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Sad Battle Music

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"This music makes me feel as though I am doing something noble, and horribly wrong."
A Youtube commenter, on OFF's "Minuit A Fond La Caisse"

Generally, whenever works of fiction decide they want to employ some good ol' pathos during The Siege to get tears flowing, such as showing beloved characters die as their losing side of a battle gets steamrolled by the enemy, or a One-Man Army making his/her last stand before finally giving in, sometimes they won't just rely to having characters dying in people's arms or resorting to Pietà Plagiarisms, ignoring the carnage around them just because Talking Is a Free Action.

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Instead, they might eschew those tropes in favor of letting the tragedy unfold as Red Shirts and beloved characters meet their maker during a Last Stand, and what better way to underscore the drama by playing the exact opposite of Hot-Blooded battle music? To better reflect the feelings of hopelessness experienced by the losing side, the futility of a conflict, the broken psyche of a character in the middle of a mental breakdown amidst the chaos, or even the horrors of war itself, melancholy music is used to broadly communicate those to the audience; dramatic slow motion and muted sounds are pretty much expected to appear in live-action works.

Other works — particularly, but not limited to, video games and anime — apply this trope rather differently. Sad battle music isn't just limited to grand war sequences, but also can also be heard during more smaller-scale conflicts, usually duels between two characters. In this case, the normal pace of the fight is kept intact, likely to emphasize the brutality that may ensue along with the somber mood of the conflict. note  Battles that involve Tragic Villains, Anti-Villains, Fallen Heroes, Heroic Antagonists, and Tragic Monsters begging for a Mercy Kill are common situations where somber music can be fitting. If it's a no-holds-barred battle between allies, one of which has turned traitor, gone insane, brainwashed or infected yet still conscious, etc., sad battle music is also very likely be heard, as if to emphasize how tragic and conflicting it feels to watch the good guys cut each other down mercilessly due to circumstance, emotional turmoil, or conflicting goals — especially if the fight is futile or unnecessary to carry out in the first place, or if you're the one doing it — as well as express how personal it is for both combatants. If the opponent in question is a mentor, a close friend, family, or a loved one, you better brace yourself for a Tear Jerker, because this trope is guaranteed to happen.

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Subtrope of Simple Score of Sadness. Compare: Playing the Heart Strings, where sound effects are muted for music; One-Woman Wail, where you hear a wailing singing voice; Lonely Piano Piece, where one character or very few characters realize that they're on their own; Ethereal Choir, where a distant choir harmonizes with the scene. All of these can overlap with this trope when they accompany the right kind of scene.


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Examples:

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    Anime 

    Film 
  • Billion Dollar Brain; as General Midwinter's army plunges through the frozen Gulf of Finland to suffer a horrific mass death by drowning and hypothermia (caused when the Soviet Airforce dropped an "icebreaker" bomb on the ice), the background music being played is a down-tempo version of "Midwinter's Theme".
  • In Braveheart, during the Battle of Falkirk, sad music begins to play as the Scottish nobles William Wallace trusted to help them flee the field instead, and the King of England, Edward Longshanks, orders his archers to fire on the infantry fighting in the front. The music becomes more tragic and dramatic as Wallace attempts to chase after Longshanks, and finds out that yet another Scottish noble he trusted betrayed him, causing him to suffer a Heroic BSoD after witnessing this Despair Event Horizon.
  • Cars 3: The music at the Los Angeles 500 starts off majestic and bright as Lightning manages to beat the other next-gens, but at lap 461 after Storm suddenly overtakes him, the music becomes worrisome and intense as Lightning falls back and pushes himself to the max as he struggles to catch up. The music gets more and more intense, eventually deteriorating into a Scare Chord as he loses control and is about to crash.
  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 has the track "Courtyard Apocalypse", accompanied by watching the Death Eaters and the Order of the Phoenix fight to the bitter end. It even becomes more sad when you see Fenrir Greyback, a werewolf who has developed a taste for human flesh when not in his wolf form, feeding on the body of Lavender Brown.
  • The slow woodwind solo during the combat at Agincourt in Kenneth Branagh's film of Henry V. Some of the combat sequences are also done in slow motion.
  • The final battle of The Last Samurai starts off with a powerful, pounding score, but it turns into this as everything slows down and the awesome sword-fighting becomes pure butchery, in addition to several notable characters being killed. It doesn't quite recover.
  • The Stampede from The Lion King (1994). You know what we're talking about.
  • The Lord of the Rings
    • There are two uses of this trope in The Fellowship of the Ring. The first is when they escape the mines of Moria right after Gandalf falls. The second is when Boromir is slain fighting the orcs.
    • In The Two Towers, there is one during part of the battle of Helm's Deep, when Haldir dies.
    • In the movie of The Return of the King, Pippin sings a song for Denethor. It's a sad melody. At the same time, Faramir and his battalion charge Osgiliath, and it doesn't go well.
  • Barber's Adagio for Strings famously plays over the final scene to Platoon.
  • Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith:
    • "Anakin's Betrayal" plays during the march on the Jedi Temple, courtesy of Order 66.
    • Word of God says that "Battle of the Heroes," which plays during the climactic fight between Anakin and Obi-Wan, is meant to be this when compared to "Duel of the Fates" from the rest of the prequel trilogy.
  • Rogue One has "Your Father Would Be Proud" during the climactic battle, when the Death Star fires on Scarif, killing the entire Rogue One team, while Darth Vader's destroyer disables the Rebel flagship.
  • Several battles in We Were Soldiers are set to a slow Scottish dirge, Sgt. Mackenzie.

