For over 27 years, Super Mario RPG was left in a strange state. It influenced Mario games and characters in countless ways, but the game itself never managed to reach beyond a few minor cameos and Virtual Console re-releases.
Even with requests for remakes as early as the GBA era — and requests for the game-original character Geno to appear in Super Smash Brothers — this collaboration between Nintendo and Square Enix only received a substantial update in 2023. And what an update it was, because the remake of Super Mario RPG is one of the greatest remakes long-time fans could’ve hoped for.
Revitalized Role-Playing Game
In making the jump from SNES to Nintendo Switch, Super Mario RPG features updated 3D graphics and animations. Even so, it manages to retain the original’s style and characteristics in a way most modern remakes don’t. This extends not just to the chibi-like designs of Mario and his allies, but also to the unique appearances of non-playable characters. Just having a couple of different Toads with hair does quite a lot to make the Mario world seem bigger than it is.
Super Mario RPG is not a long game, especially when compared to other RPGs. The remake retains this somewhat short length, though it still has plenty of secrets to encourage replayability and in-depth exploration. As for the main story, it’s serviceable despite lacking death, being one of the first Mario games in general to feature a major villain that wasn’t just Bowser. This just makes for plenty of unique characters and designs, with all of them looking better than ever on the Switch.
Thankfully, this title hits a mostly consistent 60 FPS, and its stylized graphics make any scene a joy to look at. It’s hard to argue against it looking better than the original, even when considering little things like lighting changes and the translation of semi-2D sprites to 3D models.
Depth perception can still be a bit of a problem with the game’s isometric view, but it’s far less of one than it might’ve been before. “As you remember it” is a term that truly applies to this remake, even with some more notable differences that can completely change the experience.
New Mechanics, Old Styles
Battles are mostly the same as they were before, featuring Action Commands to give a sense of skill during each turn-based encounter. Unlike before, this game has indicators to let you know when exactly to press the button, allowing newcomers to not go the entire game without knowing if they’re performing well or not. This applies to both player moves and enemy attacks, allowing for certain late-game encounters to become particularly interesting. This is the case even with the remake’s quality-of-life changes, with some arguably making the game a cakewalk.
Perfect hits will cause AOE damage to a group of enemies and team members can be switched out mid-battle, making for an arguably easier game. While switching members does simplify certain encounters, it’s an overall positive change that makes encounters far more engaging. The other gameplay changes simply quicken random encounters, and the overall difficulty can reach its peak thanks to random Special Enemies and new post-game battles. Granted, it’s still questionable as to why the developers added an even easier mode of play, but it doesn’t prevent players from creating their own challenge by avoiding equipment or finding difficult-to-reach secrets.
Many cryptic aspects of the original title are retained in this one. Hidden minigames and secret weapons are just about as out-of-the-way as they were before, though the ones you can miss aren’t too big of a deal in the end. While some might wonder whether these aspects should have been changed, their existence allows for especially unique playthroughs of this single-player adventure. It might not be the best thing to retain in possible future Mario RPGs, but it makes the journey rewarding even outside of combat.
The most disappointing changes from the remake are, at most, not incredibly impactful. One can only wonder why Mario’s victory animation was changed, why certain attacks like the Geno Beam lost their unique sound effects, or why the original game’s card suits were removed from special moves. Despite this, the additional changes covering music, gameplay, and other visuals are worth the trade-off. But beyond comparisons to its earlier release, how well does the game hold up today?
Saviors of the Stars
Ironically, despite its status as a remake, Super Mario RPG is one of the most creative Mario games available on the Switch. While it can be easy for players to treat it like a normal RPG, avoiding most encounters and refusing top-tier equipment will certainly lead to intense encounters. Players customize the game’s difficulty just as much as they customize their equipment and inventory. This uniqueness extends to the story and characters, with many traits simply being impossible to find in more recent Mario releases.
As stated previously, the game’s unique characters add to its depth. A fan-favorite character like Geno might not get much more dialogue than what he used to have, but his presence is easily felt and remembered by anyone enjoying the game for themselves. Mario’s mannerisms in this game have him act in a completely different fashion to any title before or after it, which is a welcome change for the familiar face. And the rapid pace of the story still allows players to get attached to unique locales and enemies, showcasing what makes Mario’s jump into this genre truly special.
Super Mario RPG stands above the other Mario spinoffs on Switch thanks to these unique traits. Players can build their party however they please and dispatch foes in myriads of different ways, while one-of-a-kind characters fill the world with unmatched charm. The new music is nothing short of amazing, the difficulty is more balanced than it seems, and the fact that so much was kept from this game’s original release is almost miraculous. The Super Mario RPG remake is a relic of its time brought into the modern era — a fact that’s applied in perhaps the best way possible.
The Super Mario RPG remake is an impossible wish come true. The collaboration between Square and Nintendo reaches new heights in more ways than one while retaining what made the game special in the first place. Cases of decreased difficulty are countered with new challenges, and quality-of-life features simply give the game a modern touch of accessibility. Top that off with incredibly redone visuals and extended recomposed music, and you have quite possibly the best possible way a game could be remade.
It’s hard to say if this is a one-time endeavor or a sign of things for the future. But as the original game inspired both Paper Mario and the Mario & Luigi games, hopefully, its remake can inspire a new wave of creative titles starring the mustachioed plumber. But even without possible sequels in mind, Super Mario RPG is a worthwhile purchase for any Switch owner. Whether it’s fans of the original or first-time Mario players trying it out, this improved experience deserves to be seen by as many people as possible.
This game was reviewed using a copy of the game provided by the game's publisher,public relations company, developer or other for the express purpose of a review.
- This article was updated on November 20th, 2023