Welcome to Friday Fortissimo, your weekly vibe check for all things video game music. This week, we celebrate the somber, melancholic, utterly engrossing music of Hollow Knight.
Team Cherry’s Hollow Knight is known for many things: Gorgeous hand-drawn visuals. Ambitious world design. Merciless bosses. But if there’s one thing that brings the whole experience together, it’s incredible music.
“City of Tears” is one hell of a track. For most of Hollow Knight, players navigate a desolate world devoid of love or touch. Dirtmouth, the game’s hub town, is a haunting reminder of lives lost and forgotten. The more players delve into Hallownest’s depths, the more they discover the darkness and isolation waiting within.
There are bright spots. Greenpath is a vibrant mix of aqua blues and mossy greens. Fungal Wastes—depressing name aside—layers on shades of purple and pink. But by and large, Hollow Knight’s story is one of blacks and greys.
That is, until you reach the City of Tears.
The Serenity of Hollow Knight’s Music
The capital city of Hallownest, City of Tears shows a rawer, more vulnerable side to Hollow Knight. Its streets and buildings are lost to time; lampposts flicker and fountains run, yet the city’s denizens are long gone. They’ve been replaced by the husks and reanimated corpses of city guards and sentries, infected by a sickness that has plagued the entire kingdom.
It’s not exactly an uplifting picture. And yet, the City of Tears is oddly serene. Much like how The Last of Us depicted a post-apocalyptic city reclaimed by nature, Hollow Knight paints a picture of life, death, and rebirth. The city may be a far cry from the metropolis it once was, but there remains a faint heartbeat.
Enter “City of Tears,” the accompanying track. A somber orchestral tune, “City of Tears” opens with a soft piano pulse, followed by a serene voice. The siren sings no words—solely a melody one can only presume to be about loss and longing.
About a minute in, strings begin to reverberate. Flutes jump in with a call and response. And then, at the track’s midway point, a sole violin carries the main melody—as if to ease the siren of her burden. The song ends with a final chord on the piano, followed by a tremolo from the strings. End scene.
It’s a powerful piece of music, and an angelic anthem for a city otherwise forgotten.
Shout out to Christopher Larkin, the game’s composer, for pouring so much emotion into one three-minute track. As always, check out the full soundtrack below, and a have a wonderful weekend!