Super Mario Bros. video game theme song honored by Library of Congress (NPR Interview)

Video game composer Winifred Phillips records vocals for her Super Mario Bros. theme song cover recording, "Go Mario! (Super Mario Bros)". Phillips is a BAFTA-nominated video game composer whose credits include titles in six of the biggest franchises in gaming: Assassin's Creed, God of War, LittleBigPlanet, Lineage, Total War, and The Sims.

By Winifred Phillips | Contact | Follow

So happy you’ve joined us!  Each year, the Library of Congress adds a list of top recordings to its National Recording Registry, and The Sounds Of America radio series devotes an episode to each of the recordings selected for preservation that year.  Recently I was interviewed for an episode of The Sounds Of America radio series on National Public Radio, in order to provide some background and musical context to one of the latest additions to the National Recording Registry – the famous theme to the Super Mario Bros. video game!  This is awesome news for game composers and game music fans.  The Super Mario Bros. theme music is now the first game music composition preserved for posterity in the National Recording Registry of the Library of Congress.  Each year, the National Recording Registry selects twenty five recordings that represent “the richness of the nation’s audio legacy.”  The expert preservationists at the National Recording Registry works to ensure “the long-term preservation of that legacy for future generations.”

As the author of the book A Composer’s Guide to Game Music, I was able to discuss the historical significance of the Super Mario Bros. theme music as a seminal work in the field of game music composition.  I had previously given a lecture at the Library of Congress about the nature of video game music (that lecture is recorded and preserved in the Library’s Films & Videos Collection) and this experience gave me further insight to the importance of the preservation efforts undertaken by the Library of Congress.  I could also discuss the Super Mario Bros. theme music from the perspective of a musician who had recorded one of the many cover versions of this world-famous tune.  I recorded my version for the tribute album, “Best of the Best: A Tribute to Game Music.”  All of this gave me a unique perspective on this historically-significant musical composition, and I was honored to discuss it during the interview with The Sounds Of America radio show.  In addition to my own interview, the show includes interviews with author Jeff Ryan (How Nintendo Conquered America), Super Mario Bros. actor Charles Martinet, and the Super Mario Bros. composer himself, Koji Kondo!  You can listen to the entire show here:


I thought it might be useful to include the transcript of my entire interview in this article.  The transcript also includes my own cover version of the track (which you’ll find in the section discussing the popularity of cover versions).  But first, let’s listen to the original Super Mario Bros. Theme, and then dive into the transcript!

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A Composer’s Guide to Game Music, now in Japanese!


A Composer’s Guide to Game Music by Winifred Phillips, now on sale in Japanese! Published by O’Reilly Japan.

I’m excited to share that my book, A Composer’s Guide to Game Music, was released today in Japan in its newly-published Japanese-language edition!  O’Reilly Japan has published the Japanese softcover of my book in Japan under the title, “Game Sound Production Guide: Composer Techniques for Interactive Music.”

This is the Japanese cover of the book. In Japanese, A Composer's Guide to Game Music is titled "Game sound production guide - composer techniques for interactive music," by Winifred Phillips.

Side-by-side, these are the covers of the two editions of the book. In Japanese, A Composer’s Guide to Game Music is titled “Game sound production guide – composer techniques for interactive music,” by Winifred Phillips.

I’m very excited that the Japanese language edition of my book has already hit #1 on the “Most Wished For” list on Amazon Japan!

The Amazon Japan "Most Wished For" list.

The “Most Wished For” list on

Coincidentally, the English-language version of A Composer’s Guide to Game Music is now #1 on the Kindle Top Rated list, too!

The Kindle "Top Rated" list on

The Kindle “Top Rated” list on

O’Reilly Japan is located in Tokyo, and is dedicated to translating books about technological innovation for Japanese readers.  They are a division of O’Reilly Media, a California publishing company that acts as “a chronicler and catalyst of leading-edge development, homing in on the technology trends that really matter and galvanizing their adoption by amplifying “faint signals” from the alpha geeks who are creating the future.  O’Reilly publishes definitive books on computer technologies for developers, administrators, and users. Bestselling series include the legendary “animal books,” Missing Manuals, Hacks, and Head First.”


From what I’ve gathered, my book – A Composer’s Guide to Game Music – is the first English language book about game music to be translated into Japanese and sold in Japan.  There are a few other books available in Japan on the subject – but they were all originally written in Japanese.  These include a book exploring game sound by the audio hardware designer and sound developer Shiomi Toshiyukia text on creating sound for games with the CRI ADX2 middleware by Uchida Tomoya, and a book on producing game music and sound design by the artist “polymoog” of the dance music duo ELEKETL (pictured below, from left to right).


I’m tremendously excited about the Japanese edition of my book, and my excitement comes in large part from the venerable tradition of outstanding music in Japanese games.  From the most celebrated classic scores of such top game composers as Koji Kondo (Super Mario Bros.) and Nobuo Uematsu (Final Fantasy), to the excellent modern scores of such popular composers as Masato Kouda (Monster Hunter) and Yoko Shimomura (Kingdom Hearts), Japanese video game composers have set the creative bar very high.  I’m incredibly honored that my book will be read by both established and aspiring game composers in Japan!  I hope they’ll find some helpful information in my book, and I’m excited to contribute to the ongoing conversation about game music in the Japanese development community.

I’ve always loved Japanese game music.  In 2008, I participated in a compilation album in which successful game composers created cover versions of celebrated video game songs from classic games.  The album was called “Best of the Best: A Tribute to Game Music.”  I chose the music by Koji Kondo from Super Mario Bros., and recorded an a cappella vocal version.  It’s currently available for sale from the Sumthing Else Music Works record label, and can also be downloaded on iTunes.  You can hear the track on YouTube here:

If you’d like to learn more about the rich legacy of game music composition in Japan, you can watch an awesome free documentary series produced by the Red Bull Music Academy, entitled “Diggin’ in the Carts: A Documentary Series About Japanese Video Game Music.”  The series interviews famous game composers of Japan, which means that the interviews and narration are both in Japanese (with English subtitles).  Here’s an episode that focuses on modern accomplishments by Japanese game composers:


Studio1_GreenWinifred Phillips is an award-winning video game music composer whose most recent project is the triple-A first person shooter Homefront: The Revolution. Her credits include five of the most famous and popular franchises in video gaming: Assassin’s Creed, LittleBigPlanet, Total War, God of War, and The Sims. She is the author of the award-winning bestseller A COMPOSER’S GUIDE TO GAME MUSIC, published by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Press. As a VR game music expert, she writes frequently on the future of music in virtual reality video games. Follow her on Twitter @winphillips.