Here’s a legendary SNES offering—there were so many brilliant RPGs on the SNES it’s difficult to know where to start. But SquareSoft’s effort is a cult gem and a one-off in the beloved Mario series.
Super Mario RPG
Sob story time. We had to wait 20 years to play this thing! Our discovery of it was in the Official Nintendo Magazine back in 1996.
We were all, like, whoa! A Super Mario RPG?! How incredible—a unique idea for the series. And, wow, those graphics! Amazeballs!
But the first time we got to play it was 20 years after its release. Nintendo finally launched Super Mario RPG on the Wii U in Europe in 2016. It was also bundled with the SNES Mini in late 2017.
At the time RPGs were popular in Japan, but in West they weren’t. So Nintendo talked with SquareSoft (also called Square and Square Enix) about a new character for RPG fans to become attached to.
Nintendo’s Yoshio Hongo said they settled on Mario (not a big surprise). And from there SquareSoft took over—as it was the leading RPG creator of its day.
You can see SquareSoft’s influences from the music through to the dialogue and its use of humour. Square’s games, such as Final Fantasy VII, have witty repartee going on.
And that’s in evidence here in Super Mario RPG, rather atypically for the plumber bloke. Take this exchange with Toad, Mario, and one-off frog protagonist Mallows:
Mallows: "Why didn't you stop him?" Toad: "Because I forgot my bazooka at home! Sheesh... give me a break, here."
Naturally, we love that bit due to the pointless bazooka reference. But it’s the biting sarcasm we can’t recall in any other Super Mario game.
Also, the antagonist Croco yells, “you’re a persistent bugger!” at the pair. That was censored for the virtual console English PAL release of Super Mario RPG.
Right, so anyone familiar with a SqureSoft RPG from the SNES era will know what to expect. It’s just all set out in the equally familiar world of Super Mario.
And it works. Really well! It’s simplified somewhat, no doubt to make things easier for Mario fans unfamiliar with hardcore RPGs, but that accessibility works wonders.
You star as Mario, naturally, and Princess Peace gets kidnapped by Bowser. Again.
From there, you head out and go on your RPG duties. Everything is simplified, so it’s not as complex as a Final Fantasy experience.
And we do like that about this—Mario and co. level up rather efficiently. That and the battle system work very well.
Yoko Shimomura composed the score. She worked for SquareSoft from 1993 until 2002.
She adapts some of Koji Kondo’s famous Mario tracks for the RPG outing, but the rest is her work. And Pixelophonia recently did some incredible live versions of her score in Nancy, France.
And, yes, Super Mario RPG was well worth a 20 year gap to play. Playing it now as adults, it’s like an indie game playing homage to the SNES era.
Technically, it’s very impressive with the pre-rendered graphics. This was one of the final major AAA SNES games before the Nintendo 64.
It looks brilliant for its time and is something unique from the Supe Mario library. You can find it on the SNES Mini if you want to get one of those (do so!).
And it’s a great little adventure! As you’d expect from a merger like this. Nintendo and SquareSoft working together on argaubly the greatest games console of all time?
Yes please, we’d like to see a collaboration like that again.