I've played both of these games. They both have some pretty spectacular songs. Now, I'm a pretty big nut when it comes to songs in games. I like listening to them in game and then out of the game to see how it sounds both ways. This is just a personal labor of love, but I'm going to break the songs into categories and then describe/rate them. I will link the songs to their respective youtube pages, but I hope it doesn't count as youtube spam if I describe what I do/don't like about them after the fact. I will also pick personal winners from each category followed by an overall best OST at the end. (I don't really rate the lyrics, because they are kind of all over the place)
Feel free to choose your own if you like!
Best Opening Theme Song
- Burn My Dread (P3) - This song is really catchy and sets up the tone to a point. It's really just a kick-ass song, and also sets a tone of desperation and despair.
- Persona 3 FES Opening Theme - ***SOME SPOILERS*** This song starts off setting a better mood than the first one. It then gets pretty wild in JPOP fashion, but still keeps that jazzy feel. I feel that the beginning sets the moody tone in a game that focuses on capturing a dark tone centered around death.
- Persona 4 Opening Theme - This song hooked me from the very beginning. It has a seriously catchy jingle, but then goes into a smooth pop song that's really easy to listen to. It manages to keep themes of mellow, relaxing times and mystery/noire.
WINNER - Persona 3 FES Opening Theme.
This was the hardest category for me, because each of the songs were so damn good. It's hard, because the tone difference in Persona 3 to Persona 3 is a big one. But I feel that the FES Theme starts capturing the desperation felt all throughout the game, then introduces the need to fight back with the Japanese tough guy rap, and then leads to some jazzy music which goes well with the high school music throughout the game. It also manages to capture it all in under two minutes.
Best Battle Music
- Mass Destruction (P3) - The jazz intro to this song is extremely well done and a nice primer for battle. The Japanese tough guy rapping (pokemon show style) is okay, but the part after that, "oooh yeah, baby baby" is probably the best and catchiest part. It doesn't really say straight out "Okay you're fighting now", but still pumps you up in the same way.
- Reach out to the Truth (P4) - This song straight out, unlike the previous, says "Okay, fighting time!". The electric guitars evoke that tone, but the melodic fun tunes in the background, as well as the silly Japanese school girl rapping, still make it fun.
WINNER - TIE
This is also a hard category, because each song does its job but in different ways. Both are great and silly in their own ways. Sorry if this category felt like a waste of time, but I just can't make a decision on this one.
Best Suspicious Theme
- The Voice Someone Calls (P3) - This is a very moody, somewhat melodramatic song that evokes mystery and suspense.
- Who's There (P4) - This song is a prime example of doing exactly what the name suggests. It really does make you ask, "Who's There?". The little piano part ends at just the right time before it can get irritating. The later part is a great follow up to the piano jingle that seems right out of a mystery cartoon.
WINNER - Who's There
This one was tough, because while I'd like to listen to "The Voice Someone Calls" more than Who's There outside of the game, "Who's There" better exemplifies mystery and asks more of a question. The other song tends to evoke more sorrow than mystery at times.
Best Dungeon Music
- Tartarus Block 4 (P3) - Persona 3 is an interesting case when it comes to the dungeon music. Each floor of the huge dungeon that you go through in the entire game adds a little bit more to the overall song. Floor 1 will start slow and by Floor 4 it starts feeling like it will by the end. It's cool, but I didn't really notice the changes as much as I did when I listened to the songs outside of the game.
- Castle (P4) - This is the song to the first dungeon you go through in the game. It mixes the romantic tones that the castle stands for, but also hits the "hey, let's finish this" feeling that you get while exploring it.
- Sauna (P4) - This song sounds nothing like how I'd imagine a sauna would sound like. However, it matches the exact sounds I'd think of if I and a group of people were invading a shady-looking sauna killing shadow monsters and trying to rescue someone. A kickass song!
WINNER - Sauna
This song is just a blast. It makes you want to kick down each door and kill every shadow in the joint! It also has that shady feel that matches the weird nature of actually going in there in the first place. Plus, it reminds me of Streets of Rage 2, and you can't really top that.
