106 – Top 5 Super Mario Songs

March 10, 2021

Mama mia! It’s Mario time!

To celebrate our favourite mushroom-eating, high-jumping, adventure-seeking Italian plumber on his 35th birthday, we take a look back on all the Mario games that have brought us gamers so much joy over the years. While last year we ranked Top 5 Super Mario Games, this year we wanted to celebrate an aspect of these iconic platformers that is crucial to making these games what they are but are so often overlooked – the music! This week join Tuong La and Koopa Kids Samantha Leggatt, Spencer Moreland, and Alex Toth as they venture into the Mushroom Kingdom, high on a star power up, while grooving out and ranking Top 5 Super Mario Songs!

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Ground Rules

  • We are nominating individual tracks and not entire scores for this episode
  • Songs must come from a main line Mario game ** (ie any off shoots do not count for this list like Mario Kart, Mario Party, etc.)
  • End credit music also counts as a nomination.

*Spoilers* Below is our Top 5 list from this episode as well as our own personal unordered  lists.

Group Top 5

5. Steam Gardens – Super Mario Odyssey

4. Main Theme – Super Mario Bros.

3. Comet Observatory (1,2,3) – Super Mario Galaxy

2. Dire, Dire Docks  – Super Mario 64

1. Gusty Garden Galaxy – Super Mario Galaxy

Tuong’s List

  • Gusty Garden Galaxy – Super Mario Galaxy
  • Jump Up Super Star – Super Mario Odyssey
  • Maine Theme – Super Mario Bros.
  • Overworld 1 – Super Mario Bros. 3
  • Overworld 2 – Super Mario Bros. 3
  • Hammer Bros Music – Super Mario 3
  • Flower Garden – Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island
  • Main Theme Song – Super Mario 64
  • Delfino Plaza – Super Mario Sunshine
  • Good Egg Galaxy – Super Mario Galaxy
  • Comet Observatory – Super Mario Galaxy
  • Breach Bowl Galaxy – Super Mario Galaxy
  • The Wish – Super Mario Galaxy
  • Sky Station Galaxy – Super Mario Galaxy 2
  • Throwback Galaxy – Super Mario Galaxy 2
  • Luma and the Hat – Super Mario Galaxy 2
  • Fossil Falls (Cascade Kingdom) – Super Mario Odyssey
  • Steam Gardens (Wooded Kingdom)- Super Mario Odyssey
  • New Donk City – Super Mario Odyssey
  • Super Bell Hill – Super Mario 3d World

Sam’s List

  • Delfino Plaza – Super Mario Sunshine
  • Dire, Dire Docks – Super Mario 64
  • Bob-omb Battlefield – Super Mario 64
  • Comet Observatory – Super Mario Galaxy
  • Overworld – Super Mario Bros. 2
  • Super Bell Hill – Super Mario 3D World
  • Gusty Garden Galaxy – Super Mario Galaxy
  • Castle Boss Music – Super Mario World
  • Toad Highlands – Mario Golf (Doesn’t Count because it’s not a main line Mario Game)

Spencer’s List

  • Super Mario 64 – Bob-Omb Battlefield
  • Super Mario 64 – Dire Dire Docks
  • Super Mario World – Overworld Theme Music
  • Super Mario Land – Ending Theme
  • Mario Kart 64 – Rainbow Road (Doesn’t Count)
  • Super Mario Odyssey – Jump Up, Super Star!
  • Super Mario Galaxy – Gusty Gardens Galaxy
  • SMW2: Yoshi’s Island – Flower Garden
  • Super Mario 64 – Bowser’s Level Theme
  • Super Mario 64 – Staff Roll
  • Super Mario Bros 2 – Overworld Theme
  • Super Mario 3D World – Super Bell Hill
  • Super Mario Bros 3 – Athletic Theme
  • Super Mario Galaxy 2 – The Starship Sails
  • Super Mario Galaxy 2 – Puzzle Plank Galaxy
  • Super Mario Kart – Mario Circuit (Doesn’t Count)
  • Super Mario Sunshine – Secret Course
  • Super Mario Galaxy – Comet Observatory
  • Super Mario Odyssey – New Donk City
  • Super Mario Odyssey – Steam Gardens

Alex’s List

Alex actually WROTE stuff about his nominations! So here’s some extra juicy thought into his nominations.**

 

Rosalina in the Observatory 3: I would go out on a limb and say that not only is this song the best Mario song, it’s one of the best songs in a video game period. Video game music doesn’t typically get its due in criticism, but the Mario Galaxy soundtrack should be considered up there with the best music of the 00s. The hub theme of the game is my favourite song, and the way it evolves from a tiny harpsichord and flute melody to the sweeping orchestral waltz of this version while retaining its majesty and sense of wonder is incredible. The crescendo opening into violin harmonies is striking every time.

