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Songs in the Key of Panic

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A timer reaches 100, and suddenly the music picks up.

A frequent trope in video games, although it's not necessarily restricted to them.

There are three main types:

  • Hurry Music: Plays when the time to do something is running out, meaning the player has to hurry. It's usually a faster version of the current song, although sometimes the music does outright change.
  • Song in the Key of Warning: Music speeds up or changes when a player is in a disadvantageous situation of some sort, such as low health.
  • Nearing-the-End Music: Music speeds up or changes when nearing the end of the task/level or some other progress in the game. Usually the situation gets tenser in this case.

See also Boss Remix, Variable Mix, Critical Annoyance, Theme Music Power-Up, Musical Spoiler, Near Victory Fanfare.

And in case you're wondering, there is no such thing as a Key of Panic (or Warning) in music theory.note 


    open/close all folders 

    Hurry Music 
  • Super Mario Bros.:
    • The main 2D series, plus two of the 3D games, do this frequently when the timer reaches "A HUNDRED SECONDS?!" In this case, it's a mix of Hurry and Nearing-the-End, as first a little fanfare is played, then followed by the sped-up music.
    • Super Mario Galaxy and its sequel both have this type of music for the Speedy- and Daredevil Comet challenges. This music is also used for instances when you're standing on a spire that starts to sink into quicksand or lava as soon as you arrive. Lastly, boss music gets faster when you damage most bosses enough, indicating that they'll get harder.
    • Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon does this all the time. The bonus missions all have three versions of the theme, with the last being at three times the speed to go with the increased number of ghosts and tense atmosphere. And the bosses do this too, with the last phase having super sped up music to go with the Turns Red feel. There's also the 'you are going to die soon' music used in the multiplayer's Rush Mode, which feels even more urgent as the timer goes down. The one odd subversion is the Tough Possessor fight, where the music actually slows right down for the final phase to go with the Attack of the 50-Foot Whatever feel.
    • Donkey Kong '94 has three tiers of this. At 30 seconds, the level music fades out and is quickly replaced with a frantic tune. At 15 seconds, that song is quickly and abruptly replaced with a faster version. The key doesn't change afterwards, but the song gets even faster when 7 seconds remain on the clock.
  • Final Fantasy V has the theme appropriately named "Hurry! Hurry!" that most memorably plays during the timed escape from the burning Karnak Castle... and when you're starting to run out of time, the already frantic theme speeds up even further, thus also making this an example of Song in a Key of Warning.
  • Bubble Bobble features this, along with a siren and a "Hurry!" notification when the player has been on the current stage for a set amount of time. It causes all of the enemies to Turn Red and the game's music speeds up. After a set period, this kicks in again, with a brief dirge indicating the summoning of Baron Von Blubba. However, the time limit is a "soft" time limit - as long as the player can continue to avoid all enemies and obstacles, they can keep alive, and defeating all of the enemies unsummons the Baron and returns the music to normal.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog does it with the drowning music. Said music has been known to scare a surprising number of people.
    • Also played if you're nearing the 10-minute time limit, or if you're in a 2-player match in Sonic the Hedgehog 2 and the 1-minute time limit that plays when one player finishes the stage is down to 12 seconds.
    • Also, Sonic 3 & Knuckles does this again in The Doomsday zone, speeding up the music if you have ten rings or less as Super/Hyper Sonic.
    • The Blue Sphere minigame doesn't have a traditional time limit, but has two hidden time limits that cause Sonic to speed up (causing increased difficulty with turning), with the music getting faster as well.
  • The infamous underwater dam stage of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1989), where you're trying to disarm the bombs, has two increasingly frantic variants of this as the timer gets closer to zero.
  • The player has ten minutes to defeat the final boss in Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater. The first five minutes are silent, after which the instrumental of the Snake Eater theme kicks in. With three minutes to go, the full bombastic song races you to the end.
  • Metroid:
    • Most games feature an Escape Sequence, and they invoke this effect to remind the player that they need to either haul ass or risk seizing defeat from the jaws of victory.
    • Metroid II: Return of Samus: Near the end of the game, when Samus discovers a new batch of Metroids have just hatched (shooting the counter up from 1 to 9), the already tense song playing raises an octave for the whole final level.
    • Metroid Prime: Hunters: At one point, while looking for the second Octolith located in Vesper Defense Outpost, some debris falls down onto an energy reactor and makes it go haywire. Samus has only 60 seconds to quickly rise to a panel to cool it down before it explodes. During this sequence, the theme that is usually heard in this same place in multiplayer begins playing, but as time passes it will gradually accelerate to increase tension. By the time the song completes a loop, only a few seconds will be left before it's too late.
  • Knights in the Nightmare does this when the time is running out, under fifteen seconds of time remaining makes the music plays faster.
  • In the level "No Fighting in the War Room" in Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, a different version of tracks from previous levels are played out as the time runs out. The very last track before the timer reaches zero is, for example, reminiscent of the intro to "Crew Expendable".
  • In Return to Castle Wolfenstein, the music intensifies as the timer runs down during timed missions.
  • One level of Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory, where you have to disarm Time Bombs, integrated the beeping of the bombs into an increasingly frantic techno piece.
  • The Legend of Zelda:
