looking disappointed that Ziva decided to stay in Israel, it's unclear how or why it was decided this particular piece would be their leitmotif for the rest of the series.

    Pro Wrestling 
  • Linda McMahon's entrance theme began life as the theme for WrestleManias X to XIV.
    • On a related note, Vince McMahon's theme, "No Chance in Hell", originally began as the theme to the 1999 Royal Rumble.
  • Diabolic Khaos's theme, Dimmu Borgir's Hybrid Stigmata- The Apostasy, became the theme of Delirious with the team getting a new theme song and every other member getting their own individual theme (Well MsChif already had her own that was also sometimes used for all of them but also got a new one).
  • Jim Jones's "We Fly High", used to be the theme for the YRR stable in Full Impact Pro but the group got a new theme and "We Fly High" became the theme of Claudio Castagnoli.

  • In The Ring of the Nibelung, the motif consistently associated with Nothung is actually first used in the final scene of Das Rheingold, when Wotan dedicates his new fortress and names it Valhalla. Most productions have Wotan do some Sword Pointing at this moment, but the original stage direction merely says "as if struck by a great thought."

    Video Games 
  • The Legend of Zelda:
    • Link was never given a Leitmotif in the first games, despite almost every other character getting one. However, ever since The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, the series' main theme became Link's motif as well, eventually being canonized within the lore of the games as "Song of the Hero".
    • The song most commonly known as Zelda's Lullaby originated in A Link to the Past as the song plays when rescuing one of the Maidens. It returned as Zelda's Leitmotif in Ocarina of Time and has being associated with her ever since. (However, the full version of the song only plays in A Link to the Past once: when you meet Zelda at the beginning of the game. Every time thereafter is an alternate version that leaves a movement out.)
    • Saria's Song is an interesting case in that it is specifically her leitmotif even though it was also used in other contexts in Ocarina of Time. However, while she didn't appear in any later games in the series, the song continued to appear in forested areas... and due to both an Ocarina sidequest and his connection to creepy forests, it has spent more games representing the Skull Kid (in Majora's Mask and Twilight Princess) than its originally intended character. It was also used as a unique victory theme for Darunia in Hyrule Warriors, referring to a scene from Ocarina of Time in which the song is played for him.
    • The Hyrule Castle theme from A Link to the Past has steadily become the theme for the King of Hyrule (in games where he actually appears). It started with King Daphnes in The Wind Waker, and continued with King Rhoam in Breath of the Wild.
  • The stage music themes in Street Fighter II. They ended up being the themes of the characters who uses it as their home stage.
    • Interestingly inverted in the first two Street Fighter Alpha games. In the first Alpha title, the stages are not 100% unique as several of them are one stage with certain elements changed for each character (such as Ken and Charlie sharing a stage but with an audience present in Charlie's version) so technically the themes used were more for the character than the stage. By the time Alpha 2 rolled around, every character had an entirely unique stage catered for them so the music then became attached to the stage itself.
  • Star Fox defines this trope, as the theme that is known to represent his character in both the Super Smash Bros. titles and the later games in the Star Fox series was originally taken from the opening cutscene in Star Fox 64.
    • The theme, after being introduced in Star Fox 64, was immediately adopted as the new leitmotif for Fox and his games starting with Star Fox Adventures, ignoring any previously established motifs in Star Fox (SNES) and Star Fox 64.
    • While Star Fox Command was a bit of a departure from the main series, it couldn't help but include the 64 theme on its main menu (here).
    • The original Star Fox Corneria theme is also very popular.
    • It is usually attributed to Fox that Area 6 in Star Fox 64 is his theme, as it was used in Star Fox Command.
  • A slowed down version of the Pollyanna theme was used as Ness' house music in EarthBound. Not entirely recognizable at first, though. While not his official leitmotif, it's frequently associated with him.
  • Final Fantasy:
    • Final Fantasy V, this happens within the game itself to Gilgamesh. The first time you fight him, it plays the regular boss music. The second time you fight him it is during the Big Bridge segment, throughout which the appropriately named "Battle at the Big Bridge" plays. However, it becomes Gilgamesh's own theme as it plays during battles with him later in the game which do not even take place on the Big Bridge. The theme has even followed him into other games in which he appears.
