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Bootstrapped Theme

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Sometimes, a tune which previously served as the theme of a specific character, setting, franchise entry or what have you, will become so popular and synonymous with the series/franchise itself that it becomes the accepted Theme Tune of the series. At this point, the theme will increasingly become prominent in anything related to the source, and, if there is already a theme for it, that theme may be replaced with the popular one.

This is a kind of Recurring Riff that becomes a straight up theme. If there is already a theme in place that is not as remembered as the Bootstrapped Theme, it can become a form of Title Confusion or I Am Not Shazam.

If you're wondering about the name, "bootstrapping" refers to an old Baron Munchausen story in which the titular character pulls himself and his horse out of a swamp by literally pulling himself up by his own bootstraps (or his own hair, it depends on the version). You can read more about it at The Other Wiki here. Thus, these are songs that have taken center stage through their own merits, not because any creator really wanted it to be thus.

This term is also used in fields such as statistics (as a sampling method, more at The Other Wiki here) and computer processing (where it's usually abbreviated to "booting up" or the like).

This trope doesn't include tracks that were originally named by the composer with a specific character in mind, but have always been used as the work's/franchise's main theme. The music must merit popularity as an unofficial main theme, outside of intent during production.

A Super-Trope to Level 1 Music Represents (where the series theme comes from a game's first stage).

Compare Bootstrapped Leitmotif (a Recurring Riff becomes a Leitmotif).


