Even among the many standout titles in the Super Nintendo game library, the RPGs developed for the system by Squaresoft (now Square Enix) are important.
Chrono Trigger we had Final Fantasy VI is probably the crown jewels, but Secret Mana we had Final Fantasy IV is almost as respected and popular. Test of Mana we had Move A Live will only officially come to North America decades later in the form of remastered rereleases, but the dedication of fans has already translated them unofficially, such was their desire to share these games with more people. Even small-order release Final Fantasy Mystic Quest or those SaGa Series have a nice story idea or battle mechanic at their core.
But my favorite Square game as a teenager wasn’t any of those. It was 1996 Super Mario RPG: The Legend of the Seven Stars.
Developed primarily by Square with supervision and assistance from Nintendo—two titans of gaming at their creative peak—Mario RPG combined a unique battle system and an RPG-style story structure with the familiarity and proximity of the Mario series. And it was a powerful gateway drug for me. I showed up because of Mario, and I stopped playing most of the SNES Square catalog after that. It’s probably not just me.
Nintendo and Square had a messy breakup not long after Mario RPG was released, and Square turned almost all of its attention to Sony’s PlayStation consoles for years afterward. Spiritual sequels like Mario’s book and the Mario & Luigi The series riffed on some of that Mario RPG‘s idea, but Nintendo has not yet a specific version of Mario’s life created for Super Mario RPG outside of occasional Virtual Console rereleases.
The Switch Super Mario RPG reformation is also called Super Mario RPGbut without a remake – it’s not a sequel, but it shines a light on a rare gem of a game that, while successful, often feels like it’s a little lost as a late-released Super Nintendo game like the PlayStation and Nintendo 64 eras take it off.
One part Super Mario, one part RPG
If you are not familiar with the source material, there are two versions of it Super Mario RPG. The Super Mario part asks you to navigate the entire game world by running and jumping and collecting coins, occasionally bonking floating blocks with your head to get something out of them. The RPG component includes powering up your characters by leveling up and finding new equipment, managing an inventory full of healing and energy items, and character-based battles entered by running into monsters on the map. the.
The game is much heavier on RPG than Super Mario, but it’s a nice blend of the two that makes it a beginner-friendly JRPG for anyone new to the genre. The fun script also helps, although people familiar with the original adaptation may notice some changed enemy names and a couple of changed or dropped lines (a boss name is not a reference to the jazz standard “Mack Knife” and no characters mention Bruce Lee).
The Switch version of Super Mario RPG is a loving and extremely faithful recreation of the Super Nintendo original. Because the source console was only capable of limited, low-resolution 3D, Nintendo and Square used an isometric view with a fixed camera to give Mario RPG a three-dimensional world. That perspective is fully retained in the reform.