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Lonely Piano Piece

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Is the hero in a losing battle against the villain and on the receiving end of a No-Holds-Barred Beatdown? Has he or she been broken down? Does the grief of the realization that In the End, You Are on Your Own overtake him or her? Cue the lonely piano piece.

Basically, this is a piece of music that plays in a scene that represents that someone is left all alone and is stuck at a dead end with no allies or means of solving the problem at hand. The music is usually slow paced and the notes are often lower pitched to show that the character has run out of momentum or that he or she has hit rock bottom.

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While this can be done with just about any instrument, the piano just seems to be a common instrument to do it with, perhaps because if there's ever a piano being played, there's rarely a second piano. The violin or acoustic guitar are usual replacements.

Subtrope of Simple Score of Sadness. If a character is constantly lonely, or even an entire cast, this may be a Leitmotif. The Lonely Piano Piece has a tendency to show up at funerals, especially when it's raining, or when it snows. Always expect Angst. If the story has a happy end, you can also expect You Are Not Alone. May play with the One-Woman Wail, though typically the Wail tends towards more epic points.

See also Playing the Heart Strings. May overlap with Sad Battle Music.


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Examples:

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    Anime and Manga 
  • Naruto has "Sadness and Sorrow" which is played frequently, especially during the funeral scene.
  • Appears in the final battle of the Soul Eater anime after Maka and Soul wake up to find that the rest of their True Companions have all been defeated. Of course, they were asking for it, given how Soul both plays the piano and uses this for a literal Theme Music Power-Up.
  • Very common in Spiral, mainly because Ayumu, Kiyotaka and Eyes are all skilled pianists.
  • "Love Conservative" from Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann. Like we need to be any sadder watching Nia disappear.
  • All of the Sunlit Garden pieces from Revolutionary Girl Utena.
  • Alies Grises would be a good starter, but practically all the music in Haibane Renmei would count.
  • A very beautiful piece in the Read or Die OVA when the bad guys get the MacGuffin.
  • The power of this trope might reach its penultimate level in the first episode of Noir, when Kirika is in Mireille's living room and the two are discussing Kirika's amnesia. Kirika's "alone in a crowd" theme is so brilliantly overpowering, the Lonely Piano Piece works even when she's not actually by herself.
  • "Elegia for Piano" from Hirano Yoshihisa's Ouran Highschool Host Club soundtrack is often used for this purpose in the series, particularly in uncovering the more depressing pasts of characters. "Sakura Kiss for Piano" is its sweeter brother and a touching recovery piece, also for solo piano.
    • "Nocturne pour Tamaki" is also a solo piano piece. The melody itself isn't necessarily sad, but the few scenes its played for aren't exactly joyous. Considering Tamaki's past, it gives off a more melancholy feel when its played.
  • "Will of the Heart" from the first Bleach soundtrack by Sagiso Shiro, and "Swan Song" from the second, though the latter is a guitar piece.
  • "A Mother's Love" from One Piece, first used during Robin's flashback to Ohara, where her mother was killed, and she was left on her own with no one to rely on, at the age of 8.
    • Done very literally with Brook. With the entire crew severely injured, they try to perform one last song for their whale pet. Everyone begins dying, leaving only Brook left playing piano, asking why they would leave only the accompaniment.
  • Cowboy Bebop does this with piano ("Adieu") less often than other instruments, like saxophone ("Goodnight, Julia"). Session five even manages it on a pipe organ ("Rain").
  • "Rakuen" from Wolf's Rain, which plays when Cheza disappears, leaving Kiba to die alone as the world ends, is heartbreakingly sad. However, once the strings come in and you realise there may still be hope, it becomes incredibly beautiful.
  • Neon Genesis Evangelion, Rei's theme ("Rei I") is the epitome of loneliness, and appropriately so.
    • "A Hole in the Dream", "Passage of Emptiness", and "Reliance Leads to Falsehood" from End of Evangelion are two other such pieces (though the latter is played in violin). Several other tunes like that are tucked away in the S2 Works music collection. There are at least two piano versions of "Honeymoon with Anxiety" - the lonely one, and the really, really, REALLY lonely one.
  • One slowed down version of "Heart Moving" is played on a lone piano during the first season finale of Sailor Moon, when Usagi sits alone after all her friends have sacrificed themselves for her.
    • The piano rendition of "Heart Moving" was also used for the last scene of season two's finale when Chibiusa says her goodbyes to Usagi and returns to the future. There are other melancholy versions of songs used throughout the series, usually a rendition of one of the ending credits songs.
    • A quite popular one, "Mercury no Toujou" (based on La Follia di Spagna), is played in the very climatic episode 101 and through two different scenes. The first one features Haruka angsting over how bloodstained she is and Michiru comforting her via toying with her hands; the second has Ami, Rei, Makoto, Minako and Usagi thinking and angsting about the recent reveal that Michiru and Haruka are the Outer Senshi.