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  • As noted on its page, the 20th Century Fox fanfare is frequently used as a theme for all of Hollywood.
    • While the theme wasn't new (it was part of the identity of 20th Century Pictures before the buyout from Fox), the flourish in the famous fanfare was originally part of the special intros to their CinemaScope films. While the format eventually went out of style, George Lucas's insistence on using the CinemaScope theme for A New Hope and its subsequent composition by John Williams cemented it as the theme song of Fox.
  • Warner Bros. had a theme for their logo, but it never caught on as the 20th Century Fox theme did. Now they have "As Time Goes By" from Casablanca.
    • The original theme had a short comeback in the early 1980s, when Warners ditched the 1970s abstract logo and brought back the shield. It was also the Warner Home Video theme for a while.
    • Warner Animation used the last four notes of the Animaniacs theme ("Those are the facts!"), but switched to the last notes of "Merrily We Roll Along" in 2009. This was the second time "Merrily We Roll Along" was a boostrapped theme, having previously featured in the Merry Melodies cartoon "Billboard Frolics" in 1935 before replacing "Get Happy" as the theme the following year.
  • Casablanca itself is an example, too. The filmmakers wrote a song, specifically to be featured in the movie, which they were absolutely certain would become wildly popular, top all the charts, and become synonymous with the film. And that song was... "Knock on Wood." Seriously.
    • Likewise, the studio had high hopes for "Count Your Blessings Instead Of Sheep" as the Breakaway Pop Hit from Holiday Inn. It actually was a bit of a breakout hit at the time, but nowhere near as big as "White Christmas" (though it's well-documented that Irving Berlin himself recognised the latter's hit potential from the start).
  • Since at least the 1990s, "Over the Rainbow" and other music from The Wizard of Oz has been used to signify Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer:
    • The 1992 retrospective MGM: When the Lion Roars used "Over the Rainbow" as a recurring theme.
    • From 1993-1998, MGM/UA Home Video's fanfare was based on the opening logo from The Wizard of Oz.
  • The main theme from Star Wars was actually Luke's theme. John Williams originally wanted to write a new main theme for the prequel trilogy, but Luke's theme was so well-associated with the franchise that they kept it during the opening crawl (and maybe once or twice in the underscore of The Phantom Menace). That said, Luke does get his own theme in the course of the narrative itself: that "longing" tune that is heard as he watches Tatooine's twin suns set outside his farmhouse (which leads to the name "Binary Sunset", albeit "The Force Theme" is also common - see below), which later becomes tragic as he finds his aunt's and uncle's burned skeletons outside that same farmhouse. However, even that theme is recycled at the end of the movie as celebratory fanfare for the Rebel Alliance.
    • To a lesser degree, what started out as Obi-Wan's theme in the original movie became the generic Force theme in each of the later movies (Revenge of the Sith kind of switched back and forth with the associations).
      • According to John Williams in the Making of Star Wars Book:
        Sunset: "George asked for Ben's theme there once he had heard it. I had originally scored that scene with Luke's theme, but when he heard the other, he said 'Could you put Ben's theme in there?' He liked it for some reason or other better for that scene. It is contemplative and reflective, and it works really very well. I think I have to say in the end he was very right."
        Throne Room: "The entrance to the throne room has a big fanfare as they come in, and Ben's theme is used in a kind of parade way. In this sense it represents the triumph of the values of the Old Republic."
    • "Duel of the Fates", which underscores the climactic showdown between Obi-Wan, Qui-Gon, and Darth Maul in The Phantom Menace, became the unofficial theme of the film itself, showing up in commercials as well as video games that didn't even include that scene (such as Episode I: Racer).
  • In Pirates of the Caribbean, you have to mention that Jack Sparrow's theme and "He's A Pirate," both of which became the extremely recognizable parts of the series - the first within it, the second outside of it.
    • It's starting to supplant the Indiana Jones theme as the quintessential adventure theme. It was used in a commercial for a History channel special or some such about Ancient Greece, and Top Gear used it for a car-verses-ice kayak race.
    • "He's a Pirate" was already an example of this. The number of people out there who love this piece of music, but think that it is Jack Sparrow's theme, is astonishingly high. Thing is, it isn't Jack Sparrow's theme... it's Will Turner's theme. At least, in the first film. From the second onwards "He's a Pirate" pretty much becomes Jack's secondary theme and Will's theme is supplanted by a melancholy tune primarily contained in one track called One Day (that used to represent Will and Elizabeth's relationship, but now it's pretty much their theme).
  • What is recognized as the "Harry Potter theme" is actually called "Hedwig's Theme".
    • Alexandre Desplat, who scored Parts 1 and 2 of Deathly Hallows, has stated that he decided to associate the theme with the innocence of the early installments, which (to his own regret) meant that it couldn't be used very much. The music is heard and then cuts off abruptly when Hedwig dies, giving it the double association of the death of Hedwig herself and the end of Harry's innocence. In Hallows, Part 2, it is played when Harry returns to Hogwarts and when Hogwarts is saved from Snape's reign.
  • "Pure Imagination" from Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory. While the Oompa-Loompa melody (which turns up four times!) is arguably even catchier and rivals it for popularity, "Pure Imagination" sums up both Willy Wonka's character and the atmosphere of the story so well — and has become so beloved over the years — that it was incorporated into the otherwise all-new stage musical adaptation of the source novel in 2013, serving as The Eleven O'Clock Number. So it's effectively become the theme song of the story itself, not just one adaptation thereof.
  • Although Batman's theme in The Dark Knight Trilogy didn't fully develop until The Dark Knight, the track "Molossus" from Batman Begins seems to have become the main theme of the Nolan movies. It was heavily featured in the trailers for TDK, and the movie itself uses the five-note brass motif in key scenes.
  • From 28 Days Later, "In the House, In a Heartbeat," which is used once in the climax of the movie, is frequently treated as the movie's theme. 28 Weeks Later carries on with this and runs the song into the ground.
  • Rocky composer Bill Conti had already written a quieter, sadder sounding piano theme for Rocky's character in the contemplative moments of the movie. Director John Avidson then asked Conti to write something inspiring for the training montage. Conti just started off with the fanfare that opens the movie, took the sad theme he had already written and added a beat and some lyrics and it became "Gonna Fly Now" which became Rocky's theme.
    • In turn, it became the news theme to the ground-breaking CityPulse newscast in Toronto beginning in 1977; beginning around 1980, they used a different, punchier arrangement by Maynard Ferguson, which they used up until the early 90s. Afterwards, original compositions carrying the Gonna Fly Now melody were used instead (and by the mid-2000s the melody had been dropped entirely). This was likely intended to signal the underdog status of Citytv at the time, and how CityPulse strove to be very much a different beast from other newscasts in the area.
  • Many consider "The Rainbow Connection" from The Muppet Movie to be the theme for the Muppets as a whole. It was even played on the organ at the beginning of Jim Henson's memorial service.
  • Although the cast and crew hated the song "Talk to the Animals" when they made the film Doctor Dolittle, it is now inseparable from the title character.
  • In Madagascar, Sacha Baron Cohen's improvising the words for a cover of "I Like to Move It" changed the song from a one-off joke for his character to the de facto theme song of the film series.
  • Oliver & Company: "Why Should I Worry?" was originally just the "I Am" Song for the character Dodger, but is easily the most iconic song from the movie.
  • Pinocchio has "When You Wish Upon A Star" ...technically. While it is the song best associated with the film, it is far more notable for becoming the Bootstrapped Theme for the entire Walt Disney Company.
  • One of the biggest hit records of all time was Percy Faith's lush rendition of the "Theme from A Summer Place", which held the #1 spot on the Billboard chart for nine straight weeks in 1960. However, while the tune was introduced in the score to the 1959 movie A Summer Place (for which it was composed by Max Steiner), it's not actually the main theme, just a secondary Love Theme for two of the characters.
  • Strangely enough, the Silent Hill movies use "Promise (Reprise)" as an impromptu theme. It originated in one scene from the second video game, but is used repeatedly in both movies and also opens the trailers to both. The video games have their own proper theme song entitled "Silent Hill" (with the vocal reprise introduced in Silent Hill 3 being called "Hometown"), but only the opening of this song is ever heard in the movies - over the studio logo to the first film, before the movie proper even starts.
  • "Arrival to Earth" is the generally accepted theme song for Michael Bay's Transformers Film Series.
  • The Little Mermaid (1989): "Part of Your World", Ariel's "I Want" Song and leitmotif, is generally recognized as the film's main theme.
  • The theme of The Good, the Bad and the Ugly is arguably one of the best-known Western themes, and is the subject of a great many shout outs in other media. However, it is frequently used to parody, or evoke, the tension of the climactic final shootout scene, which has its own theme, which doesn't use the "wah wah wah" riff.
  • Blue Swede's cover of "Hooked on a Feeling" went from being a background theme in Guardians of the Galaxy (2014) to the series' theme song; it's even played in the teaser for the sequel.
  • "Immigrant Song" in Thor: Ragnarok is considered Thor's theme song by fans, due to playing in two scenes and in the teaser for the movie.
  • "Red Right Hand" has made an appearance in every Scream film except the fourth. The lyrics that refer to a ghost and overwhelming paranoia, only make it more perfect for the series.
  • While it hasn't supplanted the original theme song, "The Touch" is on equal par with the Transformers' theme in terms of association with the series. It's even used by the franchise as the music for the clip show of the annual winner of the Hall of Fame fan-voted inductee.
  • The "James Bond Theme" was first heard in Dr. No, and that was intended to be its only use, with new music composed for later films. It was so popular that not only did it become the theme for the entire franchise, it was incorporated into the arrangement of the instrumental theme for the second film, From Russia with Love, and notes of it can be heard in several of the films' main theme up to and including No Time to Die nearly sixty years later, not to mention the theme's use with variations in almost all of the Bond Gun Barrel sequences.
    • From Russia with Love offers a bizarre attempt at an inversion. Despite the fact the film opens with a dynamic instrumental version of the theme, Matt Monro's vocal ballad version that closes the film was one promoted. Some editions of the movie's soundtrack album do not include the instrumental version at all. In addition, it's usually Monro's version that is used on Bond theme compilation albums. In recent years the fan-preferred instrumental has become more widely available, although there has yet to be an official release of the original on-screen version that features a jazzy organ backing.
  • The main title theme of Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves became one for its production company, Morgan Creek. It was later used by Disney for ads for its brand that appeared on their DVDs and Blu-rays for several years.
  • Echoing Disney and "When You Wish Upon a Star", "Fairytale" from Shrek has been serving as the unofficial theme for DreamWorks Animation since 2001. It has been used in fourteen DreamWorks films, only four of which are associated with Shrek.note 
  • Aside from "Fairytale", the first Shrek has "All Star" by Smash Mouth, which was only played in the opening credits but fans nowadays feel like it's actually the theme song from the film. Making this even more interesting is that it almost didn't make it into the movie at all—it was originally written for a completely different movie's soundtrack, and was used as a placeholder with the expectation that an original song would be commissioned to take its place, but it worked so well with test audiences that they left it in.
  • Even though in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, the theme heard over the credits is the Prince's romantic solo "One Song," most people will probably think of "Heigh-Ho" or, even more so, "Someday My Prince Will Come" as being the film's true theme song.
  • Likewise, fans of Cinderella are most likely to consider "A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes" the movie's theme song, rather than its title song "Cinderella," which is sung by a chorus over the opening credits.