    • Final Fantasy VII:
      • "Those Chosen by the Planet" is Sephiroth's leitmotif. However, his Final Battle theme, "One Winged Angel" (which, in fairness, is partially a remix of "Those Chosen by the Planet"), has mutated into his theme song in the minds of the fandom and, as a consequence, the Compilation. Super Smash Bros. Ultimate goes even further in cementing it by using "One Winged Angel" in his reveal trailer. It's justified in that almost all of his future appearances have focused on fighting him, so it only makes sense for his battle theme to take priority.
      • "Main Theme of FINAL FANTASY VII" is often thought of as Cloud's theme as he has no named Leitmotif of his own. That said, a passage from the theme (the second, more dissonant section) is used to accompany a very significant moment in his character development - a passage absent from all other variations on the theme - so it's possible that passage was intended to be his theme.
    • While it happened a little more slowly for the main villain of Final Fantasy VI, Kefka is now more associated with "Dancing Mad," the song played during his Final Boss fight, than "Kefka," the leitmotif used for him in all of his other appearances in the game (though the third movement of "Dancing Mad" heavily incorporates his original theme).
    • Final Fantasy XIV:
      • Blackbosom's theme song is based off of 'My Soul to Keep', which was originally for Lady Amandine in Haukke Manor. It was reused for Tam-Tara (Hard) in which Blackbosom makes an appearance and has been associated with her since.
      • Zenos yae Galvus often appears in cutscenes to "Meteor" which was originally used as Nael van Darnus's theme.
      • “Stone and Steel” is the Big Damn Heroes theme from the Heavensward expansion. Estinien Wyrmblood was a major character in Heavensward who became a fan favourite. In the patches after Heavensward, “Stone and Steel” effectively becomes Estinien’s theme and plays whenever he shows up to do something badass.
      • "The Maker's Ruin" was originally "just" theme for the first phase of battle against the Ultima Weapon, but since then it became the personal theme of the Warrior of Light. The original version still pops up during especially heroic moments, while later expansions introduced several remixes playing during moments and fights focused on them.
  • Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn got the theme "Eternal Bond" as the Greil Mercenaries' charging theme, but in Super Smash Bros. Brawl it was renamed "Ike's Theme", and now is remembered as such. To be fair, it was also used in a character Leitmotif fashion in several scenes.
  • As of Fire Emblem Engage, Micaiah has appropriated another map theme from Radiant Dawn, "Bearer of Hope", as her Leitmotif.
  • Metroid:
    • Super Metroid has a song called "Theme of Samus Aran: Galactic Warrior" on the game's official soundtrack CD... except that tune is now better known as the music for Upper Crateria. Instead, the opening and closing variants of that game's main theme have since combined and mutated into protagonist Samus Aran's leitmotif. In fact, this happened almost immediately, with the 1994 Orchestral Game Music Concerts labeling the song as the character's theme just a few months later, and the following year's Galactic Pinball for Virtual Boy has it play during the Metroid minigame. The Super Smash Bros. series would refer it as the character's theme, but it would take until Metroid: Samus Returns in 2017 for the franchise itself to explicitly refer to it as "Theme of Samus: Galactic Warrior", stealing the name of that original song.
    • The Lower Crateria theme from Super Metroid. The first time it cues in the game is when Samus returns from her brief visit to Brinstar and is suddenly faced with Space Pirates that weren't there before. Thanks to this, as well as remixes in Zero Mission and Corruption, the theme is now associated with Space Pirate bases in general.
    • Super Metroid used three different songs for its various boss fights. The one that played during both escape sequences, as well as the fights with Ridley, Draygon, and the Torizo, has come to be almost exclusively associated with Ridley and has been remixed for every appearance he has made in the series since. Even Metroid Prime and Super Smash Bros. Brawl refer to it as "Vs. Ridley".
    • The second boss theme, played during the Kraid, Crocomire, and Phantoon fights, has essentially become Kraid's theme in Metroid: Zero Mission. When Phantoon returned in Metroid: Other M, he just shared a new original theme with the Queen Metroid, which seemed to further indicate that this theme was now only associated with Kraid. However, this was subverted by Metroid Dread, which does not reuse this boss theme for Kraid's battle.
    • What was originally "Lower Norfair" in Super Metroid has come to mean "hot zone" due to its use in Metroid Prime and then Metroid: Samus Returns using it as such some 15 years after Prime, making it official. Even the name got hijacked, as the theme is specifically called "Magmoor Caverns" in Samus Returns, despite Prime 1 not being the origin of the melody.
