Brian Tyler’s music for The Super Mario Bros. Movie is an utterly impeccable testament to how a video game movie should be scored. There is a clear love and admiration for Koji Kondo’s classic themes displayed throughout, and the way they weave almost effortlessly together with Tyler’s own excellent compositions for the film overall makes for one of the most unapologetically upbeat and indeed highly enjoyable film scores you’ll hear in a good while.
Composing the music for a Super Mario Bros. movie was always going to be a high stakes venture, but I must say when Brian Tyler was announced as composer for the new film last year, my interest was piqued. His music for Iron Man 3 and Those Who Wish Me Dead for example was fantastic, and I was intrigued to hear how he’d interpolate that orchestral skill into a Mario setting. And of course, the big question right out of the gate there was; is he going to reprise any classic Mario themes from the games? Well, the cover art for the album should tell you all you need to know there really; ‘Music by Brian Tyler, Original Nintendo Themes by Koji Kondo.’ In short; yes he does, and might I add in absolutely spellbinding orchestral form to boot (but more on that later!). Before we begin though, I will just say this; I’ve played a fair few Mario games in my time but am admittedly far from a well-learned Mario theme enthusiast. Brian Tyler has apparently reprised an awful lot of classic Mario themes here, and if we picked them all up and talked about them I think this review would be about 900 paragraphs long. As such, I’ll do my best to point out the ones I recognise – and of course talk about Tyler’s new themes here too – but if you’re after a complete timestamped breakdown of any and all Mario themes that appear throughout this ninety music extravaganza, you might be better looking for a bigger Mario fan than me. That’s not to say we’re not going to have fun with this review though, because we absolutely are. And what better way to do that than to dive straight in with opening track and Tyler’s thematic suite for the film; ‘Super Mario Bros Opus’.
The standout cue of the score begins exactly as you might expect really, with a delightful orchestral rendition of Koji Kondo’s iconic Mario theme. It’s a short, sprightly appearance that plays loudly and very enthusiastically here on proudly rambunctious brass, setting a skipping upbeat tone pretty much immediately as the six and a half minute suite begins. From here though the orchestra then sets rather frenetic pace as Tyler introduces the first of his brand new themes for the film; his Super Mario Bros. theme. It’s fifteen notes long, fun and pretty much instantly catchy, slotting rather seamlessly back-to-back with Kondo’s classic Mario motif. This new theme then receives a happily lengthy and enjoyably thunderous rendition here, before another brand new motif is introduced just after; a six note piece for Princess Peach and the Mushroom Kingdom. It’s a similarly grandiose and cheery motif to that of the Mario one to start, before then quieting slightly at around the two minutes mark with gentle piano notes and percussion – perhaps to represent the love between Peach and Mario in the film – before the more epic side then comes charging back into frame for one final fist-pumping playthrough. From here though the orchestra quietens and darkness slowly starts to descend, as Bowser steps onto centre stage.
Ominous vocals, deep moody brass notes and sinister strings set a deeply malevolent tone to kick off this new theme, with a crash of drums and dramatically imposing brass then introducing its full seven note makeup. All-in it’s loud, in-your-face and pretty much everything a typically cartoon-y villain theme should be – and I absolutely love it. And then as if this suite couldn’t get any better, to finish things off the composer then reprises the new Super Mario Bros. theme one more time. The orchestra rises rapidly for the track’s sendoff here, getting louder and more intense until a thunderously heroic explosion of brass then kicks off what is quite simply the best rendition of the main theme on the album, followed by the absolute cherry on top as a rapid flourish of Kondo’s classic Mario theme then ends the track. All-in, this suite really is just sublime, with each of the new themes sticking with you pretty much instantly after hearing them, and the final minute in particular is as orchestrally wonderful a way to end the already pretty brilliant soundtrack suite as you can imagine. Like honestly, if you’re not sold on this score by the time those brilliantly epic final notes of the suite have finished sounding, then there’s really nothing more to say. I was blown away.
An optimistic pace then opens the score proper with ‘Press Start’, with light percussion and a rather hopeful accordion playing Tyler’s new Super Mario Bros. theme (Mario theme for short from now on, I think) together with similarly upbeat 8-bit background electronics reprising Kondo’s Underground motif from the games (see, I know some of them). Over the course of the cue, numerous other sound effects from the games then start to appear – including the ‘Mushroom’ and ‘Coin’ sounds – with the orchestra rising and crescendo building as both the classic and brand new Mario themes start to play in near perfect harmony. A brief rendition of the classic Super Star motif then only helps to drive the already near deafeningly grandiose crescendo home, cementing the two and a half minute cue as an absolute album highlight already before the ‘Death’ sound effect then brings the music to a crashing close. Again – just like with the suite it’s hard to describe in words just how absolutely incredible Tyler’s music here is. The themes, the style – it’s like the music from the games had a baby with an unapologetically epic orchestra, and the result? Perfection, music-ified.
