Luigi’s Mansion is a single-player action-adventure game that Nintendo created to headline for their new console, the Gamecube, in 2001. The game was particularly well received by the public, and this is at least partially attributed to the highly immersive environment that the game provided. Prior to the Gamecube, Nintendo hadn’t really done any “themed” Mario games. With Luigi’s Mansion, you knew within the first few minutes of playing the game that you would be exploring a spooky ghost-infested mansion looking for Mario, a cliche concept. And due to the title of the game, you knew that you wouldn’t find Mario until the end and that the main activity of the game would be fighting ghosts. Kazumi Totaka, main composer for the game, took full advantage of the tongue in cheek Halloween vibe of the game and wrote a plethora of quirky and atmospherical themes around it.
The most iconic theme in Luigi’s Mansion is the main hallway theme. It is the most used theme in the game due to the many variations that can be heard as you tiptoe around the mansion. It is a fairly simple theme, with a lot of space between each phrase, however, it still follows a simple four bar phrase pattern. Dynamically, Totaka likes to keep the music fairly soft to build tension, with occasional outbursts of fortissimo on the cadences of the theme. This effect can be heard in horror movie soundtracks as well (Jaws comes to mind). Totaka also changed up his instrumentation in the variations on his main theme frequently. One version of the main hallway theme includes church organ, violins, piano, synthesizers, drum samples, and even vocals. In one such variation, Totaka actually breaks the fourth wall by having the game’s protagonist, Luigi, start humming or whistling along to the background music. Surprisingly, this does not destroy the immersion that was previously established. The theme is so catchy that the player, who has already been humming the theme in their head, relates him or herself to the protagonist, and becomes even more invested in the game. Although the melody is fairly repetitive and thematic, it doesn’t get boring to listen to because there is so much musical space in the theme. Typically, thematic and light atmospherical writing do not mix, but in this case Totaka was able to write in both directions by taking advantage of the quirkiness of the game’s vibes. Totaka very rarely uses major modes in his soundtrack. The few times he does use them is to give praise to the player for accomplishing something. Beating a boss, for example, will play a resounding major fanfare. The ending credits theme is also major. Totaka is very aware of what he wants the player to feel emotionally at all times.
In conclusion, the soundtrack to Luigi’s Mansion perfectly fits the game and greatly enhances the players’ experiences. The music allows each jump scare to be more intense andLuigi’s occasional humming or whistling gives the player a way to relate to the protagonist. In addition, the brief major tonality detours from the primarily minor backdrop which gives the player a sense of accomplishment and lets them know that they are progressing. I remember personally playing the game the year it was released around Halloween and playing hours at a time, being sucked into an immersive environment that Totaka so skillfully contributed to.