    • In Metroid Dread, a remix of the "Lower Brinstar" themenote  from Super Metroid plays during Quiet Robe's exposition scene, as well as when Quiet Robe's X Parasite copy sacrifices itself to Samus. This theme predates Quiet Robe by over two decades and is otherwise unassociated with the Chozo, making it a somewhat unexpected choice of leitmotif for this character.
  • In Super Smash Bros. Brawl, while there are close to 250 distinct stage themes available, each character has one specific stage theme that always plays over the credits after beating Classic Mode. Each unlockable character also has a specific theme that plays during the fight to unlock them. Sometimes these are the same (Luigi gets "Luigi's Mansion Theme" for both), and sometimes they are different (Ganondorf gets "Gerudo Valley" from The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time for his credits music and "Hidden Mountain & Forest" from The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past for his unlocking match). In most cases, however, these tracks are more relevant to the games the characters came from than the characters themselves.
    • Many characters acquire other Bootstrapped Leitmotifs in the cutscenes of the Subspace Emissary, the platformer-style adventure mode of the game.
    • Super Smash Bros. Melee continued the Star Fox trend with Venom's Stage theme. Even though Venom had an entirely different theme in all previous titles (one of which, ironically, was used for Corneria, the other Star Fox stage in the same game), the theme has become so synonymous with the Star Fox series that it couldn't be helped.
    • In Super Smash Bros. Brawl, Fox gets "Space Armada" from Star Fox as his leitmotif in the Subspace Emissary, and "Main Theme (Star Fox)" as his Classic Mode credits music. "Area 6" is in the game, but is instead used as Falco's unlocking battle theme. Likewise, "Main Theme (Star Fox 64)" is used for Falco's Classic Mode credits theme.
    • R.O.B. doesn't even get this justification: While his credits music is the theme from a R.O.B.-compatible game, Gyromite, his unlock music is bizarrely the theme from Mario Bros., likely the most egregious example of this trope from Brawl.
    • Bowser is a unique example: his credits music is the "Giga Bowser" theme from Super Smash Bros. Melee, which had never been applied to the standard form of the character before. Arguable since Giga Bowser is playable in this game as Bowser's Final Smash.
    • Averted with the handful of characters that have proper leitmotifs that predate this game, like King Dedede ("King Dedede's Theme") and Wolf ("Star Wolf"). They keep those pre-existing leitmotifs. Those characters with Bootstrapped Leitmotifs from other games keep them in some situations, but not all. (For example, Samus keeps it in the Subspace Emissary, but not in the credits.)
    • As of the 4th installment, You Will Know Our Names, the Boss in Mook Clothing battle theme from Xenoblade Chronicles 1, has become this for Shulk, seeing as it's now his victory theme.
  • The composers of the Halo soundtracks said that they didn't intend to apply leitmotifs, but many music pieces can be bootstrapped to characters or locations:
    • Characters: "Enough Dead Heroes" = Cortana, "Shadows" and "Devils...Monsters" = The Flood, "The Last Spartan" = Master Chief, "Weight of Failure" = The Arbiter (and later his followers), "Destroyer's Invocation" = Tartarus, "High Charity" = The Prophets, "Under Cover of Night" = Sgt. Johnson (his death scene uses a Dark Reprise of it), "In Amber Clad" = Cmdr. Keyes, "Orbital Drop Shock Trooper" = ODST squad Alpha-Nine, "Noble Mission" = Noble Team, "Lone Wolf"/"Noble Six" = Noble Six, "Follow Our Brothers" = Elite Separatists, "Make It Count" = Jorge, "Rain"/"The Rookie" = The Rookie, etc.
    • Locations: "Penance" = Delta Halo, "Farthest Outpost" = The Ark, "Finish the Fight" = The Portal, "Sword Control" = Sword Base, etc.
    • Other: "Earth City" = The Scarab, "The Battle Begins" = The Fall of Reach, "Ashes" = Kat/New Alexandria, etc.
  • Several songs in the Castlevania series have become recurring themes for the characters that starred in the games where they debuted. Castlevania: Rondo of Blood has "Bloodlines" (the first stage theme) and "Slash" (the theme of one of the alternate stages), which have become respectively associated with Richter and Maria. "An Empty Tome" from Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia, the song that plays when you first enter the castle, is repeatedly used as Shanoa's theme. "Iron Blue Intention" from Castlevania: Bloodlines has apparently been assigned as the theme for the Lecarde Family; the extended portion added for Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin starts playing in the ending credits when Stella and Loretta's portraits appear on screen, and the original portion of the theme was used remixed for Eric's theme in Judgment.