    Live Action TV 
  • The uptempo version of The Lonely Man that plays in the opening of The Incredible Hulk. Though not used in a battle per se, it did display quite a bit of the destruction that David Banner caused in his Incredible Hulk state.
  • The Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode "The Siege of AR-558" plays a sad piece during a climactic battle between Starfleet and the Jem'Hadar. Given the episode's theme, it's very fitting.
  • "Slayer's Elegy", which plays over the fight between the Master('s minions) and the white hats in "The Wish" as we watch Alternate Universe versions of all our favorite characters die helplessly, often at each other's hands.

    Video Games 
  • Ace Combat
    • Ace Combat 5: The Unsung War:
      • In mission 17, after Chopper crashes, the previous aggressive music abruptly stops and for a minute or so, there is no music at all. Then, just as new waves of enemies arrive, a Simple Score of Sadness picks up and plays until the end of the mission. It's made even worse by your remaining wingmen sobbing quietly on the radio.
      • In the mission “Sea of Chaos,” a beautiful, yet wistful song about longing for peace plays during a fierce sea battle, which turns out to be because of your aircraft carrier’s captain playing the song from a record over the airwaves. The context is that several Yuke sea captains have come to their senses and decided to defect to the Osean navy, having learned that their prime minister has been rescued by the Oseans after having been kidnapped by Belkan spies who had started the war on purpose.
    • In Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown, a chilling, appropiately somber piece titled "Lost Kingdom" plays during the raid of a small, near-defenseless country for fuel and supplies, during which part of the mission involves the bombing of refugee tents, civilian vehicles, and such, and you'll have to take part in it.
  • A Hint of a Tint has "sorry", the theme for the battle between Tyalline and Jezebel, after she tricked her into betraying her vows to the Bee Queen, through offering Tyalline the chance to see her long-thought-dead human beloved, without telling her he's become a desiccated Vampire. It's also tragic for Jezebel, because she knows Tyalline is fated to die along with the rest of Flesh of the Tail in the flood of blue water, and only manipulated her to ensure her own race would survive this apocalypse through a deal she struck with the first humans.
  • In Angels of Death, there's First Quarter Moon, played after Ray falls to despair on her floor and tries to kill Zack to make him hers. Mournful piano and violins backed by intense dubstep.
  • In Assassin Blue, the penultimate "battle" against your boss, who doesn't actually fight you at all, simply reuses the main menu theme, which sounds like this. The final boss battle track is also anything but cheerful.
  • Half the music in Asura's Wrath is like this, and this game is 90% fighting. It is that sad of a story. Most of those music incorporates the melody of In your belief.
  • Bloodborne:
    • The game has its own in the final battle against Gehrman, the First Hunter. There he is, trying to free you from this horrific nightmare and send you back to the world of the living, and you refused his help. The entire time, he's trying to save you. The fight is fittingly accompanied by a slow, melodic track by the name of The First Hunter.
    • The Old Hunters DLC is no slouch when it comes to sad battle music either, as the battle theme of the Orphan of Kos consists primarily of an Ethereal Choir backed up by slow, mournful violin melodies. A fitting theme for a Battle in the Rain against a newborn alien god weeping over the corpse of its mother. It stops being an example of this trope in the second phase, though.
  • This piece from Ehrgeiz's quest mode, which is rather jarring, considering the game.
  • "People Imprisoned by Destiny" in Chrono Cross plays during the climax of the game's Wham Episode, when it's revealed that things did not end well for the protagonists of Chrono Trigger, and that their actions are directly responsible for the events of the game. It culminates in the fight against the infamous Miguel, who was bound to the Dead Sea by fate.
  • In Creepy Castle, the battle against Darking is at first your standard climatic battle against the Big Bad, but then Darking asks to what extent we know pain and if we have ever felt the loss of love, and Heart Heist starts to play as the tone of the battle changes.
  • Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin has the aptly-titled "Dance of Sadness", which plays while fighting Stella and Loretta, who previously have been revealed to be Brainwashed and Crazy.
  • ''Danganronpa:
    • The final Rebuttal Showdown of Chapter 5 of Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair against Sonia, who's desperately trying to prove that Chiaki isn't The Mole, which would get her convicted and executed for a murder she was tricked into committing, forgoes the more beat-driven theme that typically accompanies it for a more somber, despairing theme.
    • The final Rebuttal Showdown in the last chapter of Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony does the same. This time, you're playing as Keebo, trying to talk Shuichi out of his Heroic BSoD following the revelation that everything he knew is fiction.
  • Dark Cloud 2 (also known as Dark Chronicle) plays Sad Fate during the second half of your second battle against Emperor Griffon. Only natural, considering everything that led him to villainy in the first place.
  • Dark Souls:
    • The first game uses this trope in a couple places to communicate something critical about the boss being fought, as the game eschews more traditional exposition. The thing communicated is often why you should be feeling guilty right now.
