There’s an actual scientific reason the Mario Bros. theme gets in your head

June 5, 2015

Dun dun dun….dundunda-dun. Whether you played it as a kid or your Dad did and forced the Wii version on you, chances are you know at least the first few bars of The Mario Bros. theme song. Personally, I figured the only reason for its widespread popularity and refusal to die was the fact that it’s hella awesome (thanks, composer guy Koji Kondo!). Turns out there’s a lot more to it – oddly enough, largely due to the limitations of 1980s gaming technology.

First of all, the game’s melodies were intentionally designed to allow short segments to be endlessly repeated during gameplay without boring the player to death. Basically, Kondo created the ultimate ‘ear-worms,’ with the main theme being king of them all. If you played the game, however, especially as a young child, you never had a chance. Using the simple architecture of the time, programmers had no choice but to have the characters, animations and  sound effects move in sync with the tempo of the NES’ processor. Realising this, Kondo matched the score to that very same tempo. PBS’ Game/Show goes into more detail in the first half of the vid below.

The result was (and still is) a hypnotic experience that, unlike advanced modern titles, created a game that had a “feel” due to all this sensory information being presented in one sweet, sweet package. When heard daily by an adolescent whose brain is still going through neurological development and is particularly susceptible to music, the theme would for all intents and purposes be ‘burned into’ their brain.

And that, friends, is why learning to play the Mario theme on your instrument has been known to get even bass players laid.

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