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How The Super Mario Bros. Movie Score Rediscovers Obscure Corners of Nintendo Music History

"It’s like 137 references from all the games and very specific things like load screens or interstitial music when you're doing something like solving a puzzle."

By Josh Weiss
(from left) Mario and Princess Peach in The Super Mario Bros. Movie (2023)

Where do you start on a score for a video game adaptation that pays tribute to every era of the celebrated franchise it seeks to adapt?

Well, you start at the beginning, of course!

Recently speaking to SYFY WIRE, The Super Mario Bros. Movie composer Brian Tyler states that he "went back to the roots" of the titular plumber in the original Donkey Kong arcade game with its "super basic" 8-bit theme. From there, he went through "all the main themes" featured in every single Mario title released by Nintendo, including the kart racers.

"I wanted to go back and just play legacy games — all the way up to the new ones," he explains. "And just kind of take it in. It’s so weird. It’s so nostalgic ... It takes me back like a smell."

RELATED: How Do You Go From Fast X to Super Mario Bros.? Composer Brian Tyler On Scoring 2023's Biggest Blockbusters

But it wasn't just Koji Kondo's insanely iconic Super Mario Bros. theme from 1985 that drove the scoring process, although it certainly enjoyed prominent placement in the final soundtrack. Nevertheless, Tyler says he was just as determined to acknowledge the more obscure musical cues of the Mario mythos as he was the universally-beloved tracks.

"It’s the stuff that’s kind of on the edges that make you the most nostalgic," he adds. "For instance, there’s a song when you first fall in love with someone in the summer of seventh grade or something like that. Whatever the big hit is at the time, that doesn't really slam you with nostalgia. What will kill you just in the best way possible, is a song that was your jam that wasn't really popular. So you don't hear it very often on the radio or whatever. And then that deep-cut song comes on, it just takes you back."

When all was said and done, his score contained around "137 references from all the games and very specific things like load screens or interstitial music when you're doing something like solving a puzzle," Tyler reveals. "Just being a fan of Mario, that's what I wanted to hear and see [and it's] exactly what I did. To go to the trouble to do things like that."

He concludes: "It’s kind of so over-the-top, the TLC that I put into this [score]. You only do that if it's for yourself and then, hopefully, people respond to it. When the movie came out, there were all these message boards and people going, 'Oh my God! Brian Tyler referenced all this stuff!’ They’d go through and list one-by-one and not just make it Easter egg-y, but make it so the music fit the scene dramatically as well. I just wanted it to all merge together and as Jack Black says, ‘I want to make a nice goulash, baby.'"

The Super Mario Bros. Movie is now available on Digital, 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, and DVD with a plethora of bonus features. If you missed it on the big screen, don't worry! The film is still playing in theaters. You can also catch it on Peacock Thursday, Aug. 3.

For more Illumination goodness, head over to Peacock for Despicable Me and Despicable Me 2.