 

Noki Bay: The somewhat maligned genre of chillwave took a lot of cues from video game music of the 90s (although less than it’s more abrasive and robotic cousin, vaporwave), and I feel that Mario water levels are the peak of that inspiration. Noki Bay, more than any other water level, feels like a chillwave track released ten years before chillwave even entered the lexicon, at once both the most exotic and the most relaxed. Super Mario Sunshine is odd in the Mario canon, since it sticks to one theme the entire game. That could’ve been boring in lesser hands, but Koji Kondo makes it work. Lotta steel drums and wooden percussion and pan flute make it feel like permanent vacation.

 

Steam Gardens (Woodland Kingdom): A lot of people in the YouTube comments of this song mention that it’s Koji Kondo’s take on surf rock, but I like to imagine he made it during a time he was really into Ratatat. The dueling guitar melodies and garage beat make it stand out among the rest of the excellent songs on the Odyssey OST and also make it sound like Kondo was listening exclusively to Aphex Twin and “Seventeen Years.” It’s an excellent piece of ambient electro even outside of the realm of video games and a propulsive piece of music in contrast to the world where it plays. All the guitar bending and synthesizer soloing with a legitimate breakbeat as a foundation is just such an interesting departure from the orchestral music we’re used to from contemporary Mario games. 

 

The Flower Garden (Yoshi’s Island Theme): Another chiptune melody I’ll never tire of, one of the happiest melodies ever committed to tape. The (saxophone?) melody is crystal clear and infectious to no end, and the xylophone and block percussion is, again, used to convey a sense of lushness and adventure. Not a single note is out of place. 

 

Delfino Plaza: Immediately recognizable. Best use of accordion in a video game, period. The hub world in Super Mario Sunshine is the best hub world in any Mario game, with hidden levels, coins, and shines everywhere. You WANT to spend hours in Delfino Plaza and the music is a big part of that. The staccato ukulele melody perfectly mimics the super fast-paced and tightly wound game, one whose controls haven’t really been beaten in any mario game since. Mario Sunshine is the most enveloping of the Mario games, fully drawing you into the universe through interesting design choices like being able to see the other locations in the distance, and I feel that the thematically similar yet distinct music helps that feeling immensely. 

 

Hisstocrat: A legit big-band jazz romp during a Mario 3D World boss fight. Huge brass, funky bassline, synth solo in the middle? Hell yea. I’ve actually never played this came and was taken aback by how COMPLETE this song was – if I didn’t know that it was from a Mario game I would’ve thought it was some sort of contemporary jazz ensemble (which, I mean, it probably is). 

 

Gusty Garden Galaxy: 

 

Tostarena Town: One of the greatest achievements of SMO was its ability to convey a sense of world-striding adventure through each piece of the game: the levels, the hidden stars, the 8-bit areas, and especially the music. In lesser hands, Tostarena Town would sound like mariachi pastiche, especially coupled with all the little sombrero-wearing townsfolk. But Kondo conjures a sweeping melody that pays homage to the sounds of Mexico without becoming cloying or a poor facsimile. The horns are muted but still grandiose, and all the strings and percussion and brass fit together like clockwork. Music in video games is one of those things that should blend seamlessly into the big picture, almost like real music in the air as you walk through a city. 

 

SMW Athletic Theme: Instantly recognizable, truly one of the most distinctive melodies in video game history. The sense of urgency added to the game simply by increasing the tempo of the theme is a simple and incredibly effective choice. I’m not usually one for chip tune, but this song does so much with basically only a faux-bongo beat and a hand-pecked keyboard melody that it’s basically entered the fabric of our society at this point.

 

Jump Up, Superstar

 

Official Music Credit for Amazon Commercial Song: Music: “8 Bit Win!” By HeatleyBros 

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