Even if the name does not sound familiar right away, as a videogame enthusiast you will have heard compositions by Koji Kondo and his team. As lead of Nintendo’s Entertainment Analysis & Development, he has been (and still is) responsible for some of the greatest compositions in videogame history, namely the Zelda series, Super Mario series and Starfox.
When Kondo started his career, consoles and computers had very limited opportunities for arrangements – the hardware was still not at a point where music made for videogames was in the focus of manufacturers. Kondo had to simply program and find ways to make the hardware limitations work for him. What helped him was that he was never classically trained in composition and not very dedicated to music as a profession, he was more interested in machine-assisted arrangement. When Nintendo sent out a recruitment message to his university Osaka University of Arts, he applied right away. But not because he wanted to arrange music, he simply was a gamer who wanted to work for Nintendo. Interestingly he was recruited in 1984 without ever submitting a demo tape or proof of his musical knowledge.
Super Mario Bros. and Zelda
Koji Kondo was the third person to be hired by Nintendo for the audio department, but the first composer to specialize in musical composition for games. Until 1998 he always composed the music for his projects by himself. After finishing The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time in 1998, he has started to play a more passive and supervisory role, overseeing after other composers’ works and sometimes composing parts for new projects.
Super Mario Bros. is one of the most cited, remixed and sampled pieces of videogame music of all time.Countless live performances with symphonic orchestras have played the score that was originally conceived for 8-bit-arcade.
Fame and Career
While Kondo does not compose as much as he used to, he still actively performs his famous themes with a variety of different artists. Outside of the videogame industry his Super Mario Bros. theme holds the title of one of the longest running features on the Billboard Magazine’s Hot Ringtones charts with 112 consecutive weeks. His career has taken him from a semi-professional musician to being one of the most famous composers in music game history.
Koji Kondo’s most famous compositions can be found on his artist page on Spotify as well: https://open.spotify.com/artist/1CRvJnCbPjgx0xmBdoex0c