Super Mario RPG review: SNES classic levels up

Super Mario RPG review: SNES classic levels up

Written by 

Daniel Megarry

Published 

24th Nov 2023 14:26

The original Super Mario RPG is widely regarded as one of the best SNES games of all time, so it was a wise move for Nintendo to play it straight with a remake that keeps all the charm of the original while bringing its presentation into the modern day.

A collaboration between Nintendo and Square, the 1996 classic Super Mario RPG placed Mario, Peach, and Bowser into their very first RPG adventure. It featured all the hallmarks you’d expect from RPGs like Final Fantasy, including strategic turn-based combat, equipment to boost your team’s stats, and little sidequests to unlock extra items.

Almost three decades later, the game has received a faithful remake for Nintendo Switch, making it the definitive way to play this classic Mario adventure - even if it doesn't add too much in the way of new content.

GGRecon Verdict

With completely overhauled visuals, a reworking of the original game’s iconic Yoko Shimomura soundtrack, and some welcome quality-of-life updates, now is the perfect time to experience this beloved slice of Nintendo history with a fresh perspective.

A classic RPG reimagined

Super Mario RPG starts like any other old-school Mario game: Bowser has kidnapped Princess Peach, and it's up to our dungareed, moustachioed protagonist to save her. That is, until a giant living sword falls from the sky straight into Bowser's castle, unleashing The Smithy Gang on the world and forcing all three characters to team up to save the Mushroom Kingdom.

The familiar Mario staples are all here; the world map divided into themed areas, the question mark blocks, the roaming Shy Guys and Koopa Paratroopas. But instead of classic power-ups and quick Goomba stomps, each enemy encounter takes the form of a turn-based battle. Here, Mario and your chosen Party members can Attack directly or unleash Specials like Ultra Jump and Group Hug - each of which costs Flower Points.

A boss battle in Super Mario RPG
Click to enlarge

As you'd expect from an RPG, each Party member has their own specialist areas. Bowser is a tank, able to take plenty of hits and dish out powerful attacks at the expense of speed. Peach is primarily a supporter with healing Specials. The adorable fluffy Mallow is great at unleashing magic like lightning or ice, while the cool and collected puppet Geno is a bit of an all-rounder (although his Geno Boost buff is a lifesaver).

Super Mario RPG does a great job of blending RPG elements with the whimsical platforming that Nintendo is known for. Outside of the turn-based battles, there are levels that require you to climb up vines or shoot out of cannons to make your way forward, as well as mini-games like riding a runaway minecart through a cave. All classic Mario stuff, albeit not quite as smooth as recent entries in the franchise.

The level up screen in Super Mario RPG
Click to enlarge

While it does feel like you're playing an old game at times, it's easy to see why so many Nintendo fans still rave about Super Mario RPG. For a game that's now 27 years old, it holds up very well, with bags of humour and plenty of charm to enjoy. Where else can you battle a living wedding cake before watching Mario and Bowser share a kiss? Maybe don't answer that one, actually.

The overhauled visuals and soundtrack in this remake definitely help, too, as the overall presentation has seen a big improvement.

Triple Move supreme

One of the biggest additions to Super Mario RPG is the Triple Move. This is a snazzy special attack that can be unleashed when you’ve dished out or blocked enough attacks to fill up your Action Gauge. The move changes depending on which characters are in your party, so it’s a nice incentive to try out different combinations and give every character a go - especially as each Triple Move has a gorgeous animation to go with it.

A Triple Move in Super Mario RPG
Click to enlarge

Aside from this, there are a variety of quality-of-life changes. An exclamation mark now gives you a hint when you should tap A to pull off an Action Command. If you pick up items while your inventory is full, they’ll be sent to a storage box. Over in the menu, a Monster List lets you keep track of the enemies you’ve battled and learn their weaknesses. These are small things that you might not even think about in your playthrough, but they do help bring the game into the current era.

Easy Breezy?

Although Super Mario RPG is fairly forgiving when compared to most other RPGs, there are still some challenges to be found. On a few occasions, I had to grind XP to level up a few of my characters before being able to defeat a difficult boss. It’s also important to keep purchasing new equipment and weapons, and pretty much essential to get the timing down for Action Commands when facing trickier opponents.

King Calamari boss battle in Super Mario RPG
Click to enlarge

If all of that sounds a little intimidating, you’ll be glad to know Super Mario RPG has bucked the trend by offering two difficulty modes. There’s the Standard mode, which is faithful to the original game’s difficulty level, but there’s also a Breezy mode that’s perfect for newcomers to the genre or younger players who may struggle with the game’s mechanics. I'd still recommend trying Standard mode first, but anything that makes a game more accessible for a wider audience is a win in my eyes.

The Verdict

With completely overhauled visuals, a reworking of the original game’s iconic Yoko Shimomura soundtrack, and some welcome quality-of-life updates, now is the perfect time to experience this beloved slice of Nintendo history with a fresh perspective.

4.5/5

Reviewed on Nintendo Switch. Review code provided by the publisher.

Daniel is GGRecon’s Deputy Guides Editor. He graduated from university with a degree in Journalism & English Language before covering video games and LGBTQ+ culture at publications including Gay Times and Dexerto. His favourite games include Pokemon, Kingdom Hearts, Resident Evil, and anything Nintendo. You can reach him on [email protected].

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