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Four Of The Best Nintendo Soundtracks Of The Last Decade (2010-2019)

There’s no doubt about it: Nintendo titles consistently deliver some of the best soundtracks in video games.

And when you start to look into how they consistently meet such high standards, all searches lead back to one name, a man just as visionary and influential as Shigeru Myamoto.

That man is Koji Kondo.

Kondo is like a master chef in a fully stocked kitchen. He creates perfect themes regardless of what he has to work with — from the limitations of an 8-bit cartridge to cooperating with other composers who bring vastly different ideas.

His work has become a secret sauce for Nintendo’s tentpole franchises, something they sprinkle into any dish and instantly capture the magic we all expect from these games.

Sure, sound effects go a long way in establishing certain franchises or characters. But it’s usually the music that made these games resonate with us years or even decades after we played them.

Is Ocarina of Time as memorable without Zelda’s Lullaby or Saria’s Song? Does Mario become a global superstar without the Overworld or Peach’s Castle themes? Kondo earned his reputation, and it’s not hard to see why Nintendo would want him as a music supervisor on every major title.

This past decade brought big changes to Nintendo, especially in the form of new directors, programmers, and composers. But somehow, none of that is slowing Nintendo down.

Every new release raises the bar for its respective genre. Nintendo continues to imagine worlds, characters, and musical themes that create special memories for a new generation of gamers.

So, with that in mind, let’s spend some time paying respect to four of the best Nintendo game soundtracks of the decade.

#4. The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword

Music composed by Hajime Wakai (lead), Shiho Fujii, Mahito Yokota, Takeshi Hama, and Koji Kondo (supervisor)

The Legend of Zelda is a founding father in the history of video games. It’s a major component behind Nintendo’s enduring success, and when you think of the Zelda games, it’s impossible to dismiss the role that Koji Kondo’s music played in this franchise.

You might be surprised to see Skyward Sword made the list instead of, say, Breath of the Wild. But it’s important to remember that while Breath of the Wild might be a better game, Skyward Sword took the franchise’s sense of adventure and “hero vs. villain” conflict to new heights.

After the resounding success of Twilight Princess, fans and critics have always been divided over Skyward Sword. But even with those debates, Skyward Sword brought us one of Nintendo’s strongest soundtracks of the decade.

There’s a lightness and optimism to the core themes, and that tone perfectly encapsulates the game. It’s a great — and traditional — example of Nintendo at its finest.

#3. Super Mario Galaxy 2

Music composed by Mahito Yokota (lead), Ryo Nagamatsu, and Koji Kondo (supervisor)

For almost a decade, Galaxy 2 was considered the best 3D Mario game ever made. And if you can manage to turn your attention away from the unique worlds, the gravity mechanics, and the sheer genius of the game design, you’ll get to enjoy an absolutely masterful soundtrack.

Originally, Galaxy 2 was intended to reuse music from its predecessor. But as the game continued to evolve and grow, the sound team (namely lead composer Mahito Yokota) realized that the project deserved new music to match the new worlds.

Unsurprisingly, Yokota was right — the soundtrack quickly became a favorite among fans. And while the music still pays homage to classic Mario games, it combines those tracks with an excellent original score.

#2. Super Mario Odyssey

Music composed by Naoto Kubo (lead), Shiho Fujii, and Koji Kondo

When you look at tracks like Shiveria Town, the New Donk City Festival song, or even the remastered version of Peach’s Castle from Mario 64, Odyssey’s soundtrack ranks up there among Nintendo’s absolute best.

Odyssey brought a very different (and in some cases “weird”) sound to the Mario franchise. The different kingdoms have unique sounds, and each one explores different music genres, time signatures, and instrument mashups.

And yet for all of that tinkering, the game still matches the joyful tone of the game. Odyssey managed to capture an almost childlike sense of wonder, and the soundtrack added to that.

It’s a special achievement for the Mario franchise and Nintendo’s poster child. And in any other decade it would be impossible to choose another soundtrack over Odyssey.