    • Both an Empty Tome mentioned above, and "Tragic Prince/Pitiful Scion" may have been intentional. "An Empty Tome" is used in the intro and in the castle's first area, yet the title describes Shanoa. "Tragic Prince/Pitiful Scion" also accurately describe Alucard, however, instead of being the first area/opening's theme, it's used in the Clock Tower, the one area that recurs in every game and to people that played the previous games can result in Soundtrack Dissonance. The fact that the first area becomes a Bootstrapped Leitmotif is probably Lampshaded by both Castlevania: Harmony of Dissonance and Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow. In the former, the first area is explicitly stated to be the protagonist Juste's theme in the sound test, and in the latter's extra mode where you play as Julius, the theme of the game's first area is replaced by his theme (which can also be considered this trope as it was two songs from previous games repurposed and popularized as his theme.)
    • Alucard also has Dracula's Castle, as it was the opening area.
    • Thanks to Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow, Julius Belmont has made off with two earlier songs from the series. The Haunted Castle song "Don't Wait Until Night" (which plays as Simon crosses the bridge to the final encounter) and the original game's "Heart of Fire" (which plays in the fifth stage leading up to Death) were combined into a medley under the second song's name for the boss fight against Julius, and it has become his leitmotif in later games as well.
  • In the opening cutscene of Cadence of Hyrule, Cadence's summoning is accompanied with the first few bars of Disco Descent, the theme of the first level of the first stage in her debut game, Crypt Of The Necrodancer.
  • Double Dragon: The Mission 3-3 BGM from the NES version of Double Dragon 1 became Skullmageddon's theme in Double Dragon Neon.
  • An inversion of this trope occurs in the Fire Emblem Akaneia games. In Shadow Dragon, the track entitled "The Proud Commander" was the Leitmotif for Camus and Michalis. In New Mystery, it's used as background music for pretty much any boss or character of vaguely high status.
  • Modern Warfare 2 has: "Contingency" = TF141, "Code of Conduct" = Shadow Company, "Siege"/"Infiltration" = Washington DC, and plenty of others.
  • Gears of War 2 has "March of the Locust" = Locust Horde, "Hope Runs Deep" = COG, "With Sympathy" = Maria, "Rolling Thunder" = Delta Squad(YMMV for this) and so on.
  • The Tomb Raider title theme and its variations = Lara's theme.
  • In the Touhou Project, a character's Leitmotif usually ends up being the music from their boss fight, but this trope happens a few times. Hong Meiling, Alice Margatroid and Youmu Konpaku all get their stage themes as Leitmotifs (along with their boss themes); Suika Ibuki gets her pre-battle theme (again, along with her boss theme). Also, midbosses (Daiyousei, Koakuma, Lily White etc.) usually don't have their own leitmotifs, so they tend to get associated with the theme of the stage they appear in.
  • Kingdom Hearts:
    • "Destiny's Force" is the theme for numerous major boss battles in Kingdom Hearts, of which the Recurring Boss Darkside happens to be one. 358/2 Days, coded and 0.2 all use it exclusively for Darksides (and the Palette Swap Dark Follower in the former).
    • "Rowdy Rumble" played during different mini-boss fights in Kingdom Hearts II, including most fights with Pete. The one time you fight Pete in Days also has this song, and in Dream Drop Distance, encounters with Pete are the only time this song plays. The Beagle Boys also get in on it in the latter game, but they're Pete's personal lackeys and are later fought alongside him.
    • "Working Together" is the battle theme for Twilight Town as Sora. In II, Yen Sid's Mysterious Tower is part of that world, so it naturally plays there. The Tower later appears as a standalone world in Birth by Sleep, with the same battle theme.
  • Psychic Energy was originally a Map BGM in Shin Super Robot Wars. It became associated with Aya Kobayashi in later SRW games.
  • Shin Megami Tensei:
    • In the Maniax edition of Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne, Dante was given some leitmotifs reminiscent of his own series, and when he was booted off and replaced with Raidou Kuzunoha the XIV in the Chronicle edition, said music remained the same for Raidou.
    • When the Demi-Fiend from Nocturne appears as an Optional Boss in Digital Devil Saga, he's accompanied by the basic battle theme from that game. It doubles as a subtle Take That Player moment as well, implying that the Demi-Fiend sees the party as nothing more than another random encounter to walk all over.
    • In Shin Megami Tensei IV: Apocalypse, the theme of the final dungeon is a remix of the Major Boss theme from Shin Megami Tensei II, most likely due to the fact that a sizable amount of people exclusively associate that song with YHVH, the final boss of II, and the dungeon is an entire universe ruled and controlled by YHVH, who is fought at the end of it.
