Today, the Library of Congress announced that 25 recordings representing some of the “defining sounds of the nation’s history and culture” will be added to its National Recording Registry. For the first time, the additions will also include music from a video game: Koji Kondo’s iconic Super Mario Bros. theme.
There are lots of iconic pieces of video game music that are instantly recognisable by gamers around the world, including the Tetris “Type A” music and The Legend of Zelda theme. But the first piece of video game music to be added to the Library of Congress’ National Recording Registry absolutely had to be the Super Mario Bros. theme, for many reasons.
Not only did Super Mario Bros., which was bundled with the NES when Nintendo’s first console launched in 1985, help save the video game industry after its disastrous crash in 1983; it remains one of the top ten best-selling video games of all time, with some 58 million copies sold to date. The first level of Super Mario Bros. is also considered a master class in game design, introducing players to the various mechanics and gameplay of the side-scrolling adventure without the need for a tutorial, and it helped to establish Shigeru Miyamoto as one of the greatest video game designers of all time.
What Shigeru Miyamoto is to video game design, Koji Kondo is to video game music. As with movies, the composer helped make video game soundtracks as integral to the experience as the gameplay and the characters, and while he would go on to compose music for games including countless iterations of The Legend of Zelda, Star Fox, and other memorable Nintendo franchises, the Super Mario Bros. theme remains Kondo’s most memorable composition (the Library of Congress called it “perhaps the most recognisable video game theme in history”). It also helped demonstrate how creatively the NES console’s sound chip could be used, which the Library of Congress pointed out in a tweet.
A video game theme song, probably the most recognizable in history, is also a first for the #NatRecRegistry. The Super Mario Bros. theme by Koji Kondo helped establish the game’s legendary status & proved that the Nintendo sound chip was capable of vast musical complexity. pic.twitter.com/RHPaXV1WLs
— Library of Congress (@librarycongress) April 12, 2023
The Super Mario Bros. theme’s inclusion in the National Recording Registry is even more impressive when you look at the 24 other inductees announced today, which include John Lennon’s Imagine, Led Zeppelin’s Stairway to Heaven, Madonna’s Like a Virgin, Mariah Carey’s All I Want for Christmas is You, and Carl Sagan’s Pale Blue Dot. It finds itself alongside some impressive company, but certainly earned its place amongst today’s honorees.