Last week I took a journey back to the original PlayStation to play Tekken 2 for the first time, and one of the aspects of the game I enjoyed the most was the posterior-kicking soundtrack it had. It got me thinking that the PSX era Tekken games had a pretty decent repertoire of tracks to draw from, so I decided to put a list together of my ten personal favourites.
This isn’t supposed to be an objective list or anything like that, it’s just the tracks I personally enjoy the most for various reasons. I will be limiting this solely to the tracks that play in the background when you fight, just because it narrows things down and makes it easier for me to select ten of them.
So without further ado, let’s take a look at my own personal Top Ten Stage Themes from the First Three Tekken games!
Number 10 – Michelle Theme from Tekken 2
This track reminds me of a slightly bouncier version of the Baseball Field theme from the first Tekken game, but I personally feel like it has a bit more of a kick to it that makes it more enjoyable to listen to when you’re up to your elbows in a brawl. I faced Michelle pretty early on in my first proper Tekken 2 playthrough, and her theme really got me in the mood to play the game some more. It has a kind of “spacious” quality to it, and that kind of suits Michelle’s fighting stage itself, which sees you battling in what looks to be a cavernous desert of some kind. It’s just an enjoyable track to listen to, and it immediately transports me to the barren yet beautiful scenery when I think of it.
Number 9 – Szechwan Theme from Tekken
This one has an instantly recognisable Eastern twang to it, with the addition of the odd wacky sound effect to flesh it out. At times it even borders on something you might hear whilst playing a Dynasty Warriors game, and I quite like that. There’s a lot going on when you listen to it intently, which is something I find enjoyable when it comes to tracks like this. It borders on just the right side between being an actual piece of music and just a collection of zany sounds, which makes it fun to listen to.
Number 8 – True Ogre Theme from Tekken 3
The Tekken series has its fair share of exciting, high tempo tunes, but the series is also capable of producing much more considered and foreboding music when the occasion calls for it. True Ogre is the final form of Ogre, who is the Boss character of Tekken 3. Not unlike Cell in Dragon Ball Z, Ogre has a basic form but can evolve and transform into a more imposing and powerful form if he consumes enough energy. By absorbing power from the game’s eternal antagonist, Heihachi Mishima, (or tortured protagonist Jin Kazama if you happen to be playing as Heihachi at this point in the game), Ogre transforms into a horrific dragon/moth creature with wings and ferocious fire breath. Whereas Ogre’s standard theme has a reasonable tempo to it, once True Ogre shows up, the music slows down significantly and becomes much more pronounced and unnerving. You immediately get the feeling that something really isn’t right as the background goes completely dark and Ogre swoops into shot with his new wings. It’s a theme that’s stuck with me for years and still ranks up there as one of my favourite pieces of music from the entire series.
Number 7 – Kyoto Theme from Tekken
This reminds me a bit of a certain entrance music that The Great Muta used to have during his days in New Japan Pro Wrestling and even crosses over into something I could picture being in a Virtua Fighter game as well. It really takes the listener on a journey, and that’s something I enjoy a lot. Not only is it a very easy way to put yourself in a good mood when you listen to it outside of the game due to how punchy and fun it is, it also gets you in the mood to crack some skulls whilst playing the game itself, which makes it an unqualified success, in my opinion!
Number 6 – Forest Law Theme from Tekken 3
This one has a funky kung-fu feel to it, which suits the idea of the impulsive younger Forest Law being a bit more hip than his father, Marshall, who isn’t a playable character in Tekken 3 and instead now owns a restaurant. I like how the middle-eight takes things in a completely different direction as well, which makes this a good track to listen to when you’re exercising due to how it ebbs and flows. This track also has that quintessential “fifth gen feel” to it as well. When I think of the PlayStation, I think of tracks like this as this was the sort of punchy electronic music that was contemporary at the time and was usually the sort of sound you’d hear in media that was trying to be cool.
Number 5 – Jun Theme from Tekken 2
I like it when a fighter’s theme feels like an extension of the character itself along with being something that you can enjoy listening to during a fight. Jun’s theme manages to achieve that for me as it’s chilled and atmospheric, but there’s also some bite hiding there in the background. That kind of sums up Jun for me as she’s a nature-loving tree-hugger who won’t think twice about crunching one of your limbs in a cross arm-breaker if you force her to. Having a chance to really play Tekken 2 for the first time gave me the opportunity to really start to appreciate Jun more as a character. I found that her selection of moves made her a great defensive-based option if that was how you wanted to fight, and I just generally dug her as a character. I think it’s high time she returned to mainline Tekken games. Kazuya survived getting chucked down a volcano, for Pete’s sake, bring Jun back!
Number 4 – Jin Theme from Tekken 3
Jin’s theme definitely falls into a fighting game music category that I like to refer as “Protagonist Music”, along with the likes of Ryu’s theme from Street Fighter II and others. The minute it kicks, in you automatically think, “Oh yeah, this fighter is the main character for sure”. It just has that kick and spice to it that gets you all amped up to throw down. Also, like Forest Law’s theme, it’s so gosh darn second half of the 90s that it makes my nostalgia glands go haywire. If I could sum up console video gaming in 1998 with one musical track, then I’d have to pick this one!
Number 3 – Chicago Theme from Tekken
Back when I first played Tekken, I actually thought this was Heihachi’s theme because I happened to have to face the spikey-haired nutter on this particular stage, and listening back to it now, it definitely feels like Boss Music. In fact, they actually re-used it in Tekken 2 for Lee, who fills the role of a sub-boss in that game. It really makes you just want to kick the fudge out of everything more than any other track in the first Tekken game, in my opinion. It’s another track that works great when you’re exercising because it has peaks and valleys that you can fit nicely into a workout routine.
Number 2 – Kazuya Theme from Tekken 2
This one is equally epic Boss Music, with it being slow and menacing but also unapologetically catchy and with some notable sharpness to it. I’ve listened to this a lot in-game (mainly due to Kazuya regularly wrecking my ships all over the fighting arena in his fabulous purple suit), but I’ve also listened to it quite a lot on Spotify too as I just enjoy it so much. It even has a mild sense of tragedy to go along with the coolness as it’s implied through the character Angel that Kazuya does still have some semblance of a good side to him, but it’s buried down deep within due to the combination of his miserable life experiences and the fact he’s been corrupted by the Devil Gene. I’m quite ashamed that I missed this one out when I did a list of the best boss themes as it really deserved to be on it. It might actually be one of the best tracks to ever appear on the PlayStation as a whole, and that’s a list with some strong competition!
Number 1 – Eddy Theme from Tekken 3
I have defended Eddy Gordo in the past here on this site in my review of Tekken 3. Unfairly seen as just a character merely for untalented button-bashers, Eddy can be utterly lethal in the hands of a skilled player as there’s far more to success at the high level than just spamming buttons. Even Eddy’s biggest detractors would have to admit though that his theme song is absolutely brilliant. I struggle to think of a theme song that fits its particular fighter better in the Tekken series than Eddy’s theme in Tekken 3. It’s at both times steady and cool, as well as frenetic and fiery, and there is nothing better than busting out some awesome Capoeira moves on a hapless opponent in time with the beat of this catchy track. It was also used famously by YouTuber Maffew on his excellent Botchamania videos, and if you liked this theme already, you’ll probably like it even more played over wacky footage from Combat Zone Wrestling!