  • Fullmetal Alchemist has a simple yet heart-tugging piano solo, which coincidentally is titled "Alone".
  • Lyrical Nanoha
  • Axis Powers Hetalia features this in the episode where the Axis Powers are alone on an island. You get a double whammy when it turns out that Austria was playing it, and realize that it could apply to him too.
    • The piano piece is Nocturne Opus 9 No. 2 in E Flat, by Frederic Francois Chopin.
  • Puella Magi Madoka Magica has Decretum, Sayaka's theme which plays during the scenes where she's consumed by her despair.
    • "Inevitabilis" counts even more for being a literal Lonely Piano Piece, and for being a Dark Reprise of Homura's theme for when she finally breaks down and admits everything to Madoka before steeling her resolve for a lonely final battle.
  • Code Geass: This song which plays during the following:
    1) Xing-Ke's promise flashback
    2) Cut finger scene (between Lelouch and C.C.)
    3) Ohgi's confession of love
    4) And, of course, Lelouch's last words before he dies.
  • Kare Kano with character themes Yukino Miyazawa V (Nocturne) and Arima Souichiro I.
  • Fafner in the Azure: Dead Aggressor uses this, combined with One-Woman Wail, as a remix of the usual ending theme, Separation, to spectacular effect following Shouko's Heroic Sacrifice.
  • All over the place in Black★Rock Shooter anime, but especially in the OVA after Yomi disappears.
  • Nabari no Ou has a piano arrangement of the main theme that serves for such moments in the anime.
  • In the original Saint Seiya, one of these (named "Far Reaching Five Old Peaks") is heard as the empty Virgo Cloth reassembles itself after Ikki's Heroic Sacrifice to defeat its owner Shaka, all of this in front of the very shaken Shun, Seiya and Shiryu.
  • Much of the music in Umi Monogatari is this, to the point that tracks that aren't this tend to stand out.
  • Tenchi Muyo! has the piece "Royal Teardrop" that plays during sad moments. The name is also significant as its a flower from Jurai that is used for sad events.
  • GaoGaiGar FINAL had a slow, piano version of the series theme song "Yuusha-Oh Tanjou!" that played during the final episode. After everything that happened, it really fits.
  • Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex has the beautiful, haunting "i do" (yes, the name is in lower case).
  • Rurouni Kenshin:
    • The anime uses the Adagio Cantabile of Beethoven's Pathetique sonata as this, namely during Yumi Komagata's death scene and Kenshin's flashbacks as he visits a tombstone strongly implied to be his wife Tomoe's.
    • The filler Shimabara arc uses the Moonlight Sonata as this too, when Magdaria is playing it on her own and during the brief face-off between Shougo's Japanese Christian's group and the Japanese Army.
  • While Saigo no Yakusoku from Marmalade Boy is an image theme performed by Miki's seiyuu Mariko Kouda, it's worth noticing that it plays during some of the most dramatic scenes of the series (like Natchan's departure to Hiroshima and Miki breaking up with Yuu in the USA) and that it's mostly a piano song otherwise.
  • Kaguya-sama: Love Is War has "Souiu natsu (That kind of summer)", which played in episode 11 when Kaguya and Shirogane both go to the school on the off chance that the other might be there, only for Shirogane to arrive right after Kaguya left. It's played again in episode 12 during Kaguya's Heroic BSoD.

    Films — Animated 
  • "Victor's Piano Solo" from Corpse Bride, clearly playing off the theme of Beethoven's "Moonlight Sonata" mentioned below, until he's interrupted - and similarly, "The Piano Duet" starts this way, echoing the earlier scene, until it's turned right around by the characters.
  • The official soundtrack for Antz replaces "High Hopes" with a soft piano version of the main theme.
  • The film version of The Snowman has a piano version of 'Walking in the Air' playing when James realises his snowman has melted. What makes this all the sadder is that this is the end of the film, and the melody plays over the closing credits, leaving the audience alone to weep.
  • In Big Hero 6, a lone piano piece is playing after Tadashi's funeral, when Hiro sits lonely at the top of the stairs at home.
  • Befitting the sense of longing and distance the film conveys, the soundtrack for 5 Centimeters per Second is full of gentle, melancholy piano pieces. Distant Everyday Memories comes to mind.
  • Your Name has "Date", which plays during Taki's date with Miki, becomes this after it becomes apparent that the date's a failure. There is also the similar-sounding "Mitsuha's Theme" playing during the flashback to Mitsuha's trip to Tokyo where she initially fails to find Taki and, when she actually does so, it's a younger him who doesn't recognise her.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The JFK theme has one.
  • We get this in Road to Perdition during the gunfight in the rain late in the film.
  • Elmer Bernstein was the master of this trope. Listen to Far From Heaven and To Kill A Mockingbird.
  • The deeply haunting "Brooks Was Here" from The Shawshank Redemption.
  • "The Promise", the main theme of The Piano.