    • The theme of the Final Battle in Dark Souls against Gwyn, Lord of Cinder is one of the saddest tracks in the game. Sure, he's mutely charging headlong at you with unparalleled viciousness, swinging a blazing greatsword like a man possessed. But it's not fury that's motivating him. It's simple, blind desperation to preserve the Age of Fire, for which he sacrificed everything from his kingdom to his body to his very soul, in the struggle to fuel the First Flame that turned him from a dragon-slaying god to the disfigured, nearly brain-dead husk you end up fighting. His boss title even emphasizes this: he was famously known as the Lord of Sunlight, yet all that's left for him to rule is cinders. It's made even worse by the fact that The Ringed City reveals that his actions probably just made things worse despite his intentions. For an extra easter egg, the tune is played entirely on the white keys of the piano. Appropriate for an old man afraid of the dark.
    • Dark Souls 2 does this for Vendrick, when you finally meet him. The lonely piano piece that plays when you find the man you've been searching for the entire game and discover that he's nothing more than a mostly-naked, mindless Hollow now also plays as you fight him to finally put him to rest, once and for all, and accomplish what he could not.
    • The second game also does this in the Scholar of the First Sin expansion. The optional final boss fight against Aldia uses a song that is rather melancholy, as the player is meant to have learned that fighting against him doesn't amount to much in the endless cycle. Even death doesn't mean much for Aldia: he's perfectly capable of talking after his physical body appears to be destroyed.
    • Dark Souls 3 has its final boss start out with a bombastic orchestral track... which, over the course of the battle, slowly fades into a melancholic piano theme (the very same theme that played for Gwyn in the first game, as the boss itself takes on his form), underpinning exactly what it is the player is fighting against. The song is aptly named "Soul of Cinder".
    • The battle against the Abyss Watchers is accompanied by a particularly tragic male choir alongside a One-Woman Wail, which really helps establish the fact that the once proud Band of Brothers are being forced to kill their own endlessly resurrecting comrades who have been corrupted by the very force they once fought against.
    • The music for the battle against Slave Knight Gael begins as a sad piano piece accompanied by a One-Woman Wail, emphasizing the tragedy and futility of the fight as the two of you, possibly the last beings alive in the world, kill each other for tiny fragments of a long-lost power. The music becomes much more intense once Gael Turns Red, which is also when you notice that Gael now bleeds Blood of the Dark Soul - the only thing that can paint the new world, which may finally be better than what you have waded through for all three games.
  • Ashes, to Ashes, to Ashes (to Ashes) in Deadbolt, the track that plays during the final confrontation with Ibzan once his motivation is revealed.
  • Moonlit Sniper is a quiet, subtle theme, played in Death's Gambit during the battle with Origa, the Last of Her Kind who has been the only one of her race to resist Brain Uploading that ultimately resulted in the monstrous Bysurge, and now fights only to preserve the sanctity of her species' graves.
  • Demon's Souls has Maiden Astraea, the subtle, hapsichord-heavy theme that is unlike every other boss music in the game. It also very much reflects the nature of the level, as the Maiden has become an Archdemon only in order to heal the Depraved Ones in the Valley of Defilement, and so she never fights you, and repeatedly asks you to leave at the start of the level. As you make your way towards her, you are duelled by her bodyguard, knight Garl Vinland, who is very much human and sane. Once you defeat him, Maiden Astraea simply commits suicide so that you can take "your precious Demon Soul" off her.
  • In Destiny 2, "Journey" plays during a section of the second half of the Homecoming mission, taking place after the Red Legion takes humanity's last refuge, captures the Traveler, and renders all Guardians Brought Down to Normal. Here, you escape from the fallen city as the Red Legion hunts down and executes defenseless Guardians, and survive as you try to fend off patrolling soldiers along the way.
  • In Dragalia Lost, the “Resplendent Refrain” event has the Vs. Sabock theme fought against a dark entity that came from Elias's resentment that he's losing his soprano voice as he gets older and that he unleashed it by accident.
  • Drakengard 2: In the game's C Route, you fight against Legna, the dragon who raised Nowe from birth. All the while, the song Growing Wings plays; however, unlike the first game's version, this one is quiet, melancholic, and really fits the tone of the battle.
  • Drakengard 3 has this in the True Final Boss in Route D. Even though Zero has finally killed One, she needs Mikhail to kill her so that the Flower, part of the Grotesqueries, aka Watchers, can't invade. Mikhail does so tearfully in a Nintendo Hard final battle set to “Black Song, White Scales.”
  • Final Fantasy:
  • Fire Emblem:
    • Fire Emblem Awakening has "Don't Speak Her Name!", which plays throughout an entire chapter, including battles and even when fighting the boss, after Exalt Emmeryn's (apparent) death. For bonus points, said chapter is also a Battle in the Rain, with the enemy leader only fighting against the Shepherds in order to protect his family from his king; he genuinely expresses regret for Emmeryn's death, insists he can find a way to spare the Shepherds if they surrender, and his only request before he's killed is that his men be spared... if you haven't already killed them all for experience.
    • Similarly, Fire Emblem Fates has "Thorn in You", which plays during Chapter 6 no matter which option you take during the Sadistic Choice, and again in Birthright Chapter 26 and Conquest Chapter 25 when you engage your older brother from the nation you sided against in a Duel to the Death.
    • Fire Emblem: Three Houses has "Between Heaven and Earth", the theme for the brutal three-way battle of Gronder Field after the Time Skip, which is a Dark Reprise of both "Blue Skies and a Battle", the battle theme for when the students held a mock-battle at the same location in happier times, and "Edge of Dawn", the game's main theme and also the personal theme of Edelgard, a major antagonist in all the routes where this battle occurs.
      • The Long Road is the standard story battle theme during the second half of part 2, and it's a slow, somber peice, reflecting the escalating tragedy of the war.