    • In the 3D games, music will speed up in minigames when time is almost out. Similarly, timed switches in many of the games emit a series of rhythmic clicks or ticks which gradually become faster until the switch deactivates itself.
    • In The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask, the theme in Clock Town is slightly faster on Day Two, and even faster, with a frantic undertone, on the Final Day. It gets even worse in the last 6 hours.
    • The Silent Realms in The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword are initially serene, but set a toe beyond the starting point or run out the timer on your Tears of Light gauge, and BAM! The visuals turn hellish, invincible One-Hit Kill enemies relentlessly chase you down, and THIS plays. It basically chocks up to "Run or Die" in song form.
  • In Battletoads' Rat Race level, the music speeds up as Scuzz gets closer to the bomb. It also speeds up in tempo for each race- fittingly, Scuzz gets faster each time.
  • Inverted in Spelunky where the music slows down when you have only 30 seconds left to finish the level before the ghost appears.
  • In The Journeyman Project's Mars Maze, the music creepily slows down and fades to a heartbeat and heavy breathing sounds as your oxygen supply depletes.
  • In the Super Mario World ROM hack A Super Mario Thing, this trope gets taken to a bizarre extreme with 'Panic Puzzle', a level that immediately starts the player off with 100 seconds remaining (thus triggering the speed-up), and playing an already rather frantic-sounding tuneNote  . Whenever the player enters a pipe, the time resets back to 100 seconds, and speeds the music up even further. The nature of the level's puzzle means that this has to happen multiple times throughout the level, rendering the music a chaotic mess by the time the player reaches the end. Best demonstrated here, in raocow's original playthrough.
  • Blast Corps has the music speed up and change to a more dire tone whenever the runaway truck with unstable nuclear missiles is about to crash into something if the path is not cleared in time.
  • In Kirby's Return to Dream Land and Kirby's Dream Collection Special Edition, there are special Challenge Stages that must be completed within a time limit. If less than thirty seconds are left, in most cases the regular Challenge Stage music ("Time for a Challenge") simply speeds up ("Rush to the Goal!"). However, in the Combat Chambers present in Kirby's Dream Collection Special Edition, this situation causes the music to change to "Climactic Clash! Robo Dedede," a remix of Heavy Lobster's theme from Kirby Super Star Ultra originally from Kirby's Return to Dream Land's Scope Shot minigame.
    • Similarly in Kirby's Dream Buffet, when fighting on the last round, the music will change to a frantic remix of the Shooting theme from Kirby's Dream Land when there's 20 seconds left in the round. Sometimes the round goes into overtime, making the music get even MORE frantic.
  • When only 30 seconds remain, the retro Mushroom Kingdom I and II stages in Super Smash Bros. Melee switch the audio themes to, respectively, a faster-paced version in the former, and a boss theme in the latter. This also happened in the original Nintendo 64 game with the retro Mushroom Kingdom stage.
  • Halo 4 has two examples - "Gravity", which plays when the shipwreck that the Master Chief is on is being drawn into / torn apart by a gravity well, and "Escape", which plays when the Chief has to drive a permanently-boosting Ghost through Requiem's core level as it is torn apart around him by a slipspace-induced spatial anomaly.
  • Dig Dug Arrangement has a song titled "Spurt" play when the "Hurry Up!" warning appears.
  • The normally calm Background Music of Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes picks up on the intensity once the bomb timer hits one minute and gets outright ominous once it hits 30 seconds.
  • The Witness: A weird example, but "In the Hall of the Mountain King" is the last song to play during the Challenge. If the ending kicks in and you're not almost finished, it's your cue to give up and just start heading back to the record player.
  • Ori and the Blind Forest has frantic yet epic music during each of the three escape sequences.
  • In Donkey Kong Country Returns and Tropical Freeze, the music in the bonus rooms changes to a more frantic arrangement when under 10 seconds are left on the timer.
  • Pengo has two "hurry" variations of its theme tune. In some ports, the music also speeds up along with the Difficulty by Acceleration.
  • The final act of Bad Mojo features a combination of Hurry-Up and Near-The-End variations. Due to gas from the stove slowly filling the bar, the soundtrack is backed up with an ominous, monotonous music loop, indicating impending doom. After a while, the music changes into an even more intense-sounding loop, and then, after a while, only drums are left from this loop. In the end, the gas finally reaches the water heater's pilot light in the cellar, and the bar explodes.
  • In Euro and American Truck Simulator, when you have less than 10 minutes to complete your delivery before you start showing up late and lose money, the fast-paced EDM and country music begin.
  • Marvel Super Heroes vs. Street Fighter plays intense music that started with the announcer saying "Time's running out! Hurry up!" Bonus points because the music starts out slow but gets faster the more you take your time.
  • A Hat in Time has this during the Train Rush level, with the song's tempo and pitch increasing as your time decreases.
  • Pizza Tower: "It's Pizza Time!" begins playing after Peppino destroys the John Pillar in the current level, and a timer shows how much time he has left until Pizza Face spawns in. At the 50 second mark or so, the already panicky song gets much more frantic before slowing down just as it's about to end.
  • There's a twist on this trope in The Stanley Parable. In the Countdown ending, frantic music plays as the timer ticks down to a detonation- but it turns out there is absolutely no hope in the end.
  • In Space Quest IV: Roger Wilco and the Time Rippers, the eerie ambient music of the Super Computer is replaced by a bombastic march after you start the formatting sequence.
  • The NewZealand Story replaces the usual Background Music with a frantic song when an invisible timer on the current level hits a certain point. When you really need to hurry up, it speeds up even more and shifts into a sinister minor key.
  • In Resident Evil: Resistance, which is a bonus game included in Resident Evil 3 (Remake), The Pressure Is On starts playing when the survivor team is running out of time.

