You’ve heard the Super Mario Bros. and Legend of Zelda themes before. (If you haven't, listen to the audio above.) Both of these songs were composed by the same man, Koji Kondo, who is responsible for many of the most recognizable melodies in video games.
Kondo studied Art Planning at the University of Osaka, and although he had little formal training in music, he played piano and electric organ in a prog rock cover band, and started experimenting with composing music with the help of his computer. When he was getting ready to graduate in 1984, Nintendo sent a recruitment message to the university, looking to hire people interested in sound programming and composition. Kondo applied for and got the job, without even submitting any demo music.
Kondo was the first person hired by Nintendo to specialize in musical composition. His first work was for the arcade version of the game Punch-Out!! before he joined Nintendo’s legendary Entertainment Analysis and Development team (also known as EAD). EAD was created to develop games for Nintendo’s new home console. In 1985, he composed the music for Super Mario Bros, and followed it up in 1986 with The Legend of Zelda.
With more than 100 games to his credit as either composer or sound supervisor, including nearly every Mario, Zelda, and StarFox game, Koji Kondo is incredibly prolific, and has composed some truly classic soundtracks, including those for 2011’s Super Mario Galaxy 2 and 2014’s Super Mario 3D World, both for which he was nominated for a BAFTA.
Kondo has written music that, for many, including me, defined what video game music could be, and even after three decades, continues to set the standard.