#1. Super Smash Bros. Ultimate

Original music composed by Hideki Sakamoto (with help from dozens of other composers, including Koji Kondo)

Alright, this pick is a bit unfair to every other game released last decade. After all, how many other titles get the benefit of pulling songs from the best games of the past 30 years?

But in terms of ranking soundtracks, it’s impossible to ignore what Ultimate brings to the table. The game is a love letter to fans of every type of game, and it’s clearly something meant to celebrate the industry as a whole.

The soundtrack is so broad and expansive that you might as well think of it as an all-in-one Spotify playlist for the most influential songs of gaming history.

Series creator and director Masahiro Sakurai is an industry legend, and when it comes to developing a new Smash game, the biggest question is “Which fighters can we add to the roster?”

The current list of playable characters will reach an astounding 81 by the end of February 2020. Bringing that many characters and franchises together is an enormous (and somewhat terrifying) amount of work for a single game.

The roster size and the number of stages all play a part in choosing which songs to use, and Sakurai made a bold choice on how they would develop Ultimate’s soundtrack.

He took the list of games represented in the game, then reached out to the composers who worked on those titles. Then he asked those composers to determine how their pieces would be used in Ultimate. The entire process took well over a year before they had a final list of songs.

Developing Ultimate is the video game equivalent of assembling the Avengers. And the result is...well, maybe not “original” music, but it gave us an unforgettable mashup that represented our favorite characters, worlds, and songs.

The game’s 800+ tracks delivers a whopping 28 hours of music, and one of the most unique collections in the history of games. A soundtrack that special is just one more gift from Sakurai to us, and it easily deserves to be considered the best Nintendo soundtrack of the decade...if not ever.

Of course, 2020 kicks off a new decade. And while we saw big changes across Nintendo over the past few years, it’s clear that there are even more changes to come. Figures like Miyamoto, Sakurai, and Kondo are irreplaceable geniuses; they’re also mortal.

One thing we can be confident in — that we’ve seen for ourselves — is that the future of our favorite franchises are in capable hands. As much as I loved the games on this list (and the ones that didn’t make the cut), I’m already excited to see what the next decade has in store.

...and, of course, the soundtracks that will be stuck in my head for months at a time.

Drew Gula is the copywriter at Soundstripe, a royalty free music company that helps filmmakers and musicians do what they love. He's also a lifelong gamer who will happily debate why Ocarina of Time is still the greatest game ever made.

Check out artwork for Super Mario Odyssey's cut temple guardians

Tea, anyone?

For every bit of content that made it into Super Mario Odyssey, there's something that ended up cut. One of those cut aspects were the Temple Guardians of the Luncheon Kingdom. This means that not only were Temple Guardians cut, but the temples they were meant to protect as well. Maybe they'll find their way into a sequel!

Tencent releases Super Mario Odyssey and Mario Kart 8 Deluxe commercials in China

Spreading the good word in China

Tencent is continuing their promotional push for the Switch in China with a pair of new commercials. You can check out spots for both Super Mario Odyssey and Mario Kart 8 Deluxe in this post.

Super Mario Odyssey 'Switch My Way' commercial

Relax and make the most of "me" time — anywhere, anytime — with the Nintendo Switch system.

Super Mario Odyssey's Wooded Kingdom recreated in Super Mario 64

Something old, something new

Super Mario Odyssey has gotten a ton of love from Switch owners, but there's still millions of fans who can't put down Mario's original 3D platformer, Super Mario 64. Why pick between two great games when you can enjoy them both at the same time? One skilled modder has taken Super Mario Odyssey's Wooded Kingdom and recreated it in Super Mario 64 to great effect. Check out the impressive mod in the video above.

Thanks to ibbsters for the heads up!

Nintendo's president goes over future plans for the Switch in China

They've only just begun

The Switch released in China just a few weeks back, and Nintendo knows they have a lot of work to do to help the platform find its footing in that region. In an interview with Nikkei, Nintendo president Shuntaro Furukawa talked about what's to come for Switch in China.