    Key of Warning 

Music speeds up:

  • In Mother 3, when you are trapped by the Ultimate Chimera, the music doesn't change, but Lucas's heartbeat, which you can hear over the music, goes faster and faster as his situation becomes increasingly dire.
  • Banjo-Kazooie has a maze in a desert level with music that gradually increases in speed, and goes up a pitch or two every so often to boot.
  • WinBack does this at 50% health, then again at 25% health.
  • The danger/panic themes in the Syphon Filter series were usually faster remixes or Variable Mixes of the level themes, although sometimes completely different.
  • GoldenEye (1997) did this in Timed Mission or high-alert situations. Perfect Dark takes it even further with every stage's track having an alternate "X" version that plays when an alarm is triggered or you are at a mission critical point.
  • Star Trek: Bridge Commander has a very good version of this. The battle music comes in 3 distinct flavors, though it's still the same tune: Optimistic, Neutral, and Danger. The game keeps track of your shields, weapon status, and hull integrity compared to the enemy. So you can be at 100% health, but if you're facing half a dozen Romulan Warbirds, you get the Danger music.
  • Chunky's rematch with Dogadon in Donkey Kong 64 is already set to a pretty typical Rareware over-the-top Boss Remix, but when the boss slams the platform and makes it start sinking into the lava, it starts speeding up and going into a demented and very minor key fanfare.
  • Puzzle Bobble has the music get gradually faster as the bubbles get closer to the player.
  • The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks has a sequence where your train goes into a dark tunnel, shooting the occasional tektite as this plays. Then you meet the boss, who takes up half the tunnel and is only vulnerable to shooting Exploding Barrels (recall that both you and the boss are moving at different speeds), and this plays as gets inexorably closer (and drops back to the former if you manage to hit him).
  • Ori and the Blind Forest does this during the rockslide sequence in Gumo's Hideout.
  • The Driver games speed up the music when Tanner is being chased or in an otherwise critical situation.
  • Skate or Die 2 has an unused panic version of the Plant stage theme.
  • Hollow Knight adds an Orchestral Bombing overlay to a dungeon's BGM in tense situations such as Multi-Mook Melee events or certain boss battles.
  • Space Quest IV: Roger Wilco and the Time Rippers does this with the Galaxy Galleria Mall music while evading the Sequel Police in the Skate-o-Rama zero gravity chamber.

Different tune is played altogether:

