I have a confession to make. I was never the biggest fan of Mario’s SNES outings growing up.
Sacrilege, I know, but I came from a house where the Mega Drive reigned supreme and Mario always felt slow and sluggish by comparison to my favourite, Sonic. I also found an electric blue hedgehog more visually exciting than a moustachioed plumber who looks like my uncle Graham.
With that said, while I might not have been a huge fan of the gameplay in the earliest Mario games, I’ve always loved the assortment of supporting characters in the Mushroom Kingdom.
The Toads are cute and whimsical, the Goombas and Koopa Troopa’s are iconic cannon fodder and Bowser is ridiculously cool, landing somewhere between Godzilla and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, two IPs I love dearly.
Something else I love is turn based RPGs, and back in 1996 Nintendo teamed up with Final Fantasy creators Squaresoft to deliver a game unlike any Mario adventure that came before it.
Super Mario RPG transported players into a fully-fledged role-playing game starring everybody’s favourite plumber (and uncle Graham lookalike) Mario, complete with turn based battles, side quests, mini games and an extended cast of characters to meet and interact with.
Super Mario RPG married all of the staples of the genre with all of the quirkiness and humour of Mario and his world.
Zoom forward to today and Nintendo have released a remake of Super Mario RPG that delivers a substantial modernisation of Mario’s first foray into the role-playing genre from 27 years ago.
The medium of videogames has evolved rapidly since the mid nineties, so how well will Super Mario RPG fare in today’s gaming landscape? Barring a few little hiccups, surprisingly well as it turns out!
Table of Contents
Welcome To The Mushroom Kingdom
Let’s start with the aesthetics. Every pixel from Mario’s RPG debut has been loving reimagined here by developer ArtePiazza and successfully recreated within the Unity Engine. The upgrade over the ’96 original is striking with superb visuals throughout.
The improvement in image quality is evident from the beginning of the adventure, with the first area set in Bowser’s Keep acting as a showpiece for what ArtePiazza have accomplished within this remake.
Bowser’s castle is suitably dark and moody with deep shadows punctuated by the glow of torches and illuminated further by moonlight piercing through nearby windows.
Bowser’s lava-filled hallways look incredible with smoke and steam rising from the depths to create a foreboding atmosphere for the King of the Koopa’s homestead. The lava glows and illuminates the space that makes the opening to Super Mario RPG one of the best looking experiences on Nintendo’s almost eight year old hardware.
The flat, pixelated textures from the original game have all been successfully rejuvenated to make the game world feel solid and tactile. It’s not a one-to-one recreation however with Bowser’s throne room losing it’s weirdly white and sterile look in favour of a darkened, gloomy room that better fits with the ‘bad guy’ vibes.
It’s great to see the developers take this mixed approach to the visuals in Super Mario RPG, updating the look and feel of areas where it’s need while preserving the elements that worked well in the original.
This approach is utilised across all of Super Mario RPG and is a triumph throughout. From Bowser’s dank castle, to the sun soaked Seaside Town, to a settlement high up in the clouds, Super Mario RPG looks incredible.
Setting The Cutscene
It’s not just the in-game picture quality either, with wonderful new cutscenes brought to life by the team over at Digital Media Lab. Every video in Super Mario RPG is brimming with personality, featuring vibrant colours and exceptionally detailed graphics and particle effects.
It’s also worth noting that all of the cutscenes run at a native 60 frames per second and the fluidity of movement is always a pleasure to behold. The quality of animation is reminiscent of the recent Super Mario Bros. movie although clearly not in quite the same league as Illumination Studios’ smash hit.
Unfair comparisons aside, every cutscene is a feast for the eyes with story beats and videos for special moves during battle all benefiting from the same care and attention.
Super Mario RPG is a departure from the norm when it comes to Mario storylines. For one thing, Mario begins his adventure by storming Bowser’s Keep and confronting the spikey shelled one for kidnapping Princess Peach immediately. Mario emerges victorious and rescues Princess Peach.
Normally, that would be end of it, but Super Mario RPG quickly introduces an army of sentient weaponry that swiftly destroys the Star Road and flings Mario, Peach and Bowser out into the world.