    • In Persona 2, the cheerful, poppy school theme from the original Persona is given a more mature, funk-inspired remix as the theme of Yukino, now graduated from school and holding down a job. Notably, it sounds nothing like the theme used last time she was a playable character.
    • Persona 3 FES' The Answer epilogue stars deuteragonist Aigis in the playable role. "Heartful Cry", the boss theme for the fights against the rest of the party, has become associated with her since, with remixes serving as her character theme in Persona 4: Arena and one of her dance routines in Persona 3: Dancing in Moonlight.
    • In Persona 4: Arena, Yu gets a remix of "Reach Out to the Truth", the normal battle theme from Persona 4, as his character theme.
  • Undertale:
    • Sans has his own Leitmotif named after himself, and has a remix of the song named "Song That Might Play When You Fight Sans". (It does not actually play when you fight Sans; the title only says it might) However, the song most people associate him with is his actual boss theme, "MEGALOVANIA".
    • Similarly, The Fallen Human (whose actual role in the plot beyond their Plot-Triggering Death is ambiguous, at best) is most prominently associated with both the aforementioned "MEGALOVANIA" and the game's opening tune, "Once Upon a Time". Thanks to a popular fan animation, "Megalo Strike Back"note  is often considered to be their battle theme.
    • The melody of "Ghost Fight" seems to have been intended as a general mini-boss theme, but ended up being more associated in both the fandom and official materials with perennial Ensemble Dark Horse Muffet through her boss fight's remix of it, "Spider Dance", than many of the actual ghost characters. The one ghost that escapes this is the Mad Dummy, who keeps the motif in all of their fights, including their fight as Mad Mew Mew. However, Mad Dummy's use of "Ghost Fight" in and of itself then resulted in an inversion: "Dummy!" was later tied to other characters with doll motifs, such as the puppet-like Spamton NEO in Deltarune.
  • Rogue Squadron: In the Sound Test, a track from The Empire Strikes Back is labeled "Snowspeeder Theme", as it was heard when the snowspeeders are searching for Luke and Han in the movie. Oddly enough, the track wasn't meant for that scene - it's an edited version of "Hyperspace" that replaced the original cue.
  • Kirby:
    • The boss fights for Kabula are remixes of the first game's powerup theme (used for the Superspicy Curry and Mint Leaf powerups). Kabula was originally fought after consuming a Mint Leaf, so the powerup theme was used instead of the normal boss theme for that fight. Those types of powerups are no longer used in the series (except for the Kirby Fighters and Kirby Battle Royale games), so the song was repurposed.
    • The music that plays during the first part of the Gourmet Race intro cutscene from Kirby Super Star has been associated with Chef Kawasaki since Kirby: Right Back at Ya!.
      • Kirby: Right Back at Ya! also used a slower, more dramatic rendition of the "Castle Lololo" theme from Kirby's Dream Land as the theme for Dyna Blade, and the games that released after the anime followed suit (particularly Kirby Air Ride and Kirby Super Star Ultra). However, Kirby games in the mid-2010's eventually decoupled the "Castle Lololo" theme from Dyna Blade, featuring the theme in other contexts instead.
    • Meta Knight was given his own battle music in the Kirby Super Star sub-game Revenge of Meta Knight, but is regardless more associated with either the Halberd levels or the ending theme from that game (e.g. in Kirby Star Allies).
  • In the Like a Dragon series, "Receive You" began as the theme song for the first game, with an interpolation of it also serving as Goro Majima's boss theme. In later games, "Receive You" and many remixes of it would become Majima's personal theme.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog:
  • Pokémon:
    • While Olympus Mons in the series have had their own unique leitmotifs since Pokémon Crystal, the ones hailing from Pokémon Red and Blue (Articuno, Zapdos, Moltres, Mewtwo, and Mew) shared the same battle music as all other wild Pokémon, resulting in them getting remixes of the track in later games.
    • The Final Boss theme for Pokémon Red and Blue would later be remixed and utilized for the championship battles of the Real Life VGC tournaments.
    • The Champion Theme from Pokémon Gold and Silver has become far more associated with Red from Pokémon Red and Blue than with the champion the theme was composed for, Lance, to the point where the theme has become better known as "Red's theme" amongst the fandom. This is largely thanks to the theme playing in the battle against him on Mt. Silver, which is considered by fans to be one of the best final battles in the series. The games have caught on to this, as after HeartGold and SoulSilver, the theme would be reused and rearranged for most of Red's future appearances.
