The "Airship Theme" is an atonal musical theme commonly associated with airships in the Mario franchise. It was originally composed by Koji Kondo for airship and tank levels in Super Mario Bros. 3. The theme begins with a triplet-based rhythm evoking a military march, which plays throughout the rest of the theme. It is loosely based on "Mars, the Bringer of War", the first movement of Gustav Holst's The Planets.
As Super Mario Bros. 3 is for the Nintendo Entertainment System and Family Computer, the theme is orchestrated as chiptune with a timpani PCM sample. The original Airship Theme is short, lasting 30 seconds, though later arrangements would go on to extend the theme. It has been reused in Super Mario Maker and Super Mario Maker 2 in airship levels of the Super Mario Bros. 3 style.
In the Japanese and American versions of Super Mario Bros. 3, the first part of the theme plays the PCM sample slightly after the other channels by about a twelfth note, leading to slight desynchronization and the percussion being cut off early as the second part begins. This is corrected in the European version, but retained in Super Mario Maker.
Super Mario series
Super Mario All-Stars
As Super Mario All-Stars features a remake of Super Mario Bros. 3, the Airship Theme was given an updated, 16-bit arrangement on brass and timpani. This version skips the 2-bar timpani solo after the track loops.
Super Mario Advance 4: Super Mario Bros. 3
The Airship Theme also received an updated arrangement in Super Mario Advance 4: Super Mario Bros. 3. In the opening cutscene, the first half of the Airship Theme plays before transitioning to an original piece.
Super Mario Galaxy
A fully orchestrated arrangement is later featured in Super Mario Galaxy, arranged by Mahito Yokota. It plays in Bowser Jr.'s Airship Armada and is named after it in the official soundtrack ("Airship Armada"). The arrangement is reused in Super Mario Galaxy 2 in the opening; it also returns in Super Mario 3D Land, though it is compressed and played on synthesized instruments. A variation of this arrangement also plays in the opening when Bowser appears, the only differences being a longer introduction and that it ends instead of looping. This variation is titled "Attack of the Airships" in the official soundtrack, and would later be reused in Bowser Jr.'s newcomer video for Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS / Wii U when the Koopalings appear.
New Super Mario Bros. Wii
In New Super Mario Bros. Wii, a faithful arrangement plays in airship levels, though with extra notes added towards the end of the theme. In the room before a boss fight, only the drum beat plays. The arrangement is reused in airship levels in New Super Mario Bros. U, New Super Luigi U (both of which also reuse the pre-boss variation), Puzzle & Dragons: Super Mario Bros. Edition, Super Mario Maker and Super Mario Maker 2 in the New Super Mario Bros. U style, and Super Mario Run.
Super Mario Maker
In Super Mario Maker, when editing an Airship course in the Course Maker, a more ambient arrangement of the corresponding Airship Theme plays, using multiple tracks that fade in and out randomly to create a dynamic mix. This returns in Super Mario Maker 2.
Super Mario Maker 2
The Adventures of Super Mario Bros. 3
Paper Mario series
The first arrangement of the Airship Theme outside of Super Mario Bros. 3 and its remakes and adaptations is featured in Paper Mario, which plays when the Koopa Bros. fire Bullet Bills at Mario when he reaches the Koopa Bros. Fortress's rooftop. It was arranged by Yuka Tsujiyoko and is titled "Bill Blaster! Go Faster!" in the soundtrack.
Paper Mario: Sticker Star
Another arrangement titled "Battleship" is used in Paper Mario: Sticker Star in Bowser Jr.'s Flotilla. This version uses saxophone as its main instrument, one that is common in the game's music, and is based on Super Mario Galaxy's arrangement. An excerpt is reused in Bowser Jr.'s newcomer video for Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS / Wii U, and also incorporated into the "Paper Mario Medley" (though with an electric guitar added) in the same games and Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, which plays on the Paper Mario stage, Woolly World stage, and any Mario-series stage respectively.
Paper Mario: Color Splash
In Paper Mario: Color Splash, an arrangement played on a French horn titled "Bowser's Airship Aloft" plays outside the Crimson Tower when the giant bucket of paint is carried up by the airship, but stops abruptly when it is held down by an anchor. After Mario frees the anchor from Bowser Tape, the music continues playing when he boards the airship himself.
Mario Hoops 3-on-3
Super Smash Bros. Brawl
In Super Smash Bros. Brawl, an orchestral arrangement of the Airship Theme was arranged by Mario Tennis and Mario Golf composer Motoi Sakuraba, and plays on the Luigi's Mansion stage as well as in the Subspace Emissary in cutscenes involving Bowser and several fights against a False Character. The "Hurry Up" tune from Super Mario Bros. is also incorporated in the middle of the song. The song reappears in Super Smash Bros. for Wii U on the same stage as well as the Super Mario Maker stage, and in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate for any Mario-series stage, and is also used in Bowser Jr.'s newcomer video for the former game.
Names in other languages