  • From Fame, there is "Ralph and Monty (Dressing Room Piano)"
  • Downfall features Stephen Zacharias' ''In The Courtyard of the Reich-Chancellory''.
  • The main theme of the 2007 I Am Legend has a notable piano part with solo sections. Thinking about it, the piano part may represent Neville's solitary existance surrounded by the evidence of his failure and memories of what once was, the strings brass and percussion parts.
  • The opening piano score from Bad Santa is oddly touching. Hearing Billy Bob Thornton monologue about how crappy a person he is while Chopin's Nocturn Op.9 No.2 plays is rather moving.
  • Battle Royale II has Memories, played by Shiori Kitano on a piano she finds in Shuya's base. As she plays, the scene cuts between her in the present, and her remembering how horribly she treated her father in years gone by.
  • "Home Movies" in the remake of Halloween (2007) and its sequel.
  • Clint Mansell's soundtrack for Moon uses mostly simplistic piano tunes, and the sad tunes work well in emphasizing the heart-breaking sadness of the main character's lonely moments.
  • Girl with a Pearl Earring had this as virtually its only incidental music, being very driven by silent, stoic acting from Colin Firth and Scarlett Johansson and reliant only on a meandering theme.
  • The Social Network has "Hand Covers Bruise", Mark's leitmotif for scenes in which he's at his lowest points.note  It won the film an Oscar for Best Original Score.
  • The Road: ''The Road'' .
  • Lincoln has the end of The Peterson House and Finale. Skip to 9:30.
  • Gravity most notably has the Aurora Borealis track.
  • The Sting features a piece called Solace, done both as a piano solo only and as well as an orchestral version. And yes, it's played during the rain.
  • The Pianist features one performed in-story. Szpilman, who has been hiding from the Nazis, starving, cold, and alone, is discovered by the Nazi officer Hosenfeld. On discovering that Szpilman is a musician, Hosenfeld requests a piece, and Szpilman hesitantly obliges with Fryderyk Chopin's haunting "Ballade in G Minor," to tremendous emotional effect.
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe:
  • Interstellar has Message From Home, when Coop and company get back from checking out one of the prospective planets (which nearly killed them) and get back to the Endurance to find messages from his children on Earth, who, due to proximity to a black hole, have grown up in what was a matter of hours for him and have pretty much given up on ever seeing him again. Not a moment of lost hope, but definitely a low point.
  • A piano rendition of the Jurassic Park theme plays in the trailer for Jurassic World.
  • ''The Crypt'' from Anthropoid.
  • Cloud Atlas: "The Cloud Atlas Sextet" in the film is a twinkly Debussy-esque piece (in the novel, it was described as much more avant-garde). Although the full piece only shows up in the end credits, when it is played in the film proper, we mostly just hear the piano and violin sections.
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    Live-Action TV 
  • Partial Trope Namer, The Incredible Hulk's end piece "The Lonely Man".
  • Lucifer has the main character himself sadly playing "Knocking on Heaven's Door" after an episode where against all odds he ended up in an Odd Friendship with a Priest (who knew exactly who Lucifer was). It helped that not only was Father Frank a Good Shepherd despite his Dark and Troubled Past and Lucifer's attempts to prove otherwise, but he was a Cool Old Guy and a superb pianist, leading to an "adorable" Duet Bonding moment. The sad part comes in where Father Frank proved to be Too Good for This Sinful Earth and performed a Heroic Sacrifice, though Chloe comes and joins him on the piano.
  • Over half the Tear Jerker sequences in Doctor Who. The other half is Playing the Heart Strings.
  • Scrubs has a piece which repeats quite a lot.
  • Red Dwarf actually did this with Rimmer in "Better than Life", but it was short lived, while he stands on the observatory, staring out. Lister comes up and the music stops, and a serious scene goes on. It works really well, especially for a comedy.
  • An episode of Kamen Rider Den-O focuses on a nameless pianist, whose music is his rendition of the series' battle tune. The third iteration in particular seems quite lonely.
  • In Chojin Sentai Jetman has Maria, who constantly plays a tune on a piano. During the times when Maria is hurt or dying, this plays.
  • The end of the final episode of season 1 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer has the Buffy theme music being played over it, slowly, on a piano.
    • In addition to that, there's the Buffy/Angel love theme, "Close Your Eyes" that first plays as Buffy brutally smashes the Master's bones in "When She Was Bad", and continues to tinkle gently through a baker's dozen of other gutwrenching scenes.
  • The piece "Win One for the Reaper" from Lost plays during the funerals for most of the characters who died as well as during other sad moments in the series.
  • The very end of the Warehouse 13 season 3 finale.
  • Sherlock has one of these as a recurring theme throughout the series that's usually played when referencing John's past (hence the title 'War' on the soundtrack), but becomes even more of a Tear Jerker in The Reichenbach Fall when the theme is extended in the track "Prepared To Do Anything" and played when Sherlock steps off the roof.
