Fans of the Olympics always expect that the opening ceremony will represent the host country’s culture, with easter eggs tucked away within the visuals. But the 2021 Tokyo Olympics had a unique reference for those watching at home in a more subtle place: the aural design. To the delight of fans, the music at the 2021 Olympics Opening Ceremony sounded surprisingly familiar. It included the theme songs from several popular videos games.
The Olympics are the largest peacetime gathering of nations worldwide and a chance for the host country to put its best foot forward to audiences around the globe. These games have been more high pressured than most and they commenced following a year-long delay. Moreover, with the coronavirus pandemic far from over, these games have been under a microscope. The Tokyo organizing committee has gone forward with them despite rising COVID-19 cases in Japan and a low vaccination rate across the country.
Even with the games being held under a cloud of uncertainty, fans still tuned in for the opening ceremony when it aired live on Friday, July 23 — and they were rewarded with a stunning opening performance that represented the best of Japan’s cultural legacy. But the inclusion of a nod to the video games industry, which is closely associated with Japanese culture, was still a surprise for fans in the best way.
For those who tuned in, the soundtrack became something of a Name That Tune, with fans tweeting out all the different theme songs they could identify among the songs that played. Those included everything from games like Monster Hunter and Final Fantasy to Kingdom Hearts and Sonic the Hedgehog.
Per the Associated Press, the first tune highlighted during the event was “Roto’s Theme” from the game Dragon Quest. From there, video game stans kept an ear out for their favorite tunes.
Not all the tweets about the games were positive. Many pushed for viewers to tune out due to the ongoing controversy of holding them at all this year. Meanwhile, others noted the irony of using the music from games about worlds ravaged by disease and climate change.
But for most, this was just a moment to get into their feels as video game music received genuine mainstream recognition.
The Olympic Opening Ceremony will air in primetime on Friday, July 23, 2021, at 7 p.m. ET on NBC, and can be rewatched streaming on Peacock.