  • In Street Fighter II (all five of them), a faster remix plays when one of the fighters' health bars is low and has already lost a round, doubling as a Near Victory Fanfare for the other player (depending on the version, this will play in every round).
  • The Killer Instinct series cues a loop of panic derived from the stage theme when a fighter is down to their last 20% of health.
  • In Skies of Arcadia, the music changes during boss battles depending on how well the player is doing. If a party member is at dangerously low health, the music changes to a more dramatic, scary-sounding song. Conversely, if the player has the boss on the ropes, the music swells to a triumphant, heroic song.
  • When the player is spotted by a monster in Amnesia: The Dark Descent, this delightful little number plays on top of whatever theme or motif the monster has.
  • In Gauntlet, ominous music plays when a player's health is 200 or less.
  • Puyo Puyo uses a frantic recurring theme whenever your screen of Puyos is filling too close to the top. The edited Kirby's Avalanche variant borrows this tune for same gameplay scenario, while Dr Robotnik's Mean Bean Machine uses another, even more hectic theme (which is in fact a remix of the original Puyo Puyo's final boss theme). Less advanced gamers were most likely completely screwed at this point in gameplay, so usually hearing this music basically informs "YOU LOST"!
  • Shadowgate plays a song when your torches are about to run out of light.
  • Banjo-Kazooie: whenever you jump into the sea in Treasure Trove Cove, a song similar to the Jaws theme starts playing as the shark living there appears to take a bite out of you.
  • Whenever the Tall Man appears in Chzo Mythos games, a rather distressing piece of music will inform the player of how screwed they are.
  • Phantasy Star III changes the battle music depending on if you're doing well or poorly, and switches to a somewhat sinister-sounding theme if you're at a disadvantage
  • Wizards & Warriors has a different, more sinister song that starts playing when you're low on hit points.
  • Anarchy Online switches between different themes considering how well you are doing in combat.
  • In Panel de Pon/Tetris Attack, the "panic" theme varies depending on what stage you're playing on.
  • In the Metal Gear series, fitting music plays if you trigger an alert. The first Metal Gear Solid deserves special mention, as it provides one of the more (in)famous examples of this trope.
  • In most Pokémon games, hitting low health caused a constant, incessant beeping. In Pokémon Black and White, they actually turned the beeping into a new battle theme that plays at low health.
  • In Pokémon Trozei!, as the screen fills up, dramatic music starts to play.
  • Pokémon Legends: Arceus plays a unique theme if you get close to an Alpha Pokémon. Alphas are significanly higher-levelled than anything else in the area, have movesets designed to provide maximum coverage, and are always aggressive, regardless of their species' normal behaviour. Early in the game, this is the music telling you to get out of there; once you've levelled up, it's a proclamation that you need to pay attention so you don't get blindsided.
  • In the original MSX version of Valis, the music turns ominous at low health.
  • The Söldner-X series plays a different, more frantic track when the player is below 25% health.
  • In the 3D Zelda games, a dissonant music piece segues in when enemies are nearby. The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker additionally speeds up this music as well as the miniboss theme when Link is low on health.
  • In X-Wing, the music switches to a more intense one when enemies arrive, and calms down when enemies are gone. This was dropped in the collector's edition, which played music from the CD (and only changed on victory/loss) instead of synthesizing it.
  • Total Annihilation was one of the first RTS games to implement this with CD music. However, the unpatched version always played the same battle track; later versions chose from a set of tracks instead.
  • When the music starts to change in F.E.A.R., you know something big and/or bad is about to happen.
  • Zok Zok Heroes, an obscure Japan-only Gameboy Color RPG, changes to a different battle theme when your hero is at critical HP.
  • Resident Evil:
  • The game show The Cube switches the music to a more intense track when the player has only one life left.
  • In the .hack//G.U. Games, if you stay out in an outdoors area for too long, a Doppleganger will appear on the map. If it notices you nearby, it deliberately invokes terror as it slowly and implacably walks towards you. The music will change from a generally calm and serene tune into something that can only be described as exceptionally scary and fear inducing. It also speeds up the closer it gets to you. Activating a Battle Zone in order to engage another monster will not stop it from following in after you.
  • Punch-Out!!: The games have a dire "GET UP!" music play if you're knocked down. You only have 10 seconds to get up from the mat or you will be considered KO'd and lose.
  • Left 4 Dead has a basic Scare Chord play when a Survivor is down and the chords get increasingly more frightening as they bleed out more and are close to death. The same also happens if a Survivor is hanging from a ledge and their grip is slipping.
  • Whenever a monster or other hazard appears in Alone in the Dark (1992), a Scare Chord plays and the music changes.
  • Sinister music changes in Fallout 3, Fallout: New Vegas, and Fallout 4 indicate nearby enemies or being spotted and engaging in battle.
  • In The Oregon Trail II, the trail themes have more grim arrangements when one or more party members is in poor health. However if one dies and there aren't any other sick members, it resets to the normal variation.
  • In Super Solvers: Gizmos & Gadgets, the Background Music for the race will turn into a darker theme if Morty's vehicle is ahead of the player's. The opposite occurs if the player is ahead.
  • Hellsinker's Scarlet Queen is fought to the time of the Segment 1-2 boss music. Unlock her Spirit Kernel form and a fast, berserk-sounding arrangement of the boss theme plays.
  • In Octodad, if your Suspicion meter goes up too high, the music shifts to an off-key arrangement.