    Live-Action TV 
  • A Song of Ice and Fire:
  • The famous Mission: Impossible theme was originally written by Lalo Schifrin for a chase scene at the end of the pilot. Creator/producer Bruce Geller zeroed in on it as exactly the sort of thing he wanted for the opening credits.
  • The Jeopardy! Thinking Music (officially titled "Think!") on the original Art Fleming-hosted version of Jeopardy! (1964-74) became so famous that, when the show was revived in 1984 with Alex Trebek, a rearrangement of "Think!" became the show's theme song as well. To this day, the show still uses arrangements of that same melody for the theme tune and think music.
  • Bob James' instrumental Taxi theme, "Angela", was originally written for a single scene involving a character of that name in the first-season episode "Blind Date". But the producers liked the piece so much they decided to make it the title theme for the whole series.
  • The first season of The Twilight Zone used a different theme tune, which was composed by Bernard Herrmann. For the second season on, the now-familiar theme was produced by splicing together two cues by Marius Constant named "Etrange 3" and "Milieu 2," written for the show but not intended to be used as theme music.
  • Lexx's Brunnen-G battle hymn became the show's most popular piece of music, and was used in the opening credits starting with Season 3.
  • In Andromeda, the motif that was originally Dylan Hunt's theme (by series composer Matthew McCauley) became the main title theme from the second season on, replacing the first-season theme, "The March of the High Guard" (by Alex Lifeson of Rush).
  • The "Requiem for the Line" from Babylon 5 originally appeared in flashbacks to a key moment of the backstory in the first season. It was bootstrapped into the title sequence for the third season.
  • Eight is Enough had an instrumental theme tune in the first two seasons. On the second season episode "Who's On First" eldest son David sings a song with lyrics called "Eight Is Enough" at a school talent show. It became the show's theme song the following season.
  • Johnny Pearson's "Heavy Action" is well-known in America for its use on Monday Night Football note , but it was originally composed for the BBC as generic production library music. It eventually became iconic in Britain as the theme to the sports series Superstars. On MNF itself it was originally just used as Background Music for halftime highlights, not getting used for the show open until years later.
  • Supernatural has no real theme song. However, "Carry on Wayward Son" by Kansas has frequently been used for recap montages. Between that and the fact that it sums up the two main characters pretty damn well, it's become something of an unofficial theme for the show.
  • Murphy Brown used many, many classic 60's rock tunes during its runs as the opening theme as a Couch Gag, but "Rescue Me" is always played as its theme during awards shows.
  • Red Dwarf's original opening theme used melodies from the closing theme, but the resemblance was not obvious because it was done in the style of Also Sprach Zarathustra (featured in 2001: A Space Odyssey). From Series 3 onwards, this was replaced with a rock instrumental version of the closing theme. The original opening theme continued to be used as incidental music.
  • Glee has No Theme Tune, surprisingly for a musical series. However, the song "Don't Stop Believin'" by Journey, which the original six New Directions members sang at the end of the pilot, has gone on to be the theme song for the show and its characters; its status as this trope was cemented in season 5, where virtually every member of the New Directions sang it (since the glee club was going to be disbanded).
    • Interestingly, the creator originally intended for Coldplay's "Viva la Vida" to be the song used for the glee club's Misfit Mobilization Moment instead of "Don't Stop", but couldn't clear the rights. Someone else suggested that the Journey song might work better, and the rest is history.
  • In the Classic series of Doctor Who, the stock music "Space Adventure pt. 2" is considered to be the theme of the Cybermen during the black-and-white era, but was not always used for Cyberman-related moments.
  • The iconic theme music for The Six Million Dollar Man was first heard as incidental Background Music during one of the three TV movies that preceded the weekly series (and which used a song by Dusty Springfield as the theme).
  • Barney & Friends is so closely associated with "I Love You" that any Shallow Parody of the character or show will be accompanied by that song or something close to it. It's actually used for the Dénouement of each episode. The actual opening and intended main theme is a completely different song, sung to "Yankee Doodle," while the credits music is an upbeat instrumental piece.
  • The intro theme of the famous 1986 television adaptation of Journey to the West, particularly in recent memory, has become something of an example for this trope, as seen in some non-Chinese productions based on the story, like Monkie Kid. It also counts as a Bootstrapped Leitmotif as the theme appears specifically for the story's Spotlight Stealing Character, Sun Wukong the Monkey King.
  • Chucky has a two-for-one. While Graeme Revell's theme from Child's Play 2 is used as the basis for the title card, thus making it clear it is now supposed to represent the series as a whole, Joseph LoDuca's leitmotif for Chucky from the opening credits for Curse of Chucky and Cult of Chucky is constantly reprised each episode, any time the Chuckster gets up to mischief.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • The Union Underground recorded "Across the Nation" to be Test's theme; however, WWE decided to use it as the theme for its Monday Night Raw program instead. This required a bit of editing, as the original version featured a prominent "TEST!" chant in the bridge.
  • Mick Foley continued to use Mankind's "Wreck" theme well after he stopped the Mankind gimmick. It has become the Mick Foley theme altogether.
  • Teddy Long has used Rodney Mack's "Mack Militant" theme long after he managed Mack and after Mack left the company. Because of this, it is more associated with him than Mack.
    • Similarly, Debra used Jeff Jarrett's theme music whilst being his valet, but continued to use it after he left the company. This theme was related to Jarrett's earlier gimmick of being a country musician.
  • While "Sexy Boy" has always been about Shawn Michaels, it refers specifically to the "Heart Break Kid" persona that he never used again after the mid-1990s (despite continuing to go by the nickname itself). The line "I'm not your boy-toy" is an indirect reference to Michaels's manager, Sensational Sherri (to whom he really was a boy-toy)...but Michaels continued to use the theme not only long after Sherri had left WWE, but after she had died.
  • John Cena's "You Can't See Me" continued to be his theme after he abandoned the rap gimmick. The song was originally used to promote Cena's rap album on which it appears. His well-known entrance theme, "The Time Is Now", was the first track on that album.
  • Vince McMahon's "No Chance in Hell" theme was originally the theme song for the 1999 Royal Rumble Pay-Per-View.
  • Booker T loved the Harlem Heat theme music, so insisted on using it not only after the split of the group, but after he came to WWE as well. The theme has a new jack swing style that indicates its early 90s origins.
  • In a retroactive example, Chris Jericho had WWE overdub his "Break The Walls Down" theme music on his WCW material on the WWE Network because he didn't like his original theme.