  • Parodied by comedians Hale and Pace. The character walks across a street, and the piano plays - the character hears it and begins to experiment with the effect - pull back camera to reveal that he's standing on a giant Steinway.
  • Community - in the Christmas Episode Regional Holiday Music, Abed's suggestion that the gang might stand in for the glee club is met with deaf ears - as he's left alone, sad piano music plays - played by the head of the glee club.
  • Parodied in Arrested Development with a running gag (mostly in one episode) where a character dejectedly walks away while the instrumental version of "Christmastime Is Here" plays.
  • In the Thanksgiving episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, Greg is forced to work as a bartender on Thanksgiving in order to make sure his dad has good medical treatment. All alone, he sings "What'll It Be?" all about how he sick of West Covina and having to give up his dreams:
    ''Everyone's going home 'cause it's time to give thanks,
    Thanks for the chain stores and outlets and banks,
    Thanks for this town, three short hours from the beach,
    Where all of your dreams can stay just out of reach.
  • Metamorphosis One by Philip Glass plays during Reese's last stand in the Grand Finale of Person of Interest.
  • On Entertainment Tonight, whenever a tragic news story breaks out, a Dark Reprise piano version of the theme plays at the start of each episode.
  • A slowed-down, piano-based version of the series theme tune plays as the characters go over the top and to their deaths in the final scene of Blackadder Goes Forth.
  • On The Young and the Restless it's a cue that a serious moment is about to play out when the theme tune Nadia's Theme, starts plinking in the background.
  • Subverted in Game of Thrones with ''Light of the Seven'', which plays during a sequece of quiet scenes building up to Cersei's Evil Plan getting carried out. The piece is initially this trope, later transforming into Playing the Heart Strings, an eerie Cherubic Choir, and finally Ominous Pipe Organ. The simplicity of each of the parts, as well as the use of piano, whish is a first for the series, is in contrast to the rest of the soundtrack being composed of full orchestral pieces.
    • The trope is used in Season Seven with the piece ''Winter is Here'' which plays over a bleak scene of snowfall on King's Landing and helps set the tone for what is to come.
    • Used again to great effect in ''The Night King'' during the Battle of Winterfell, over Theon's death, and when the battle appears lost. Much like Light of the Seven, the piece begins with soft piano music before building up into a full orchestra.

    Music 
  • The first movement of the "Moonlight Sonata" by Ludwig van Beethoven is often used for this when the soundtrack is not original.
    • In more ways than one.
    • Another Beethoven example is the second movement of his final sonata in C minor (No. 32), written 5 years before he died. After the dramatic first movement ends with the Picardie third leading straight into the second movement, this movement starts off with a much calmer theme that highly contrasts with what you just heard. The first few variations on that theme gradually get more intense until finally bearing a resemblance to modern boogie-woogie, immediately after which it quiets down and maintains a serene, lonely, ethereal quality throughout the rest of the movement right up to the end. What's more, Beethoven never wrote a third movement for this sonata (because he felt no need to, not because he died before he could finish it), so the entire sonata is over at that point, and the feeling persists. The feeling is intensified by the juxtaposition of the fact that, by this point in Beethoven's life, he was almost completely deaf and did not have long to live, and this is one of the last piano works he has ever composed.
  • A non-soundtrack example would be X Japan 's Es Dur no Piano-sen by Yoshiki. On the Jealousy album, it is the first, introductory track to the album, to convey this kind of atmosphere, that of the lonely calm before the storm... literally, because the next track is Silent Jealousy.
  • Fleetwood Mac's Songbird was the closing song of their concerts for many years, played by Christine Mc Vie alone at a piano.
  • Tom Waits' is a master of these: Martha and Lonely from Closing Time, Tom Traubert's Blues from Small Change,...
  • Peter Gabriel's rehashed version of "Here Comes The Flood" from the album Exposure is the Lonely Piano Piece for the entire human race.
    • Not to mention "The Drop" from the album Up.
  • Singer-songwriters who are piano-based (e.g. Tori Amos, Regina Spektor, Rufus Wainwright) are likely to have songs like this. Rufus even has a whole album of lonely piano pieces (All Days Are Nights: Songs for Lulu).
    • Oh Amanda Palmer...
      "I think I'll wait another year..."
    • Literal with Eric Carmen's (or should we say Sergei Rachmaninoff's?) "All by Myself". Joo of Igudesman And Joo exaggerates this trope to its logical extent by playing and singing this song, slowly sounding more and more depressed, sobbing uncontrollably and singing unintelligibly by the end of the first chorus.
    • Yiruma's musical output is comprised almost entirely of these, many of them highly effective Tear Jerkers despite being instrumental.
  • Efterklang's song Mimeo on the Parades album.
  • Punk rock band Hüsker Dü had two on their concept album, Zen Arcade: "One Step at a Time" and "Monday Will Never Be the Same."
