The SNES was a beast of a system that delivered hit after hit and improved almost every genre and franchise it touched. The addition of four new buttons to the controller and updated graphics and sound gave devs the ability to take their previous ideas and expand them. Mega Man became Mega Man X, Final Fantasy evolved to Final Fantasy IV, V, and VI, and Nintendo gave us new and revamped IP like Star Fox and Donkey Kong Country. It was an amazing time to be a gamer, and in this virtual renaissance even Mario got a makeover.
After cutting my teeth on offerings like FFIV, FFVI, Chrono Trigger, and Earthbound, Super Mario RPG had me drooling. A Squaresoft/Nintendo mashup RPG? It was too good to be true. I scoured gaming mags for news and updates, freaking out over the 3D, almost clay-like aesthetic. It looked amazing and just beat Mario 64 as the title that first showed us the Mushroom Kingdom in 3D. In that time and place, it was truly mind-blowing.
Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to play it right at launch, but one month later it was quite the way to kick off my summer vacation. Since both of my parents worked, we were basically given the lay of the land, and many late nights and early mornings were dedicated to helping Mario, Geno, Peach, Bowser, and Mallow on their quest to unite the star pieces and save the world from Smithy.
Like Earthbound before it, Super Mario RPG was not only epic but infused with Nintendo’s patented gentle humor and warmth. Classic Nintendo characters spoke and had motivations that went beyond anything we had seen before. It was like learning something new and surprising about an old friend. Since that time, Mario RPGs have become a staple of Nintendo consoles. From the Mario and Luigi series to the Paper Mario franchise, Mario is a mainstay of the genre. But like most things, there’s just something special about the original.