Super Mario RPG is a gorgeous reimagining of the SNES classic. Those looking for a dose of nostalgia will be pleased that this is a faithful remake, with just enough tweaks to make it more accessible to a new generation of gamers without diluting the magic of the original.
- Gorgeous new 3D animations
- Excellent remastered soundtracks
- Plenty of chuckle-worthy jokes
- Combat still holds up well
- RPG mechanics feel a little shallow
- Platforming can be frustrating
Super Mario RPG is the latest to get the remake treatment, with the original first launching on the SNES back in 1996. The new remake has been treated to gorgeous 3D animations, revamped soundtracks and multiple quality-of-life improvements.
Nevertheless, this is an incredibly faithful remake, with the core story and combat left mostly untouched to keep that nostalgic sheen intact. Super Mario RPG has aged impressively well in the 27 years since its release, but those looking for RPG boundaries to be pushed should look elsewhere.
I’ve spent the last couple of weeks playing the Super Mario RPG remake on Nintendo Switch. Here are my thoughts.
Graphics and music
- New 3D animations look wonderful
- Extremely faithful to the original
- Revamped soundtracks
The original Super Mario RPG used 2D sprites on an isometric grid to create the illusion of 3D effects. It looked great for the time, but there’s no doubt that look is dated 27 years on.
For the new remake on Nintendo Switch, third-party studio ArtePiazza (renowned for its work remaking Dragon Quest games) has recreated the entire game brick by brick so now that it’s fully rendered in 3D. This not only allows tighter control of Mario, but also adds heaps more detail to the characters and environments.
Super Mario RPG on Switch looks fantastic, and it’s been a joy seeing the new animations of the different enemies you encounter. I was particularly impressed with the pre-rendered cutscenes that trigger before boss battles and special power-ups during combat.
The 3D visuals bring subtle details, such as Mario’s hat bobbing off his head mid-jump and the gentle swaying of leaves in the background foliage. Such elements bring the world to life, and elevate Super Mario RPG to modern standards.
Despite the new 3D animations, the Super Mario RPG remake remains incredibly faithful to the original. Every single scene, world and character has been restored, and with remarkable accuracy. There are some additions, such as an animation of Mario swimming in water, but they always enhance the experience.
The soundtrack has been revamped by the original game’s composer with new orchestration, and it sounds incredible. Right from the off, the music helps to set the unique tone for each world, with added dynamism and improved clarity compared to the original. Once you beat the game, you’ll be able to open up the Sound Player and listen to all 61 soundtracks in the game – both the new and old versions.
- Fun adventure through fantastical worlds
- Great party of companions, including Bowser
- Slapstick humour provides plenty of laughs
Super Mario RPG doesn’t stray far from the classic Mario formula, but instead of Bowser taking the mantle of the big bad, the Smithy Gang proves to be the biggest threat to the Mushroom Kingdom.
With Mario fighting off new foes such as a living, breathing giant sword called Exor, Super Mario RPG is not afraid to be silly. It’s hard to take your main objective too seriously, but I still enjoyed my adventure through the Mushroom Kingdom and various other fantastical worlds, from Nimbus Land up in the clouds and the Moleville mines deep underground.
Mario has help on his travels, one of which is the dastardly Bowser who proves to be the star of the show with his cutting comments and moody rants. Original characters Geno and Mallow help to add a more emotional depth to the story and it’s great to see Princess Peach pummelling Piranha Plants rather than hiding in her castle.
Super Mario RPG is one of the funnier Nintendo games I’ve played, with silly jokes and amusing animations. There’s plenty of slapstick humour, with Mario often falling to the ground or crying out loud in response to a silly comment – which never failed to get a chuckle out of me.
- RPG mechanics feel shallow compared to modern games
- Places greater emphasis on timing to keep players engaged
- Quality of life improvements make it more accessible
Super Mario RPG is… well, an RPG. This means it adopts a turn-based combat system, not dissimilar to the likes of Pokemon. You can use physical attacks to bruise enemies or spend Flower Points to deal elemental attacks, such as Mario’s fireballs and Mallow’s lightning.
Most enemies have specific elemental weaknesses and resistances, letting you deal greater damage when using appropriate attacks. The remake has introduced the Monster List in the main menu, which lists all of the enemies and their general information in case you forget who is vulnerable to what. This makes Super Mario RPG a little more accessible, but I didn’t bother too much with this feature.