Your quest will see Mario banding together with new characters such as the loveable Mallow and the magical Geno, along with Peach and Bowser to evict their new weaponry squatters. It’s a unique tale full of whimsy and quirkiness that kept me smiling and laughing across the eleven hours it took for me to finish the main quest.
A Weird And Wild Adventure
If Super Mario RPG’s premise has you intrigued, then the adventure itself will beguile you with it’s weird, charming and imaginative world. It’s unique and weird in it’s own way although Super Mario Bros. Wonder comes close to being the strangest Mario title released this year.
The game is chock-full of oddities from battles against anthropomorphic alarm clocks to playing solitaire in Bowser’s castle. Outside of combat, no two moments in Super Mario RPG are alike and the variety and creativity on offer keeps proceedings fresh across the entire adventure.
The script is consistently hilarious too, with scenarios and dialogue befitting the madcap sense of humour you’d expect from Nintendo.
From sassy Toads to slapstick physical humour, Super Mario RPG on Nintendo Switch feels like an ode to classic cartoons of a bygone era. A time where snappy writing was married with silliness and tomfoolery to provide an enduringly fun experience.
It’s not just funny either. Super Mario RPG also manages to tease out depth and nuance between it’s leading players with the relationship between Bowser and the rest of the ensemble particularly enlightening and heartwarming.
Nintendo uses Bowser’s extra screen time to paint him in a more sympathetic light and he comes across as a more rounded personality, and somebody who I genuinely developed empathy for over the course of the game.
Peachy Performance (Mostly)
Super Mario RPG on Nintendo Switch manages to maintain a crisp 1080p picture while docked and 720p in handheld mode, maxing out the display capabilities regardless of how you choose to play.
The game also runs at a pretty solid 60fps, both in docked and handheld mode however there are a few areas in the game that produce an unfortunate juddering, with framerates dropping consistently.
I found the aforementioned Seaside Town, with it’s lush green grass, palm trees and several structures to be the worst offender with the framerate regularly struggling to maintain it’s 60fps target. Running through the centre of the area is enough to reliably trigger the drop in performance.
Curiously, I found the issues to be worse when playing in docked mode. Seaside Town and the Mushroom Kingdom, another area that suffered slowdown in docked mode, didn’t exhibit the same performance degradation when I explored them in handheld mode.
These minor performance issues are not enough to detract from the overall experience and although the effect on the eyes is unpleasant, it is mercifully short-lived and restricted to a few areas.
The performance dips stand out more against the high levels of polish found through the rest of Super Mario RPG. The only visual blemish on an otherwise stunning remake.
When we compare Super Mario RPG against another of Nintendo’s Switch remakes, 2019’s The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening, I’m thankful that Super Mario RPG doesn’t suffer in the same way as Link’s return to Koholint Island, with it’s regular and continuous drops to sub-30fps. In Super Mario RPG’s battles at least, we see a rock solid 60fps from start to finish.
Lights, Camera, Action Commands!
If there was one area that I was concerned about before jumping into Super Mario RPG, it was the combat. The original game featured turn-based battles that played out in separate arenas away from each levels maps. The battle system was functional although it contained nothing that made it stand out in a genre saturated with games that did turn-based combat better.
Thankfully, ArtePiazza and Nintendo have wisely embellished the fight mechanics for the Switch remake and have added a handful of quality-of-life options and new gameplay features to make fisticuffs more enjoyable.
Action Commands are the biggest and best innovation and provide an added depth to combat that was missing in the original game. By successfully timing button presses, players can boost their damage output or completely negate all incoming damage and succeeding with the correct timing was always gratifying.
As an additional bonus, nailing the timing on an attack inflicts splash damage on all surrounding enemies. This twist to the existing Super Mario RPG formula brilliantly introduces elements of strategy to each encounter as you prioritise your targets and must remain focused in order to deliver crushing blows.
Triple The Fun
Successful use of Action Commands will gradually fill the new Action Gauge. Once the gauge is full, Mario and co. are able to launch an extremely powerful Triple Move.