    • In a fandom example, the theme for Accumula Town, the second town in Pokémon Black and White, has become associated with Furret via Memetic Mutation, a Pokémon that wasn't in the regional dex of Black and White.
  • While a few Overwatch characters have new music composed for them in Heroes of the Storm, others are given bootstrapped leitmotifs. For example, Ana's theme is a remix of the Temple of Anubis map's background music, and Tracer's theme is remixed from the main Overwatch theme.
  • Red Dead Redemption's "The Shootist" was originally just one of several possible "combat" pieces that can play in a shootout. Red Dead Redemption 2 uses it as John Marston's theme, inserting its iconic riff at points where he's prominently featured and using dramatic remixes of it in some of his missions during the epilogue.
  • In Fallout: New Vegas:
    • The "Rubble of the Forgotten/Out of Business" motif is most heavily associated with Doc Mitchell, though it also plays at the 188 Trading Post and a couple other locations.
    • "Radiation Storm", recycled from the original Fallout, became this for Mr. House, since it plays both in the Lucky 38 Penthouse where he resides and the Fort Bunker where you activate his Securitron army.
    • "The Vault of The Future", another recycled tune, is the bootstrapped theme of Vault 22.
  • DuckTales brings with it an odd example. Thanks to the source material's 2017 reboot, the Moon level's theme is now associated with Della Duck, a character who didn't even appear in the video game.
  • In Ori and the Will of the Wisps, Ku's leitmotif, heard in "We Named Her Ku", "Ku's First Flight", etc. was derived from the main melody of the Inkwater Marsh BGM, "Separated By The Storm", which Gareth Coker composed well before he had a dedicated theme in mind for the character. The original non-specific Prologue music cues were subsequently discarded and replaced with variations of her theme, including the aforementioned two. Also, the first part of "Up Spirit Caverns Walls" from the preceding game is incorporated into the Upper Inkwater Marsh theme, while the B-section of the former piece was rearranged as Kwolok's leitmotif.
  • Several examples from Puyo Puyo.
    • "Theme of Puyo Puyo", or the Stage 1-8 theme, has gone from being something of a misnomer to serving as Arle's theme as of 15th Anniversary as well as the series's answer to Tetris's "Korobeiniki" in Puyo Puyo Tetris.
    • "Area A" from Puyo Puyo Tsu became Carbuncle's theme as of Puyo Puyo Sun.
    • "Area C", also from Puyo Puyo Tsu, has become Witch's theme as of 20th Anniversary.
    • The 2-Player versus theme of Puyo Puyo Sun became Draco's theme as of 20th Anniversary, despite there being a different song in the game serving as her theme.
  • Shining Force: The "Circus Battle/Battle 3" theme originally played for several mayor bosses but it became so associate with Michaela's Marionette boss that basically became its theme. Tellingly, in the GBA port, the theme only plays in the battles against the Perverse Puppet and Michaela.
  • Shantae:
    • Shantae herself is usually associated with the "Burning Town" theme.
    • Scuttle Town had background music of its own in the Game Boy Color game, but uses a remix of the "minigame room" theme from Risky's Revenge onward. Bolo ended up using the original song as his own theme starting with Pirate's Curse... which is odd, because Bolo is never anywhere near Scuttle Town in the first game.
    • Likewise, Water Town's background music ended up becoming Sky's character theme in Pirate's Curse and Half-Genie Hero.
  • In the Space Quest series, the opening theme of the first game continued to be used as Roger Wilco's leitmotif after the sequels introduced new main themes.
  • In the Ys series, "Theme of Adol" and its variations is implied to be the titular hero's leitmotif, although it never seems to be directly connected with him in-game.
  • Trails Series:
    • In a case of Early-Installment Weirdness, "Silver Will" was the theme for all plot-significant bosses in Trails in the Sky FC, Loewe only being one of them. Starting with SC, it became Loewe's theme exclusively. (And, retroactively, a Boss Remix of the theme of the Hamel tragedy)
    • Similarly, "Unfathomed Force" was the general theme for powerful bosses in Trails to Azure, one of them being Arianrhod the Steel Maiden. The song quickly became associated with her, and when she returned in Trails of Cold Steel III the song was only used for her fights.
    • Trails of Cold Steel IV re-purposes the Super Arrange version of "The Enforcers", the general Ouroboros Leitmotif from the Sky games, as the theme of Enforcer No. I, McBurn, in his true form.