‘King Of The Koopas’ then turns down a darker musical road, with loudly in-your-face brass and frenetically anxious strings re-introducing Tyler’s dramatically imposing new theme for Bowser. It’s almost Imperial March-esque in its grand orchestral appearance here, and it’s got to be said; I’m all here for it. This more villainous tone doesn’t stick around for long though, as the short ‘Plumbin’ Ain’t Easy’ then brings us back to the lighter, more laid back side of the orchestra with the new Mario theme playing in ever optimistic form. ‘Saving Brooklyn’ then dials the volume up a few notches, with increasingly emboldened brass and emphatic drums taking centre stage for much of the two minute cue. Kondo’s moody Underground motif then reprises in ominous form in ‘The Warp Pipe’, with frenetic strings taking on an almost horror-like style towards the end of the track as action thunders into and then rapidly out of frame. The classic Mario theme receives a rather rousing rendition on high-pitched vocals in the subsequent ‘Strange New World’, with gentle strings settling a rather peaceful, explorative mood for much of the cue until Bowser’s malevolent motif then fades moodily into centre stage right before the track closes out.
‘Welcome To The Mushroom Kingdom’ is that track from the clip of the film released several months ago. It opens with what I’m pretty sure is a short reference to the ‘Fossil Falls’ theme from Super Mario Odyssey, followed by a swift reprisal of Tyler’s new six note motif for Princess Peach and the Mushroom Kingdom from the opening suite and then… around a hundred different references to various classic themes from all across the Mario games, all played on particularly rousing orchestra. I couldn’t hope to count them all – though I’m sure there are those that could – all I’ll say is there’s a lot, and if you’re a super Mario music fan, you’ll be very pleased indeed! The subsequent ‘2 Player Game’ then once again combines both Kondo’s classic and Tyler’s new Mario themes to spellbinding orchestral effect, keeping the pace rapid and the heroism held high for the first few minutes until the new Mushroom Kingdom motif then briefly interrupts with grandiosity and Bowser then piles on top with villainy, with the new Mario theme bookending the track on a triumphant crescendo a short while after. The short ‘The Princess And The Peach’ then reprises the new Mushroom Kingdom theme in unusually quiet, reserved form on strings.
Subsequent track ‘Platforming Princess’ however is where the aforementioned new theme really gets going. A crash of drums opens the piece, with the motif then thundering through at just past the minute mark on increasingly frenetic strings and brass until a loud crescendo is reached with the ‘Level Complete’ music from the games crowning it off. In celebration, ‘World 1-1’ then plays the classic and new Mario themes once again in unapologetically heroic orchestral harmony, with next track ‘The Adventure Begins’ then reprising the ‘Level Complete’ motif alongside the new Mushroom Kingdom theme. Ominous vocals and sinister strings turn the tone rather moody in ‘Imprisoned’, with hints toward the new theme for Bowser lurking in the orchestral shadows for much of the cue. Subsequent track ‘Courting The Kongs’ however then stylistically switches things up almost completely, with some rather jungle-esque (unsurprisingly, I suppose) percussion and chanting Planet Of The Apes-style vocals occupying the first minute. This is Donkey Kong’s score now, and the music here doesn’t let you forget that for a moment. The same jungle-y aesthetic then continues into the next couple of tracks, with ‘Drivin’ Me Bananas’ for example holding the new Mario theme emphatically high on said new orchestral style and ‘Rumble In The Jungle’ then reprising the chanting vocals and percussion throughout its frenetic four minute runtime.