Best Fun Song (Huge Category!)
- During the Test (P3) - I believe this song actually does play when you're taking midterms. It is definitely pretty easy going and great test taking music. I don't know, I just really like this song. Bring on the Jazz!
- Iwatodai Station (P3) - This song actually plays when you enter the dorm. It's so damn catchy and oozes that jazzy style that is Persona 3. "Dance! While I put you in a Trance!". Done.
- Joy (P3) - This song, I think, plays right when you're walking to school listening to the gossiping students. It's either this one or Afternoon Break, but they are both great, jazzy contrasts to the drearier music and tones found in the rest of the game.
- Polonian Mall (P3) - This song plays when you're shopping for items. It's, again, another catchy song, but it really does feel like the kind of song you'd hear in a department store.
- Want to be Close (P3) - Oh...my...God this category is so damn big. Damn you Persona 3 for your catchy-ass music...and thank you.
- New Days (P4) - FINALLY a Persona 4 song. This one is catchy, but simple. It has that department store sound. Maybe even an elevator song. Still, it's a nice, relaxing song.
- Your Affection (P4) - This song get's great when the singing starts. It's mellow but has a nice beat that makes you bob your head. I wish there were more songs like this in Persona 4.
- Heartbeat, Heartbreak (P4) - Another catchy song that has a nice 'singing to the beat' style. Again, need more songs like this!
WINNER - Persona 3...wins...everything in this category...ugh.
ECLIPSES! Persona 4 definitely had some catchy songs, but Persona 3 just has too many! I had to go back and delete some, because the list was huge. They are all amazing and lovable, and I just can't get over how many there are! WOW. In the end, we're all winners, because both games have some terrific, fun songs.
Best Slow Song
- Living with Determination (P3) - This is a nice piano song. It has that sad tone, but also a touch of happiness and the ability to overcome. A nice piece this one is - Yoda?
- Memories of the School (P3) - This is a nice song to reminisce with. It really does match the title.
- Tranquility (P3) - A great slow version of a song already on the OST. It's a little faster than most, but I still like it and it's still relaxing.
- Traumerei (P4) - This is an amazing song that everyone should listen to. I'm a huge fan of the piano. Persona 4 definitely doesn't have as many good slow songs as Persona 3, but it really doesn't need them after this song. So much heart.
- EDITED IN: Maiya (P3) - Thanks to the person who posted asking why this wasn't in there. It probably should be, it's great.
WINNER - Traumerei
Just listen to the song. It's amazing. Category. Over.
Best End Boss Music
- The Battle for Everyone's Souls (P3) - A really hard hitting song. It's, well, it's just hardcore. Rock out and save the world! That's pretty much what it's evoking.
- The Almighty (P4) - Persona 4 also has songs like The Genesis and others, but this one fits well as a final boss battle as well. I like it.
WINNER - The Battle for Everyone's Souls
It's an epic song that matches the proportions and what's at stake in the last fight. The game has so much emotion and dread throughout that the hard rock sounds are perfect for finally facing the last boss.
Best Ending Song
- Memories of You (P3) - A great way of saying, "Hey you did it. You saved everyone". Also allows the player to reminisce on everything that's happened.
- Never More (P4) - A feel good song that matches how the game ends. It definitely matches the tone of the game.
WINNER - TIE
Both songs are representative of how the games played out. They both had drastically different tones and themes, and both songs matched them.
Thanks for reading through if you did. I spent a lot of time picking out and listening to the very best songs from each game over and over again. I love the soundtracks to both games as well as the games themselves. This was mainly for myself as a reflection of both games, but feel free to listen to or give your favorite Persona songs. Again, thanks for spending the time on this, because I spent a long time on this as well. (If there are any mistakes made, please contact me via PM. Thank You.)
My Overall Winner - Persona 3. The category that pushed it ahead was the fun song one. Even then, it just barely won. It's just that the tone of the game switches between drastic and dreadful to peaceful and wanting. Persona 4 is still amazing, and these are two of my favorite OSTs of all time.