From The Armchair: Making Music With Mario

ArmchairWhat ho, chums.

I must admit, I can’t help but be drawn in whenever a new Nintendo Direct video pops up on my 3DS. These tiny saccharine video bonbons never fail to bring a smile to my embittered lips. Seeing Satoru Iwata and chums enthusiastically teasing their latest gaming treat with undisguised glee reminds me of why I got into games in the first place: they’re just damned fun. And in the primary-colour world of Nintendo Direct, it’s OK to see games as toys, because most of the time that’s just what they are, goddammit – at least in Nintendo’s world. Realistic war sims, super-complex strategy games and soul-searching ennui-’em-ups have their place, but when I just want to play something, you know, for fun, Nintendo is my number one destination.

This week’s Nintendo Direct was dedicated to Mario Kart 8, and I have to say it sucked me in completely. I only intended to watch the first five minutes, mostly just to see Iwata-san do that brilliantly cheesy ‘DIRECT’ gesture, but I was so enticed that I stayed for the whole 34 mins, and by the end I’d preordered a copy of the game, complete with a free T-shirt. That I will never wear.

To be honest, it was difficult to say no to the offer of a free Wii U game with with every purchase of Mario Kart 8 – of the ten games on offer, I have my eyes firmly set on The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD, which I loved the first time around. And it’s been far too long since I last played a Mario Kart game – in fact, the last one I played was Mario Kart Wii, which I bought an astonishing six years ago. Up until today, I’d found it hard to get excited about the prospect of yet another MK game, but watching the video reminded me just how bloody fun they are, and those new tracks looked utterly glorious in HD. I hate to say it, but Iwata got me, hook, line and sinker.

One part of the video that stood out was when they revealed that most of the game’s music was recorded live, and a lengthy segment showed the musicians earnestly playing the game’s soundtrack in a studio (skip to 26.10). It was a great reminder of just how much craft and effort goes into making games these days. Long gone is the time when a lone programmer would wrangle bleeps and boops from a recalcitrant 8-bit chip – nowadays just as much effort goes into making music for triple A games as for blockbuster movies, and Nintendo has some of the best tunes around. Super Mario Galaxy 2 had probably the best music I can remember hearing in a game – I often found myself reluctant to press ‘start’ on the title screen because I was enjoying listening to the theme tune too much.

Away from Nintendo, Bastion was a recent highlight in terms of game music, with a beatifully mellow acoustic guitar soundtrack that blended perfectly with the title’s idle wandering and bittersweet nostalgia. In fact, Ms. D liked the music so much that she actually bought the soundtrack.

Which leads me to wonder: have you, dear reader, ever loved a game’s music enough to buy its soundtrack? And what are your aural highlights from the gaming world? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

Toodle-pip for now!


    1. Sega certainly know how to write a tune… Although my favourite Sega tune has to be Magical Sound Shower on Out Run. Terrible name, amazing track.

  1. That Resident Evil Outbreak soundtrack is indeed brilliant – I’ve been sat here listening to it on repeat. I’m afraid I can’t say the same about Doom though – the music used to annoy me so much that I always had it turned off when I played the Playstation version.

    I’ve just remembered one of my all-time favourite soundtracks though: Katamari Damacy on the PS2…

    1. For me there is definitely an element of nostalgia when it comes to the Doom soundtrack. I suppose it’s similar to listening to the Tetris music; I couldn’t really say I enjoy listening to that, but it evokes all sorts of very fond memories.

      This post has made we want to fire up all of my old games again just to listen to the music. I think I’ll start with Halo.

  2. I’m glad you mentioned the sound of Mario Kart 8; that segment turned out to be my favorite part of the Nintendo Direct as well.

    I wish Nintendo would put out more of their soundtracks; a lot of the recent Wii U games have a fantastic score and I would totally dip into them if they were on offer. I’m still miffed that Club Nintendo in Japan has the Super Mario 3D World dangling there.

    As for soundtracks I own, I’ve bought the entirety of the Chrono Trigger score, a Super Smash Bros. Melee orchestra recording, some hits from Super Mario Galaxy, a few cuts from the Mass Effect soundtrack, but my favorite by far is the orchestral compositions from the collector’s edition of Skyward Sword.

  3. I’ll definitely take a look. I spent last night re-listening to the soundtrack from Deus Ex Human Revolution. It’s a great bit of music.

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