Gaming

Hold Onto Your Frog Coins, Super Mario RPG Gets the Remake Treatment

Looks perfect. No notes.
Looks perfect. No notes. Screenshot from the Super Mario RPG trailer.
On Wednesday, Nintendo announced that their long-rumored remake of the Super Nintendo classic Super Mario RPG would release on November 11 of this year. This is a really big deal.

In the 1990s, Nintendo and Square Enix (then Squaresoft) completely dominated the roleplaying game world, Two of the best Final Fantasies ever, Chrono Trigger, and Secret of Mana all came out within five years of each other on the 16-bit system, and all of them remain big sellers to this day. Despite whining about buying Final Fantasy VI for the fifth time here in print, I just bought the Pixel Remaster and it was goddamn magical how well it held up. This was a golden age of pixelated RPGs that continues to find new fans.

And Super Mario RPG was the best of them. Sorry Chrono Trigger fans, but it’s true. Mechanically, it did everything the rest of Square Enix’s output did, only better, and while perfectly incorporating the quirks of the Mushroom Kingdom to boot. All the charming nonsense that made up a Mario game was woven perfectly into a more traditional turn-based fantasy dungeon crawler setting. Characters like Bowser and Princess Peach who had little development in the actual games became fully-fleshed out heroes. A lot of what people love about King Koopa and Princess Toadstool in the new Mario movie started in Super Mario RPG.

As if that wasn’t enough, the game’s story was easily the best any Mario game has ever had. A troop of living weapons smashes into Bowser’s Castle after destroying the Star Road, the mechanism from which wishes come true in this world. The subsequent quest is to recover the ability of people of live free of war and have hope for the future, something even Bowser agrees to fight for. This was heavy stuff for an SNES game, and it still has cultural relevance now.

Despite all of this, Super Mario RPG has been almost impossible to play legally since the end of the SNES era. Square Enix and Nintendo had one of the messiest breakups in industry history. Square Enix wanted to create more cinematic games that would have fully-rendered cutscenes, but that would have required moving to CDs.

Nintendo, instead, plowed ahead with the Nintendo 64. While a groundbreaking system in its own right, its cartridge technology wasn’t capable of doing what Square Enix wanted with Final Fantasy VII. And so ended one of the most productive partnerships in gaming. For years afterwards, Nintendo and Square Enix were like a divorced couple who couldn’t stand to be in the same room with each other.

The relationship softened eventually. The Nintendo DS got a string of excellent classic Final Fantasy remakes and an enhanced version of Chrono Trigger. Mainline Final Fantasies don’t seem to make it to the Switch, but Nintendo is doing its own thing with Xenoblade Chronicles.

But the last time Super Mario RPG was available for purchase was in the Wii store, and that’s been shuttered for years. Calls to include original characters like Mallow and Geno in Smash Bros only resulted in some Mii skins. It’s like Super Mario RPG was some unpleasant reminder of the old times that neither company wanted to deal with, even to make money off of.

To see this essential piece of Mario history reborn is to hopefully heal the divide for good. Nintendo’s efforts at spiritual successors to Super Mario RPG have been lackluster, and Square Enix seems to finally realize that the market for classic-style RPGs and nostalgia properties is still very, very viable. The best thing about this remake is that maybe, just maybe, it means Super Mario RPG 2 will finally happen.

All I know is that I’ve got my pre-order down already. If y’all don’t hear from me in November, you’ll know what I’m doing.
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Jef Rouner (not cis, he/him) is a contributing writer who covers politics, pop culture, social justice, video games, and online behavior. He is often a professional annoyance to the ignorant and hurtful.
Contact: Jef Rouner