‘Super Mario Bros.’ Composer Brian Tyler on Nostalgic Nods to Iconic Nintendo Themes by Koji Kondo

Composer Brian Tyler jumped at the chance to write the music for “The Super Mario Bros. Movie.” He rattles off the games, Super Mario Brothers, Super Mario Kart and Donkey Kong… there are many more, and he’s played them all.

“I knew this music,” Tyler shares. “It was a part of my childhood in the same way that I grew up listening to film scores.”

Tyler has already worked across a wide swath of genres, from horror (“Scream 6”), romantic comedy (“Crazy Rich Asians”), Western (“Yellowstone”) and action (“Fast X”). But this was special assignment, Tyler tells Variety: “I had gaming magazines and I remember articles about Nintendo’s video game designer Shigeru Miyamoto.”

The composer knew he had to deliver fan service to the legion of gamers who understand the original music inside-out. Says Tyler, “I want to incorporate the music that I heard in that 8-bit form and along the way bring it into the world of a big epic, emotional film score.”

Tyler’s score ended up featuring hundreds of Easter eggs of melodies. He created new character themes using violins, cellos, flutes and violins for Princess Peach, Bowser, Mario and Luigi.

“I wanted to have built-in nostalgia where it immediately feels like Mario,” he says for writing new Mario music. “The idea was the score would be thematic Mario.”

Tyler continues, “Those are all intertwined with references to these themes that [original series composer] Koji Kondo developed.”

Tyler collaborated closely with Kondo throughout the process, sending him ideas to get his thoughts on cues and motifs he had put together.

His biggest challenge was navigating when to use familiar themes or insert his new ones. But he knew the music instinctively. Tyler quips, “I remember the music while you’re in the waiting room to select your character and the kart you want to use.”

That familiarity helped him link new and old, all while giving the sonic palette a grand scope.

The scene of Mario entering the Mushroom Kingdom for the first time features a 30-second stretch of music that incorporates such aural easter eggs: “There’s my main Mario Theme. I reference Toad’s house theme from Super Mario Bros. in 1988. There’s a cue from the underwater theme from Super Mario Bros. in 1985 and the bomb battlefields from Super Mario 64 in 1996.”

That’s just the beginning. According to Tyler, 98% of the film features original score: “It’s an homage to the past while creating new nostalgia,”

Listen to the score below.

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