      • Even one of the final battle themes fits here. A Funeral Of Flowers plays during the final battle of the Church Route, where Rhea suddenly loses control of herself and goes berzerk, has to be put down. It's a mercy kill of an ally you'd thought you saved. Fittingly, it's incredibly sad, and the battle version is actually more subdued than the map version.
  • Fragile Dreams: Farewell Ruins of the Moon: It's not an exaggeration to say the final boss music would not sound out of place on The Fountain's soundtrack.
  • Several examples in Furi, most notably Make it Right, the theme of The Song, an angelic boss who doesn't want to fight you, and even offers you to quit before her battle. And you can actually take her up on the offer, receiving an alternate ending if you wait in her area for long enough.
    • Then, there's A Monster for The Beat, a barely adult girl who spends her battle running away from you, with her turrets being the only attackers.
  • The Gears of War series has a habit of using sad music in its trailers, which usually feature at least some fighting. Gary Jules's cover of "Mad World", used in the first game's trailer, has even become somewhat of an iconic song for the series.
  • Gloom has Cosmophobia, the theme for either of the two real final bosses. While the slow melancholic melody remains the same, the meaning behind the sadness is different in either battle:
    • The final battle of the worst Cosmic ending is sad because win or lose, the dreamer has already cast off any decency or humanity he had in the hunt for cosmic knowledge. After all, the battle is triggered by him literally sacrificing a baby, who may have been his own child: we outright see him stab it with a dagger and get the whole arm splashed in its blood, which is what turns the dark moon of the dream into The Gate to the new realities.
    • The final battle of the true Royal ending is sad because you confront King Domnhall, who was once a great king and did so much for his people. However, he did so at the price of carrying the Yellow Monarch Eldritch Abomination within him, and it eventually drove him mad, to the point he ordered a complete genocide of the rival kingdom they defeated in battle, and eventually decided to escape Renegade God's plague through putting all his subjects into the Common Dream, where so many went mad and became the enemies you fought in the Unholy Parish. Thus, you are doing something difficult but necessary, and it's reflected in the battle itself going through three stages: Great King Domnhall, Mad King Domnhall, and, finally, the Yellow Monarch bursting out of his dead body and challenging you on its own.
  • G.O.D.: Heed the Call to Awaken has "The Reunion with Mother", which plays when Gen is forced to kill his own mother, as well as in the Post-Final Boss against Sadness.
  • The Halloween Hack has a remix of the aforementioned song from Final Fantasy Legend III for the first phase of its final battle, which plays out similarly to the same battle from that game, with the twist that the old man here is begging you not to kill him. Also, the EarthBound theme Buzz Buzz's Prophecy is repurposed as battle music for the Remember Me? enemies.
  • Halfway through the final boss fight of Hollow Knight, the music turns to this as the titular knight, through brief moments of clarity from the Infection, repeatedly and viciously stabs itself in an attempt to help you kill it. The music for the true final boss is all action, though.
  • Homeworld examples:
    • Agnus Dei, a choral version of Samuel Barber's Adagio for Strings, plays during the Burning of Kharak as well as the final mission to reclaim Hiigara.
    • Swarmer Battle Music plays in the battles in the Kadesh Nebula, befitting the fact you aren't fighting the Taiidan or their servants but just trying to get out of the nebula alive and that the Kadeshi are actually the descendants of another group of Hiigaran exiles and are trying to kill you for fear you'll cause the Taiidan to track them down.
  • In Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number, the soundtrack for missions is usually pulse-pounding, but there are several exceptions:
    • The Way Home. An appropriately bittersweet tune for Beard's last mission before he can leave war-torn Hawaii.
    • Remorse. Plays during the mission where the Fans, under the player's control, brutally kill the sympathetic Henchman.
    • We're Sorry. Utterly haunting, in one of the game's creepiest levels.
  • The fight against the final boss of I Am Still Alive Act One,Chance has "Alone" and its short intro, "The Last Fight" for the first phase. It's somewhat upbeat, showing just how determined both Emily and her opponent are- but this only makes it all the more sad once you realize that both potential outcomes of the fight are tragic. Either Chance, a man who lost his home, his wife, all of his friends (or so he believes,) and his daughter, will die, or his daughter's tormented soul will continue to suffer for an eternity, and Chance will be even more hopeless and guilt-ridden than before.
    • His flavor text when using the Diagnosis skill only makes things worse: "The man who lost everything." In addition to this, unlike other enemies whose Hearts are described in terms of strength (Strong, Weak, etc.) his is simply labeled "Broken."
    • The name of the intro song, "The Last Fight", references both the fact that this is the last battle in Act One, and the melancholy, creepy "song" Chance played to properly express his emotions about losing everyone he loved, entitled "The Last Light."
    • It only gets sadder. The second phase occurs when Chance breaks down into tears, and tells Emily that no matter what, she has to win the fight. "Rest in Peace" begins to play as the name of the enemy you're fighting changes to simply "The Father", and Emily is forced to fight against a man whose will has become so broken that he can barely deal 20 damage to Emily.
      • During this phase, the information gathered from Diagnosis changes to reflect just how low Chance's stats have become. The flavor text also changes into: "Man fueled entirely by desperation." Couple this with the fact that the only skill (aside from normal attacks) he will now use is called "Desperation", and suddenly the name of the act starts to make a lot more sense.
