Super Mario World was the Mario game that I grew up with. Though it took many years before I was ever able to actually beat it myself, I still looked back on it with (mostly) fond memories, as a symbol of my childhood, alongside such classics as Donkey Kong Country and The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. As a duckling, I was rarely ever able to progress very far into the game, but I was always able to at least complete the first ghost house. And being a big fan of ghosts, the Donut Ghost House quickly became my favorite level in the game for multiple reasons.
Video from YouTube User: GilvaSunner
Always a fan of spooky things, I loved the fact that the ghost houses defied logic, with moving holes in the floor, floating green bubbles of mysteriousness, and exits that required one to think outside the box in order to find them. And being so bad at the game during my childhood years, being able to at least discover the secret exit in the Donut Ghost House (by remembering how my parents did it, anyway) was always immensely satisfying. At least there was something special my young, unskilled self could do.
And of course, the ghost houses would not be complete without some truly atmospheric music. Like most Nintendo games, Super Mario World has a great soundtrack that perfectly complements its respective location. Castles have a more sinister, foreboding sound to them. The music that plays underground is more quiet and subdued. And the ghost house music, well, it’s creepy.
As soon as the song begins, these four notes begin to repeat ceaselessly, an unsettling sound that’s enough to send chills right up my spine. You can just feel the temperature drop as Mario enters the haunted house, parts of the castle tune coming in to accompany the music and remind you that you are not welcome here. The volume shifts, growing quiet for a moment, just as the mansion itself can’t be trusted, doors leading to nowhere and blocks sprouting vines when they didn’t before.
In that gap in the music, you almost want to strain your ears for what else you might hear.
You almost feel as if something in the darkness has just taken notice of you.
In horror, less is usually more. Not seeing the monster is usually far scarier than getting a good look at it. Not knowing what truly happened is a good deal more frightening than having everything fully explained. In the case of the ghost houses, the simple tune is way creepier than any proper song could ever be. This isn’t a song that you can hum.
Even so scant a comfort is denied you in the ghost house….
I love this theme too, even if it was a tad too creepy for my 6 or 7 year old self. I vaguely remember being genuinely surprised by the shift in tone from donut plains and the cool cave to this very creepy ghost house. And you’re right, it does get under your skin and make you want to strain to hear!
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It’s surprising how creepy a lot of Nintendo levels are. Nintendo seems so family-friendly, yet some of the scariest things I’ve found in video games come from Nintendo games. Zelda is the top creepy Nintendo franchise that comes to mind, but this song proves that even Mario has its creepy moments.
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