  • Panic music is common in pinball games, usually after failing to collect a jackpot during multiball modes. Most commonly, this involves giving the player a very brief time limit to restart the current multiball round (including FunHouse (1990) and Twilight Zone). Other examples play panic music signifies that a jackpot shot is still available, but has to be collected as soon as possible (such as Black Knight 2000).
  • In Konami's Police 911, should the player either lose a life, accidentally shoot an officer or a bystander, or is down to his or her last life, more distressing music plays.
  • In Kid Icarus: Uprising, the music will change if you are spotted by a Reaper (which plays the original Reaper music) or there is an Orne nearby (also 8-bit, but original music).
  • Fire Emblem Fates has a special combat tune, which plays only if either your unit under attack will take a fatal hit, and/or is the last one left on the map.
  • In Battle Hunter, when the deck of cards runs out and GON appears, the normally laid-back dungeon music turns into this. Since it's an instant Game Over if GON kils the player holding the target item, it signals quite effectively that it's time to wrap things up and get the hell out of there.
  • When your Overlord runs out of AP while fighting the eponymous Trillion: God of Destruction, the music switches to Beat the Beast, a track that starts with dramatic chords and a One-Woman Wail. Fitting, since it means that Overlord isn't coming back alive.
  • For Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, a music cue was added to the beginning of a round, and a second was added that starts if the Terrorist team plants their bomb or the Counter-Terrorist team starts carrying a hostage, to let their opponents know shit has gotten real.
  • Need for Speed III: Hot Pursuit did this if you were using the rock or techno Variable Mix pertaining to the track, the music would switch to a short, intense loop when you were being chased by the police, then there was a more intense loop when they were close. Rom Di Prisco opted for shorter, three-to-five second loops while others like Matt Ragan and Saki Kaskas had longer chase loops around fifteen-to-twenty seconds long.
  • The Desert Island Escape game (calling it a Minigame would do it a disservice) you can play within Animal Crossing: New Leaf has an alternate, faster Background Music that plays if you're still on the island with only one day, or one day's worth of food, to spare. In the latter case, the music will immediately go back to the calmer regular track if you're able to increase your rations.
  • Bejeweled:
    • Bejeweled Twist:
      • Classic mode: If one of the bomb gems count down to 5, the music will change into a more panicked variant in response. Once all the bomb gem counters are higher than 6 again, the music will go back to normal.
      • Challenge mode: Puzzles Stratamaxnote  and Survivornote  share a unique music piece, to which more panicked instrumentation is added when the player has 4 moves remaining. In the Survivor Eclipse puzzlenote , the instrumentation is added after the 8th move.
    • Bejeweled 3:
      • Lightning mode: The music changes into a more panicked variant once the player has 10 seconds left on the clock without any matched Time Gems (which adds bonus time for the next multiplier round), and goes back to normal once a Time Gem is matched.
      • Ice Storm mode: As a secondary ice column approaches the top of the board (which will result in a Game Over if at the top and not pushed down/destroyed for a few seconds), additional instrumentation is added (along with a warning sound, the background darkening, snow starting to fall, etc.) to intensify the situation.
  • All Shadow Hearts games change the battle music to a heavily remixed version of the same track if any of your party members loses all of their Sanity Points and goes Berserk. The music changes back if you restore their Sanity Points enough to snap them out of it.
  • In every Shining Force game after the first installment, bosses are accompanied by Battle Theme Music which lets the player know they're going to hit much, much harder than their minions.
  • Freelancer: Cruising around in space, you'll hear one of three different music tracks depending on what part of space you're in and what's going on around you: a calm atmospheric piece when things are relaxed, a quick, tense piece when hostiles are in the area but not actively engaged, and a battle theme for, well, battle. Being inside a debris field or a nebula overrides the first with an appropriate SFX track.
  • No Man's Sky, in the same vein as Freelancer, also plays the more intense soundtrack when you're engaged in battle.
  • PAYDAY 2: The music starts to build up as the police prepare an assault.
  • Zuma and many knockoffs do this.
    • Zuma itself will play a heartbeat when the marbles are near the end. The closer they get, the faster the heartbeat becomes.
    • Other games like Pirate Poppers and Luxor change the music when the marbles get too close.
  • Space Quest IV: Roger Wilco and the Time Rippers:
  • In Haven (2020):
  • Hardspace: Shipbreaker: The game's music changes to a more intense mix when something hazardous is happening. It can be brief moments when something is on fire, sparking or flying at high speeds too close for comfort, but it's most commonly seen when you inevitably have to disconnect the ship's reactor and dunk it quickly into the salvaging barge before it melts down and takes half the ship with it.
  • Tubes (a DOS-based science-themed clone of Klax) would switch to a quicker and more intense BGM when the player had no drops remaining (i.e. a single mistake away from Game Over).
  • Shivers (1995) would replace the BGM with a certain theme whenever one of the Ixupi spirits was possessing an object nearby, along with a specific sound (bubbling wax, creaking metal, rustling sand, etc).
  • In Dead by Daylight, a new track begins playing depending on how close the killer is from the player (ranging from 32 meters to 8, then cresendoing into a chase theme when the survivor starts sprinting). Starting with the rework for the Doctor, killer characters began recieving their own personal terror radius and chase music.
  • Police Quest plays a frantic music dirty when pursuing a criminal on the overhead map.

