If you grew up as a kid in the late 80s and early 90s, then there’s a pretty good chance your childhood was filled plenty of days playing games like Super Mario Bros. or Legend of Zelda on your old school NES. Most, if not all, kids that grew up in this era can sing the instantly-recognizable and unbelievably catchy theme song for Super Mario Bros. But why after 20 or 30 years are these songs still stuck in our head? Why are artists from Jay Z to Wiz Khalifa to Skrillex sampling them?

While video games, and their respective soundtracks, have gotten more and more advanced, it’s still these old jingles and theme songs from our childhood that carry the most weight, rather than any newer offerings. PBS Digital Studios has concluded that this is all because of two main reasons: Nostalgia and game design.

"Nostalgia is very powerful stuff, and music is exceptional at evoking it."

It's self-explanatory, really. Starting at a very young age, music has the power to make ever-lasting imprints on our mind. Game designers leverage the fact that music is one of the most powerful nostalgia triggers of them all.

"The sound design and the game design are brilliantly intertwined."

Due to the hardware limitations of the NES, scorer Koji Kondo realized that everything in the game had to be programmed to the tempo of the processor in the handheld device. Realizing this, Kondo matched the score of the game to the processor as well, meaning every aspect of the game, from Mario, to the coins, to the bad guys, were all moving and bouncing to the same tempo and the same score. Mario’s signature jump sound effect lasted exactly one note, his fireball lasted an eighth of a note, and the coin counter acted like a metronome, keeping the tempo.

Watch PBS Digital Studios' explanation for yourself...

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