Super Mario 64 blew people away when it debuted in 1996. Sure, the 3D graphics were incredible for the time. But for many people, the music was just as impactful.
Koji Kondo used various sample libraries and vintage synths to create the soundtrack. And thanks to research from the VGM community, most of the original sounds have been found.
You can use these sounds to recreate the Mario 64 soundfont. When possible, we’ll also present modern alternatives that are easier to find. That way, you can create new tracks with high-fidelity sound.
Quick Look: The Original Instruments Used in Super Mario 64
Here are some of the instruments and sample libraries Koji Kondo used for Mario 64. This is by no means a comprehensive list. But it should give you most of the game’s core sounds.
If it matters to you, some of these sample libraries are now considered abandonware and might not be cleared for commercial use.
An old sample library from the '90s containing hundreds of recorded instrument samples. These sounds were widely used in Nintendo 64 games like Super Mario 64.
This vintage sound module was the de facto gold standard for General MIDI sound processing. It offered over 600 sounds, 32-part multitimbrality, and a host of other features that made it a dream machine during the '90s.
This module from the '90s was a powerhouse of wavetable synthesis. Consider it a rackmount version of the celebrated JD-800. It was especially popular among film and game composers.
An archived collection of OMI's Sonic Images sample CDs for the Roland S-770 and S-750.
Multi-sampled instruments, loops, and phrases all performed by some of the world's greatest bassists. These guys recorded with Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson, Miles Davis, and a whole lot more.
Note: This is a legacy product that may require additional hardware.
Supreme Beats comprises an exhaustive collection with over five hours of inspiring acoustic percussion grooves and comprehensive instrument samples.
Note: This is a legacy product that may require additional hardware.
1. SampleCell II Factory Library
SampleCell II was a computer hardware expansion and software sampler that released in the early ‘90s by Digidesign. It included a CD-ROM filled with hundreds of “factory library” sounds. In fact, a lot of early 1st-party N64 games used SampleCell sounds.
This sample pack formed the backbone of Super Mario 64’s soundtrack. Here’s a partial list of instruments and sounds it provided:
- Rock n’ Roll Horns (the brass in Bob-Omb Battlefield)
- Oz Land Percussive Keyboard (main melody in Bob-Omb Battlefield)
- Les Paul Guitar (in Bob-Omb Battlefield)
- Pizzicato and Sustained Strings (Peach’s Castle)
- Trumpet (Stage Boss)
- B3 Organ Mello (Title Theme and Metal Mario theme)
- Lost Boy Synth Lead (Lethal Lava Land and Koopa’s Road)
- Tablas (ethnic percussion in Lethal Lava Land and Koopa’s Road)
- Sleighbell (Cool Cool Mountain)
- Miscellaneous Drums & Percussion
Today, there’s no official way to get these old Samplecell sounds. However, you can download an archived version from the Internet Archive.
2. Roland Sound Canvas SC-88
The SC-88 was the go-to source for many “general MIDI” instruments. This little module provided a large number of sounds for Super Mario 64. It was also the go-to instrument source for most other Mario spin-offs that followed, like Mario Kart 64, Paper Mario, and Mario Party.
Here are some of the sounds you can find in the game:
- Glockenspiel (used for SFX like coins and the health bar)
- Music Box (Pirahna Plant’s Lullaby, Looping Stairs, puzzle solved jingle)
- Accordion (Cool Cool Mountain and Merry Go Round)
- Square Wave (Metal Mario)
- French Horn (Staff Roll, Toad’s Message)
We’ve covered the Roland SC-88 more extensively before. Go check out that post to learn more.
Modern Alternative: Roland Sound Canvas VA
Thankfully, Roland tends to recycle their sounds into newer products. The easiest way to get the SC-88 sounds today is to pick up the Roland Sound Canvas VA, a virtual instrument with sounds from the entire Sound Canvas product line.
3. Roland JD-990 (or Roland JD-800)
Koji Kondo’s studio. Image from an interview with 1up.
At one point, Koji Kondo had a Roland JD-990 in his studio. It’s worth mentioning that this instrument was essentially a rackmount version of the JD-800, one of Roland’s more popular synths from the ‘90s. Both of them had the same sounds and features.
The two presets were used for some of the most iconic tracks in this game:
- Lyric Pipe Solo: This is the pan flute used in the file select theme.
- Crystal Rhodes: The electric piano used in Dire Dire Docks.
Modern Alternatives: Roland JD-800 Software Synth and Roland JD-08
Today, you can get a VST version of the JD-800 that runs entirely in your DAW. You can also get the Roland JD-08 Sound Module, a micro-sized hardware recreation of the JD-800. Both products contain all the original presets from the JD-800 and JD-990.