  • DHT - Listen To Your Heart (Unplugged version)
    • Likewise, the piano version of Groove Coverage's cover of "Moonlight Shadow".
  • Christina Perri's song "The Lonely" is entirely about this. It's just Christina and her piano singing about how all she has is the loneliness. Possibly subverted since the song is actually about her being in a relationship with loneliness.
  • Dream Theater frequently write songs like this, such as "Wait for Sleep," "Vacant," and "Far from Heaven."
  • Kate Nash with the songs Old Dances and Little Red
  • "From My Hands" by VNV Nation.
  • "A Little Bit Longer" by The Jonas Brothers
  • Elton John, "The Bridge".
  • Supertramp, "Downstream".
  • A rare organ example: Johann Sebastian Bach's chorale prelude Nun, komm', der Heiden Heiland (BWV 659) is quite dreary and sad compared to his other chorale preludes and has been described as one of his saddest works.
  • Erik Satie's "Gymnopédies" and "Gnossiennes" are this.
  • One Day I Will Fly by Evening Star.
  • "Is There Somebody Who Could Watch You?" by The 1975.
  • The first verse of "By the Grace of God" by Katy Perry.
  • Oneohtrix Point Never's "Replica" from the like-titled album has one serve as the basis, as more and more synth instruments are introduced throughout the song.
  • Epik High's "Over" and "Spoiler" have shades of this, and a lot of their instrumental pieces (e.g. "Forest" and "Ocean. Sand. Trees.") are basically these.
  • Aphex Twin has a few examples, namely "Avril 14th".
  • "Right Now, I'm in Love. -triangle story-" from HoneyWorks' Confession Executive Committee ~Love Series~ , conveying the singer's sadness at being left behind in the Love Triangle he's in.
  • Edguy has "Sands Of Time" (1995 version), "When A Hero Cries", and most of all the extremely sad "Standing In The Rain".
  • The Slower And Softer Cover of "Even in Death" (2016 version) by Evanescence turns a hysterical Grief Song about the loss of a loved one into somber one on piano and cello to make it more gentle and heartbreaking as well.
  • Vision Divine has "Of Light And Darkness" from Vision Divine.
  • Sarah McLachlan has a brief piece at the end of Surfacing entitled "Last Dance." A theremin's wordless "vocals" and a slightly out of tune, tinny piano evoke images of warm nostalgia.
  • "Into My Arms" by Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds has this feel, although the lyrics are surprisingly upbeat.
  • Benjamin Clementine's song "Cornerstone" is a piano ballad about both death and loneliness. Its chorus even begins with the lyrics "I am lonely".

    Theatre 
  • Jekyll & Hyde had a few of these along with vocals, backing up "Lost In The Darkness", "No One Knows Who I Am", and "Sympathy, Tenderness".
  • In Spring Awakening there's a slow, sad piano-only accompaniment to Moritz's monologue before he commits suicide. Observant viewers will note that it's the piano that accompanied Ilse's half of their Counterpoint Duet.
  • Pippin: "I Guess I'll Miss The Man" is a Lonely Acoustic Guitar Song.
  • In the ballet Petrushka, the centerpiece of the 2nd Tableau is a pianistic depiction of Petrushka's loneliness.
  • Volta has the appropriately named "Lone Soul", played while Waz wanders the city among the Greys after being ostracized from the talent show because of his blue feathered hair. Also heard at the end of "The Bee and the Wind" and the beginning of "Inside Me", although the last song subverts this trope as it builds into a triumphant symphonic rock ballad during Waz's "Breakthrough" dance number.

    Video Games 
  • Dead Island, infamously. Its sequel Dead Island: Riptide had its own as well.
  • Dark Souls has a haunting, beautiful piano piece as the Final Boss battle theme.
    • Dark Souls III also has a piano theme as part of the Final Boss theme. It's a Theme Song Reveal that it's the exact same boss eons later, merged with the souls and power of all the Lords of Cinder who followed him in linking the Fire, and still defending the First Flame after all that time.
  • Pokémon:
    • Black and White:
      • "Unwavering Emotion" plays in several emotional scenes, for example when Bianca is arguing with her overprotective father, or during the emotional climax of the second game, in which N tries to reason with Ghetsis for the last time, and fails. It was also remixed in Pokémon X and Y, but gained some more instruments. It is also played in all of the Memory Links in the sequel, even if it isn't fitting.
      • "Sayonara", also known as "N's Farewell". Guess when it plays.
    • Az's theme in X and Y, which makes sense when you see his backstory, which is considered by the fandom to be one of the most depressing backstories in a Pokémon game.
  • The Legend of Zelda:
  • Resident Evil:
    • In the first game, Jill and Rebecca melodically play "Moonlight Sonata" on a piano in the Spencer Mansion.
    • In Code Veronica, this trope can also be used for "Piano Roll" which is the Ashford lulluby being played on the piano.