On the short-term side of things, Nintendo plans to release Super Mario Odyssey and Mario Kart 8 Deluxe sometime in January 2020, and those will be followed by other third party titles being rounded up by Tencent. As far as more long-term goals go, Furukawa is currently mulling over where to launch the Switch Lite in China, but hasn't made a firm decision yet.

Wedding Mario/Peach/Bowser amiibo sell out at launch in China

The wedding is on!

It seems that the launch of Switch in China is going quite well, and that includes extra accessories as well. The Super Mario Odyssey series of Wedding Mario/Peach/Bowser amiibo have completely sold out already, and there's no word on if there will be a restock. Looks like the only option for now is to find a third party reseller locally, or import from another region.

Doug Bowser names Super Mario Odyssey as his current favorite game, and reveals his favorite game of all-time

Some good choices, Mr. Bowser!

Doug Bowser is a busy man heading up Nintendo America's orders of operations, but that doesn't mean he can't squeeze in some time to play games as well. In an interview with University of Utah's magazine, Bowser lists both his favorite game of all-time, and his current favorite title.

My favorite game of all time is Myst—a deep, immersive, problem-solving game with very little dialogue. The graphics just amazed me. I finished the first three editions. My favorite game now is Super Mario Odyssey for Nintendo Switch. I’m very close to completing it and collecting all the Moons.

Nintendo considered a 'drastic costume change' for Luigi in Super Mario Odyssey

Maybe next time...

Luigi's appearance in Super Mario Odyssey, for the most part, is standard Luigi. He spices things up a bit with some balloons and a bow tie, but it's nothing radically different. In the Art of Super Mario Odyssey art book, character art lead Sho Murata explains that there were some plans to give Luigi quite the makeover for his Odyssey cameo, but they decided against it. Read the entire snippet from the book below.

“Luigi hosts the Balloon World minigame. We wanted players to feel welcome in this minigame, so we gave him a cheerful and casual attitude, like a performer passing out balloons on the street. We wanted to make it seem like he came directly from the Mushroom Kingdom, so in contrast to the sticker-laden Odyssey, his satchel sports only stickers from the Mushroom Kingdom. One of the stickers is actually out of circulation…

We considered a drastic costume change for Luigi at first, but we ultimately went with a simple look, since it would work well against the background of this game’s world. I wonder… including the Luigi green, did you notice his balloons are the same colors as Super Famicom controller buttons? To the many fans who were looking to his appearance in the game, know that the designer in charge put a lot of effort into Luigi’s development.”

Nintendo explains the insane amount of work that went into Mario's design for Super Mario Odyssey

Mario has never looked better

The Art of Super Mario Odyssey art book is chock-full of amazing content. From unused content to concept art, there's so much to check out. That includes comments from Nintendo's dev team as well. In one particular snippet, we get to hear from art director Rikuto Yoshida and character art lead Sho Murata, who discuss the intense work that went into Mario's overall design. That work included some tweaks to Mario's face as well. Read the full snippet from Yoshida and Murata below.

RY: “When considering Mario’s design for this game, we decided very early on to give the physical materials a more realistic look than before. In order to welcome players with the aforementioned sense of surprise, we made individual strands of Mario’s mustache and hair visible. We also designed the denim of his clothes to show a fine weave.

The game’s setting and artwork influenced one another, and we were stunned by the impact of this new Mario coming to life before our eyes. Despite significant alterations, we made sure when finishing the design to maintain the visual aspects that people all over the world associate with Mario.”

SM: “We constructed our Mario with the most detailed texture quality yet, befitting the latest 3D Mario game. What would his gloves be made of? Does denim really exist in this color? How are his shoes put together? What about the texture of his hair? There were so many new issues we had to tackle when attempting this updated design. While making sure not to deviate from Mario’s existing image overall, we made his face a bit more “cool” than in previous games to make it seem right when set in motion. You may not be able to tell at a glance, but a lot of attention was put into his eyes. They were made to resemble real eyes with a tangible sense of depth. His expressions are much more vivid, more impressive than before.”

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