A Mario movie wouldn’t be complete though without some Mario Kart, and it’s at this point in this already wonderful album that we finally get some racing music; ‘Karts’ kicks off this sanguine set, with the composer briefly reprising the menu theme from Mario Kart 8 on proudly optimistic orchestra before the new Mario theme then crashes enthusiastically into fray to kick off the race. The short ‘Practice Makes Perfect’ then briefly interrupts the rapid pace with ominous vocals before ‘Rainbow Road Rage’ kicks things back into high gear, with Bowser’s theme playing dramatically in centre stage to start before Mario’s new motif then thunders frantically into view and the music then really gets going. Tensions mount throughout this four minute action setpiece, with brass rising and drums getting louder and louder until the new Mario theme then crescendos triumphantly through to end the track. This isn’t the end of the action though as ‘Blue Shelled’ and ‘An Indecent Proposal’ then continue where it leaves off, with both of the similarly thunderous action cues utilising the loudly heroic new Mushroom Kingdom theme to emphatic orchestral effect until Bowser then strides villainously into fray at the end of the latter track to declare a malevolent victory.
It isn’t long though before our heroes step up to fight back, with four minute action track ‘Fighting Tooth And Veil’ being first in line for the musical rematch. The new Mushroom Kingdom theme leaps boldly in on heroic brass to start, with Kondo’s classic Mario theme then following swiftly behind to tackle Bowser’s moody motif until the new Mario theme then victoriously closes out the cue. The frenetic pace is then continued into the subsequent ‘Tactical Tanooki’ and ‘Grapple In The Big Apple’ tracks, with the former utilising the new Mario theme to pretty spellbinding tension building effect and the latter then capitalising on this with as thunderously triumphant a crescendo as you can get for the new Mario theme. ‘Superstars’ then does exactly what you’d expect and then some, reprising the classic Super Star motif from the games in unapologetically epic orchestral form before then reprising both the classic and new Mario themes together with the Mushroom Kingdom motif in a similarly enthusiastic manner. With the score now drawing to a close, the composer has one final treat in store with ‘Level Complete; here various classic themes from the games – including the main Mario and Underground motifs – get a lengthy and happily upbeat orchestral rendition, bringing the album overall to as perfect a conclusion as you possibly could.
Overall, Brian Tyler’s score for The Super Mario Bros. Movie is like… everything you could possibly want in a score for a Mario movie, and then some. In recent interviews the composer seems to genuinely love the games and quite frankly you can tell here, as this entire ninety minute album is an absolute work of art. The way Tyler seemingly effortlessly weaves Koji Kondo’s classic themes together with a wide array of brand new themes of his own here is simply astonishing, and an absolute joy to listen to all the way through. The impeccably grandiose orchestral style displayed throughout is just that – impeccable – with its mixing of electronics and 8-bit sounds being an absolute highlight too, all-in it only adding to the already astounding thematic tapestry that the composer has clearly put an enormous amount of effort into creating here. The composer’s new compositions too are an absolute highlight – Mario’s, Princess Peach and the Mushroom Kingdom’s and Bowser’s of course – and the fact that they are able to hold their own memorability and enjoyability-wise up here with Kondo’s iconic motifs from the games is just testament to how utterly stellar they are.
Honestly, I’m genuinely blown away by how good this score is, it might be Tyler’s best yet. Just listen to ‘Level Complete’ and ‘Super Mario Bros. Opus’. You won’t be disappointed.
Standout Cues: 1. Super Mario Bros. Opus/37. Level Complete
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7 thoughts on “The Super Mario Bros. Movie – Soundtrack Review”
I absolutely love this score. Both the Kondo reprises as Tyler’s new material. It might be my favorite score of the year so far.
And a wonderful review as well!!
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Just finished it. I really like it, though I kinda expected a few more of Kondo’s themes to appear. After having watched that clip a number of times, I’d expected those themes to appear a tad more. Gonna watch the movie tomorrow, can’t wait!
Also, the Donkey Kong theme and Luncheon Kingdom theme appear as well. Thought you’d like to know. 😉
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I saw an interview with Tyler that there are about a 100 nods or statements to Kondo’s themes.
How much more do you want in 90 minutes
Well, more. Mind, I’ve listened to it only once and with a different mindset. Maybe next time, I’ll pick up on more statements.
I’d like to amend my previous statement. I’ve watched the movie now and listened to the soundtrack a few more times, and I love it now. Pre-ordered the CD too!
Heard the whole soundtrack while I was at work today. Needless to say, I’ve enjoyed every moment of it.
Made me feel like a child again. Loved hearing the familiar themes all while bringing in such a lushful/grandiose orchestral style of music. I had such a blast listening this one. This will be in my top 10 soundtracks of 2023 for sure. Brian Tyler killed it here!
Thanks for your review!
I am very impressed with the score as well. I find it amazing that so many different tracks from the original games were referenced, and yet there are great new themes too.