    • To a lesser extent, the song that plays for the fight against Lyght's deranged mentor, Grand Paladin Egon, "To Battle", is a mixture of an intense orchestral battle theme and a melancholy violin/choir duet. It emphasizes how powerful Egon was before losing his sanity, without glossing over the tragedy of his descent into madness. It doesn't help that his "Diagnosis" flavor text reflects on the irony of his nickname, "Unbreakable Egon", and the fact that he inflicts a status effect on himself called "Unbreakable" in one last desperate attempt to protect his Queen. This is made even 'more' tragic when it's later revealed that the Queen he was trying so hard to protect was actually the one he was attacking with an axe- Emily.
  • "Moonlight, Side A", the track that plays during the first part of the second battle with Agent Black in Iconoclasts. "Moonlight, Side B", which plays during the second part, is more energetic, yet also sad, especially considering that Agent Black was just murdered by Robin, in the first time she ever truly killed someone personally, and yet she comes back as an inhuman, pained Ivory Beast through the sheer power of her stubbornness and despair..
    • Memento Mori, the track which plays in the battle with the Bonus Boss Fitzroy, is possibly even sadder. After all, you are fighting a man who's lived so long, the only thing he has left is a memory of how he failed the woman he loved, and you are letting him die by destroying that memory.
  • The final level music of Immortal Defense, "A Winter's Journey".
  • Infamous Second Son has "Double Crossed", which plays during the fight with Augustine right after she murders Reggie.
  • Kingdom Hearts:
    • Kingdom Hearts II Final Mix+, during Sora's battle with Roxas. The song that plays is a melancholy remix of Roxas's theme (which was sad to begin with), and it is called "The Other Promise". Likewise, the final boss is a Sequential Boss that uses different variations of the same track ("Darkness of the Unknown") for each stage, with the final one being much slower and more somber than the others.
    • In Kingdom Hearts coded, the battle against Data-Roxas uses Roxas's regular theme instead. Similarly, the battles with Data-Riku are accompanied by his rather somber leitmotif.
    • Kingdom Hearts: 358/2 Days: Xion's fight theme, "Vector to the Heavens".
    • Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep:
      • "Tears of Light" plays when Terra visits Castle of Dreams for the first time and battles several Unversed, while Cinderella cries in the aftermath of her stepsisters ripping her dress to shreds.
      • "Dismiss", the final boss theme, is a more tragic version of the recurring "Destati" theme with Terra and Aqua's character themes mixed in.
      • The Final Mix rerelease adds "Night of Tragedy", the battle track for the Realm of Darkness.
    • Kingdom Hearts Dream Drop Distance has a dark battle theme exclusive for the boss of the TRON: Legacy world, and for a good reason: "Rinzler Recompiled".
  • Kirby:
  • The Last Story has a sad theme heard right after one of the final bosses kills Lowell, during Chapter 40. The quiet, yet melancholic tone of the theme contrasts by all means all other battle themes in the game.
  • LISA: The Painful RPG:
    • The game has The End is Nigh, Rando's battle theme, which goes from sorrowful to brooding to terrifying.
    • Go Home Johnny also counts, as while it's climactic when you battle the Dojo Buster/Tiger Man, it becomes downright tragic when you battle Sticky, if you've spared him before.
    • Bloodmoon Rising, the track playing while you fight the Indian tribe who guard the last bloodmoon tree in Olathe, because Brad is trying to build the new boat for Shardy to find Buddy, after she escaped from him on the old one.
  • All over the place in Mass Effect 3, but especially during the fall of Earth and the asari homeworld of Thessia.
  • Max Payne 3 has "Tears" during the final battle.
  • Medal of Honor: Frontline has this during the levels "Rough Landing" and "Arnhem Knights", the latter of which is set during the failed Operation Market Garden.
  • Mega Man X4 has the boss battle theme of Iris in Zero's story mode, when she turns on him after he's forced to kill her brother Colonel, and fuses with his salvaged core to transform into a Ride Armor-like monstrosity that requires Zero to fight her as well, leading to her accidental death.
  • Metal Gear:
    • Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater: The final boss starts with no music, but five minutes in, the instrumental of Snake Eater kicks in, followed by the full song. The melancholy elements of the song come to the forefront here, as the instrumental removes the lyrics to allow the somber strings to command the melody, and when the vocals come in, the player becomes fully aware of how the lyrics reflect the tragic tale of The Boss.
    • Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots has different musical themes from previous games played during your last fight with Revolver Ocelot. The last music score is the sombre sad theme of 4 and it reflects how Ocelot and Snake are both on their last legs, with the fight mechanics even changing to show they can barely stand and even if Snake wins, he's doomed anyways.
  • Metroid Prime 3: Corruption has sad but intense music during the battle against Rundas.
  • Due to its Grey-and-Grey Morality, nearly every boss theme in Minoria is sad. Special mention goes to Decisive Battle, which is played during the battle with Sister Devoir, and starts off heroically, but then quickly takes on a much more sorrowful tone. Then, once she's heavily wounded and reduced to limping while slashing ineffectively and saying her last words, the music shifts to a slower and very appropriately titled On the Brink of Death.
    • The Final Boss theme, Auto-da-Fé (Portuegese for "act of faith"; usually associated with the Inquisition's ritual of public penance and/or execution of the heretics) is already sad As by that point the player should well realize they were fighting for genodical theocracy against non-believers trying to defend themselves all along, and it also shifts to Auto-da-Fé II when Princess Poeme Turns Red and becomes even more angelic-looking as Snake Witch Poeme. Then, Standing up to Princess Amelia after that battle triggers the final, short fight, scored to Auto-da-Fé III.
