Songs we remember
The Super Mario series is known for some of the best songs in the video game industry. From the sweeping orchestra of Super Mario Galaxy to the nostalgic 8-bit NES original, there are some themes that will stick in our memories for the rest of our lives. Below, we’ve listed the best Mario songs ever written by Koji Kondo and other talented composers in the industry. But, because Nintendo is prone to removing YouTube videos featuring music pulled straight from its games, we’ve decided to include incredible covers from the wonderful VGM community. Let’s-a-go!
Super Mario Bros. – “Overworld Theme”
Arguably the most iconic video game theme of all time, you have the classic “Overworld Theme” from the original Super Mario Bros. It’s upbeat, has a charming melody, and a backbeat that keeps the action forward. Even though the 8-bit sound font can be limiting, Koji Kondo found a way to make a catchy song that still sticks in our heads today. The talented Qumu made a lovely remix of the track, modernizing the piece but still keeping the original charm of the composition.
Super Mario Bros. 3 – “Airship Theme”
Not every track in the Super Mario Bros series is upbeat. There can be some tense moments as well within the soundtrack. Super Mario Bros. 3‘s “Airship Theme” perfectly illustrates the tension between Mario and the danger he faces to save Peach. In the third game on the NES, you’re on a flying ship, avoiding cannon fire and trying to stay alive. I remember feeling so scared because of this terrifying music. The tune sets the stage perfectly with deeper notes and a marching drum beat that lets you know Mario is in trouble. ToxicxEternity published a great metal cover of this track, which reflects the darker tone of the “Airship Theme” in a mesmerising way.
Super Mario World – “Athletic Theme”
The Mushroom Kingdom is quite a whacky place. Green warp pipes that take you from place to place, ridable dinosaurs with large tongues, goombas that can be squished like marshmallows by jumping on them. It’s pretty wild. The “Athletic Theme” keeps up that wild energy with an upbeat piano melody that’s fast and goofy. The higher-pitched drumbeats and erratic sound design of how the instruments play in your ears do a great job of elevating the nuttiness of the world in the best way possible. It’s one of the best Mario songs due to how many people have nostalgia for the track and how well it reflects the action in-game.
Cover artist PPF brought all kinds of instruments to the party for their interpretation of the “Athletic Theme.” Banjos, spoons, and even a plastic box were used as musical objects for the piece. It’s just as wild as the original piece.
Super Mario RPG – “Beware the Forest’s Mushrooms”
It’s not from a mainline game, but Super Mario RPG’s “Beware the Forest’s Mushrooms” by Kingdom Hearts composer Yoko Shimomura should get a mention. The track is upbeat but has layers of intrigue within it. It’s mostly a higher-pitch melody, but every minute or so, it dwells into a creepy-sounding tone that adds so much atmosphere to the level that Mario and Geno are exploring. It sounds like some of the best dramatic Final Fantasy music mixed with the upbeat tone that the Super Mario Bros. series is known for. Perhaps, this is why Shimomura was hired later on for Kingdom Hearts as she is known for blending two musical styles perfectly.
The Noble Demon does a wonderful job covering this piece with some grand strings samples and sound effects inspired by the forest like the thud of wood.
Super Mario 64 – “Bob-Omb Battlefield”
“Bob-Omb Battlefield” was my first introduction to the world of Super Mario, and man, the stage’s theme is still bangin’ today. It’s jazzy and cheerful and will have you bob-ombing your head up and down to the beat. And then when you think it doesn’t get any better, the main section of the song escalates the track. The brass goes hard and the drum beat becomes more apparent. Also, don’t forget about the tasty bassline to “Bob-Omb Battlefield.” This track made my experience with the stage Bob-Omb Battlefield even more memorable.
The Grammy-winning 8-Bit Big Band does a fantastic job bringing “Bob-Omb Battlefield” to the 21st century. The brass instruments sound epic, and the jazzy spin from the saxophone on the track is a great hook to the overall composition.
Super Mario 64 – “Dire, Dire Docks”
“Dire, Dire Docks” from Super Mario 64 is arguably one of the best Mario songs. It has a gorgeous orchestration with a calming xylophone melody at first. You’re at ease as you swim around the water of the stage. However, the song steps it up a notch once Mario is facing an enemy by including a rocking drum beat and snares. It somehow blends the two perfectly as the game switches between each mode. “Dire, Dire Docks” has been listened to millions of times and has been covered by the VGM community often.
One of the best versions comes from Insaneintherainmusic. The piano is beautifully played, and the soprano sax on the cover works so well with the melody. The jazzy solos are also inventive, adding a neat spin to the original track. “Dire, Dire Docks is such a beautiful melody,” said Insaneintherainmusic in the video’s description. “It’s one of my go-to melodies when I sit down at a new piano I haven’t played before, just because the melody is so great.”
Super Mario Galaxy – “Gusty Garden Galaxy”
When Super Mario Galaxy introduced an orchestra to the series, it was a game-changer. The compositions flourished, adding so much more levity, personality, and grandeur to each track. The best instance of this is “Gusty Garden Galaxy.” It’s an absolute spectacle with the phenomenal strings work, imaginative use of the harp, and wonderful brass section that brings the piece altogether. Once you hear this track in-game, you know you’re off on another memorable adventure with your favorite Italian plumber. This song swooped me off my feet.
DSC brought the original charm of this track with the acoustic guitar and then adds a rocky element to the overall piece. Give it a listen above; it’s pretty awesome.
Super Mario Odyssey – “Fossil Falls/Cascade Kingdom”
Just like “Bob-Omb Battlefield,” the “Fossil Falls” theme is a great introduction to the game you’re about to play. The sweeping strings and grand brass section blends into an epic theme that takes your breath away. The composition also takes on an adventurous spirit with the rocking percussion in the background. You can’t help but be excited to play Super Mario Odyssey, and that’s thanks in part to this wonderful Mario song.
gabocarina96 does a swell job of bringing the energy of “Fossil Falls” into the cover. The rocking guitar plays the melody wonderfully, and the ocarina delivers bringing in the beautiful introduction of the piece.
Super Mario Odyssey – “Jump Up, Superstar!”
The best Mario music finds a way to lift your spirits, and “Jump Up Superstar” from Super Mario Odyssey certainly does that. The vocals of this track are marvelous as the song takes you through a magical odyssey of jazz. It fits the vibe of nightlife in New Donk City as “we jump up in the air” and “our cares will soar away.” You can’t help but sing or dance as the music lifts you up. Hearing this song in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is also a delight.
The piece sounds awesome without vocals as well, as Sam Griffin proves with the acoustic guitar. He does a stellar job of bringing the energy of the piece to YouTube with just one instrument.
Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle – “Peach’s Castle”
The original “Peach’s Castle” music in Super Mario 64 is iconic, but Banjo-Kazooie composer Grant Kirkhope did a wonderful job of bringing the song to Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle. He injects personality into the track with playful takes on the original song and is guaranteed to give you a smile as a flute section and triangle-like percussion play the original melody. You can hear a bit of it within the mini-doc Ubisoft uploaded for the game above. Can we please get Grant Kirkhope to orchestrate a mainline Super Mario Bros. game please?
As you’ve heard from the last 10 Mario songs, this series contains so many magical soundtracks that both kids and adults will remember for years to come. It’s no wonder why the soundtrack to the Super Mario Bros. movie is well-regarded as it’s heavily influenced by the games that came before it. What are your favorite Mario songs because we’ve certainly missed many?