    • The first scenario credits and results screen in Resident Evil 2. The former also uses lonely strings. Also the Save Room theme, Secure Place.
  • In Beyond Good & Evil, the very sad piano tune "Enfantes Disparus" plays when Jade returns home to her lighthouse and finds it's been destroyed, and "her" kids have been kidnapped—meaning that the bad guys have now kidnapped everyone dear to her.
  • Cohen's Masterpiece in Bio Shock 1... sorta. It serves as Cohen's theme, and loneliness is one of the themes. However, the main reason Cohen is alone is because he killed as many people as he could get his hands on to complete his artistic works, and the deranged theme matches that pretty well. And it's awesome.
  • BioShock Infinite ends with a simple piece as all of the alternate Elizabeths disappear one by one following Booker's death, ending with the screen going black on the final note.
  • Final Fantasy:
    • Final Fantasy IV has Cry In Sorrow, a sad piano remix of its overworld theme for the sad moments.
    • Final Fantasy V has Sorrows of Parting, a sad piano and strings theme for the same purpose.
    • Subverted and averted in Final Fantasy VII with "Aerith's Theme", which starts out sounding like it would be a lonely piano piece, before transforming into a soaring, almost triumphant orchestral theme.
    • Final Fantasy X:
      • It has "To Zanarkand". Unique in that it's the very first piece of music that plays in the entire game. A bit more uplifting than usual, though.
      • However, "Via Purifico" (also known as "Path of Repentance" in more literal-minded translations) isn't upbeat at all. It plays in a labyrinth that's supposed to be a death sentence. Needless to say, things get better.
    • Although the version used in-game is actually quite lively, the Star Onions' remix of the Tavnazian Safehold BGM from Final Fantasy XI is quite melancholy.
    • "Somnus", the main theme from Final Fantasy XV, is slow and soft and melancholy, which contrasts the One-Woman Wail, and the lyrics talk about a sleeping kingdom of everlasting night where the children are destined to suffer and die.
  • Chrono Trigger also similarly has a sad (or alternately, touching) theme, "In the Bottom of the Night", which starts solo piano and is later joined by strings. The game over theme, "No Hope", is a similar piece, but shorter and looped.
  • Kingdom Hearts:
    • Roxas's theme. "The Other Promise" is a slightly faster Boss Remix of his theme that gets progressively more intense, played during his and Sora's Battle in the Center of the Mind in the Final Mix version of Kingdom Hearts II (which was just a cutscene in the original release).
    • "Kairi III" is her remixed theme song, at a chunk of the game where you couldn't feel more sorry for the kid.
    • The most notable example is what has to be the series' ultimate woobie: Xion, from 358/2 Days. Not only is a lonely piano piece her main theme ("Musique pour la Tristesse de Xion": literally "Music for the Melancholy of Xion"), but the intro melody of that piece is used in the music of the final boss fight against her, "Vector to the Heavens", which itself is a lonely strings section piece.
    • Birth By Sleep features Ventus' theme, a melancholy remix of both Roxas' and Sora's themes. This is because Ventus' heart has been sleeping within Sora since prior to the plot of the original game, which is why Roxas (Sora's Nobody) looks like him and can dual wield Keyblades; he has access to both Sora's and Ventus' weapons.
  • One is used in a dark, isolated boiler room with a crying Mars-San in Yume Nikki.
  • Bastila's Theme from Knights of the Old Republic.
  • The aptly-named "Sad Song" from the Super Mario RPG soundtrack.
  • "Glass Soldier" in Iji, especially in the scene where Dan dies.
  • One of the Eight Melodies in MOTHER is a mysterious piano that lies in an abandoned mansion... Here it is, playing the melody once you find it.
  • If you lose in Persona 3, a slower, down-key piano version of "Aria of the Soul" plays on the Game Over screen.
  • If you get the bad ending in Persona 4, you also get a lonely piano piece. It's actually the music used in the true final dungeon.
  • "Inherent Will" from Digital Devil Saga 2. This absolute heart-wrencher of a theme plays during scenes where party members die, most notably Cielo.
  • 'The Order That Must Be Protected' from Dissidia Final Fantasy, which is a variation of the leitmotif that crops up here and there throughout the game. This tune is particlarly recognised because it plays during the cutscene that occurs after Terra defeats Kefka in the 'Shade Impulse' campaign, as it puts an emotional spin on the death of an otherwise Monster Clown.
  • Evil Twin: Cyprien's Chronicles does this during the final battle against The Master, after The Master kills SuperCyp.
  • Halo:
    • The original trilogy includes the Easter Egg song "Siege of Madrigal" in Halo: Combat Evolved, which also appears in subsequent Bungie-made games; the unused song "Love and a Piano"; "Heavy Price Paid" and the piano part of "Unforgotten" in Halo 2; and "Keep What You Steal" plus the last part of the credits music in Halo 3.
