Best Music From The Super Mario Games: Our Top 20 Songs, Ranked

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It’s no surprise that the Super Mario Bros. series, the Rosetta Stone of video gaming, would have a library of music that is just as recognizable as Mario and Luigi.

So coming up with list of the best songs in the series has been tough. But I really poured over every game and organized my favorites into this list.

The Super Mario franchise spans so many games and media that I couldn’t fit all the best music in a single list. To narrow it down I whittled to the following categories:

  1. A musical piece should have come from a “proper” Mario game. Mario Kart, Super Smash Bros., and those other spin-offs are out;
  2. Said game should have enjoyed a major console release. So no mobile entries here.

Now that we’ve got that settled please join me on a short trip through the last 30 years of gaming history and let’s find out which Super Mario BGM tracks have proven to be the most influential to our culture.


20. Metal Cap Theme (Super Mario 64)

It’s crazy to think how video game “leitmotifs” started out because a single cartridge can only carry paltry kilobytes of data.

Later consoles might have boasted better data storage capacities, but they’re still defined by limitations.

If not for limitations, though, we might have not heard stuff like this. Which sounds like a more deranged remix of a more recognizable Mario theme that you’ll find out later on in this list!

All things considered though, this track is a classic from SM 64 and should be easy to recognize.


19. Sunshine Seaside (Super Mario 3D World)

Super Mario Odyssey is a great modern Mario game.

But still, ever thought what would have happened if Nintendo was crazy enough to make a standalone game based on the world of Super Mario Sunshine… in HD?

Well that might just be a pipe dream for now, so we’ll just have to make do with Sunshine Seaside.

This sounds like a nice ode to the sunny sounds of that much-beloved GameCube classic.


18. Enemy Course Theme (New Super Mario Bros. Wii)

You know what comes to my mind whenever I’m hearing this theme? More cowbell.

It’s a pretty catchy tune and deserves at least a passing mention here.


17. Dire, Dire Docks (Super Mario 64)

Out of all the themes the Super Mario series have in its library, the ones in Super Mario 64 might be the most underrated out there.

And it’s easy to see why: Dire, Dire Docks seems to exist on a plane between the simpler chiptune compositions of the 8-and-16-bit Mario games, and the more elaborate 3D games of today.

Still, if you have happened to play Super Mario 64 right around its release then you’re old enough to appreciate this track.


16. Water Land Theme (SMB3)

The Super Mario series do love their water themes, don’t they?

For eagle-eyed (or is it eagle-eared?) Nintendo fans though, the melody of SMB 3’s “Water Land Theme” might sound familiar because it’s also the same to the Legend of Zelda’s “Fairy Fountain Theme”. What a fun factoid.

Or is it?

Koji Kondo created the score for both games, so it’s essentially a self-ripoff (if there’s such a thing).

But gaming fans being what they are, you can still see remnants of commenters arguing which version came out first. But hey, they’re both awesome songs.


15. Super Bell Hill (Super Mario 3D World)

Don’t anyone knock down Super Mario 3D World.

After all, it’s the first Mario game made with HD in mind.

Unfortunately it’s also equally infamous for being a flagship game on the Nintendo Wii U, a console that almost doomed the Big N to irrelevance before pivoting to the (so, sooo much better) Nintendo Switch.

Super Bell Hill is a memorable Mario tune for sure. Even if it doesn’t hold the same cultural weight as its more popular musical forebears.


14. Piranha Plant’s Lullaby (Super Mario 64)

Similar to “Dire, Dire Docks”, this is another relaxing score from Super Mario 64.

What ranks this higher in my mind is its melodic simplicity makes this theme so dang loop-able.

The fact that it would sound well even on older systems is a testament to how memorable it still is after all these years. You could play this in the background while doing homework and it’d just blend right in.


13. Delfino Plaza (Super Mario Sunshine)

Honestly, the Nintendo GameCube should have been a bigger deal.

The gaming industry of the time thought angsty teenagers made up its audience, which is why Super Mario Sunshine has been unfairly relegated to “cult status” instead of just being a classic.

The only thing that makes these days better is how different game genres can receive big enough pushes, if the audience wants it.

And it’s on that note that we’re listening to Delfino Plaza, one of SMS’s main themes. And I’m listening with a smile on my face.


12. Ending Theme (Super Mario World)

Yes, I know that there’s a Super Mario All-Star released for the Super Nintendo with the same music.

But Super Mario World is the real MVP.

It was from this point that Super Mario became a franchise and it did show in the production and its gameplay varieties.

And lookie here!

The ending sequence even had a movie-style credit roll playing.

That might not look much today, but it was hella ambitious for a videogame to try to ape how movies looked back in 1990. And no one ever looked back since.


