“This nostalgic journey from the SNES era brings a rush of Nintendorphines”
When they announced the Super Mario RPG remake, I was first in line to get aboard the hypetrain. Here is a JRPG made by Square Enix (originally) and in a Nintendo-themed world, that has never been released in Europe before (unless you count the SNES Classic) and now gets a new lick of paint on the Nintendo Switch. If Advance Wars 1+2: Re-bootcamp hadn’t been released this year, this would have been my favourite remake on the platform.
But wouldn’t you know it, this short-length RPG went and surpassed my wildest expectations and that’s coming from someone who has long been a fan of the Paper Mario games, which have a lot of shared DNA with this title. Let’s jump into the warp pipe together and see what this pixel-to-3D RPG has in store for us. Wahoo!
ℹ️ Reviewed on Nintendo Switch | Review code provided by Nintendo, this review is the personal opinion of the writer. Got unanswered questions about this game? Get in touch on X!
Our three unlikely heroes!
Things I liked!
- What a crew | In this Turn-based RPG you play as Mario but your crew is quickly joined by two new partymembers Mallow the walking cloud & Geno the living puppet who both have a loveable design. Later on, Bowser and Princess Peach join the crew, and they have quite a few inside gags that I could appreciate. The 3D transformation also brought new and improved expressions that evoked even more emotion from the characters.
- Funny references | This was Square’s love song to the Mario universe, and it still shows. Artepiazza did a wonderful job bringing this classic title into the third dimension, and the many references to other franchises rarely miss the mark. I saw Link sleeping in a bed, Star Fox’s miniature spaceship on a shelf and there was even a Metroid joke where Mario says “Samus turned around and Aran away!” and it truly cracked me up.
- New Content | I haven’t yet played the original game, despite owning it on the SNES classic, so I can’t do a direct comparison but it seems like they used this opportunity to add in some additional content or replace things. The Casino has different minigames, the optional end-boss Culex now requires a NG+ run through most of the game’s bosses to face his even more difficult 3D form (and it comes with some pretty epic Final Fantasy theme songs!)
- Plenty of variation | There are minigames, optional challenges, mine kart rides and waterslides. It’s only a 10-12 hour long game, which is short for an RPG, but doesn’t ever get boring for even a second. Just when you may risk facing a few too many combat encounters in a row, the game throws a new fun minigame at you to keep you on your toes.
- The music | The soundtrack mixed Nintendo-themed songs and Final Fantasy-sounding ones in a brilliant way, and I loved entering a new area just to hear what Super Mario RPG had to offer next. For fans of the original, you can even go back to the retro SNES music if you want to at any time.
- Visually great | The new 3D isometric look fits the game like a glove and every area has faithfully been recreated but with some loving touches here and there. Mario looks like a chibi version of himself, but the entire world feels adequately goofy. Added to this are things that 36-year-old me is still impressed with these days, even though every new game release has it, but seeing Mario’s reflection on a shiny floor or making a curtain move with cloth physics is apparently still something that shoots me full of happy hormones. I coined the term Nintendorphines some time ago and stand by it yet again.
Must be important if he has this many bodyguards. They even rolled out the red carpet!
Neither good nor bad
- Timed attacks | Just like in the Paper Mario and Mario & Luigi Superstar series, you can get some bonus damage in if you hit the attack button again at just the right time. Even more important is being able to defend yourself from all damage with the perfect timing, but strangely enough, they never explain the feature in this game and I wouldn’t have known about it if it weren’t for my experience with similar titles. You can even get a chain going of always getting in extra hits and never being hit in retaliation for further passive boosts. The timing is also REALLY hard to get down with certain weapons and there is even a secret item you can get for successfully chaining 100 jumps together (I didn’t manage)
- Enemies on the overworld | I don’t know how fresh this was back in 1996, but regular enemies walk around on the map and can be avoided, which is something I’ve always appreciated in RPGs. The reason I’m not listing this as a “Things I liked” is because I’m saddened that they didn’t grab the opportunity to let us engage with them before combat. Eg: stomping on their head to initiate the fight and dealing a wee bit of damage ahead of time (which is again a thing in the recent Mario RPGs). There is also a very tiny gap to escape from the sprite if you ran away from combat, this could have used a longer grace period.
- No voice acting | It didn’t feel like an absolute requirement, but nevertheless, I missed some typical Mario voices in this game. A “Yoshi!” here, a “Wahoo!” there, or the princess calling Mario’s name for help. It took some getting used to having a completely mute Mario to play with.
Definition of irony: when platforming is the worst part in a Mario game!
Things I disliked!
- The platforming | Ironic, isn’t it? There are a few sequences in the game that require precision platforming but the isometric perspective and lack of accurate shadow projections make it extremely hard. The screenshot above is a mandatory sequence in the game and I needed way too many attempts to successfully reach the green vine. The game punishes you for failed jumps by requiring you to climb back up or redo certain challenges. There was another moment where I needed to time my run alongside an NPC to break through a door, and it took me well over 20 attempts. Quite frustrating!
- Old designs, little handholding | Super Mario RPG is pretty much a 1:1 copy of the original game, except for some new additions. But they kept the old design philosophies of making players look for the path ahead. At one point I needed to talk to a frog sage and he told me he was hungry. I had no idea where to get the specific Cricket Pie he needed and had to resort to searching for the solution online. and this kind of thing happened a few more times during the game.
How long did I play the review before publishing? 15 hours
How long to beat the story? 12 hours
How long to complete 100% | ~20 hours
You’ll love this game if you like these | Paper Mario: The Origami King, Persona 5: Royal, Final Fantasy VII
95/100 ⭐ | In a year of Nintendo triumphs, the Super Mario RPG remake by ArtePiazza is no exception. This nostalgic journey from the SNES era brings a rush of Nintendorphines, leaving me grinning from ear to ear throughout the game.
And as an extra Did-You-Know: This marks my 1000th game victory, and I’m thrilled it’s the one that levelled up my gaming experience!
Robby lives and breathes video games. When he’s not playing them, he’s talking about them on social media or convincing other people to pick up a controller themselves. He’s online so often, he could practically list the internet as his legal domicile. Belgian games-industry know-it-all.