    • Halo: Reach has "Spartans Never Die", the music during the opening cinematic of the post-credits mini-level "Lone Wolf". The first half of "Ashes" combines this trope with a One-Woman Wail, and the second also uses Playing the Heart Strings. The piano section without the wail can be heard during the cutscenes at the ends of the Winter Contingency" and "New Alexandria" missions. 3's "Keep What You Steal" is also reused when Six retrieves "the package" (Cortana).
    • Halo 3: ODST has a lonely sax that pops up every now and then, usually when the Rookie is traveling through the city by himself. "Rain" is another prime example.
  • Silent Hill:
  • The "Event Failed" music in Pilotwings, a Dark Reprise of the "Event Completed" theme.
  • "I Am... The Story is Over" from Shadow the Hedgehog does this, after Shadow destroys the Black Comet and apparently decides to remain aboard Space Colony Ark. It's followed by Never Turn Back, possibly the best piece in the game.
  • DonPachi:
    • Heard in DoDonPachi Daifukkatsu right before your carrier gets shot down and you fight Hibachi.
    • This theme from DoDonPachi SaiDaiOuJou which plays during Hina's Alas, Poor Villain moment in the Xbox 360 version.
  • The Game Over music in the PC Engine version of Valis 1.
  • RAY Series:
    • The ending to Ray Crisis. Since Ray Crisis is a prequel to Ray Force, Foregone Conclusion means that despite your success in shutting down Con-Human, the damage has already been done, and indeed, The War Has Just Begun. With the piano single as the background music, the lone pilot sorties off...
    Narrator: "We managed to separate the human clone from Con-Human computer environment, but we could still not stop the violence generated by the Con-Human. Can we call the Con-Human and human clone a new life creation?. Are we supposed to destroy this creature? The humans who are fighting against their ominous fate will use their latest strategy, resulting in Operation Ray Force.
  • Mass Effect:
    • Mass Effect has this aboard the Normandy after Kaidan or Ash dies. It doubles as the music that plays during the romance sex scene.
    • Shepard's death at the beginning of Mass Effect 2 has a lonely piano piece play over it. This Leitmotif comes up several times throughout the game, including after your crew is captured by the Collector raid and if Shepard dies during the Suicide Mission.
    • Mass Effect 3 plays another piano piece during Normandy's escape from the Reaper-overrun Earth. Along with Reaper bass.
      • Grunt gets one at the end of one mission. Whether he lives or dies depends on the save file from Mass Effect 2.
      • Shepard's romance theme in ME3 starts out this way, and then the string section joins in, leading to one of the series's more hauntingly beautiful pieces.
      • The theme that plays over the ending sequence. A slow, low, heartbreaking piano plays the game's leitmotif as you see the blast from the Crucible save everyone from the Reapers as Shepard almost certainly dies. Followed by more strings. An even sadder piano piece plays if you pick the Refusal ending from the Extended Cut. Basically, the Mass Effect series LOVES this trope, playing sad piano music whenever something even remotely sad happens.
      • One of the most powerful is played during Thane's wake as part of the Citadel DLC.
  • In Lunar: The Silver Star, a sad piano piece plays when you return to Burg after most of the villagers have been kidnapped for slave labor in the Talon Mine.
  • In Metroid: Other M, the alternate title screen music is this. A more full rendition with strings in is near the end of the playable epilogue when Samus finds Adam's helmet and reminisces to the situation where Adam decided to sacrifice himself to save her.
  • The death music in the original Rainbow Six.
  • The World 3 background music from Super Mario Galaxy 2.
  • The ending music from Yoshi's Island.
  • In Amnesia: The Dark Descent, we have Alexander's Ending Theme.
  • The flashback to Snake's final fight with The Boss in Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker features a literal lonely piano version of "Snake Eater" to intensify Snake's feeling of loss in that moment. To put it into context, he has just confronted an AI with the voice and seemingly the personality of his mentor whom he had loved... and killed.
  • Metal Gear Solid has Enclosure, which plays when Sniper Wolf dies and in one of the two endings where Meryl dies. And a more depressing version plays in Act 4 of Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots when Naomi dies.
  • Ace Combat 5: The Unsung War contains a song titled "15 years ago", which plays on only two occasions: during the appropriate flashback and during the optional quiet drama scene in the final mission, when you and your wingmen literally remain the only ones in the skies over Oured (not counting the Bonus Boss who can be ignored).
  • The Tale of ALLTYNEX trilogy mostly uses organ, but in its sadder moments the series whips out the piano.
  • Sam & Max, shockingly enough. It makes Max's death so much more sad to see a lonely Sam helplessly wandering around the city mourning him.
  • .hack//Outbreak plays a piano version of Aura's Theme as Kite stands lonely in Carmina Gadalica as he contemplates if he's making an already bad situation worse. The scene is even appropriately titled Lone Sheep.
  • Two examples from Asura's Wrath are the Options theme (No, really), and Lamentation: Momentary End.