  • In Wandersong, the Quirky Bard protagonist sings "I Wanna Be The Hero" to reveal their deep desire to be a hero that will save the world, becoming an impromptu leitmotif for them going into Act 3. Thing is, they already have their own theme titled "The Bard" that appears at the beginning of most Acts in the game. By the end of Act 3, not only is the Bard explicitly told that they are not any prophesied hero at all, the real hero Audrey Redheart introduces herself with her own theme that uses the "Hero" leitmotif in its entirety, and only plays to represent her for the rest of the game.
  • The World Ends with You has a shuffling soundtrack of pop, rap, and rock music, and not much in the way of character themes. That didn't stop fan-favorite Large Ham Sho Minamimoto from being associated with the hard rock song Transformation. His boss fight was originally set to Someday, but all future ports of the game changed his boss theme to Transformation, and a remix of the track plays when he makes his dramatic entrance in the sequel. If that wasn't enough, Transformation wasn't even in the original Japanese game, and was only added in the international version.
  • Xenoblade Chronicles:
    • In Xenoblade Chronicles 2, "Drifting Soul", is an emotional ballad about one's purpoes in the world, and plays during several moments in the game when a major aspect of a character is revealed or their resolve is cemented. It is most famous for playing when Nia finally embraces her Flesh-Eater Blade nature and confesses to Rex. Subsequently, in Xenoblade Chronicles 3, a battle remix plays when Nia is in the party, essentially cementing it as her leitmotif.
    • The Updated Re-release of Xenoblade Chronicles 1 features a story expansion following Melia and Shulk called Future Connected, which features a brand new battle theme, to boot. Like with the example involving 2, the battle theme of Future Connected receives a remix in Xenoblade Chronicles 3 that accompanies the party when Melia joins, likewise making it her own leitmotif.

    Visual Novels 
  • Ace Attorney:
    • The second game, Justice For All, has a track called "Investigation - In the Midst 2002". While not technically considered a character theme, every instance of the song is connected to the defendant of the case it appears in, Matt Engarde, so is is any wonder that it is generally considered to be his theme? Its Dark Reprise, "Investigation - Core 2002", is first played when he shows his true colors, so it again gets this treatment and is considered the "Evil Matt Engarde Theme" Oddly enough, the same track ends up inverting this trope in the following game. While it was practically a Leitmotif in JFA, it becomes a general 'dark secret' theme in Trials and Tribulations.
    • Across the board, many fans associate the "Pursuit" themes with the protagonists rather than the intended "Objection!" themes, as the main thrust of the game is catching witnesses in lies so when the "Pursuit" music starts up, that means the main character has the witness dead to rights and it's time for a Theme Song Power Up.
      • "Pursuit - Cornered!" from the original game is the one many consider Phoenix's theme, while other people consider it as both his AND Edgeworth's theme. He has a theme proper in "Objection! 2001" but Cornered appears in a flashback with both Phoenix and Edgeworth and was also used in the final moment of Phoenix's trilogy, while "Objection! 2001" only appeared in the first and fourth games. It got to the point that upon his appearance in Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom 3 he is the only character with TWO themes, his proper theme and "Pursuit - Corner the Culprit" for his Turnabout Mode. The fans aren't complaining, though.
      • Apollo Justice has a proper theme used for his Objections (titled "A New Chapter of Trials!"), but many people associate him with "Pursuit - Overtaken"note 
    • As of Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Dual Destinies, Phoenix seems to have appropriated the main riff of "Objection! 2004" as his personal theme music, which was remixed again for the sequel. Fittingly for the trope, as Phoenix was really intended to be associated more with the first game's music (hence the reuse of Ace Attorney 1 themes in Professor Layton vs. Ace Attorney), "Objection! 2004" was really more Mia Fey's theme music.
    • In the first Ace Attorney, "Blissful People" was associated with, well, any happy witness. Lotta Hart was only one of these, but it becomes associated solely with her from Justice For All onward.
    • In Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney, whenever Apollo uses his Perceive ability, the music that plays is a slowed-down, distorted version of that game's cross-examination music. In later games, when Apollo uses his Perceive ability, that same piece of music is still used, instead of a variation of those games' cross-examination music.
  • A peculiar example in Fate/stay night: in Expanded Universe material, Archer usually gets a Theme Music Power-Up that is a remix of "Emiya", the theme used exclusively for Shirou in the original Visual Novel. This example is strange because of the spoileriffic reason that Archer is a future version of Shirou, meaning that the song originally represented him in a way.
