Ranking The Best Songs From The Super Mario 64 OST

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Among Nintendo’s most influential achievements is the introduction of Super Mario 64 for their powerful N64 back in 1996.

This ambitious and polished platformer would set the standards for the genre as it adapted to 3D graphics and a new generation of powerful consoles.

While not its most talked-about achievement, Super Mario 64’s music played a vital role in bringing Miyamoto’s vision to life. Composer Koji Kondo worked his magic to create a vibrant soundtrack to accompany the red plumber’s first forage into 3D.

The result is a collection of iconic themes that have stayed with us and even achieved meme-status throughout the years.

Join me as I look back at one of Nintendo’s masterpieces and rank the best songs from its classic Mario 64 soundtrack.

10. Metallic Mario

First up we’ve got a somewhat… different power-up sound than usual.

It’s the music that plays after you acquire the Metal Cap power-up and turn into Metal Mario.

To drive that “metallic” feel in, Kondo went for a techno-industrial sound that sets it apart from the rest.

But what elevates this song into the list is that amazing bass line that’ll have you jamming intensely without even realizing.

It’s a shame you only get to hear it so briefly in the actual game. Not only is the power-up seldom available, it’s also not long-lived.

9. Inside the Castle Walls

I still remember the first time I booted up Super Mario 64 and was dropped right inside the Mushroom Castle’s walls.

I could explore, jump on trees, go into the water and much more. Everything was new and mysterious, and this song was there to harmonize all those different stimuli.

It’s soothing, but positive and dynamic at the same time.

It also set the tone for the game in general. The princess has been kidnapped, which should be a very tense situation. But Super Mario 64 wants you to treat it as what it is: a game.

It wants you to have fun and play around, and it uses its music to promote that kind of atmosphere.

8. Road to Bowser

Mustering up the courage to walk into one of Bowser’s doors was only the first challenge players had to face after deciding to go against the Koopa King.

This song would play while you made your way through the different Bowser levels. It sounds sinister, representing the daunting task ahead of you.

The mysterious oriental sounds Kondo decided to go with for most of the songs probably had a lot to do with how scared I’d get every time I had to fight Bowser.

7. Staff Roll

Few people ever actually got to hear this song during the ending credits because of how much work it took to get to that point.

Seventy stars? I knew people who never got past 40!

It’s a calm and nostalgic song reminiscent of Donkey Kong Country’s unique style.

It accompanies the end of the long journey perfectly and gives you that feeling of a job well done.

6. File Select

Another often overlooked tune is this relaxing melody that plays when you go to choose a file to load.

The change in tempo makes me feel like I’m handling something complex and delicate… or at least back when I was a child and saving a game was a mystifying process.

Kondo uses the sounds of wind instruments similar to blowing on glass bottles to create a nostalgic sound with a timeless appeal.

I was only somewhat surprised when I heard this song come up along with dank memes online. It was the first of many Mario songs to find their way into internet humor in recent years.

5. Bowser’s Theme

The battles against Bowser in Super Mario 64 were some of the most memorable moments in my early gamer life, and my childhood in general.

This mix played when facing the Koopa King in the Dark World and the Fire Sea, getting your adrenaline pumping for a session of spinning the turtle around.

Oriental sounds, a nice beat, and a sinister feel blend to create a trippy composition that I consider among the coolest boss battle themes I’ve ever heard.

4. Piranha Plant’s Lullaby

You’d be easily forgiven for not quite remembering this song.

It only plays for a criminally short while when sneaking around the sleeping Piranha Plants in Whomp’s Fortress, as a sort of calm before the storm of you pummeling them into the ground.

It’s a soothing lullaby capable of triggering instant nostalgia. This dreamlike tune would be the perfect addition to a geeky music box, and I’m sure Mario would agree.

I mean, he falls asleep if you let him listen to it long enough!

3. Slide

Who could forget something as bizarre as racing a penguin down twisting slopes?

I fell to my death many times trying to outsmart the guy… and don’t even get me started on how long it took me to realize there was a shortcut.

It quickly became the music I’d think of when in a rush, like the last few hours before turning in a paper or just trying to get to a bathroom after a long road trip.

Clearly I wasn’t alone, for this song ended up being used as a backdrop for memes and videos of water-park slide fails and the like. Talk about evergreen music.

2. Super Mario 64

Most people think of this as the Bob-Omb Battlefield theme. But it actually played in Whomp’s Fortress, the Tall, Tall Mountain and the Tiny-Huge Island as well!

The Original Soundtrack’s tracklist refers to it as the Super Mario 64 main theme. And it’s certainly the first thing that comes to mind when thinking of the game.

Listening to this song is like taking a nostalgia pill and being blasted back in time in a matter of seconds.

1. Dire, Dire Docks

By far the best song in Super Mario 64’s stellar soundtrack is this mysterious, slow tune.

It plays in the Jolly Roger Bay and other water areas, and its xylophone sounds make for a great water-level song.

Where most water-level music feels claustrophobic, this one insinuates an ample aquatic environment full of adventure and danger.

For me, this song makes me think of swimming aimlessly, forever, as if in a dream… and it also reminds me of that terribly scary eel that you’d encounter in Jolly Roger Bay. That thing would turn any dream into a nightmare.

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Nelson Chitty

Nelson Chitty is a Venezuelan expat living in Argentina. He’s a writer and translator passionate about history and foreign cultures. His ideal weekend is spent between leisurely games of Civilization VI and looking for the next seinen anime to marathon.