  • Not quite a Theme Tune, but worth mentioning: the Act One finale of the musical Strike Up The Band, Jim and Joan (the principal couple) quarrel and split (until they reconcile in the second act), and her musical denunciation of him included four strangely lyrical bars. Although it was common in musicals of the 1920s for the Act One finale to include reprises of earlier numbers, with or without new lyrics, these four bars were not a reprise of any number in the version of Strike Up The Band which played Philadelphia in 1927. This version of the show failed to reach New York, but a few years later, a revised version of the show ran successfully on Broadway. In this version, Jim and Joan's love duet was a new song called "Soon," which George and Ira Gershwin developed out of those four bars mentioned above.
  • Cirque du Soleil:
    • Amaluna doesn't have an official theme, but the melody of the opening number, "All Come Together", is a prominent recurring riff.
    • Volta's "The Change", an epic Power Ballad played at the climax of Act 1 and reprised during the final curtain call, fits very well as the bootstrapped theme.
  • The famous Toreador from Carmen tells of the tragic Love Triangle between a seductive gypsy, a corporal, and a toreador, and it's been used in pretty much everything. Nowadays though, people hear this song for a different meaning altogether: "You're fucked."

    Video Games 
  • Super Mario Bros.:
    • The original Super Mario Bros.' underwater theme briefly became this for the series as a whole as evident in it being the title screen music for the four games within Super Mario All-Stars as well as in all four Super Mario Advance remakes as the song used on the title screen seen before the games' original title screen.
    • Yoshi's Island, the first game in particular, is typically associated with the "Athletic" theme first heard in the fifth stage, "Hop! Hop! Donut Lifts". Super Smash Bros. Brawl and Mario Kart 8 Deluxe both use remixes of the song to represent the series.
    • Super Mario RPG tends to be associated with "Beware the Forest's Mushrooms" due to that song's use in a number of popular animated music videos about the game, such as "Rawest Forest", and "Waltz of the Forest". It helps that the level that song appears in is also the one to introduce fan-favourite character Geno.
    • The Gusty Garden Galaxy theme has become more or less the main theme for the Super Mario Galaxy series. Portions of it appear in several areas of the first game (Purple Coin levels, the end credits); and in Super Mario Galaxy 2, it was used in the trailer-specific composition, and makes a few more appearances in the game itself. After that, the theme has reappeared several times, either in its entirety or as a snippet in another theme, and it's even used in Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS and Wii U as the theme of Rosalina in her debut trailer, as well as the "Wii" sound effect in Super Mario Maker 2. All this is in spite of the Galaxy games actually having a distinct theme completely separate from Gusty Garden. This theme is incorporated into the title screen and credits of both games, as well as the level start and star collecting jingles, and is prominently featured in the music for Melty Monster Galaxy in Galaxy 2.
  • While the overall Sonic series and especially the classic titles are known for this theme, thanks to Sonic Adventure 2's success and its remake's Newbie Boom (and some legal issues), Live and Learn, the main theme of the game, is arguably the theme of "Modern Sonic", either the series or the character. It was used in his Super Smash Bros. Brawl introduction video, several promos for the 20th anniversary, and as his power up theme when fighting Shadow in Generations.
    • On an unofficial level, "Escape from the City" has become a second theme for Sonic himself as far as the fandom is concerned.
  • The main theme of Space Harrier is arguably this for Sega as a whole, as it plays on the Sega Master System's Japanese boot up screen when no cart is inserted and is the theme that plays on the Sega themed "Race of Ages" course in Sonic & All-Stars Racing: Transformed.
  • The Heavy's theme in Team Fortress 2's Meet the Team series is simply known as the "TF2 Theme" because it is so iconic and does a good job in representing Team Fortress 2 as a crazy, hilarious, 1960s setting game.
  • Hazardous Materials from the Half-Life soundtrack is used in the logo for Valve Software. Military Precision, on the other hand, has become the theme song of Gordon Freeman himself, largely thanks to Freeman's Mind.
  • It was originally presumed that the "Gourmet Race" theme from Kirby Super Star was the theme song to the Kirby series as a whole due to it being remixed three times within the Super Smash Bros. games and used as a theme for at least one Kirby-themed stage. However, it's becoming increasingly apparent after Kirby Super Star Ultra that it's actually Green Greens from Kirby's Dream Land that turned into both the series' theme song as well as Kirby's due to the fact that it appears in future games in one form or another, sometimes even during cutscenes when Kirby himself is on the screen, and as a Triumphant Reprise in every final boss theme starting with Return to Dream Land. The Forgotten Land mixes it up by having it as part of the theme of the final level of the bonus world.
  • The motif shared between the title theme and "Underworld" level music for Kid Icarus arguably became this in Super Smash Bros. Brawl when it was used as Pit's victory theme, and its status as the unofficial theme for the series as a whole was cemented when it was finally revived with Kid Icarus: Uprising, where the melody continues to be remixed into many tracks.
  • The Hell March of Command & Conquer: Red Alert became the series's theme. Speaking of CnC, we also have "Act on Instinct" (the most known music of Tiberian Dawn), and Renegade had "Got a Present for Ya," which was presented as "Havoc's theme".
  • The intro music to the first maze of Pac-Man is only played when you hit Start, but since it's the very first thing you hear when you play it, it's currently an icon of the series. 20th Anniversary Pac-Man World, in fact, plays a remix of this theme as soon as you enter a maze.
  • EarthBound Beginnings has "Eight Melodies (Queen Mary's Lullaby)", which also made remixed appearances in each subsequent game as well as, again, being part of one of the MOTHER remixes in Super Smash Bros. Melee and also becoming Ness and Lucas' victory theme in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate.
    • There's also Pollyanna (I Believe in You), the initial overworld theme from EarthBound Beginnings. Despite the melody being far more prominent in the original game - with a quieter version even playing during some key emotional moments - it's become highly associated with Ness and his adventure from its sequel EarthBound (1994), where parts of the melody show up in only a few tracks, to the point it was later used in a montage of sorts for the game during Mother 3. It was also remixed in Super Smash Bros. Melee under the name "MOTHER 2", further cementing it as one for the second game, but its featuring in every game in the series has made it quite popular among fans as a theme for the Mother series as a whole among fans.
    • While Pollyanna is traditionally the main theme, the Super Smash Bros. series treats Bein' Friends as the series theme. The track is much more likely to play on Onett than any other theme (with all the other series main themes also being the main track and never the alternate) and is put in the main themes playlist for Ultimate.
  • Metroid has a recurring six-note-long leitmotif that originated as the title theme's opening notes in the first Metroid game. It was absent in the sequel Metroid II: Return of Samus, but then returned in Super Metroid and has been included in almost every game since, cementing itself as the series's main theme. It was even retroactively included in the sequel's remake Metroid: Samus Returns, just to make it clear that it's an iconic series staple now.
  • Mega Man (Classic)
    • The title theme from Mega Man 2 has more or less become the title character's theme tune, being reused by several games in the main series & also as his theme when he appears in crossovers such as Marvel vs. Capcom. A (barely) less popular version is the Mega Man 3 title theme. Anniversary Collection uses both of them for its intro.