4. Best Service Voice Spectral
Voice Spectral was a sample library with over 1000 pre-recorded dance hooks, gospel choir clips, shouts, screams, and other phrases. It’s been used in plenty of other Nintendo and Sega games too.
It’s notable to Super Mario 64 for two sounds:
- Track 53 is the source for the infamous “Paah” sound from New Super Mario Bros, which actually debuted in Mario 64 (Mission Select jingle).
- Track 02 provided Koopa the Quick’s screaming sound, which is an edited clip of gospel choir singers. The sound effect has since been used for other Koopas in subsequent Mario games.
Interestingly, Nintendo used Voice Spectral clips as placeholders for Mario’s voice in the beta version. This was before Charles Martinet was hired for the role.
As of this writing, there’s no official way to get the Voice Spectral sample library. That said, there is an archived version over on the Internet Archive.
5. Universe of Sounds Vol. 1: Sonic Images
Sonic Images was the first volume in the Universe of Sounds line of sample CDs by Optical Media International. The first musical note you hear in the game (the steel drum) actually comes from this pack.
Here are a few of the sounds used from Sonic Images:
- Steel Drum (Title Theme)
- Tambourine (File Select, Boo’s Haunted House)
- Monk (vocal pad in Boo’s Haunted House)
- Miscellaneous Drums and Percussion
Modern Alternative: Emulator II OMI Universe of Sounds
The folks at Rhythmic Robot Audio have painstakingly resampled the Universe of Sounds collection for Kontakt. Each sound was captured from a real Emulator II synth.
A vintage sample library from the '80s and '90s, reborn for a new generation of producers and composers! Everything was meticulously sampled from a real Emulator II keyboard.
6. Sound Ideas Sampler Library
Nowadays, Sound Ideas is mostly known for its massive library of stock sound effects. But back in the day, they also had libraries made for sampler instruments.
The Sound Ideas Sampler Library had over 3,000 samples that included orchestral instruments, synth sounds, and other sound effects. Here’s what showed up in Mario 64:
- Human Whistle with Vibrato (Slider/Rainbow Cruise)
- Banjo (Slider/Rainbow Cruise)
- Violin (Slider/Rainbow Cruise)
- 6-string Nylon Guitar (Cool Cool Mountain)
There’s no official way to get the Sound Ideas Sampler Library. But you can find it on the Internet Archive.
7. Spectrasonics Bass Legends
Koji Kondo used a few Spectrasonics libraries for the game. Bass Legends featured multi-sampled instruments, plus some loops and phrases. Here are the instruments used in Mario 64:
- Dark Fretless Bass (Title Theme and Dire, Dire Docks)
- 6-String Funk Bass (Bob-Omb Battlefield and Cave Dungeon)
- Bertha Acoustic Bass (Slider/Rainbow Cruise)
Surprisingly, you can still special order the CD-ROM version of this product for use with vintage samplers from Akai and Roland.
Modern Alternative: Trilian Total Bass Module
Trilian contains all of Spectrasonics’ legacy bass libraries in one comprehensive collection, including Bass Legends. This plugin makes it easy to find the perfect bass for any project in your DAW.
8. Spectrasonics Supreme Beats
Supreme beats was the other Spectrasonics library used for Mario 64. It’s a massive collection of drum kits and world percussion instruments. There were only two sounds used from this library:
- Claves (Cave Dungeon)
- Congas (Cave Dungeon and Staff Roll)
Like most of Spectrasonics’ legacy products, you can special order a CD-ROM version to use with vintage samplers from Akai and Roland.
To my knowledge, the sounds haven’t been recycled into new products.
9. Rarefaction A Poke In The Ear With a Sharp Stick
Rarefaction describes their Poke samples with words like “mayhem”, “twisted”, and “sonic mind breaker”. Most of them are organic recordings that have been heavily spliced and edited.
In the case of Mario 64, these samples were (fittingly) only used for Bowser’s Theme:
- Tonal Darksynth: This is the electric guitar-sounding instrument that plays the main riff to Bowser’s theme.
- Lahna: An “interplanetary ethnic” instrument that plays the upper melody partway through the track.
- Kick Drum & Snare
The Rarefaction website is still up and you can buy their samples. But the site is super out of date and looks like a relic of the ‘90s — you might have trouble navigating it at first.
Find Samples From Other N64 Classics
As a fan of video game music, I’ve been doing some digging to find sounds from some of my favorite games. Here are a few other articles
Source: HCS64 Forums