    Nearing-the-End Music 
  • The Battlefield games do this in multiplayer; in particular, Battlefield 1 and Battlefield V have different songs with almost every map as a round draws near to its conclusion.
  • Bloodborne avoids it for the most part, as the music that plays during the bosses stays the same throughout regardless of any changes they go through. Father Gascoigne on the other hand has a song that changes midway from ominous and tense to frantic and panicked when he transforms into a beast and his battle style shifts from heavy-handed and brutal yet skilled axe-wielding to a berserk onslaught of claws.
  • Battletoads does it in several levels, including all the levels on a vehicle. For example, during the super-fast final stretch of the Turbo Tunnel, the music speeds up accordingly.
  • In Super Mario World, the music speeds up when fighting against the last phase of Bowser.
  • In the Mario Kart series, when you get to the final lap, the music speeds up (the music sting that transitions between the normal and increased tempo is similar). From Double Dash!! onwards, the music pitches up a notch in addition. In Mario Kart 8's DLC course, Baby Park, it does this after every lap, which is notable because the course has seven due to its short length. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe also has the music switch to "Now or Never!" (see below) in the last minute of battle mode if you're playing on Urchin Underpass.
  • In Super Mario 3D World, in the level 'Tricky Trapeze Theater', the music changes very slightly when you are in the same area as the Goal Pole.
  • In all Mario Party games starting with Star Rush, the board's music changes to a frantic remix in the last few turns of the game (or, in the case of Star Rush's Toad Scramble, when the last boss appears). In the case of Super Mario Party, it kicks in when only three turns remain, and in Mario Party Superstars it does so when five remain. Also in the latter, the remix takes over regardless of whether the original or modern version of the played board's standard theme was selected.
  • As an early example: In Asteroids, the blip blop gets faster as the number of asteroids decreases.
  • Almost all bosses in the Dark Souls series have a theme that changes its melody and picks up its pace when the boss enters their second (or third) phase.
  • During the Wii Sports Resort Swordplay gauntlet, the music slowly adds more instrumentation when you get close to the end of the course. Another layer is added for when the player is down to one heart.
  • Skies of Arcadia does this twice during boss battles: The theme turning more dire if the player is on the verge of defeat, and more triumphant if it's the other way around.
  • Seth's stage music in Street Fighter IV becomes more urgent as the fight goes on.
  • During the final lap in races in Split/Second (2010), the Background Music will swell and become more tense. The effect is handled nicely as its crescendos happen after a bullet-time show-off of a wreck, which are usually triggered by the player.
  • Tetris DS uses the Death Mountain music for its Level 9 stage. As the player approaches Level 20, the music changes to a completely manic scherzo.
    • Tetris 99 has a remix of Flight of the Bumblebee when only 10 players remain. Later updates would add more themes (some original, some from Nintendo's various first-party games) that played their own music when only 10 players remained.
  • Boss music in An Untitled Story speeds up once the boss is down to 1 HP and he Turns Red.
  • In the Ace Attorney series, as you wear the witnesses down in cross-examination, the music becomes more urgent and elaborate. This is actually a separate track on the soundtrack, the 'Allegro' version. In Investigations, a 'Presto' version is heard during the final testimony of any of the antagonists. And it is epic.
  • When you are on the Gym Leader's final Pokémon in Black and White, this remix of the main theme starts playing, practically screaming "You can do it! You're almost there! Victory is within your grasp!"
  • The latter two Sonic Advance games, as well as both Sonic Rush and Sonic Rush Adventure, have extra-tense remixes of the boss fight tunes for when the boss's health gets particularly low.
  • In F-Zero GX and AX, the music changes when you're on the final lap.
  • Donkey Kong Country, as a part of its very wide compendium of Nightmare Fuel, has this example of "don't think you'll get out of this place easily".
  • The Halo series usually intensifies the music towards the climax or end of a battle.
    • On the second and third levels of the first game, the "Brothers in Arms" music goes into its climax section when the Covenant bring in reinforcements. When you reach the toll plaza at the end of the bridge on Halo 2's Metropolis, rock drums and bass guitar are added to the Halo theme music, and when you go into the tunnel, the music quiets down. While riding the second gondola on 2's "Regret", the first part of "Leonidas" plays on a loop, then when you reach the end, it segues to the awesome climax of the piece, which loops until you defeat all the enemies. "Blow Me Away" also does this for 2's Mausoleum battle. In the second half of Halo 3's "Tsavo Highway", the Halo theme changes to the "Rock Anthem for Saving The World" variation in the area with all the Choppers and Wraiths. The first and third installments both apply a Theme Music Power-Up during their final escape sequences.
    • Also in the first game's third level, the percussion of "Enough Dead Heroes" starts up as you get closer to the gravlift, and when the Hunters arrive, it goes to full instrumentation. Same with "Covenant Dance" during the cargo bay battle immediately after.
    • In Halo Infinite: Multiplayer, a slow, droning piece will appear when a match is nearing its end (either because the match timer is running out, or one team is close to scoring a winning objective) to highlight the tension of the endgame.
  • In Left 4 Dead, at the end of the finale level when you must make a dash for the rescue vehicle, the track Skin OnOur Teeth will play as the Survivors rush towards their escape.
  • In Goemon's Great Adventure, the music becomes more tense as you further progress through a castle level.
  • On the game show Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?, everything but the drumbeat in the Background Music would almost drop out entirely on the million-dollar question, leaving only a tense, heartbeat-like "BOOM...BOOM-BOOM..." on a loop.
  • In Twisted Metal: Black and Head On, the battle music changes when you're down to one opponent.
  • The Think Music on the Japanese game show Time Shock (hear it here) starts becoming increasingly tense starting at 30 seconds left. Also qualifies as the Hurry Music variant, as the same music is used in the "12 Answers" rounds, where a single contestant has only one question with multiple answers and 60 seconds to rattle off as many of them as they can (up to a maximum of 12).
  • In a similar vein, on Late Night Liars, as your 43 seconds counted down (and, no, that's not a typo), the music sped up, eventually reaching a really frantic pace in the last four seconds or so.
  • And then there are the Nickelodeon game shows of the late 80s/early 90s, where in the Bonus Round, the music changes keys (going up) every few seconds. Finders Keepers combined this with the Hurry Music variant, since the Room-to-Room Romp music moved to a "double time" feel in the last 30 seconds of the round.
  • On Burgo's Catch Phrase (in Australia), during the 2000 series, the contest music for the Bonus Round used a fusion of this and the Hurry variant. Here's a clip of one bonus, to help you get the idea. The music (already written to be tense-sounding) moves into a double-time feel at 30 seconds to go, and also becomes louder and more insistent as you get down to the end, with the last five seconds culminating in the strings moving up through a scale before you're finally met with a sound resembling a computer powering down.
