New Donk City may be bustling, happening destination, and it may boast of some real good music, even a theme song that accompanies one of the most sublime set pieces ever put into a video game. But to find the genuinely hippest music around, one must immerse themselves within nature’s embrace.

Super Mario Odyssey
Koji Kondo
“Steam Gardens”

For about eight seconds, it sounds like the opening salvo to an archetypal symphonic three-dimensional Mario. Sometimes, however, openings can be deceiving. One moment you’re taking in epic convention, then all of a sudden the eardrums become awash in Dap Kings-style percussion and the outlines of the Super Smash Bros. 4 post-match results music. And that’s all still mere preamble to that tuneful surf-adjacent guitar and the smooth electric organ.

This does not hew even remotely close to The Rules on how forest-themed levels are supposed to be scored. Yet after hearing the Steam Gardens theme for the very first time, there was no other way that I would have ever wanted such an environment to sound.

It also makes a peculiar sort of sense with everything that goes on in the level. The Wooded Kingdom is not a place of pure nature, but rather nature reclaiming its surroundings from infrastructure and technology—vines growing around metallic fixtures, that sort of thing. Its inhabitants are even quaint and quirky robots. What better way to capture the juxtaposition between—and merging of—the foliage and the artificial, than some 60's rare grooves?

Also, within a gaming franchise that could credibly be called many things, but could never count “cool” among them for the longest time, this may very well be the coolest that Mario has ever sounded. An entire soundtrack honing in on this precise vibe would be something to die for.

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RedStripe Loved Trax—originally from days of Tumblr past—is a series about the music Justin adores, with special emphasis on songs from (or introduced by) video games and anime.