Let's finish this list off strong!
Even More Real Songs That Inspired Iconic Nintendo Music
Doom II 'Shawn's Got The Shotgun' — 'South of Heaven' by Slayer
Composer Bobby Prince drew a lot of inspiration from his favourite bands to create the DOOM soundtracks, from Alice in Chains to Metallica, and AC/DC to Pantera. Any metalhead will be able to identify a decent number of those inspirations in particular tracks, but we had to pick one, so we went with the Slayer-like 'Shawn's Got The Shotgun'. The developers tended to pick titles based on their own playtests, if you were wondering.
Ocarina of Time 'Gerudo Valley' — 'At Seventeen' by Janis Ian & 'Mido Arashi Theme' by Takashi Yamada
Although Gerudo Valley, arguably one of the best Zelda songs of all time, was mostly pulling from classical Spanish guitar melodies, it's hard not to see the resemblance to this melancholy Joplin-esque track, too, even if that chord progression is just a coincidence.
A more likely candidate is the theme for Mido Arashi, a character from Japanese dodgeball anime Honō no Tōkyūji: Dodge Danpei.
Super Mario World 'Overworld Theme' — 'Green Green' by The New Christy Minstrels
For various reasons, this niche American anti-war song made it big in Japan around the time of the Vietnam War, as detailed by this video essay. You can absolutely hear the notes from Super Mario World's Overworld theme in the chorus, but you probably didn't know that the song came from a tragic tale of a boy losing his father!
Ocarina of Time 'Saria's Song' — 'Jupiter' by Gustav Holst
Holst's Planets suite is iconic by itself, but a lot of people don't even know that's where the music they recognise comes from! In fact, you may recognise part of 'Jupiter' as the melody to the hymn 'I Vow to Thee, My Country', or as the theme for the English in Civilization V. But, of course, you can also hear jaunty sections that recall Saria's Song, and the Kokiri Village music, too. Does this mean Hyrule can be found on Jupiter?
Pokémon Red & Blue 'Route 1' — 'Light Cavalry Overture' by Franz Von Suppe
Junichi Masuda, unlike many people on this list, is heavily influenced by the older kinds of composition — Classical, Baroque, and Romantic music. His musical techniques are reminiscent of the styles of Bach, Stravinsky, Shostakovich, and Tchaikovsky, with counterpoint melodies that work well with the limited capabilities of the Game Boy's sounds.
Oh, go on then — here's another Pokémon inspiration...
Pokémon Red & Blue 'Prof. Oak's Theme' — 'Chinese Dance' from The Nutcracker by Tchaikovsky
We're taking this one to mean that Professor Oak was practicing ballet just before the player came in to choose their starter Pokémon.
EarthBound 'Frank's Theme' — 'Johnny B. Goode' by Chuck Berry
The composers for EarthBound, Keiichi Suzuki and Hirokazu Tanaka, were heavily inspired by a number of American and British bands while making the jazzy soundtrack, including the Beach Boys, The Who, The Doors, Chuck Berry, Randy Newman, and even The Beatles. The two sampled a lot of songs in the soundtrack, which you can listen to here, but we're more interested in interpolation and references, of which there are many.
There's 'Battle Against A Weak Opponent', which is just 'Tequila' by The Champs, 'Tessie's Theme' sounds like The Beatles' 'Strawberry Fields Forever', the hotel theme is just 'El Bimbo' by Paul Mauriat, and the shop theme sounds like a slowed-down version of 'When I'm 64' by The Beatles combined with The Dallas Rag.
Our favourite, though, is Frank's Theme, which nails the Chuck Berry intro and the rockin' train-track beats to the point where you almost think you're listening to a '50s jukebox while drinking a malt shake.
It's incredible how many musical artists have inspired the world of video game music — but perhaps it's not entirely surprising, too! After all, we're all influenced by our favourite pieces of music, our favourite movies, our favourite painters... so it makes sense that composers are constantly referencing each other. And plus, it means we get to listen to a bunch of bops from the '70s and '80s. Thanks, Koji Kondo.
