Book Review: Koji Kondo’s Super Mario Bros. Soundtrack by Andrew Schartmann

Koji Kodo's Super Mario Bros Soundtrack Book Cover

The music featured in video games is something I think most of us take for granted. Sure, as time goes on and soundtracks have gotten more epic we’ve started to pay attention. Afterall, Portal wouldn’t be Portal without Still Alive. But for the most part, we don’t recognize how important music is to a game. In Koji Kondo’s Super Mario Bros. Soundtrack, Andrew Schartmann details the significance of the game soundtrack and how Super Mario Bros. changed what a game soundtrack is.

The first half of the book is a quick overview of the video game industry at the time that Nintendo went into development on Super Mario Bros. This was right after Atari was burying video game cartridges in the desert, and the future of home gaming was in question. The book details how this shaped Nintendo’s approach with their console and the game that would ship with it, music included. Schartmann gives us a good overview of this process without being too dry or technical.

The second half of the book details the compositional qualities and technical limitations that went into creating the soundtrack of the game. Schartmann approaches the Super Mario Bros. soundtrack as one would any piece of classical music. While doing show, he shows how the soundtrack fits in with other works and carries on the tradition of building on what came before.

Koji Kondo’s Super Mario Bros. Soundtrack gave me a greater appreciation of something that appears to be so simple on the surface. I recommend this book for anyone who has an interest in video game history or music composition. It will be available on 5/21/2015 for $14.95 in paperback (sorry no publisher information on the eBook pricing). To be honest, $15 seems a little high 168 pages. But, often books in the 33 1/3 series will go on sale for around $10 (at least in digital) and that to me feels fair.

Disclaimer: I was provided with a free copy of this book for review from NetGalley. The only compensation I get for this review is if you click the Amazon link and purchase the book.


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