The Library of Congress has announced the latest batch of 25 recordings that are joining the National Recording Registry. There are many notable songs among the lineup, including “Like a Virgin,” "All I Want For Christmas Is You," "Stairway To Heaven," and “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)." Carl Sagan's reading of his book, Pale Blue Dot, is also being inducted. But there's one particular composition that's making its own slice of history, as Koji Kondo's Super Mario Bros. theme becomes the first piece of video game music to enter the registry.
The Mario overworld music, which is officially titled "Ground Theme," is "perhaps the most recognizable video game theme in history," according to the Library of Congress. It's hard to argue with that. Kondo (pictured above left) took inspiration from Latin music to create magic on the Nintendo Entertainment System's five-channel sound chip for the original 1985 game.
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 amount of data that we could use for music and sound effects was extremely small, so I really had to be very innovative and make full use of the musical and programming ingenuity that we had at the time,” Kondo told the Library of Congress. “I used all sorts of genres that matched what was happening on screen. We had jingles to encourage players to try again after getting a ‘game over,’ fanfares to congratulate them for reaching goals and pieces that sped up when the time remaining grew short."
Kondo, who said it was an honor to have his work placed in the National Recording Registry, is still working for Nintendo. Most recently, you may have heard his work in The Super Mario Bros. Movie.
The Library of Congress houses millions of books, recordings, photos, newspapers, maps and manuscripts. For several years, it also attempted to archive every single tweet. So, you may find it comforting to know that the legendary Mario theme is now immortalized alongside a slapdash post about what you had for breakfast in 2011.
Update 4/13 9:50AM ET: A previous version of this story indicated that Kondo also took inspiration from Japanese jazz fusion band T-Square when creating the Mario theme. This was not the case.