Final Fantasy VI
This is, beyond all question, the most beautiful video game music ever composed.
Really I would be best off just leaving the above sentence stand for itself and moving to the next track; there isn't much else to say about it. This is beauty. Of course I'm wordy and scatterbrained so I'm going to add to it, but I don't blame you if you don't read it. Much better to just close your eyes and let the music lift you to a place more delectable than your computer chair.
This might be the first, and for that matter perhaps the only, piece of SNES music that was and is undeniably iconic. That this was music like no one had ever heard before in a video game was instantly and permanently understood.
Here is where I commit brazen heresy: I cannot stand Locke. His attitude annoys me, his sense of humor annoys me, his appearance annoys me, and most of all his relentless emotionalism annoys the hell out of me. I am convinced that this character has no redeeming qualities and deserves nowhere near the love he gets from fans.
So why is he so popular? Because he nailed Celes, that's why. Now, Celes, that's a different story. Celes is a very deep and very sympathetic character; in fact she is, from the time she's introduced into the story through the endgame, probably the protagonist of the game. (Never has an RPG defined its protagonist so unclearly as Final Fantasy VI, but I would argue Celes's case and would hear no other case but Terra's.) The only real problem with Celes as a character is the way she falls instantly lovesick for a tool like Locke and follows him around like a lost puppy dog the rest of the game, which has always seemed very out of character for me even setting aside what a tool Locke is. But hell, I think the official game material pegs her at like 19 years old, and emos gonna emo, I guess.
Locke is the primary male character for at least the first half of the game, and it is obvious the game designers intended the player (the player is always male) to name Locke after himself; he is after all the first male character introduced, and his first mission is to rescue a pretty girl that's in trouble. That the player will name this character after himself is a layup. (I did. So did you. Don't lie.) So the events that lead up to the Opera Scene get the player very well prepared for their own vicarious love affair with the beautiful ex-Imperial general with a spirit as pure as snow.
And the Opera Scene--you never need to identify it any further than just 'the Opera Scene'-- is possibly the single most memorable scene in all RPG history; it's that or Aeris's death. Why? Because of this music. The Opera Scene was so amazing, and it was amazing because the music was so phenomenal, that it overshadowed all character development. The implication set up by the story is very clear: As Celes sings her poetic love lines like
Must I forget you?
Our solemn promise?
Must autumn take the place of spring?
Oh, what shall I do? I'm lost without you
Please, speak to me once more!
she is singing to Locke. Or, cutting to the point: She is singing to me. Locke and Celes were an inseparable couple for all eternity after that tour de force, whether I like it or not.
This is in the Top 10 and I still expect to be mostly criticized for not rating it higher. It's because it's this music's fault Locke got the girl, dammit.