Where Did the Music from the Olympic Parade Come from?

(Last Updated On: July 25, 2021)

If you were watching the Olympic Parade of Nations you may have felt some nostalgia if you ever played JRPGs as a kid. Either that or you were really confused by the people who were excited over the Parade of Nations’ tracklist. Excited or not, you were not mistaken when you thought “is this video game music?” Because the Parade of Nations exclusively featured music from some of the most popular JRPGs, and a couple other franchises thrown in. So for those wondering, where did the music from the Parade of Nations come from?

In case you were wondering why the Tokyo Summer Olympics chose the tracks they did, the answer is not much more complicated than pop-culture. When we talk about some of the games the Tokyo Olympics chose, you might be surprised by how powerful some of these franchises are as cultural touchstones. Pop-culture isn’t an uncommon cornerstone at the Olympics–the London 2012 Olympics hinged their opening ceremony on the Queen and James Bond. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe popped out of a green pipe dressed as Mario in the 2016 Rio Games. That second point may make Nintendo’s absence on the tracklist at the Parade of Nations notable, since the Olympics really are the Super Smash Bros. of sports. 

Parade of Nations Tracklist

  1. Dragon Quest: “Introduction: Lotto Theme”
  2. Final Fantasy: “Victory Fanfare”
  3. Tales Series: “Sley’s Theme”
  4. Monster Hunter: “Proof of a Hero”
  5. Kingdom Hearts: “Olympus Coliseum”
  6. Chrono Trigger: “Frog Theme”
  7. Ace Combat: “First Flight”
  8. Tales Series: “Royal Capital”
  9. Monster Hunter: “Wind of Departure”
  10. Chrono Trigger: “Robo’s Theme”
  11. Sonic the Hedgehog: “Star Light Zone”
  12. Winning Eleven (Pro Evolution Soccer): “eFootball Walk-On Theme”
  13. Final Fantasy: “Main Theme”
  14. Phantasy Star: “Guardians”
  15. Kingdom Hearts: “Hero’s Fanfare”
  16. Gradius: “01 ACT 1-1”
  17. NieR: “Song of the Ancients (Fate)”
  18. SaGa: “Makai Ginyu Poetry”
  19. Soulcalibur: “The Brave New Stage of History”

Franchises in Order of First Appearance

Dragon Quest | Square Enix

Dragon Quest made its first appearance in North America as Dragon Warrior, where it remained as Dragon Warrior until 2005. That’s because Square Enix didn’t register the Dragon Quest trademark until 2002. The very first Dragon Quest was released in 1986, with its 12th mainline sequel announced earlier in May 2021, which should tell you something about its legacy. Dragon Quest is often cited as one of the first console RPGs, and has been recognized by the Guinness World Records as the fastest selling game in Japan and best seller on the Super Famicom. In Japan, Dragon Quest is considered one of its game industry’s national games.

Also, Dragon Quest is getting its own theme park.

Final Fantasy | Square Enix

The very first Final Fantasy was released in 1987 and came to North America in 1990. The second and third games weren’t released overseas, and Final Fantasy IV was released overseas as Final Fantasy 2 (same with FFV being released as FF3). This changed with the success of Final Fantasy VII, which had older titles republished and their original Japanese titles reinstated in the West. 

Final Fantasy is far reaching, and even if you’ve never touched a Final Fantasy game you’ve probably seen the giant sword from Final Fantasy VII. The franchise has branched far outside its JRPG roots, pushing into the fighting and MMO genres–Final Fantasy XIV has recently ballooned so far in popularity they ran out of server space for new players. Also there are some Final Fantasy movies. Most are bad. Of the many things Final Fantasy fans will point to as the franchise’s greatest qualities, its soundtrack is often one of its shining stars. Even middling (and decidedly poor) entries in the series have been carried by composers like Nobuo Uematsu

Tales of Series | Bandai Namco

Continuing the fantasy RPG train we have the Tales series, which had its first release in 1995 as Tales of Phantasia. Unfortunately a lot of these games aren’t conveniently numbered, with Tales of Arise (its 17th mainline game) planned for release in late 2021. The Tales franchise is one of Japan’s biggest RPG franchises–with more than 80% of its sales distribution staying within Japan. 

