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Super Mario Bros. Overworld BGM (Koji Kondo)

October 20, 2009

The very first track I present is the Overworld BGM from Super Mario Bros., also known as “The Mario Theme.” This is perhaps the most famous song in videogames, and one of the most recognizable and has been remixed and reworked dozens of times. This particular track is from the album Super Mario World (1991), which featured soundtracks from Super Mario World, Super Mario Bros. and Super Mario Bros. 3. The track is from the Famicom version of the game, which had a superior sound system to the more familiar Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) version.

Super Mario Bros – Overworld BGM (Koji Kondo)

The song has a Jamaican, almost jazzy feel to it, while simultaneously evoking “cheesy Vegas lounge music.” The song’s success within the game is due in large part to its perfect mimicking of the happy, free nature of the Mushroom Kingdom’s Wonderland-esque magical landscape while the musical range replicates the obstacles and jumps Mario makes as the player explores this world, a design that Zach Whalen generously expands on in his discussion of Super Mario Bros. A remixed version in Super Mario All Stars (1992) on the Super Nintendo Entertainment System added bells and flutes.

Composed in 1985, the Super Mario Bros. soundtrack was created by Koji Kondo, often referred to as ‘the John Williams of game music.’ In those days, videogame music had not yet come into its own, and there had been few notable soundtracks made before its time, but it was the release of Super Mario Bros. and Monty on the Run for the Commodore 64 that really blew open the videogame music scene for composers and listeners alike. However, while Rob Hubbard’s Monty on the Run has for the most part been lost to history despite its more complex composition, Super Mario Bros. is still remembered today as a classic, having sold well over 50 million units.

Mr. Kondo is famous for creating catchy tunes that perfectly match the game music action. He is a shy artist who does not seek fame and recognition, even though it has unavoidably found him. He has often been asked if he ever thought the Super Mario Bros. theme would be as widely recognized as it is today, and always, he invariably answers, “If the game had not been very good, no one would remember the song today.” If a game’s success is any indication of its music’s memorability, then there is a good reason why mention of Monty on the Run, will produce many shaking heads.

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