The 16 courses in Mario Kart 64 use 11 different songs. Here’s a ranking.
I’ve discussed Mario Kart 64 quite a bit on this site on the past (I even wrote a list on the 11 most useful Mario Kart 64 items, in order many years ago where it seems I was too focused to even attempt a humorous tone). And with my love of Kart and my decade-long quest for things that come in sets of 11, I’m shocked and appalled it took me until this week to learn there are exactly 11 songs featured in the game.
Here are the 11 songs from Mario Kart 64, ranked. I’ve included the timecodes for the video below if you want to refresh your ear memory. Which is a real thing.
11 | Banshee Boardwalk (32:45)
They were going for spooky minor key action but more or less phoned it in. Or someone over at Nintendo got a marimba for his birthday and decided he was going to find a way to use it in the studio that day no matter what, dammit. I also can’t really explain the random sounds of perhaps a broom hitting a floor that are repeated almost randomly throughout the song.
10 | Bowser’s Castle (26:26)
The other “spooky” song from the game, and another failure. It seems they tried a little harder here; the eerie choir and a more complicated melody show a bit more effort. Still it’s really a coin flip between the songs for Banshee Boardwalk and Bowser’s Castle which is worse. Why not just give them both the same generic spooky music and give Wario Stadium its own song?
9 | Toad’s Turnpike (16:55)
The song they chose doesn’t feel like “weaving in and out of traffic” music. It feels more like “driving around the Pacific coast at sunrise in 1995” music.
8 | DK’s Jungle Parkway (29:36)
This song is Mario Kart 64‘s only venture into the mysterious genre of “world music,” a section that baffled me as a kid going to record stores and still doesn’t make a ton of sense as an adult. (Like, why is Peruvian pan flute music and African drum music the same genre?) That being said, the song for DK’s Jungle fits the course pretty well — it’s just awfully basic.
7 | Kalimari Desert (13:46)
The song here fits the wild west motif, but it gets docked for the poor recording quality. The notes tend to really fuzz out, especially on the old TVs that were around when Mario Kart 64 came out.
6 | Koopa Troopa Beach (10:36)
The song absolutely fits the course; it’s definitely beach music. I’m just not sure it’s good enough to be associated with the most popular track in the game.
5 | Luigi Raceway, Mario Raceway, Royal Raceway and Wario Stadium (4:15)
25 percent of the courses in Mario Kart 64 use this song. I don’t know if it’s all that good or not, but I know I’ve heard it so many times that I appears I’ve inadvertently established an emotional connection with it. To me, this song feels like racing music — but that could be a chicken/egg scenario.
4 | Frappe Snowland and Sherbert Land (20:05)
The two wintery courses share the same song, and it’s pretty good. I guess it’s supposed to kind of sound Christmas-y, but they didn’t quite hit that. Still, it ranks high mainly because the bridge about two minutes in is really quite good.
3 | Rainbow Road (35:55)
I’m glad they put in the effort; if you’re going to be on a course for 5+ minutes, many of which involve perfunctory racing with no other players in sight, you might as well have a nice tune to listen to.
2 | Moo Moo Farm and Yoshi Valley (7:26)
I love this song. It fits the vibe of both courses quite well (Moo Moo Farm perhaps a little more than Yoshi Valley, but that’s splitting hairs). It’s so upbeat, it actually sounds like you’re having fun. That’s fitting for Moo Moo Farm, one of the great race tracks in the virtual or real world.
1 | Choco Mountain (23:15)
The worst course in the game gets the best song. It always makes me think of the Simpsons quote where Homer and Abe are being chased and Homer says, “They didn’t start chasing us until you turned on that getaway music.” Choco Mountain is pure getaway music — and it only gets better and more getaway-ish on the third lap when it speeds up.