How Does Koji Kondo Make His Tunes Catchy?

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Do you ever think about how videogame music is some of the most catchy out there? There are times when you can loop a game’s soundtrack over and over or constantly hear, say, an RPG battle theme and not tire of it.

 

Famed Nintendo composer, Koji Kondo, talks about he, personally, achieves this in a new Iwata Asks interview with three of Nintendo’s composers in celebration of the Super Mario All-Stars Collector’s Edition:

 

Iwata: Wow… I suppose lots of people all around the world are listening to the music in Mario games all the time. When you play a video game, you listen to the music the whole time, because it repeats. Usually, no matter how much you like a song, if you just keep listening to it over and over again, you get sick of it.

 

Yokota: Yeah.

 

Iwata: Why is it okay with video game music?

 

Kondo: It’s hard to put into words, but I try to make music that people can listen to over and over again without getting sick of. Then when I think I’m finished, I do this… (closing his eyes and leaning back in his chair) …and listen to it for hours on end. Sometimes I even dance to the rhythm.

 

[…]

 

Iwata: So when you can listen to it for hours, it’s done as far as you’re concerned.

 

Kondo: Right. And when I can’t do that, I know there must be something wrong with it.

 

Following this bit of talk is a very interesting segment on the idea of positive reinforcement, using music in a game to make the player keep wanting to move forward and make progress.

 

Kondo then goes on to comment on a bunch of different Mario tunes from over the years that are included on the soundtrack CD that comes with Super Mario All-Stars Collector’s Edition.

 

Image sourced from Nintendo’s Iwata Asks segment.


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Author
Image of Ishaan Sahdev
Ishaan Sahdev
Ishaan specializes in game design/sales analysis. He's the former managing editor of Siliconera and wrote the book "The Legend of Zelda - A Complete Development History". He also used to moonlight as a professional manga editor. These days, his day job has nothing to do with games, but the two inform each other nonetheless.