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"Super Mario Bros. theme"
Genre Video game theme
Writer Kōji Kondō
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The Super Mario Bros. theme, also known as the Overworld Theme and Aboveground BGM (地上BGM Chijō BGM ?) in Japan, is a theme originally found in the first stage of the Nintendo Entertainment System video game Super Mario Bros.. It was one of six songs composed for Super Mario Bros. by acclaimed Mario and The Legend of Zelda series composer Kōji Kondō, who found it to be the game's most difficult song to compose. The theme has a Latin rhythm.

Since being included in Super Mario Bros., it went onto become the theme of the series, and has been a fixture in most of its titles. It has been reused and remixed in other Nintendo-published games, including Tetris DS, Nintendogs: Chihuahua and Friends, WarioWare, Inc.: Mega Microgames!, and all three entries in the Super Smash Bros. series. It also made a cameo appearance in the Capcom video game Viewtiful Joe.



Kōji Kondō was responsible for composing the theme.

This theme took the longest of the six songs of Super Mario Bros. to compose, according to its composer Kōji Kondō. He stated that he would write one song, and the team would put it in the game. If it did not accentuate the action, did not time up with Mario running and jumping, or did not harmonize with the sound effects well enough, he would scrap it.[1] He used only a small keyboard to compose the music.[2] The first theme he made for Super Mario Bros. was based on an early prototype of the game, which simply showed Mario running around a big empty area. Kondō described this early theme as a bit lazier, slower tempo, and more laid back. As the game underwent changes, he realized that his song no longer fit, so he increased the pace and changed it around to fit better.[3] In an interview, Kondō explained that when coming up with song compositions, they come to him during everyday activities.[4]

Kondō was given complete creative freedom over the soundtrack of Super Mario Bros., and would collaborate with Shigeru Miyamoto, the game's director, through their daily interactions. Miyamoto would share his records and music scores of the type of songs he liked with Kondō, but did not tell him exactly what he wanted.[3] It was composed with a Latin rhythm.[5][6] When the player allows the stage's clock to run down to less than 100 seconds, the song will accelerate.[7] At the Game Developers Conference in 2007, Kondō commented that the theme features rhythm, balance, and interactivity. He demonstrated this with a short clip of Super Mario Bros., showing the character's movements and players' button presses syncing with the beat of the music. He also added that the theme reflects the action-oriented gameplay of the series.[7] Kondō states that he doesn't know if he could make a song that is catchier than this theme, but he would like to try.[3]

Use in other games

The Super Mario Bros. theme has been reused several times. It was used during Subcon areas of Super Mario Bros. 2, and in bonus stages in Super Mario Sunshine, and also in Super Mario World at its "Special World"[8].

The song has been featured in each installment of the Super Smash Bros. series. The theme was featured in Super Smash Bros. Brawl, titled "Ground Theme" and "Ground Theme 2." "Ground Theme" was arranged by Kōji Kondō on the piano,[5] and "Ground Theme 2" was arranged by Masaaki Iwasaki.[9] The theme was remixed for Tetris DS during standard play, which displayed a Mario overworld design until ten lines are cleared. A version of it was arranged by Chiptune band YMCK for the Nintendo DSi video game Picopict. The WarioWare series has featured the original version of the theme in its games. The Chihuahua and Friends version of Nintendogs features a music box that plays the theme. The theme has been featured as a playable song in several rhythm games over the years. The GameCube game Donkey Konga features it, allowing the players to play it using bongos.[10] It is also featured in the Nintendo DS game Daigasso! Band Brothers and Wii game Wii Music. Wii Music allows players to use any instrument, while Daigasso! Band Brothers allows players to only use specific instruments. It was also featured in the GameCube dancing game Dance Dance Revolution: Mario Mix.[11] The theme made a cameo appearance in the Nintendo GameCube video game Viewtiful Joe, featuring a character whistling a portion of it.[12] It was also featured in Brain Age when the player gets a walking speed and the walking character is tapped. The theme was also featured in Super Mario Galaxy as the theme for the Toy Time Galaxy. The song was also heard in Toad Houses in New Super Mario Bros. and as a song played in the Conservatory in Luigi's Mansion. It also plays on the opening screen of Super Mario 64 and its remake, the title screen of Mario Party, the Mario Open course of Mario Golf, and the Mario Court in Mario Tennis.

Use in other media

The theme was reused in multiple other media, including an anime film and a cartoon called the Super Mario Bros. Super Show. For the latter version, called "Do the Mario," lyrics were added, and the song was performed by Lou Albano, who also portrayed the character in the show. The song can be heard briefly during the opening credits of the Super Mario Bros. movie.

CNBC-TV's morning program "Squawk Box" used the theme on December 29th, 2009 as its 8:30am ET bottom-of-the-hour block programming introductory music. A 2010 gaming industry news item aired inside the 8:30am time slot.