  • In Mitsumete Knight, there's "Sorrowful Blade", the battle theme played when fighting the enemy Eight General Salishuan the Spy, alias Raizze Haimer (one of the winnable main heroines), when she's torn between her duty and her love for the protagonist. You actually need to hear this theme to get her ending: if not, she's gone forever.
  • "The Enemy of my Enemy" from Modern Warfare 2 is set to Boneyard Intro, which rather fits the level immediately after The Reveal Shepherd's been a traitor all along.
  • Being a spiritual precursor to Minoria, even the default boss theme in Momodora: Reverie Under the Moonlight, Assault is far from being cheerful. However, Pardoner's Dance, played during the battle with Pardoner Fennel, is in a league of its own, since the entire battle is essentially a case of Poor Communication Kills.
  • Mother 3 does this during the final battle against Claus: "Battle Against the Masked Man", a distorted confusion of sound reminiscent of Giygas's themes from the previous game, is periodically interrupted by "Memory of Mother", which combines it with one of Hinawa's themes, and eventually both are replaced by "It's Over, a heartrending rendition of the Love Theme. Earlier, there's "Tragic Reconstruction", a combination of the Pigmask Leitmotif and Beethoven's Symphony no.3, which underscores the fate of the animals that were subjected to the Pigmasks' experiments.
  • Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 3: Bond of snow Tears.
  • NieR has its final boss theme, "Shadowlord". While it does pick up a faster and bombastic tempo after the opening, it also utilizes Variable Mix in a highly-effective way — as the battle goes on and the boss' health bar depletes, elements of the music fade out, so eventually the instruments are gone and there's just mournful vocals. In the Shadowlord's last phase, even that is replaced by a Nostalgic Music Box carrying the melody, as by that point, he just wants to die.
  • It'd be easier to count the boss themes in NieR: Automata that don't have an air of sadness to them. Of particular note are Grandma (Destruction), Emil (Despair), and Song of the Ancients (Atonement), more fast-paced, actionized versions of slower, more solemn/wistful themes from the original Nier that play during moments such as a grieving 9S losing his mind after having to fight hostile copies of 2B, a battle against against Emil's clones, who've been driven to insanity and nihilism after thousands of years of living, and Devola and Popola's Heroic Sacrifice to buy 9S time to hack the entrance to the Tower.
  • Nioh: Against The White Tiger Ishida Mitsunari, both "heroes" in their respects who have fallen. Especially appropriate for the Ogress, the quiet rage and grief of a mother spurned and bereaved permeates the fantastic stringwork.
  • In Octopath Traveler, the first fight with Simeon in Primrose's Chapter 4 is tragic and solemn, unlike every other battle theme.
  • The music for the Final Boss fight against Levanthan in Odin Sphere is usually the mellow, but somewhat uplifting world map theme, but if the player is on the track to the bad ending, A Fate Accepted (which is normally reserved for sad/somber scenes) is used instead.
  • OFF has a few, like the Queen's theme, The Meaning of His Tears, and to a lesser extent Japhet's theme, Minuit A Fond La Caisse.
  • The route to the C ending of Pandora's Tower replaces Zeron with Possessed Elena, the bright final battle location to a dark dungeon, and the powerful, intense final boss theme with an oppressing chanting. The fact that it is the only ending where Aeron and Elena worsen the war they were trying to run from makes it even more fitting.
  • Parasite Eve has Someone Calls Me... Someone Looks for Me, a very sad, somber music that plays when fighting the True Final Boss: the original Eve, possessing the body of Aya's late sister.
  • "Heartful Cry" in Persona 3 FES, a powerful yet melancholy piece that plays when you fight the other members of SEES.
    • "Throw Away Your Mask" in Persona 5 Royal (and its instrumental version, "Keep Your Faith"), featuring a very beautiful piano riff at the beginning, really hammers in the fact that the True Final Boss of the game is not at all as malicious as the other Palace Rulers and the final boss of the original game, especially with lyrics like this:
      Don't sleep through dreams that can't come true
      No more tears shall drop from your cheeks anymore
      You won't need to strive for greatness
      Believe in me that you don't need to suffer from anything
  • In Pyre, the Lone Minstrel and the Gate Guardian perform the duet Never To Return for each Liberation Rite.
  • Sad But True from Resident Evil 5, for the battle against mind-controlled Jill Valentine.
  • Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Explorers has Dialga's Fight to the Finish!", played during the final battle of the pre-credits story.
  • In Red Dead Redemption II, the music that plays during the fight with Micah is aptly titled "Red Dead Redemption" after the final mission of Chapter 6 (which doubles as Playing the Heart Strings!), where we know that it's never gonna end well with Arthur fighting him off while his lungs are failing him due to tuberculosis.
  • Rise of Nations has a soundtrack that changes depending on recent events, whether it be peaceful economic building or engaging the enemy in battle. After the end of a losing battle, music is likely to turn melancholic, as with the touching Battle At Witch Creek.
  • In Risk of Rain, a number of tracks carry this tune, but the one that stands out the most is Coalescence, which plays in the last level while the player fends off hordes of enemies and Degraded Bosses amongst the Scenery Gorn of the UES Contact Light's crash. This sets up an atmosphere of finality and triumph, but also mourning and loss.
  • SaGa 2 plays one of the sad songs during a boss fight (instead of one of the battle themes) which occurs immediately after an important NPC dies.
  • Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice has Gentle Blade, which plays if you decide to forsake Kuro and fight against Emma.