Monster Hunter | Capcom

Monster Hunter is the first series here to buck the gameplay trends of the former three listed here. While Monster Hunter has made very recent forays into Dragon Quest or Final Fantasy-like JRPGs, it has largely stayed within its own genre. Monster Hunter was first released in 2004 on the Playstation 2, but once portable systems gained traction the franchise largely lived on the Nintendo DS and Sony PSP (remember that thing?) for a really long time. It wasn’t until 2018 that Monster Hunter: World burst into the modern home console and PC scene–becoming Capcom’s best-selling game of all time

If you were wondering how popular Monster Hunter is, the answer is very. There are even cafes just around themed after in-game dining areas. That would be like finding a Star Wars cantina just downtown instead of just inside Disneyland. 

Kingdom Hearts | Square Enix

You might know Kingdom Hearts for its weird game titles and super convoluted story; Kingdom Hearts HD 2.8 Final Chapter Prologue is a real title for a real video game. If you don’t know Kingdom Hearts for its outlandish titles, you probably know it as that time some Final Fantasy characters crossed over with a bunch of Disney and Pixar characters. Which should really tell you everything you need to know about Kingdom Hearts.

Chrono Trigger | Square Enix

The first Chrono Trigger was released in 1995, and was the brainchild of the creators of both Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest. Early Chrono Trigger entries were formative in creating the JRPG genre, becoming the third-best selling game in Japan when the first game released in 1995. 

Ace Combat | Bandai Namco 

Ace Combat stands as the longest running arcade-style flight sims, starting in 1995 with 14 million copies within the franchise shipped as of 2018, and over 2.5 million copies of its newest entry (Ace Combat 7) in 2020.  

Sonic the Hedgehog | Sega

If someone asked you to say anything about Sega, they would probably say something about Sonic the Hedgehog–even though many of the recent entries have been critically panned. 

Sonic has grossed over $6 billion as of 2020, and when it comes to icon-powerhouses it’s no wonder Sonic made at least one appearance. 

We’ll still laugh about that time they turned Sonic into a werewolf, though

Pro Evolution Soccer | Konami

Pro Evolution Soccer (PES) stands as one of FIFA’s (the yearly game series) largest direct competitors, mostly because PES is the second largest association-based soccer game after FIFA. 

Gradius | Konami

Gradius dates back to 1985, and it’s one of those scrolling-shoot-’em-up games. Think Space Invaders

While you don’t see many large, contemporary games in this genre, Gradius is often hailed as one of the heavy hitters during the genre’s golden age in the 1980s. 

NieR | Square Enix

The NieR franchise largely lived with a small cult-following until the release of NieR: Automata in 2017 and a 2021 remake of NieR: Replicant pushed it out of relative obscurity. Both entries are known for leaning heavily into existentialism, just in case you wanted to give yourself an existential crisis.

Outside of that, though, NieR is known for its both haunting and enchanting music, composed by Keiichi Okabe.

Also, here’s a fun trivia fact. The original NieR from 2010 was released with 2 different versions; NieR: Gestalt for the West and NieR: Replicant in Asia. Both games were almost exactly the same except the western version featured an old, gruffy man as its protagonist while the other featured a far younger protagonist. This is literally just because the designers didn’t think Americans would bite on NieR unless the protagonist was an old, scruffy man (it didn’t work).  

SaGa | Square Enix

The SaGa series as the brainchild of Final Fantasy’s designers, and its first release in 1989 was actually called The Final Fantasy Legend. SaGa is probably as close as you can get to a Final Fantasy spin-off as you can get without it just straight up being Final Fantasy. Unlike Final Fantasy, though, SaGa has been far less popular outside of Japan.

Soulcalibur | Bandai Namco 

The only fighting game to make the Parade of Nations’ tracklist, Soulcalibur’s first entry was in 1995 and its most recent in 2018. Soulcalibur might be best known for its selection of guest characters, featuring characters from other popular video games like The Witcher, Assassin’s Creed, and even The Legend of Zelda. But it’s kind of expected for a video game to feature other video games if there’s crossover. Soulcalibur once featured both Darth Vader and Yoda. 

See if you can’t name Olympics hosts here.

About the Author:

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Kyler is a content writer at Sporcle living in Seattle, and is currently studying at the University of Washington School of Law. He's been writing for Sporcle since 2019; sometimes the blog is an excellent platform to answer random personal questions he has about the world. Most of his free time is spent drinking black coffee like water.