Have we missed any obvious or even obscure references to music in video game soundtracks? We'd love to hear your favourites in the comments below!
Could add the Ending of Super Mario Bros 1, 2(Lost levels) and 3, when rescue to Princess Peach.
The original song is Oh! Christmas tree/ Oh! Tannenbaum
In honour of a resent GameCube remake ...
It's REALLY subtle and almost unnoticeable, but can you guess what song was "inspired" but this 1950 song from an Indian musical?
Fun article, thanks.
Actually Super Mario World might have been inspired by the Song
And Sister Marian from the Square inspired the Super Mario bros. theme.
Don't forget the Wii Shop theme is taken from Billy Joel's "Pressure" at about 3:45 into the song.
Wii Shop: https://youtu.be/_xc7tNbjnHM
"Bayou Boogie" from Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy's Kong Quest is inspired by the Phil Collins song "In the Air Tonight" with the beats at the beginning. Ever since I learned that, I always think of DKC2 when that song plays!
@Rinc You might want to check out pages 2 and 3 😉
As a composing musician for many years, I long ago gave up the idea of originality. I am sure I have copied stuff, and maybe if I am lucky someone will copy from me.
Great article! Thanks for putting the songs side by side: very enlightening!
Using Holst's Planets is almost a cheat code.
You can't listen to it and not hear the influence it had on John Williams, especially his Star Wars compositions.
What's neat about T-Square inspiring the original Super Mario Bros. overworld theme is that eventually, Nintendo enlisted one of their drummers as part of the Mario Kart Band
Amazing article !
Some of the likenesses are really uncanny.
very original and interesting subject nintendolife:)
Cool article! I'd also like to add Ice Man's stage from Mega Man 1 is definitely Faithfully by Journey. Neon Tiger's stage from Mega Man X3 has the main riff from My Michelle by Guns 'N Roses.
"Only Me" from Animal Crossing might be a play on "Just You" from Twin Peaks https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QXvdRpjutE8
I always find that the music from Super Mario Bros 3's "picture line-up" minigame reminds me of the bassline from I Wish by Stevie Wonder!
Interesting. I thought the main Zelda theme was inspired by Bolero (being the original song they wanted to use). It has a similar drum march/beat.
I hadn't noticed the similarity in that Deep Purple song before.
The main Zelda theme sounds like part of the vocal melody in
France Gall's "Poupée de cire, poupée de son" too:
The other way around, and this Offspring track seems to have been inspired by Donkey Kong Country:
The Starlight Zone music from Sonic The Hedgehog sounds like Love Won't Wait by Bobby Caldwell.
Nintendo should create their Beatmania IIDX style rhythm game on Nintendo Switch with its controller.
I could hear the Starman, smb underground, and he's a pirate themes. Not the rest. EB is well-documented. Dunno why Sonic is on here?
The Bolero of Fire from Ocarina of Time was inspired by Ravel’s Boléro, and even uses the same snare drum rhythm as an homage. This was also the temp track for the title screen of NES Zelda I before Kondo wrote a new piece to avoid copyright infringement (the piece was not in the public domain).
Punch Out title theme:
The various boxers also have excerpts of national anthems or folk music (Sakura, La Marseillaise, Ride of the Valkyries, etc).
As someone who is a big fan of learning about samples & interpolation in music, this is an amazing and intriguing feature Nintendolife!
Well done Kate!
Didn't know about most of these, thanks for the great article @KateGray!
So…At Doom’s Gate and Master Of Puppets??
Might be a stretch, but Malibuzios by Suzanne Ciani reminds me of Zora's Domain in Ocarina of Time.
@Dev9417 Here’s another Donkey Kong example I can think of: In Tropical Freeze, the Punch Bowl boss fight music sounds a lot like Twilight Zone by Golden Earring. Have a listen:
The music of the World 5 boss battle in Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze reminds me a lot of the 80s classic song Twilight Zone by Golden Earring.
I wonder if this was this the "pink slip" article?
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