Have you ever been listening to music and suddenly heard the first four notes of a video game song and that song stuck in your head all day long?
Well, it’s not necessarily a coincidence. Many music composers, sometimes intentionally and sometimes unwittingly, draw a great deal of inspiration from their favorite music. This is called interpolation and is a common musical technique in which musicians use borrowed melodies to create their own songs. It’s functionally different than sampling directly from another song, and more importantly, it doesn’t steal!
But finding borrowed riffs in video games is always exciting and weird. Not all of them are fully confirmed, but we scoured the internet for the best examples of music that has inspired video game music. Yes, there are a lot of Koji Kondo here. what can we say A man likes to be inserted…
Authentic songs that inspired iconic Nintendo music
The Legend of Zelda “Title Theme” and “Dungeon Theme” — “April” by Deep Purple
Arguably one of the most famous tracks in video games, the Zelda title theme is inspired by this very ecclesiastical track by Deep Purple. Of course, Deep Purple isn’t known for its ability to keep things nimble, so it’s 12 minutes long. That’s prog rock, baby.
Listen to it at 1.5x speed to hear Zelda really come through and see if you can pick up the bits that also inspired the dungeon theme!
Super Mario ‘Starman’s Theme’ — ‘Summer Breeze’ by Piper
Super Mario’s Starman theme is very catchy, and it’s no coincidence. It’s heavily based on this Japanese he bop dripping with ’80s synths.
Super Mario ‘Underground Theme’ — ‘Let’s Not Talk About It’ by Friendship
People are joking about this Koji Kondo-inspired track because called “Let’s Not Talk About It,” as if Kondo wanted to hide his habit of borrowing catchy melodies. But then again, interpolation is legal, common, and often a great way to cross-pollinate the world of music. Sit back and enjoy!
Super Mario ‘Overworld Theme’ — ‘Sister Marian’ by T-Square
In a 2001 interview for Game Maestro Vol. 3, Kondo admitted that he was particularly inspired by Japanese jazz band T-Square. ‘” he told an interviewer — as well as famed jazz musician Sadayu Watanabe, whose relaxed bossa nova beats inspired the musical feel of Super Mario. To hear a riff like Mario, click his 1:02 in the video below.
Animal Crossing: New Horizons ‘KK Adventure’ — ‘He’s a Pirate’ from Pirates of the Caribbean by Klaus Badelt, Hans Zimmer and Jeff Zanelli
Yes, KK is a pirate too — a bootleg melody. Many KK Slider songs draw from real music, especially in the genres they emulate. For example, ‘Only Me’ sounds like his REM’s ‘Everybody Hurts’ and ‘KK Bossa’ sounds like ‘The Girl from Ipanema’.
The Legend of Zelda “Fairy Fountain” — Tatsuro Yamashita “Morning Glory”
Fairy Fountain’s gorgeous arpeggios didn’t come out of nowhere.The track is so nice that we made the ranking list every day Fairy Fountain’s version, but perhaps should have included “Morning Glory”, which has a recognizable tune with a dreamy vocal background. Is it?