      • The Wily Stage 1 theme from Mega Man 2 is also quite iconic, and has accompained the Blue Bomber a few times. To hammer the above point as well, his debut trailer Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS and Wii U, they use both the Mega Man 2 title and Wily Stage 1 themes.
    • Mega Man Zero has Clover, the theme song from the second MMZ game, particularly the fast-paced version that serves as the BGM for the intro stage. It's strange, because before he got his series, back in the Mega Man X series he actually got a completely new leitmotif for every game (except in X5 and X6) he was in, though the one from X1 reappears in Z1's intro stage.
    • Mega Man Legends "Mega Man Trigger" has also gotten this treatment. The Flutter vs. the Gesellschaft battle theme from the first game has been remixed for every single cameo of the Legends characters in Namco × Capcom, Tatsunoko vs. Capcom and Marvel vs. Capcom 3.
  • Warcraft II: Tides of Darkness The "Orc War Room" theme plays in the game's main menu, and is thus considered its main theme.
  • Age of Empires: The main theme started as an ordinary soundtrack in the first game.
  • Most people outside Russia think of Korobeiniki as the Tetris theme (originally the Game Boy port's "Type-A" music)... unless you grew up playing it on the NES, in which case you probably think of Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy.
    • Type-A has become such an integral part of the brand's recognizability that The Tetris Company acquired the rights to the composition from Nintendo and now has made it a part of the "Tetris Guideline", the bible-like ruleset used to govern games licensed under the Tetris brand.
  • Final Fantasy
    • Officially, the theme song of the series is "Final Fantasy" (It's also known as "Prologue," because that's what it was called in Final Fantasy IV). Unofficially, while it is recognizable, it shares the title of "theme of the series" with three other pieces: the "Prelude" or "Crystal Theme," the "Chocobo Theme", and probably most of all, the "Victory Fanfare".
    • Final Fantasy VII: while many trailers and TV ads for the original game used original music not even featured in the game itself, trailers for Remake were really fond of showcasing its various arrangements of the boss battle theme, Fight On!note  rather than any of the game's main themes.
    • Final Fantasy IX: Melodies of Life (at least the instrumental version) was largely Garnet's theme, as she hums it throughout the game. But ask anyone what song they associate with the game, it's just that.
    • Final Fantasy X: Yuna's theme, based upon Suteki Da Ne, is probably the most associated with the game in general. Although Hymn of the Fayth may also serve as a Bootstrapped Leitmotif for the game. (Tidus's theme seems to have become the bootstrapped leitmotif for the blitzball players and storyline section dealing with the sport.)
    • Though Final Fantasy XIII does have its own quite well-known theme, it's just as often associated with its main battle theme: "Blinded By Light".
  • Fire Emblem has a well-known theme song, but the encounter/recruitment theme known as "Together, We Ride" is equally associated with the franchise in West, due to it being labeled as the "Fire Emblem Theme" in Super Smash Bros. Melee and that game being the debut for the series outside Japan. Oddly enough, the rendition used in the game does contain portions of the actual theme song in its latter half.
  • "Techno Syndrome" by The Immortals was composed for an album that accompanied the console versions of Mortal Kombat (1992), although once it was used in the 1995 film adaptation it has since became associated with the entire franchise as a whole.
  • Fatal Fury has "Kiss for Geese". It doesn't matter what game he's in, guaranteed, Geese Howard will have a variation of this music track coming with him, with the only exception being the SNK vs. Capcom series.
  • The King of Fighters:
    • "Esaka?" Originally used as the Japan Team's theme in KOF '96, it was brought back two years later in KOF '98 for the first "Dream Match" title. Following this, it received a number of remixes for several future installments, including but not limited to KOF '99, KOF 2002 (and Unlimited Match), and KOF 2003, used as the theme for either the multiple clones of the series' hero, Kyo Kusanagi, or the man himself.
    • "Psycho Soldier" technically predates the KOF series (Being used as the main theme for the arcade game of the same name), but is far more recognized as the recurring theme of the Psycho Soldier Team within KOF, having remixes in '94, '96, '97, and 2002.
  • The first Art of Fighting had the theme for Ryuhaku Todoh, the very first opponent that's fought. The song has essentially become synonymous with both the series and the characters, especially main character Ryo Sakazaki. Any time Ryo shows up, you can be almost guaranteed that this song will tag along either via remix or via a new theme very heavily inspired by it; "Kamikirimushi" from '96 and "Fight to the Limit" from 2001 being the only real exceptions.
  • The title Theme Tune to the first Twisted Metal is "Twisted Theme", but the more common Recurring Riff in the game is that of "Asphalt Assault".
  • The Wild ARMs series has "Into the Wilderness", the intro theme of the first game. It has been remixed and sampled several times throughout the series since.
  • Lucca's Theme from Chrono Trigger became the battle victory music in Chrono Cross. There are rumors that the tune was intended as Chrono Trigger's battle victory theme, but was repurposed as Lucca's Theme when CT's battle victory theme was phased out along with some other musical ideas left on the cutting room floor.
  • Shin Super Robot Wars: "Everywhere You Go", theme of Ryusei Date has become the theme song of Banpresto, the company that makes the games. Whenever you see their logo, expect the first few notes to play.
  • In the Super Robot Wars series in general, if a series isn't represented by a theme song, it'll be represented by an iconic theme. For instance, Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam is either represented by either "Fleet Battle" or "Riders in the Skies"
  • Persona:
    • "Velvet Room", originally an incidental piece in the first two (and a half) games, was elevated to this status by its use as "The Poem For Everyone's Souls" in Persona 3, to the point it even became that game's Final Battle theme.
    • "Reach Out for the Truth", the main battle theme for Persona 4 is a weird case of both this and Bootstrapped Leitmotif. The song is often seen as the main theme for the game it appears in, but it became the battle theme for Yu in Persona 4: Arena.
  • Marvel vs. Capcom:
  • The title theme for Crash Bandicoot 3: Warped was reused in several later titles in the series. Marc Baril, composer for the later games, favored making a more original soundtrack, but even he couldn't resist making a rendition of his own.
  • The Legendary Starfy has Lobber's Cave, the first world featuring the titular old lobber man teaching Starfy to spin in means of attack. The theme got spun around in different styles for first four titles.
  • Silent Hill 2 has "Theme of Laura", which is considered the theme for the game, if not the series, rather than just Laura herself. The eponymous opening theme of Silent Hill may also be considered the series theme, as the melody in the second half is reused in most of the subsequent games, including in the aforementioned "Theme of Laura", and a version With Lyrics is used for the credits of Silent Hill 3.
  • Halo:
    • Halo: Reach does not have a piece explicitly stated to be the main theme, but because the "Unreconciled" portion of "Tip of The Spear" is so awesome and contains a reprise of the original Halo theme, many consider it to be the main theme.
    • Halo 3: ODST also has no explicit main theme, but "Orbital Drop Shock Trooper" is widely considered to be the main theme, both because of its awesomeness and because of its title.
  • "The Sun Rises" for Ōkami. What was used as a final boss theme eventually became the game's theme, if its appearance in Marvel vs. Capcom 3 as Amaterasu's theme is anything to go by.
  • Street Fighter
