Super Mario Bros. Theme Makes History in National Recording Registry

KEY TAKEAWAYS
The National Recording Registry has added its first-ever piece of video game music to its prestigious collection, selecting Koji Kondo's Super Mario Bros. Theme for its 2023 class of inductees.
The Super Mario Bros. Theme is a technical and artistic masterpiece that demonstrated the musical complexity and creativity achievable with the five-channel Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) sound chip. The jaunty, Latin-influenced melody laid the foundation for an entire generation of chiptune musicians and has been performed by orchestras worldwide.
Kondo faced significant constraints due to the "extremely small" amount of space reserved for audio on the Super Mario Bros. cartridge when creating the theme. This challenge required him to be innovative and make the most of the available musical and programming resources, drawing from various genres to match the on-screen action.
The inclusion of Kondo's piece is a testament to the growing impact of video game music on the broader cultural landscape, as the Registry seeks to highlight and preserve "the richness of the nation's audio legacy."
The Super Mario Bros. Theme stands alongside other influential tracks such as Madonna's "Like a Virgin," Led Zeppelin's "Stairway to Heaven," and Mariah Carey's "All I Want for Christmas is You" as part of the 2023 class of inductees, a group that features a diverse range of artists such as Jimmy Buffett, Queen Latifah, Eurythmics, and John Denver's "Take Me Home, Country Roads."

 

In a groundbreaking move, the National Recording Registry, part of the Library of Congress, has added its first-ever piece of video game music to its prestigious collection.

The Registry, which aims to preserve songs and scores that hold cultural, historical, or aesthetic significance in the United States, has selected Koji Kondo’s Super Mario Bros. Theme, also known as Ground Theme, to join its 2023 class of inductees.

The Super Mario Bros. Theme stands alongside other influential tracks such as Madonna’s “Like a Virgin,” Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven,” Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas is You,” and the Flashdance song.

Other notable inclusions this year are The Police’s album “Synchronicity” and Queen Latifah’s 1989 classic “All Hail the Queen.”

Ground Theme: A Technical and Artistic Masterpiece

The iconic 1985 theme, composed by Koji Kondo for the Nintendo classic, Super Mario Bros., has not only achieved legendary status but also demonstrated the musical complexity and creativity achievable with the five-channel Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) sound chip.

The jaunty, Latin-influenced melody laid the foundation for an entire generation of chiptune musicians and has been performed by orchestras worldwide.

Kondo, the composer of the groundbreaking theme, was thrilled by the honor and found it “a little bit difficult to believe.”

The selection criteria for the Registry included not only the theme’s iconic status but also its technical and artistic aspects, often overlooked in discussions about the piece.

The Super Mario Bros. Theme is one of 25 recordings joining the National Recording Registry in 2023, a group that features a diverse range of artists such as Jimmy Buffett, Queen Latifah, Eurythmics, Led Zeppelin, Mariah Carey, and John Denver’s “Take Me Home, Country Roads.”

Overcoming Technical Limitations

When creating the theme, Kondo faced significant constraints due to the “extremely small” amount of space reserved for audio on the Super Mario Bros. cartridge.

This challenge required him to be innovative and make the most of the available musical and programming resources.

Drawing from various genres to match the on-screen action, Kondo crafted jingles to encourage players, fanfares to celebrate achievements, and pieces that sped up as time ran out.

A Diverse and Celebrated Selection

The Super Mario Bros. Theme is one of 25 recordings joining the National Recording Registry in 2023, a group that features a diverse range of artists such as Jimmy Buffett, Queen Latifah, Eurythmics, Led Zeppelin, Mariah Carey, and John Denver’s “Take Me Home, Country Roads.” 

The inclusion of Kondo’s piece is a testament to the growing impact of video game music on the broader cultural landscape, as the Registry seeks to highlight and preserve “the richness of the nation’s audio legacy.”

The Super Mario Bros. Movie, which features Kondo’s track, recently broke box office records, further solidifying the significance of the theme and its contribution to popular culture.

About the National Recording Registry

The National Recording Registry, established by the Library of Congress, is dedicated to preserving culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant songs and scores that inform or reflect life in the United States.

Chosen by experts and historians, the collection ensures that future generations can access and appreciate the most important music of our time.

Craig Miller

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