11. Airship (Super Mario Bros. 3)

Oh, you think just because Super Mario is a fun series it doesn’t have room for some little darkness?

God forbid if there ever would be a Super Mario game where Koopa and his minions just straight-up pillage Mushroom Kingdom. Airship will surely get remixed for something like that.


10. Main Theme (Super Mario Galaxy 2)

And now we’re getting to the “Super Mario does orchestra” period of compositions.

Super Mario Galaxy effectively made the jump to the modern 3D Mario games that us gamers know today. So I think it took away a bit of its sequel’s shine.

SMG2 is still great, however, and tracks like its main theme helped emphasize that this is a Super Mario game worthy of anyone’s attention.


9. Gusty Garden Galaxy (Super Mario Galaxy)

Now this song sounds like a more definitive take on the Super Mario orchestra sound.

The crazy thing about this is that it’s not even the game’s main theme; it’s the music of the game’s first planet.

But similar to the first Super Mario’s World 1-1 music, it has now become an aural cue that would forever define Super Mario in one of its iterations.


8. Jump Up, Super Star! (Super Mario Odyssey)

Super Mario was originally a silly videogame that no one expected to take seriously in 1985.

And look where it’s at now: Media adaptations! Orchestras! Big-band songs!

“Jump Up, Super Star!” is perhaps the most unexpected Mario song ever.

Yet on a single listen one immediately gets how it fits into the Super Mario aesthetic.

For one, the song is just pure fun. Which is something that Super Mario has always excelled in doing.

And two it really feels like a video game song. But also an objectively great piece of music.

And at the very least, we can now hum a Mario song with singable lyrics.


7. Castle Theme (Super Mario World)

If you’ve ever been a kid who played the first Super Mario Bros. the “Castle” theme would have been the soundtrack to your nightmares.

One moment you’re jumping through the air and destroying blocks.

And the next you’re expected to take on this huge dragon-turtle guy? Seriously? *Heavy breathing intensifies*

Then again, if you think about what comes after the theme after you finally beat the boss, that moment would have been a perfect example of the dopamine-infused satisfaction that only a videogame can provide to a player.


6. Underwater Theme (Super Mario Bros.)

I did say Super Mario is a silly series earlier.

So of course this ditty was one of the themes associated with the games ever since its release.

Don’t be fooled by its laconic nature, though; you still have some fishes and squid thingies to avoid while you’re controlling Mario underwater.


5. Star Theme (Super Mario Bros.)

One of the more delightful elements of the first Mario game was the tutorial that happens in World 1-1.

You’re taught the basics of controlling and how you can use that to dodge and defeat obstacles.

Once you get through the mid-point you then discover that you can easily breeze through your enemies by simply capturing a star… if it’s worth the risk of getting it.

The theme that plays while you’re rushing through a level in your starred-up invincibility is appropriately frenetic.

It’s a reminder that you might go through a certain point unscathed, but reality eventually grounds you. It’s a real-life metaphor inside a video game.


4. Underworld Theme (Super Mario Bros.)

The first music that you encounter in SMB is joyful.

So as you descend to World 1-2 this is the perfect counterpoint to the jauntiness you experienced in the previous world.

It’s foreboding in all the right ways. Like the game is telling you “Oh, you think you know everything, don’t you?”

No, I don’t. Which is why we can’t wait to get going to the next world.


3. Overworld Theme (Super Mario Bros. 2)

In an alternate world this might have been the theme that would have went along with the Super Mario series.

That doesn’t mean it’s not equally memorable though.

On the contrary, this sounds like a natural evolution from all the Super Mario compositions gamers have known before.

It has a catchy melody, yet is also layered and textured enough to differentiate itself from its predecessors.

It’s really crazy how much developers could wrangle out of a basic computer chip back then.


2. Athletic Theme (New SMB)

To this day there’s no definite consensus on why this is called the “Athletic” theme.

Is it because it’s music made for running?

If that’s the case, then what does that make the other Super Mario compositions? I call shenanigans but that’s a topic for another day.

Starting from SMB 3 this has been the default theme for almost all World 1 levels on the Super Mario games.

While we might debate on how memorable it is or not, it’s at least ubiquitous enough to deserve a spot very high in this list.


1. Ground Theme (Super Mario Bros.)

What else do I need to say about this theme that hasn’t been said before?

For people who have vague ideas of what video games are, this sounds like a video game to them, for better or worse.

Personally I always loved reading stories on how composers worked around hardware limitations of the time.

To video game composers of the ‘80s this forced them to create melodies so catchy that generations of kids who grew up with Super Mario games still have this embedded in their brains.

That’s some serious cultural cache right there.

It’s really crazy how there are so many iconic Super Mario themes, isn’t it? And I feel like I barely scratched the surface of this empire.

Now you can use this info to go make an awesome Spotify playlist of this or something.

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