Since the beginning of the Super Mario series in 1985, the series has been a real hit. Its vivid iconography and creative game design have captivated countless players, making it one of the highest-grossing video game series of all time. One of the elements of these games that is less noticeable on the outside, but greatly contributes to the success of the series, is the music.
Nintendo used the skills of video game composers Koji Kondo, Mahito Yokota, and others to create Super Mario soundscapes that are ubiquitous in popular culture and so appealing that some of them are familiar even to non-gamers. Mario’s music has fluctuated over the years, but these scores have remained charming and melodic.
10 Super Mario Bros. 3 – Classic but fun
The fourth major Super Mario platform game after Super Mario Land, Super Mario Bros. 3, introduced the Tanooki power-up and the Koopalings as main villains alongside Bowser. Although the NES was a successful console, it had audio limitations, resulting in simple chiptune synth tracks.
Despite these limitations, this game featured several iconic songs that would be reused and remixed later in the series, including both Overworld themes, the Airship Theme, and the Koopa Kid Battle. A bit more funky and percussive than its predecessors, this game’s music hits the battlefield.
9 Super Mario Sunshine – Mario hits the Beach
Launched in 2002 for the GameCube, Super Mario Sunshine sees our main character vacationing on the peaceful island of Delfino. While it may not be as well known as other 3D titles, Sunshine was the first game to feature the FLUDD, Toadsworth, and Bowser Jr. system.
With the improved audio capabilities of the GameCube, Sunshine’s soundtrack uses real instruments such as accordions and wooden chimes to capture the beachy atmosphere and differentiate this locale from previous games. Fat horns in Port Ricco and woodwinds in Bianco Hills give this soundtrack a surprising amount of variety. It’s unusual for the series, but still memorable.
8 New Super Mario Bros. Wii – The new 2D evolution
New Super Mario Bros. Launched in 2009, the Wii was the first Wii 2D Mario platformer. Although this game doesn’t exactly feel groundbreaking, as many aspects of it (including the soundtrack) are remakes of the 2006 New Super Mario Bros games for the DS.
This game introduced simultaneous co-op gameplay for 2D Mario platformers and items such as the Propeller Mushroom and Penguin Suit. His music is light, memorable and detailed. It’s the little nuances like the slightly crackling ‘DAH’ vocals for the Overworld theme and the twinkling bells for the Underwater theme that elevate this soundtrack above its predecessor.
7 Super Mario Bros. – An icon is born
This is the game where it all began. Our brothers dynamic plumbers met us in 1985 for the NES with the first set of Koji Kondo’s hits. Despite the limitations of technology in the 80s, every single track in this music is recognizable and iconic, from the Overworld music (which is one of the most recognizable tunes in the world), to the eerie Underground theme, to the waltz-like Underwater Piece and the eerie castle music.
There is no debate about the cultural significance of this game and the music in it. Undoubtedly, Koji Kondo’s work on this game served as a blueprint for Mario’s future soundscapes, as iterations of these songs are used in work today and likely tomorrow.
6 Super Mario World – Make some noise for Yoshi
Super Mario World introduced a non-linear map, a rescue option, and most importantly, Mario’s trusty horse and friend Yoshi. Launched in 1990 for the SNES, Super Mario World served as the next step in the evolution of the Mario sound beyond the simple synthesizers of the NES era.
Several noteworthy tracks are featured here, including her signature Overworld and Athletic themes, as well as the eerie Ghost House, the laid-back Wandering the Plains, and the creepy Evil King Bowser theme. This soundtrack also branches out in terms of complexity, with alternate versions of the score playing while Yoshi rides. No other result would be worthy of our favorite green dinosaur.
5 Super Mario 64 – Moving to new dimensions
Super Mario 64 needs no introduction. Launched on the N64 in 1996, the first 3D Mario game expanded Mario’s moveset, allowing you to explore Peach’s castle, jump into paintings to explore vibrant worlds, and collect Shine Sprites.
Super Mario 64 features the series’ first realistic-sounding soundtrack, branching out from chiptune synths to strings and horns, setting the stage for the evolution of the Mario soundtrack beyond the Super Mario World style. The soft electronic organ in Dire Dire Docks, the regal strings of Inside the Castle Walls, the infamous fast banjo strums of the Slider Theme and the bombastic horns of the Main Theme make this a soundtrack for the history books.
4 Super Mario 3D World – Strike Up The Band
This rendition of our mustachioed wonder puts him firmly in the modern age with a fresh and clean modern sound. Similar to the case of New Super Mario Bros. Wii, Super Mario 3D World did not introduce a jazz/big-band sound to the series, but refined the formula established in Super Mario 3D Land.
It also featured transparent faucets, a cat bell, and a double cherry as Mario, Luigi, Peach, and Blue Toad explore the Kingdom of Sprixie. Contemporary staples like Super Bell Hill’s smooth brass, Captain Toad Goes Forth’s clumsy whistle and Double Cherry Pass’ fast strings make this soundtrack downright moldy.
3 Super Mario Galaxy 2 – Out of This World
Mario’s second galactic adventure brought big guns. Super Mario Galaxy 2 was launched on the Wii in 2010 and follows in the footsteps of its predecessors to the letter, sticking to the big orchestral sound.
Galaxy 2 introduced Yoshi to the Galaxy mix, as well as some new improvements like the Cloud Mushroom and countless new planets to explore. From the fluttering winds and pizzicato of Starship Mario to the synth harp of Star Cove, and from the joyous violin and guitar of Puzzle Plank Galaxy to the triumphant horns of Sky Station Galaxy, this soundtrack spans a universe of emotion and style.
2 Super Mario Odyssey – hats off
Super Mario Odyssey brings the best aspects of the Galaxy and 3D world into a fusion of orchestra and big band. Launched in 2016 for the Nintendo Switch, Odyssey sees Mario on a global journey to save Peach and features Cappy’s trick of temporarily possessing enemies.
Odyssey presents a vibrant world full of diverse music: the dusty guitar and flute of Tostarene, the compressed 70s rock electric guitar of Steam Gardens, and the ambient throbbing synth of Honeylune Ridge. This game also features the first vocal theme for a Mario game, ‘Jump Up, Super Star!’. The score for this game is so good that there is a dedicated Jammin’ Toad in the game with headphones constantly listening to his tracks.
1 Super Mario Galaxy – a universal hit
Mario’s first adventure in space is served up with epic orchestral music like no other. Super Mario Galaxy follows Mario’s encounter with Rosalina and the Lumas, using Sling Stars to catapult him into Bowser’s planetary fortress. While Galaxy 2 was a success after that game, it was this 2007 Wii game that wrote the book on how to perfectly orchestrate Super Mario.
Each song is beautifully crafted with synthetic galactic accents. Galaxy’s successes are evident in every track: the gentle flute waltz of Rosalina’s Observatory, the syncopated percussion of Purple Comet, the beautiful and soaring strings of Gusty Garden Galaxy, the soft piano of Family. Without a doubt, this soundtrack is suitable for space travel.
NEXT: Every 3D Mario Platformer, Ranked