Super Mario Bros.
Composed by Koji Kondo
It seemed like video game consoles were a fad after the Atari Shock, also known as the video game crash of 1983. But in 1985, two years after the original release of the Famicom, Super Mario Bros was released. It was promoted as a platformer that gradually eased the player from getting used to the controls, and how the gameplay mechanics work, to being experienced enough to survive the game's later, tougher levels. It would become one of, if not, the most successful video game release in terms of the impact this game had on the industry. Part of the legacy behind the first Super Mario Bros could be attributed to Koji Kondo's score for the game.
Kondo studied and played music since he was five. He specialized in the electric organ, and as he grew, he would play in cover bands that played progressive rock music. When he enrolled in the Osaka University of Arts, he learned how to compose and arrange music. Nintendo recruited at his university, seeking someone experienced in music. Kondo applied, and joined the sound team already consisting of Hirokazu "Hip" Tanaka, and Yukio Kaneoka. What separated Kondo from those two was that he was hired based on his experience with music, while the others were hired based on their programming. His first video game score was for the arcade version of Punch-Out!! He continued working on arcade and console games for Nintendo, until he got the opportunity to score Super Mario Bros.
For this game, Kondo wanted to do something that hadn't been commonly done in video games, make the music compliment the game. Kondo was able to achieve this by composing the music while the game was being developed, which at the time was very rare, as composers would normally score their respective games after the base game is finished. Kondo was also able to compose pieces that fit the mood of the style of stages Mario was in, as well as keeping in mind the fun factor behind the game, wanting to compose music that could be listened to for a long time without becoming repetitive. An example of how committed he was to complimenting the mood of the game with the music was changing the signature to 3/4 meters for the underground theme, as he felt that the 3/4 time signature would help make the underground levels more unsettling. And for the original athletic theme, he established what Twitter user Pixel Tea perfectly described as the Koji Kondo Hook; a unique introduction separate from the rest of the melody to immediately catch the attention of the listener.
Koji Kondo and the Super Mario Bros score influenced the way video game music was approached. Mood was a rarely invoked trait of video game music at the time. Usually only serving as background noise. Kondo changed that. And with how successful Super Mario Bros was for the video game industry, many people's first experience in video game music, as well as the first standard bearer for video game music was this game, and Kondo's score.