Long Reads & Digital Books

Maestro Mario: How Nintendo Transformed Videogame Music into an Art

“Pa-dum-pum-pa-dum-pum—PUM!” Super Mario Bros. for the NES contains some of the most recognizable tunes in popular culture, and yet it’s safe to say that only a handful of people have thought beyond the music’s entertaining surface. After all, what could possibly be art-worthy about an early Mario score? Or any early game sound for that matter? In search of answers to these questions, Andrew Schartmann takes us on a journey from the primitive “pongs” of arcade machines to the complex musical fabrics woven by composers of the NES era. Where does that distinctly Nintendo-flavored sound come from? What sets NES music apart from its predecessors? And how has that iconic ‘80s videogame sound “invaded” popular culture?