  • Shadow of the Colossus has Demise of the Ritual. Words cannot describe how fitting it is, as it makes you reflect on your actions, and if they were worth the price.
  • The Shin Megami Tensei series tend to use this on various occasions, and considering the nature of the series, it is not hard to see why. Some examples include Kuroe's theme from Shin Megami Tensei IMAGINE and the Yamato Reactor's theme and Isabeau's theme from Shin Megami Tensei IV.
  • Sonic Forces has the theme for the Death Egg Robot's second phase, which is an incredibly dire-sounding song emphasizing the fact that Eggman's done screwing around, and that losing will doom the planet to obliteration.
  • Splatoon 2 has "Tidal Rush", a Boss Remix medley of "Tide Goes Out" and "Bomb Rush Blush" played during the second phase of the final boss battle. Although much more rousing than many other examples here, it still has a clear emotional edge, since in-universe it's a duet sung between Callie and Marie as the latter tries to snap the former out of her brainwashing.
  • Super Mario Bros.:
  • Nuclear Throne the final boss first form theme. The second form has the snippet of the main theme instead.
  • Tales of Vesperia: A slow melancholic rendition of the game's theme song, Ring a Bell, plays during Yuri's battle with Estelle, during which she pleads with him to kill her to save himself and the others.
  • Tales of the World: Radiant Mythology: The track Sad Memory plays while battling Kannono. Upon regaining memories and their true purpose of being in Teresia, they allow Gilgulim to continue devouring the world and end up battling the Descender.
  • Unsurprisingly, the Total War series has this in abundance. For example, in Medieval II: Total War, a battle the game thinks you won't win may be fought to "This is It," and the European defeat music is "Did They Have to Die Today?"
  • Touhou has a wonderful soundtrack, with some character boss themes that definitely qualify as this.
  • Transistor; Sybil remembers Red's music. "In Circles", then "_n C_rcl_s" play during this fight.
  • The Final Boss theme in The Treehouse Man, Apotheosis, is a slow, heavily melancholy piece, as it's revealed your real opponent is an insane Dark Messiah, and how unnecessary the conflict he started had been.
  • Trials of Mana:
    • Innocent Sea:. It plays when fighting Heath the fallen cleric and Charlotte's adoptive big brother. After he was kidnapped by Goremand, the Masked Mage brainwashed him and forced him to fight Charlotte and co. After he's defeated, he reveals the Masked Mage is his father who was once famous mage whose study of dark arts in an ill-fated attempt to cure a young girl twisted his mind and body and transformed him into the Dark Mage.
    • Fable: Plays when fighting the Darkshine Knight with Duran in your party. He reveals that he's in fact Duran's long-lost father, the Golden Knight Loki, thought to have died while fighting the Dragon Lord. In reality, he was Left for Dead and then subsequently revived by the Dragon Lord to serve as his loyal servant.
  • Tyrian has Asteroid Dance, Part 1.
  • Undertale:
    • Asgore's battle theme. It's not as sad-sounding as most examples on this list, but is a lot more serious than the silly and whimsical boss themes the player has gotten used to, with a subtle air of melancholy about it, and fits the far more solemn nature of the fight.
    • Toriel's battle theme that plays at the end of the first dungeon and is notably called "Heartache" on the OST. Rather appropriate, given that Toriel is trying to stop the player, who she grew to admire upon their meeting, from leaving the ruins and risk getting killed by Asgore. But the player needs to leave to progress the story, and they may even end up (accidentally) killing their friend instead of sparing Toriel several times until she gives in and lets you go.
    • Undyne's battle theme is normally bombastic, but if she is killed in a Neutral run the theme is replaced with the much more somber Lonely Piano Piece "An Ending". Even her normal battle theme is, like Asgore's, considerably more serious than most other boss themes, to go with Undyne being the first monster you meet in the game who legitimately wants you dead. And times ten worse in her battle theme in Genocide Run, with Battle Against the True Hero, which really shows how desperate she is enough to tap determination even that means that she will suffer into a gruesome meltdown all in the name of saving both monsterkind and humankind against the player's wanton mass murdering.
  • Most bosses in Unworthy have battle themes that are more sad than anything else, to highlight that they used to be good people, who fell to their gravest sins. This is at its most obvious with Gaston's and Frayed Knight Dominic's two themes. Even Altus, The First Father, whose experiments led to the entire apocalypse, still has a sympathetic theme.
  • The track for the final battle in Utawarerumono is the slow and melancholy The End of Legends. A track fitting given that you are fighting to forever seal away the main hero in order to stop his evil half.
  • Void Memory has a very sad theme play during the late-game boss battle against the Nameless Investigator, who is a phanthom much like yourself, and is pretty much a Mirror Boss.
  • The third installment of the Xenosaga trilogy has the battle between KOS-MOS and T-ELOS. While their previous battles were accompanied by intense music, their final confrontation has the melancholic "Hepatica" playing.
  • Yakuza 1 has "For Who's Sake", the final boss theme for Akira Nishikiyama which empathizes on the grief of him and Kiryu. It gets a much more dramatic remix in the Kiwami remake.
    • Yakuza 2 has A Scattered Moment, which plays during the final fistfight with Goda. Like the above, it gets remixed in the remake.
    • Yakuza Kiwami 2 has another remix of Fiercest Warrior as Jo Amon's theme, only this one is more somber and emotional than the normally energetic, pulse-sounding versions, reflecting that this is the final game (at least in terms of real-life chronology) where Kiryu and Amon will face off.
  • Ys VI: The Ark of Napishtim has "Defend and Escape" while escorting Olha out of the Romun fleet.