    • And this comes full circle in Fate/Grand Order, where a remix of "Emiya" with Japanese instruments added ends up being the theme playing at the climax of Shimousa when Senji Muramasa unleashes his Noble Phantasm as he is a Pseudo-Servant using the body of Shirou as a vessel, and this extends to his playable version, too.
  • A unique example appears in the Danganronpa Fan Game, Super Danganronpa Another 2. One of the characters, Kanade Otonokoji, is at the center of a very disturbing Signature Scene. During the scene, a track titled "A Fearful Encounter" from Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth plays. As a result, more people know the song from SDRA2 and associate it with Kanade rather than its source material, Digimon. Just one look at the comments on the linked video will tell you.

  • Happens all the time in Homestuck. This webomic has its own music team who typically compose themes based on their own visions, but which will often get used in the comic in a completely different context than they imagined. A specific example is "Crystamanthequins", a song originally supposed to be music for Dave. It was later used in this flash and became associated with Vriska and Terezi instead; lately it has been showing up as a Recurring Riff in that context.
    • One of John's themes, "Doctor" ended up becoming a theme for ascension to God Tiers. One of its remixes, "Savior of the Waking World", has a decent claim to being the theme for the webcomic as a whole.
    • The drum beat from "Upward Movement" (first plays as Dave walks up some stairs) eventually become included in many different songs in Homestuck, such as "Even in Death", "Descend", and "Terezi Owns" (though the third makes sense as it is basically a mirror to the above-mentioned Upward Movement).

    Web Videos 
  • The SiIvaGunner music channel does this for many characters featured in their Massive Multiplayer Crossover story-based videos. Said characters are chosen to represent songs frequently referenced in the non-story videos, for example "We Are Number One" from LazyTown has been remixed several times, with Robbie Rotten being the representing character. In that case the character choice makes sense as he sung that song, but some cases can be stranger, like "Snow halation" from Love Live! which is represented by the character Nozomi even though Love Live! canonically associates it with Honoka, or the Wii Shop being associated with Drake because of an old mashup combining its theme with "Hotline Bling." The oddest one is probably "Rhythm Code"note  from Kirby: Planet Robobot being represented by Felix the Cat due to an infamous rip mixing the song with music from a Felix bootleg game that Joel played.

    Western Animation 
  • The Simpsons: Sideshow Bob's theme. His theme is the title music for Cape Fear, since the episode it was first used in was a parody of that film. It wasn't meant to represent Bob, but since he was the bad guy, it naturally played only when he was onscreen. The producers ran with it and now it's quite explicitly his theme, always playing when he first appears in an episode (just in time for Bart and Lisa to shout in unison: "AAAAAAH! SIDESHOW BOB!").
  • Due to being one of his most iconic cartoons, Mickey Mouse has been increasingly associated with the Steamboat Willie theme. The theme song to his fan club also started referring to him over time once it fell out of the public eye.
  • Æon Flux's theme tune was originally just a Suspiciously Similar version of the theme from Indiana Jones, as her debut short was a deconstruction of action movies. It was later remixed from a goofy, mock-triumphant, pseudo-orchestral sound into something more exotic and techno-ish for the later short Gravity; this version then became her leitmotif in the TV series. The "Breen National Anthem", leitmotif of Aeon's main antagonists, has a similar story: it was originally created as the theme for a single Breen character, Vaarsche Lockney, meant to sound like a Richard Wagner piece due to the character's Germanic looks...but it fit Bregna's authoritarian bent so well that the tune managed to outlast Lockney himself, who was spitted by an enemy swordsman half a minute into his first and only appearance.
  • Among the My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic fandom, various character songs took on this role.note  Rainbow Dash's verse of "At the Gala" is an noteworthy example, however, as it eventually became Ascended Fanon via the song "Awesome As I Want to Be" from My Little Pony: Equestria Girls – Rainbow Rocks.
  • The triumphant theme of Takua and the titular mask from BIONICLE: Mask of Light is reused at the end of the prequel film Legends of Metru Nui when the first movie's characters show up, focusing mainly on Jaller rather than Takua, with no Mask of Light in sight. The theme is seamlessly combined with the fallen hero Lhikan's personal motif as Jaller inherits Lhikan's mask to signal the progression of generations, so fans tend to associate the music with the first film and its timeline in general, rather than with just Takua and the mask.