Concerts and performances

The theme has been featured in many concerts, including "PLAY! Chicago",[13] the Columbus Symphony,[14] the Mario & Zelda Big Band Live,[15] Play! A Video Game Symphony,[16] and others. The theme was a part of a performance held by Syd, a band of the same name as its musician.[17]

The Video Games Live concert featured the theme performed by Kōji Kondō.[3]

The theme has also been popular amongst fans, with many fan performances of it. GamePro did an article of the seven weirdest Super Mario Bros. theme performances, which included a theremin, two guitars, and an RC car.[18]

Sheet music

Nintendo has not published official sheet music for Koji Kondo's compositions, but high demand for Mario sheet music has led a number of fans to release their own arrangements online, often simplifying or interpreting the original version rather than accurately transcribing it.[19]

Reception and legacy

In an article about Kōji Kondō, editor Chris Kohler described the theme as one of the most famous in the world, and that it gets into your head quickly and won't leave. According to rumor, the theme was said to be slightly inspired by the sounds heard in the song "Jump" by Van Halen.[1] Jeremy Parish of called it one of the most memorable songs in video game history.[7] Netjak editor Rick Healey commented that though MTV tried to make the identifying song of the 90's, Nintendo beat them to the punch with the Super Mario Bros. theme.[20] Editors Jeff Dickerson and Luke Smith of The Michigan Daily newspaper commented that if you were to ask a random student to hum the theme, they would likely know every note.[21] Sam Kennedy, also an editor for, stated that anyone who lived through the 80's can hum the theme, and that most people remember it to this day.[3]

Video game music composer Tommy Tallarico cited Kōji Kondō as his inspiration for why he got into music, commenting that when he first heard this theme, it was the first time he thought music in video games really existed.[1] Mario voice actor Charles Martinet commented that "The first time I ever played a Mario game, I started at about 4 in the evening and played until daylight. I laid down on the bed, closed my eyes, and I could hear that music -- ba dum bum ba dum DUM!"[1] Acclaimed Final Fantasy composer, Nobuo Uematsu, called Kōji Kondō one of the best video game composers in the industry. He also commented that he was sure everyone in the world who has come across the Super Mario Bros. theme, regardless of borderlines or age, will never forget it. He also added that it changed Japanese culture, and that it should become the Japanese national anthem.[22] In an interview with Kōji Kondō, editor Sam Kennedy stated that Paul and Linda McCartney visited Kondō and enjoyed the theme.[3]

The ringtone version of the theme has proven very popular in the United States, having been on the top ten most downloaded ringtones for 226 straight weeks as of February 13, 2009.[23] It sold approximately 747,900 in the United States in 2006.[24]


  1. ^ a b c d "Behind the Mario Maestro's Music". Wired. 2007-03-15. Retrieved 2009-02-12.  
  2. ^ "Interview with Koji Kondo (Electronic Gaming Monthly)". Square Enix Music Online. Retrieved 2009-02-16.  
  3. ^ a b c d e f "Super Mario Bros. Composer Koji Kondo Interview". 2007-10-19. Retrieved 2009-02-16.  
  4. ^ "Super Mario Bros. Composer Koji Kondo Pt. 2". 2007-10-19. Retrieved 2009-02-16.  
  5. ^ a b "Super Mario Bros.: Ground Theme". Masahiro Sakurai. 2008-01-23. Retrieved 2009-02-12.  
  6. ^ "A New Game for Super Mario's maestro". The Wall Street Journal. 2008-10-24. Retrieved 2009-02-13.  
  7. ^ a b c "GDC 2007: Mario Maestro Shares His Secrets". 2007-03-07. Retrieved 2009-02-16.  
  8. ^
  9. ^ "Full List with Secret Songs". Masahiro Sakurai. 2008-04-03. Retrieved 2009-02-13.  
  10. ^ "Get into the groove with 'Konga'". Sidelines. 2004-10-14. Retrieved 2009-02-13.  
  11. ^ "Dance Dance Revolution Mario Mix - GameCube Review". Netjak. 2005-11-25. Retrieved 2009-02-15.  
  12. ^ "Viewtiful Joe". The Mushroom Kingdom. Retrieved 2009-02-13.  
  13. ^ "Super Mario Bros. and Zelda composer Kōji Kondō to attend PLAY! Chicago". Music 4 Games. 2006-04-14. Retrieved 2009-02-13.  
  14. ^ "Symphony piles up points with video-game concert". The Columbus Dispatch. 2007-04-27. Retrieved 2009-02-13.  
  15. ^ "Mario & Zelda Big Band Live". The Mushroom Kingdom. Retrieved 2009-02-13.  
  16. ^ "I hear a video game symphony". Pop Journalism. 2006-09-27. Retrieved 2009-02-13.  
  17. ^ "See Syd run, see Syd go, see Syd rock, see Syd roll.". The New Hampshire. 2005-02-04. Retrieved 2009-02-13.  
  18. ^ "The 7 Weirdest Super Mario Bros.Theme Song Performances". GamePro. Retrieved 2009-02-17.  
  19. ^ "Mario Piano Sheet Music". Retrieved 2009-12-28.  
  20. ^ "Gaming's Greatest Hits". Netjak. 2004-08-19. Retrieved 2009-02-13.  
  21. ^ "Underworld theme, Aeris theme video games are more than scores". The Michigan Daily. 2001-11-15. Retrieved 2009-02-13.  
  22. ^ "A Day in the Life of Nobuo Uematsu". 2008-02-15. Retrieved 2009-02-15.  
  23. ^ "Hot Ringtones". Billboard (magazine). Retrieved 2009-02-12.  
  24. ^ "Top selling ring tones in the US for 2006". Moco News. 2007-01-04. Retrieved 2009-02-13.  

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