While we’ve already covered the Donkey Kong jingle, that (as you’re no doubt aware) was just the beginning for Mario’s decades-long love affair with victory tunes. This first one is probably his most famous, which isn’t surprising considering that it plays at the end of every level in one of the most popular games of all time:
Above: YEAH, SUCK IT, FLAG!!!
Less memorable (but still notable enough to include), was the world-clear music from Super Mario Bros 2, which was heard less often and arguably isn’t even part of the series’ canon.
Above: Still pretty great, though
Besides, everyone knows that the real song to look forward to was the one you’d hear when you won at the end-of-level slot-machine minigame.
More recognizable by far is the comparatively simple Super Mario Bros 3 victory theme, which sticks out in our minds mainly thanks to the Pavlovian trick of coming with a free reward item.
That was great and all, but it was Super Mario World – backed by the SNES’s then-mindblowing sound capabilities – that gave the Mario series one of its most fun, enduring jingles:
Its bonus-stage clear music was great, too, even if we weren’t quite done collecting stuff yet when it played:
Fast-forward to 1996, and Super Mario 64 took Nintendo’s mascot in entirely new directions, with music to match. It didn’t quite deliver the same thrill as sliding down a flagpole to accompanying fireworks, but 64’s elegantly simple stage-clear jingle nonetheless made collecting all those stars pretty damned satisfying.
Super Mario Sunshine, meanwhile, went kind of overboard in a lot of ways, and its music was no exception. Getting shines was still a remarkably satisfying experience, but holy shit did the soundtrack ever go nuts when you found one:
While Super Mario Galaxy expanded on the series’ gameplay even more than Sunshine did, it reined in its victory jingle a little, trading in the silly hooting for something more subdued, orchestral and grandiose:
Above: All right, that’s actually Super Mario Galaxy 2, but the differences are pretty subtle
That’s to say nothing of all the Mario spinoffs, of course. Since just cataloging those would be an article unto itself, however, we’ll just include our favorite jingle: the victory theme from the original Super Mario Kart:
We can’t very well talk about Mario’s musical exploits without bringing up his greatest rival. And yes, OK, Sonic games have featured more than two victory jingles. But they’re all in the spinoffs or Nintendo-handheld versions. What we’re interested in here is Sonic’s “main” series (which for the purposes of discussion includes Adventure, Heroes and so on), which so far has been remarkably consistent about sticking with two distinct tunes. The first is heard whenever you finish a level in the first two Sonic the Hedgehog games, and hasn’t really popped up since:
The second debuted in Sonic 3, and since then it’s been the series standard for about 16 years:
Not too long after Sonic 3 hit, Mario’s other rival got his own franchise, which incidentally features some of the best music ever recorded for 16-bit games. The first game’s level-completion theme – usually accompanied by a little dance from Donkey and Diddy – is still a fun little standout for the SNES:
Weirdly, though, it’s nowhere near as triumphant as the bonus-level victory fanfare from the same game:
Above: A little overdramatic, considering all you really did was mess around with some barrels