I found using physical attacks to be a more efficient option – it often dealt similar damage to special moves and didn’t require me to use up limited resources.
Instead of encouraging you to memorise the featured rock-paper-scissors system, Super Mario RPG puts more emphasis on the player’s timing. Press A as Mario and Co. strike an enemy, and you’ll deal bonus damage. Conversely, pressing B as you’re attacked can block damage, proving to be an essential skill during lengthy boss battles.
Placing such importance on timing has the benefit of keeping the player focused during every second of the combat – lose it, and you’ll swiftly be punished. But this does dilute the RPG experience. I rarely thought about my party composition, choice of attack or which weapons each character wielded. Super Mario RPG feels shallower than modern RPG games, such as Octopath Traveler, Fire Emblem and, even, Pokemon.
Of course, this is no fault of the remake as this is exactly how the original game’s combat system worked. But, by resisting the temptation to offer sweeping changes – as with the recent Final Fantasy 7 remake – Super Mario RPG does feel old-fashioned with no desire to push the envelope.
The Super Mario RPG remake does add a couple of minor tweaks that complement and improve upon the original combat. Chief of them is the new Triple Moves feature, which allows your party of three to combine their powers to unleash a devastating attack. This move can only be used when your Action Gauge is filled up to 100%, which can be done by executing well-timed attacks and blocks. This doesn’t necessarily change how you’ll approach each battle but, instead, rewards and encourages you to perfect your timing.
On-screen exclamation marks have been added to signpost when you’re supposed to attack and block, while you can also swap in benched party members mid-battle. Such additions make Super Mario RPG more accessible to a younger audience, while still retaining the relatively tough difficulty level – although there is now an optional ‘Breezy Mode’ if you still find it too challenging.
Platforming and puzzles
- Great pacing with varied gameplay
- Platforming gets frustrating with isometric view
- Simple but enjoyable puzzles to solve
One of Super Mario RPG’s best attributes is its pacing, as it frequently segments combat with story segments, platforming and puzzles to prevent the experience from becoming repetitive.
Outside of combat, Mario can explore each level in a 3D space, using his iconic jumping to avoid enemies and overcome obstacles. I did find the platforming to be irritating though, as the isometric view makes it difficult to navigate the plumber without falling off the odd edge. Floating platforms will at least produce a shadow underneath to give you a better idea of their precise placement, but it remains a pain point.
Some of the mini-games fared better, as they switched to a 2D view to make it a lot easier to navigate Mario. These mini-games see Mario put in some precarious scenarios, such as falling down a volcano and riding a minecart, with the player guiding the plumber in avoiding obstacles and collecting as many coins as possible. You’re able to repeat these challenges in an attempt to beat your high scores too.
I also enjoyed a few of the puzzles in Super Mario RPG, as you’ll need to look for environmental cues or solve simple riddles to discover secret passageways. There are numerous invisible treasure chests hidden in each level too, so randomly jumping in the air can be very fruitful.
Should you buy it?
You want a faithful remake of the SNES classic
Super Mario RPG is one of the most faithful remakes I’ve ever played, with the new 3D animations giving the game new life, but with minor tweaks to combat keeping it mostly intact.
You want a deep RPG system
Super Mario RPG on Switch is a glorious remake of the SNES classic, with the revamped 3D visuals proving a massive upgrade on the 2D sprites, giving new life to the many zany characters and fantastical worlds.
Otherwise, this is an extremely faithful remake, with the core combat and platforming still intact 27 years on. Both hold up surprisingly well and so can easily be enjoyed by a modern audience, although the RPG mechanics do feel shallow compared to rival offerings on the Nintendo Switch such as Fire Emblem and Octopath Traveler.
If you’re looking for a simple RPG with that iconic Nintendo charm, then Super Mario RPG will be a great addition to your library. Otherwise, check out our Best Nintendo Switch Games list for even more great options.
How we test
We play every game we review through to the end, outside of certain exceptions where getting 100% completion, like Skyrim, is close to impossible to do. When we don’t fully finish a game before reviewing it, we will always alert the reader.
Played on Nintendo Switch OLED
Completed the story campaign
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How long is Super Mario RPG?
It took me 12 hours and 30 minutes to complete the main campaign.
Is Super Mario RPG digital only?
No, a physical edition is also available to purchase from retailers such as Amazon.