    Web Comics 
  • In Homestuck, John and Rose's duel with Bec Noir over the corpses of their dead parents is set to At The Price Of Oblivion, which is a track about as bleak as it sounds. Not that it lasts for very long, though - the music abruptly cuts out when John is killed. It gets better if you listen to the full version of the song in the album... where it ends in the flash, the full version goes into what is possibly one of the most epic action songs in history.

    Western Animation 
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender: The music that plays during the Agni Kai between Zuko and Azula during Sozin's Comet. Fittingly, the music is called "The Last Agni Kai".
  • Courage the Cowardly Dog: The episode "Human Habitrail" featured Sad Chase Scene Music, where a wacky, inconsequential boat chase between Courage and Doc Gerbil was set to a haunting female opera solo. It really must be seen to be believed.
  • The theme to Gargoyles seems to scream this...or roar this, whatever.
  • Steven Universe:
    • "Defective" plays during the fight between Pearl and Amethyst.
    • There's also the second half of "The Breaking Point" that plays during Steven's fight against Bismuth that ends with him "killing" his new ally turned foe.
  • The Super Mario World cartoon features a dramatic background track specific to that cartoon, which leans toward this territory. It's first heard when the Paragoombas attack in "Fire Sale."

 
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Final Fantasy VII Jenova-LIFE

The Jenova-LIFE boss battle uses Aerith's Theme as the background music

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