Have you ever found yourself humming a tune from a video game long after you’ve put down the controller? It’s not a coincidence. The world of video game music is filled with instances of interpolation, a technique where musical composers take inspiration from existing melodies to create new ones. This article delves into the fascinating world of interpolation in video game music, uncovering the real songs that inspired iconic Nintendo tracks.

One of the most iconic tracks in video game history, the ‘Title Theme’ from The Legend of Zelda draws heavy inspiration from Deep Purple’s ‘April’. Although the two compositions may appear worlds apart, a closer listen reveals the unmistakable influence of Deep Purple’s churchy track in the Zelda theme. Dive into the 12-minute epic of ‘April’ with a faster playback speed to truly appreciate the interplay between these two masterpieces. And while you’re at it, try to identify the bits that went on to inspire the haunting ‘Dungeon Theme’ as well.

The infectious ‘Starman Theme’ from Super Mario owes its catchiness to a lesser-known Japanese bop, ‘Summer Breeze’ by Piper. With its groovy ’80s synth, Piper’s composition serves as the perfect foundation for Koji Kondo to build upon. This particular instance of interpolation perfectly showcases how video game music can draw from diverse genres to create something entirely new and memorable.

A running joke among fans is that Koji Kondo attempted to play down his penchant for borrowing catchy melodies with the title of this Friendship track, ‘Let’s Not Talk About It’. But the truth is, interpolation is a legal and common practice in music creation. The ‘Underground Theme’ in Super Mario is known for captivating players with its mysterious and enthralling melody, which owes its roots to Friendship’s Japanese jazz vibes. So let’s not dwell on the borrowing, but instead appreciate how interpolation allows for the cross-pollination of musical worlds.

In a 2001 interview, Koji Kondo himself revealed that he found inspiration in the Japanese jazz band T-Square for the ‘Overworld Theme’ in Super Mario. The band’s rhythms were specifically appealing to Japanese listeners, and their influence can be felt in the upbeat and energetic vibes of the iconic track. Kondo also acknowledged jazz musician Satao Watanabe, whose relaxed bossa nova beats had a significant impact on the overall feel of Super Mario’s music. Just listen to the distinctive Mario-like riff at 1:02 in the interview video, and you’ll understand the extent of T-Square’s influence.

The music of Animal Crossing is known for its delightful charm and whimsical tunes. ‘K.K. Adventure’, one of the tracks from Animal Crossing: New Horizons, draws its inspiration from the iconic ‘He’s A Pirate’ composed by Klaus Badelt, Hans Zimmer, and Geoff Zanelli for the Pirates of the Caribbean films. K.K. Slider, the musical dog in Animal Crossing, is no stranger to borrowing melodies, and ‘K.K. Adventure’ is a prime example of his piracy. By infusing elements of the swashbuckling theme into his composition, K.K. Slider adds a touch of adventure to the world of Animal Crossing.

The ethereal and enchanting ‘Fairy Fountain’ theme from The Legend of Zelda franchise has a charm that resonates with players around the world. However, these beautiful arpeggios didn’t materialize out of thin air. They bear a striking resemblance to the recognizable tune in ‘Morning Glory’ by Tatsuro Yamashita. Perhaps Yamashita was donning his mythical armor when he composed this song, as the unmistakable melody found its way into the dreamlike vocals of ‘Morning Glory’. It’s a testament to the power of interpolation in creating captivating video game music.

Interpolation is a powerful technique that allows composers to pay homage to their musical influences while crafting unique and memorable tracks for video games. This article explored just a few examples of how iconic Nintendo music draws from diverse sources, ranging from rock and jazz to film scores. The world of video game music is a treasure trove of hidden melodies that continue to captivate players and resonate with them long after the game is over. So the next time you catch yourself humming a familiar tune from a video game, remember that it might just be a musical masterpiece born out of interpolation.


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