    • If you're a Street Fighter character who appeared in Street Fighter II or anything thereafter, your first theme will be linked to you forever, to the point that you're lucky if you get anything but arranged versions of it for all your future appearances even outside SF media. Ken's and Guile's themes in particular are strongly associated with the franchise. That's how dedicated the composers are to first impressions for your music.
    • On a more trope-consistent basis, Street Fighter IVs secondary theme, used in two versions for the second half of the opening and for the "Volcanic Rim" stage, has been adapted into main menu music for Super SFIV and rearranged four times over for Street Fighter X Tekken, whereas the original opening theme "Indestructible" has been all but abandoned.
  • Mass Effect has "Vigil" which plays over the main menu of ME1, as well as at some of the more emotional moments of the series. Fans have a very compelling argument for saying it's the "real" Mass Effect theme.
  • Officially speaking, Deadly Premonition has two theme songs: "The Woods and the Goddess," which is the haunting melody from the title screen, and "Miss Stiletto Heels," the theme music from the bar, which, according to the composer, was meant to thematically represent the game. However, the song most closely associated with the game—and the song used to "represent" the game's Updated Re-release by its publisher, Rising Star Games—is "Life is Beautiful," the quirky, whistling-and-kazoo number played during the game's goofy comedic moments. Not just because the music is iconic; it's just that kind of game.
  • The Sims has had all kinds of music, but the theme the University Expansion Pack in The Sims 2 ended up becoming the theme to the franchise and some variation of it has appeared in every expansion pack and base game following it.
  • The Elder Scrolls: The main theme of Morrowind, originally titled "Nerevar Rising", was originally intended solely for use with that game (much like Arena and Daggerfall had separate themes), but it ended up becoming so damned iconic (thanks in no small part to the intro being timed in such a way that someone who goes straight into a new game from the title will step off the boat just as the big orchestral swell hits), so integral to the identity of the franchise for many, that it was re-used in various permutations in both Oblivion and Skyrim.
  • If the Tekken series ever appears in a crossover, expect the theme that represents them to be the intro to Tekken Tag Tournament. Aside from the Tag games, it appears as the Tekken Rival theme in Street Fighter X Tekken, the theme of Jin and Heihachi in Namco × Capcom and the theme of Jin, Xiaoyu, Alisa and Heihachi in Project × Zone.
    • The music and stage for the Fiji level in Tekken 1 (Nina & Anna's level) became associated with Roger when used for his stage in Tekken 2, to the point where it is often used in ending videos for him and Roger Jr. Whilst Nina's stages have become darker and more industrial since, Anna's character is often see in exotic locations as a nod to the original stage.
  • Solid Snake's theme is either the Metal Gear Solid 2 theme or "Encounter", the "you've been detected" music from the original Metal Gear Solid.
  • The sequels to A Super Mario Thing have "The Lullaby" as part of the title theme, as the Background Music in several levels and for climactic boss battles. Interestingly, the song does not appear at all in the original- it was improvised by raocow as he went through a bgm-less level, and stuck as the series' official theme from then on.
  • The BEMANI franchise brings us "FLOWER" by DJ YOSHITAKA. Originally a song for an event between jubeat knit APPEND and REFLEC BEAT, the song has since been crossed over to every active BEMANI game; games where "FLOWER" itself wouldn't fit get a special remix instead ("FLOWER -TLION69 Remix-" in GITADORA, "FLOWER REDALiCE Remix" in SOUND VOLTEXnote ). Additionally, a BEMANI commercial uses "FLOWER" as its Background Music. The biggest thing Konami has done with the song so far is have it be the representative song for jubeat saucer fulfill (and by extension, the BEMANI lineup) in the Tenkaichi otogesai Zenkoku issei nintei taikai event, a crossover event that also involves Sega's maimai ORANGE, Bandai Namco Entertainment's Taiko no Tatsujin Kimidori Ver., and Taito's GROOVE COASTER.
  • Donkey Kong:
  • Frank West from Dead Rising was musically represented by a remix of Adam the Clown's theme in Marvel vs. Capcom 3. Possibly a nod to how Adam's weapon was universally considered to be the best weapon in Dead Rising, and as such, the majority of players would use nothing else after defeating Adam and unlocking it.
  • Similarly, Mike Haggar from Final Fight was given a remix of Cody's theme from Street Fighter IV when he finally made his non-Final Fight debut in Marvel vs. Capcom 3.
  • Ace Attorney has "Pursuit ~ Cornered" from the first entry of the series. While each new game creates new versions for several themes, that one has become the most associated with the "Pursuit" themes, and with the series in general. It has returned a few times, in at least one instance as the theme for the very final confrontation, and it is used as Phoenix Wright's Super Mode theme in Marvel vs. Capcom 3
  • "You Will Know Our Names", the Unique Monster battle theme in Xenoblade Chronicles 1 has become this after being used in Shulk's reveal trailer in Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS and Wii U and the battle theme of Fiora in Project × Zone 2. The Gaur Plains theme has similarly become Shulk's Bootstrapped Leitmotif.
  • Assassin's Creed developed this prompting accusations of Ezio Auditore being a Spotlight-Stealing Squad. The main theme of Assassin's Creed II, "Ezio's Family", has come to represent the main theme of the entire franchise (although not until after the "Ezio Trilogy" ended, it's heard in Brotherhood in the closing credits only and nowhere to be heard in Revelations as far as that trilogy is concerned. Unity, Rogue and Syndicate would incorporate the theme into their main themes, while Origins, Odyssey, and Valhalla would create their own renditions of the theme. "Rooftops of Venice" is also a song associated with Ezio, with his theme in Soulcalibur V being a remix of the song.
  • Samba de Amigo has "Samba de Janeiro", which is actually a pre-existing song, used whenever the title is being referenced in other Sega games.
  • Child of Light's menu music is officially Princess Aurora's leitmotif, but is generally seen as the game's bootstrapped theme. The official main theme, "Pilgrims on a Long Journey", is more recognized for its boss remixes.
  • The Legend of Zelda:
  • "At Doom's Gate", the music from the first level of the original Doom, would become synonymous with the rest of the franchise when it returns during the end of the prologue in Doom (2016), the opening cutscene of Doom Eternal and upon beating the Final Boss in Eternal.
  • Schubert's "Ave Maria" was used in the 4th Hitman game —Blood Money — as the theme that plays while the game loads into the main menu, and as the Background Music of the final level as funeral music. For whatever reason, the song has since became so associated with the frachise it makes a cameo in almost all Hitman media.
  • "Superman" serves as the de facto theme song for the Tony Hawk's Pro Skater franchise, so much so that not only does a documentary on the series bear the same name, but when the remakes of 1 and 2 were announced, YouTube views on the song jumped over 800 percent.
  • "Theme of Adol" from the Ys series, although there is at least one game in which it doesn't appear (Ys VI: The Ark of Napishtim). Also, "Feena" from I and II.
  • "The Moon Theme" from DuckTales has become synonymous with the DuckTales videogames to the point that it even became a secondary theme song for the entire franchise (with a lyrical version being included in one of the episodes of DuckTales (2017))
  • "Zone J" from the first Chip 'n Dale: Rescue Rangers game quickly became the most memorable song to come out of both video games and is seen by many as the characterizing song of the Chip 'n Dale platform games. It's also a major inversion of Level 1 Music Represents, as it's the song of the final level.
  • While Touhou Project has many praise-worthy tracks and songs, thanks in part to one particularly memorable Opening from Fantasy Kaleidoscope the Song "The Gensokyo The Gods Loved", which is used as the Stage theme for Touhou Fuujinroku ~ Mountain of Faith's "Stage 3", has regardless been widely recognized by fans as the "unofficial-official" theme song for the entirety of Touhou.