  • In the 2020 revival of Supermarket Sweep in the US, the music changes to sound similar to the drowning music from the Sonic the Hedgehog series in the last 10 seconds of the Big Sweep.
  • Touhou Project:
  • In Wario Land: Shake It!, the music picks up at some hard to judge point in the middle of the third boss battle. Then even later it speeds up again to the point the Creepy Circus Music is going by at mach speed.
  • The music in Resident Evil 4's shooting gallery minigame speeds up at the halfway point of a round.
  • In Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance, after a boss's health drops past a certain point, the instrumental Battle Theme Music suddenly gains lyrics and becomes a Villain Song about their motivations. The exceptions being the The Rival and the Final Boss, both of whom have their lyrics playing for the entire fight.
  • In the first Serious Sam, the Great Pyramid starts out in a giant arena where enemies spawn. The music starts out leisurely with a few weak enemies coming out you, but it speeds up every time you kill off a wave, sending stronger and more difficult enemies at you each time. By the end, the music is ridiculously fast, and the arena is filled to the brim with powerful enemies. After killing the last wave, the music stops completely...time to fight the Final Boss.
  • In Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective, whenever your attempt to save someone's life with your Ghost Tricks reaches a critical point, the background music changes to a faster, more frantic version. If even more time passes, and you're left with just a few seconds on the clock, the song changes entirely, making it also an example of Hurry Music.
  • Super Spy Hunter does this halfway through each stage.
  • The Modern Warfare series intensifies the music in multiplayer when a player is approaching the score limit.
  • In Star Wars Episode I: Racer, "Duel of the Fates" plays on the final lap of each race.
  • The Game & Watch Gallery series typically has its Background Music speed up along with the action as the player's score increases.
  • Eggerland Mystery speeds up its music when every Diamond Framer has been collected, meaning all that is left is to reach the exit, but also warning that any Gols or Skulls are now active.
  • League of Legends combines this with Song in the Key of Warning variation in Dominion mode, where the music undergoes several changes during the match - starts off rather calmly, becomes tenser once one team's Nexus drops under 75% health, then changes to a whole different theme under 50% and gets much more intense under 25%. If the match is very close and both teams end up under 15%, it changes once again to even more epic version.
  • Diddy Kong Racing will have its music speed up once you reach the final lap.
  • Need for Speed Carbon plays a more intense and climatic version of the Variable Mix used on races when you reach the last stretch of a race.
  • Need for Speed: Most Wanted plays the more cheerful phrases of the pursuit mix when you're starting to lose the police, as well as calm, low-key but tense phrases when you're safely sitting on a hideout spot as your pursuit heat cools down.
  • Splatoon:
    • When one minute remains on the timer in a Turf War match, the song changes from whatever is currently playing to "Now Or Never!", faster-paced song that lasts an exact minute, finishing right when time's up. Depending on the situation, this can be either interpreted as a Near Victory Fanfare, or a warning to hurry up and make that comeback ASAP.
    • In the single-player campaigns, the music jumps up a pitch when reaching the final checkpoint of a mission. For bosses, the music usually builds up after each phase is defeated for all except the final boss. For the final boss, the final phase instead changes the music to a completely different track for a Theme Music Power-Up.
  • Gundam SEED: OMNI vs. ZAFT and its sequel had a thematically appropriate variation: when you get down to the final 30 seconds of a fight, the show's ending theme song begins playing as if the "episode" was coming to a close.
  • In Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS and Wii U, when fighting on Street Fighter's Suzaku Castle while one of the non-remixed themes is playing, the music becomes more urgent when a match is about to end (usually because 30 seconds remain on the clock or two fighters remain and one is on their last stock), much like it did in Street Fighter II.
  • The Dig Dug series of games will play an upbeat fanfare, then speed up the music when one enemy is left on the map. Said enemy attempts to escape.
    • Instead of speeding up the music, Dig Dug Arrangement(1996) will play its own unique "one enemy left" music.
  • In Ori and the Blind Forest, the Sorrow Pass music has a triumphant crescendo in the last stretch from the Ancestral Tree to the Sunstone.
    • The sequel, Ori and the Will of the Wisps, plays a reprise of "Restoring The Light, Facing The Dark" from the first game when nearing the end of a major boss battle.
  • Overwatch has an intense theme kick in when one team is close to completing the map's objective, or when time is running out. This usually signals that the end of the round is near; however, if the attacking team earns bonus time, the theme will stop until the round is once again near a conclusion.
  • Counter-Strike: Global Offensive plays an extra dramatic variation of the ticking bomb music during the last 10 seconds before the bomb explodes. It stops one second before it explodes, so you can hear the final coil whine and beeps before the big KABOOM!-TERRORISTS WIN.
  • Rock of Ages and its sequel Bigger and Boulder has the soundtrack shift into a faster and tenser version when either side's gates are close to collapse.
  • Undertale: In the True Lab, the ominous music that plays during the fight with Endogeny grows faster and more tense as the battle progresses, then switches to a slightly slowed-down version of "Dogsong" once you've fully pacified the boss.
  • In Hollow Knight:
  • In Marble Madness, the music gets tenser and creepier in the second half of Level 4(though not in the NES version, strangely).
  • Subverted in the first Mushihime Sama, where during the True Final Boss's final attack, the energetic techno battle music unexpectedly changes to an angelic choir piece. The Black Label edition of Futari does similar with the final form of its TFB.
  • Iron Tank (Great Tank) for the NES replaces the overworld theme with a more triumphant tune in the last stretch before the Final Boss.
  • In Overcooked!, the music in each level speeds up when you're 30 seconds from the end of the stage, and then 10 seconds from the end of the stage. It serves as a warning that the stage is almost over, so you should prioritize the dishes you're most likely to finish in the time you have remaining.
  • Pac-Man 99: Entering the final 10 players in a given round is marked by the music transitioning to an extraordinarily frenetic and fast-paced remix of the "Coffee Break" theme.
  • Haven (2020) plays a Theme Music Power-Up remix of the main menu theme throughout The Very Definitely Final Dungeon, evolving as the player advances.
  • Paladins plays a Triumphant Reprise of the game's theme music in Siege Mode if both teams are tied at three points, indicating that one side just needs to capture the central control point tov win.
  • OuterWilds has music for several areas of the game, but all of them are overridden when the track End times starts. After a while, players will learn to recognise that it means Exactly What It Says on the Tin.
  • The BGM played during the 10-Outrun mode of Wangan Midnight Maximum Tune games up to 3DX+ gets more serious and intense with each opponent, with the last (usually 10th) opponent having most intense portion of the BGM. The tempo of the BGM may not change, but the percussions and rhythm will become more intense.
  • In Crash Team Racing and Crash Nitro Kart, a faster remix of each level BGM will be played once you reach the last lap.

