Ah Dearly Beloved. Everybody who’s played a Kingdom Hearts game knows this tune. It’s (usually) the first song you hear when you boot up any given game. Each game has its own version of the song, and some are very different from the song’s first iteration. But have you ever wondered, “which one is the best?”
Well, I’m here today to kick off our Kingdom Hearts III Hype Week and give you the definitive ranking of every Dearly Beloved theme from the main series, according to me, a person whose opinion flip-flops on an almost daily basis and is in no way qualified to rank personal taste. Let’s jump in!
9. Re: Chain of Memories
Look, I love this game. It’s wacky, a little bit silly, and some of its songs are absolute bangers (ie, anything to do with Marluxia). But its Dearly Beloved theme is just… boring. It’s more or less just the first game’s version with slightly different instrumentation. And that’s okay! It’s not bad, it’s just uninspired.
8. Kingdom Hearts II
I bet you weren’t expecting to see this so far down the list. Kingdom Hearts II is widely regarded as one of the best games of the series, and its Dearly Beloved is pretty good. It’s got a nice, smooth, relaxing sound to it, and when it swells into its big, orchestral climax, I get strong feelings of nostalgia. But it’s still a bit boring.
7. Kingdom Hearts
This only ranks a teensy bit higher than KH2, and only because it’s the original. It’s the Dearly Beloved that introduced us to the world of Kingdom Hearts, and it’s a bit basic, but it’s a fine song nonetheless. This list wouldn’t be possible without the first iteration as a baseline, so even though it’s technically a little bit boring, it scores a place here.
6. Kingdom Hearts X Back Cover
One of the more recent iterations of Dearly Beloved, Kingdom Hearts X Back Cover delivers an interesting take on the song, with a bunch of lovely key shifts, a subtle organ, and a build up that leaves you with feelings of a hopeful future. But it just doesn’t go hard enough. It’s still a good song, it just doesn’t do enough to convince me it’s worthy of a top place.
5. Kingdom Hearts Birth By Sleep
I actually quite like this version of Dearly Beloved. It’s soft and gentle, and it does an amazing job of setting the tone for the sad game ahead of you. Of particular note is when the track strips out all instrumentation except a single violin and a piano, and when there’s a sneaky little shift to a 3/4 time signature. I love a good waltz… but it’s not the only Dearly Beloved to deliver a waltz, and it’s not the best.
4. Kingdom Hearts Re: Coded
I cannot express how conflicted I am about putting this so high up the list. Re: Coded has a strange Dearly Beloved — it’s faster than most versions, it’s sharper and pluckier, and it can be a little bit jarring at times. But musically, it’s one of the most interesting. It doesn’t do anything crazy, but the plucked strings sitting subtly in the background are phenomenal, and it ends up feeling like Dearly Beloved+ for this very reason. The list giveth and the list taketh away.
3. Kingdom Hearts X
You might have guessed that I’m a big fan of the weirder versions of this song, and X certainly amongst the weirdest. It starts off slow, with a half-time sequence that doesn’t quite feel right, introduces a gorgeous violin harmony, and then throws it all out the window and switches to a weird tropical romp. This version of Dearly Beloved makes me feel like I should be sitting on a beach sipping pina coladas, except I hate coconut and I’m allergic to pineapple. But I’d take a hit of the poison cocktail just to listen to this song.
2. Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days
A slower, more somber version of Dearly Beloved, 358/2 Days’ rendition still makes me tear up to this day. It’s got an utterly beautiful use of a flute, and you damn well better believe that flute represents my girl Xion. It’s a gorgeous track, and it’s musically interesting, and I’m not crying you are!
1. Kingdom Hearts Dream Drop Distance
Remember how I said there are versions of Dearly Beloved that do a waltz better than Birth By Sleep? Well, here it is, in all its glory. Dream Drop Distance takes Dearly Beloved, turns it on its head, and gives us a truly magnificent 3/4 time signature that feels just as fitting in a carnival as it does in a ballroom. It’s bookended by simple but classic renditions of the original theme, and it does a damn good job of just about everything. It’s the culmination of all Dearly Beloved themes, taking bits and pieces from other tracks, and somehow making them all work together — as well as adding its own little bit of flair.
The honourable mention has to go to Miwa Sato’s Concert Paraphrase on Dearly Beloved, the crowning jewel of the Kingdom Hearts Piano Collections album. While it never featured in a game, it’s a magnificent arrangement and performance that shows just how incredible you can be with just one instrument.