  • Homestuck:
    • The song "Sburban Jungle" was initially only used as the installation theme for the game Sburb. It quickly more or less become the main theme of the comic, featuring in both the Act 3 and Act 4 closers. While the full song itself is actually largely unused, parts of its melody appear in many songs as a Bootstrapped Leitmotif, including its cameo in "Cascade". Appropriate, considering the comic was almost outright called Sburb.
    • "Upward Movement", ostensibly one of Dave Strider's Leitmotifs, has also seen a fair amount of reuse in the same way, most prominently as the base "foundation" and most recurring riff in the Act 4 closing animation's theme; it helps that it very much ties in with one of the series' Arc Words, "ascend".
    • "Homestuck Anthem", a song that was specifically supposed to be a theme tune, became used to represent characters beginning to get involved in the greater story (or, through its The Elevator from Ipanema cover "Elevatorstuck", prolonged frustration).
    • "Chorale for Jaspers" was originally Jaspers' Leitmotif, but it has since been bootstrapped into becoming one of Rose's themes. This is most prominent in "At The Price Of Oblivion".
    • Likewise, "Doctor" was originally a theme for LOWAS, which stayed valid when its remix Savior of the Waking World was used for John's ascension, but after "Savior of the Dreaming Dead" was used for Jade's, it sort of became a theme for ascensions.
    • "Harlequin" was originally the theme for John's Kernelsprite, which means it was also the theme of Nannasprite and the monsters John initially faces. It shows up multiple times throughout Acts 1 and 2, but when the monsters become more varied (and less important) and Nanna's use as a Crutch Character decreases, it's heard a lot less. It eventually comes back as the theme for the clown-themed Gamzee.