The new Triple Moves provide a range of special effects from applying defensive buffs to inflicting massive damage upon your foes.
The best part of the new system is how Triple Moves reflect the three current members of your party when activated, with lovely fully animated scenes playing out whenever you choose to unleash one. With several different Triple Moves to discover, I enjoyed mixing up my party members to witness them all in action.
Utilising the Action Commands and Action Gauge effectively makes battles feel dynamic and tactical, with victories consistently feeling well earned and satisfying.
While I’m generally delighted with the combat mechanics in Super Mario RPG on Nintendo Switch, it lacks any meaningful accessibility options.
Special abilities such as Mario’s Fireball and Bowser’s Mechakoopa Stomp require players to repeatedly mash the ‘A’ button to inflict maximum damage and score a ‘perfect’ rating.
Other special abilities require you to rapidly rotate the sticks to increase their potency. Unfortunately, these are the only control schemes available for several special moves and I ultimately used them sparingly because of the discomfort they introduced.
I played though the majority of Super Mario RPG using the Switch Pro Controller and found hammering the ‘A’ button cumbersome and twiddling the analogue stick awkward. I would have much preferred the option to switch mashing to holding a button or even an auto-complete.
Several other recent releases have included excellent accessibility options and I hope that Nintendo can add this in an upcoming patch.
Where Super Mario RPG on Nintendo Switch shines brightest is in its soundtrack. Composed by Yoko Shimomura, the legendary composer behind the soundtracks to Kingdom Hearts, Street Fighter II and the Mario & Luigi series has delivered a soundscape of pure aural bliss in Super Mario RPG.
The default soundtrack for the Switch version of Super Mario RPG features beautiful new arrangements to the almost thirty year old score. The new instrumentation lends a grandeur to proceedings and compliments Mario’s adventures through the Mushroom Kingdom and beyond perfectly.
Players can choose to hop into the settings and switch to the original SNES soundtrack. I love having the option to play with the classic soundtrack and it’s a welcome addition for fans of the original game, or those with a curious ear.
Nintendo have even included a music player that can be unlocked after clearing the main quest. The music player features a comprehensive library of all the music in the game and both modern and classic renditions are included.
A lovely touch is the appearance of Super Mario RPG’s resident maestro, Toadofsky, conducting his Toad orchestra within the music player. The variety of music present here is impressive and helps elevate Super Mario RPG’s charming and quirky adventure at every opportunity.
After the credits rolled I couldn’t wait to jump back in and continue my adventure. The post-game leaves Super Mario RPG’s world open for you to explore with tougher optional bosses to defeat, mini-games to master and secret chests to hunt.
The in-game journal is a wonderful tool for tracking all of your adventures and achievements and completionists will enjoy compiling every entry within its pages.
There’s even a variety of Nintendo Easter Eggs to find which will keep aficionados scouring the detailed diorama’s in each level.
Super Mario RPG on Nintendo Switch is a faithful and authentic update to the 1996 original, packed with joy and whimsy that will delight existing fans and easily enrapture newcomers.
Some infrequent, minor technical hitches and accessibility oversights are the only blemishes on this pristine package that continues Nintendo’s streak of incredible, joyous releases.
A stunning soundtrack, gorgeous visuals, whacky storyline and a smorgasbord of things to see and do make Super Mario RPG an essential purchase.
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Theo first fell in love with gaming when he sped through Green Hill Zone in Sonic the Hedgehog back in 1991. Theo has previously provided reviews, news coverage and articles for The Games Cabin and enjoyed producing comedic Let’s Plays on his own personal YouTube channels.
A huge Kingdom Hearts and Metal Gear fan, Theo enjoys deep gameplay mechanics and complex storylines. A completionist by nature, Theo has earned over 140 platinum trophies including top digital trinkets for Stardew Valley, The Witness, Bloodborne and a plethora of GTA games.
Outside of gaming, Theo can often be found riding his motorbike, headbanging at gigs or out in the countryside exploring nature and marvelling at the ‘realistic graphics’.