  • In the SNES version of SimCity, the "bad approval rating" music is a lonely harp Dark Reprise of its "good rating" counterpart.
  • The Spirit Engine 2 has "My Worth", played during the first section of the ending sequence.
  • Cave Story even thought it is not piano, "Balcony" the song that plays before you fight the Doctor has the same effect.
  • Lost Odyssey has A Return, Indeed (Piano Version) which while it has a major key tonal shift towards the end is still one of the saddest pieces of game music ever written.
  • Castle of Shikigami III's ending.
  • In Skullgirls, Painwheel's story mode ending has a Lonely Piano Piece version of her usually happier theme, "The Lives We Left Behind", to set the mood for her rejection from her parents.
  • From Radio Zonde, Celestial Elegy, one of the Final Boss themes.
  • "Explore 7" from Fallout 3.
  • In Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon, "Cyber Commando" begins with a piano version of Rex's theme. "Moment of Calm" combines lonely piano with Drone of Dread, making it especially creepy.
  • The final level of The Saboteur is bleak enough already — Sean climbs the Eiffel Tower as Nazis cross the Despair Event Horizon en masse, many of them Driven to Suicide — but it gets even worse with a haunting rendition of Nina Simone's "Feeling Good" playing throughout. On the second-to-top floor, you see that a Nazi captain is playing it on the bar's piano; if you shoot him, the music stops for the rest of the level.
  • Some of the randomly-triggered background pieces from Minecraft evoke this. Fitting given the solitary nature of the single-player mode. Actually subverted by one of them, which fades into a more upbeat (though still calm and peaceful) synth piece.
  • Ending of the Starry Sky from Silhouette Mirage.
  • "Memories," the very first song you hear in "Deemo".The cutscene it functions as the soundtrack for shows Deemo alone in his tower, playing song after song. Not surprisingly, the cutscene's title is "Lonely Deemo".
  • Ori and the Blind Forest has this in the prologue during the Time Passes Montage when the forest withers and Naru's food supply dwindles, when Ori finds Naru dead, and as Ori struggles through the decayed forest afterwards, as well as the piano sections of "First Steps into Sunken Glades".
  • The final mission in Dariusburst: Chronicle Saviours has this for its background music, titled "Dream Road".
  • The Denpa Men:
    • In the second installment, a slow, sad track plays after the first battle in the beginning once Crystal, Jasper, and Amber, the hero's wife and two children respectively, are kidnapped. The theme continues until you leave Digitown, but doesn't play if you renter. This theme plays again at the East Village, because all but one of the residents of the town have been kidnapped by the Hammer Angler.
    • In the third game, the Locksmith's House constantly plays the sad theme, because both the locksmith residing there and his grandma eventually die over the story. The hero even tries to Revive the grandma, but it doesn't work.
  • The Project X Zone series has "Tear Drop", which usually plays during an Alas, Poor Villain moment. It's also played when Arthur seemingly sacrifices himself in the climax of Chapter 17 and when Zero encounters Iris halfway through Chapter 29 of the first game.
  • Child of Light has "Pilgrims on a Long Journey", "Final Breath", and "Woods Darker than Night".
  • Undertale has "An Ending," a slow, sad song consisting mostly of piano, with some strings as well. It plays in most neutral endings of the game, where Asgore is dead regardless of whether or not you killed him, and the monsters are still trapped underground. It also plays if you kill Undyne on a neutral run.
    • The beginning of "Battle Against A True Hero" starts off with one, which becomes the main riff of the song. It plays when you fight Undyne on a No Mercy run, as she is trying to stop you from killing the rest of the Underground's population, and possibly humanity as well.
    • Its sequel Deltarune has one of its own called "Darkness Falls", serving as the game over music if the player says no to the continue screen. The game closes after it's over.
  • Cuphead has "The End", which ironically is not happy but heartwrenching when you discover that you have chosen to hand over the Soul Contracts to the Devil and rule over the entire Inkwell Isles that are literally going to hell. The piano piece that is accompanied by a snare drum plays over the first part of the end credits, followed by complete silence. It's a Tear Jerker, to say the least.
  • The Longest Five Minutes has a piano tune that plays all throughout your journey through Stardust Island, which is basically a humongous landfill where the hopeless and homeless go to die.
  • 1bit Heart has "Nanashi and Misane", which plays in quite possibly the most emotional moment of the game.
  • Celeste has several of these, including "Awake", "Postcard from Celeste Mountain", the beginning sections of "Golden" and "Quiet and Falling", "Little Goth", "Exhale", and "My Dearest Friends".
  • Sonic Adventure has the Theme of E-102 Gamma, which, unlike the other character Image Songs, only has two recurring phrases as lyrics set to a sad piano with synths. This befits its emotionless nature as an Eggman robot that gained sapience and that its mission ultimately ends with it performing a Heroic Sacrifice to free the bird powering it.

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Alternative Title(s): The Lonely Piano

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