    Web Original 
  • "The Review Must Go On", originally a song from the musical review of Moulin Rouge!, became The Nostalgia Critic's theme song after Doug rebooted the series.
  • Matt and Pat of Two Best Friends Play used Kirby's "Green Greens" theme for the title card and outro for Kirby's Epic Yarn, their pilot episode on Machinima. They used it again for their second episode (Donkey Kong Country Returns) and it's been used as their opening theme from then on, despite them only revisiting Kirby on the channel once since. It even received bootstrapped lyrics for season 2, an official remix when the channel expanded to become Super Best Friends Play, and has also been remixed for specific LPs (such as Bloodborne and Deus Ex) to fit the theme of the game they are playing.
  • Until 2022, Scott The Woz used the track "Breakout" from 3D Dot Game Heroes as his ending theme and has since become so synonymous with the channel that it's arguably better known for being the ending theme of Scott the Woz's videos than being a track from 3D Dot Game Heroes.

    Western Animation 
  • Possibly the best example of this in animation is "Linus and Lucy" of Peanuts/Charlie Brown, which went from being the theme of the aforementioned characters to series theme tune. Complicated by the fact that there was already a tune, also composed by Vince Guaraldi, called "Charlie Brown Theme", which still saw regular use throughout the series but is damn near impossible to find on its own regardless, as everyone calls "Linus and Lucy" the Charlie Brown Theme anyway. Listen to possibly the only video example of it on YouTube here.
    • The first "Charlie Brown theme" is played during the credits of "It's Christmastime, Charlie Brown".
  • Despite not being introduced until the franchise evolved from four TV specials to a weekly series, Run With Us has become the theme song for The Raccoons as a whole.
  • Raymond Scott's "Powerhouse" is associated with Cartoon Network's on-air look from 1997 to 2004.
  • "Meet the Flintstones" was originally a piece of Background Music heard during the first two seasons, with the cast recording a version with lyrics at one point. Beginning with Season 3, not only did it replace the original instrumental theme, "Rise and Shine", but when the time came to syndicate the show, the opening and closings of the first two seasons were stripped and replaced with "Meet the Flintstones", too, thanks to the similarities between "Rise and Shine" and "The Bugs Bunny Overture (This Is It!)" presenting potential copyright issues. The original openings weren't widely seen again until the 1990s.
  • Scooby-Doo: The theme for The New Scooby-Doo Movies was the second created for the franchise, and immediately went into disuse for the rest of the decade. For some reason, it was resurrected in 1979 for Scooby Goes Hollywood and Scooby-Doo and Scrappy-Doo and became Scooby's official theme song for the next decade.
  • The theme song of Steven Universe: Future is a shortened version of the musical number "Happily Ever After" from Steven Universe: The Movie, with slightly altered lyrics.
  • Infinity Train has a different theme tune for each season, representing both that season's protagonist and the general tone of that story arc. However, you'd be hard-pressed to find a fan that doesn't view Book 1's "Running Away" as being the de-facto theme song for the entire series.


Video Example(s):



This catchy tune from the Seven Dwarfs as they're done working for the day and head homeward has become iconic with its source film.

How well does it match the trope?

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Example of:

Main / BootstrappedTheme

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