  • Pinball machines of the late 1970s-early 1980s often had the music rise in pitch and/or tempo the longer the ball was in play in an attempt to distract the player. It rolled back around to the original tune after a while. This 1979 Flash machine is a good (annoying) example. Later pinball games would often use fixed-length tunes that sped up as the end neared. This example from The Addams Family and this one from Terminator 2: Judgment Day are good examples.
  • The music in Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? becomes more serious at the 6th question. Every question afterward until after the second threshold increases the pitch of the music.
    • The 11th question music is where things start to get really serious. You're playing for real big bucks now, so buckle up!
    • The penultimate question music is worth mentioning as well. It's extremely intense —almost scary —and for good reason. Get this one right, and you get to look at that final question for a cool million.
    • And finally, we can't forget The final question music. Somehow, removing all of the buildup music leaving nothing but the heartbeat makes it even more intense.
  • The background music in Among Us's Hide and Seek mode manages to qualify as all three variants at once. From the Crewmate's perspective, it starts as "Song in the Key of Warning" as it gets louder and more intense the closer the Impostor is. Once the Final Hide kicks in, it becomes "Nearing-the-End Music" for the Crewmates and "Hurry Music" for the Impostor.


Video Example(s):


Tubes: No drops left

When you're one mistake away from a Game Over, the music switches to a more frantic and tense theme.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (3 votes)

Example of:

Main / SongsInTheKeyOfPanic

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