On paper, Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars is a game that probably shouldn’t exist. It brought together Nintendo’s platforming icon with RPG giant Square in a way that seemed impossible, imbuing the denizens of the Mushroom Kingdom (and beyond) with bucketloads of personality beyond the hops, jumps, and yelps they were previously known for. It’s got humour in spades, from tongue-in-cheek jokes to characters pantomiming events whenever they retell them. It’s weird and hilarious, and it knows it — and that’s why people love it.
So it’s a darn good thing that Super Mario RPG, the Switch remake of 1996's turn-based favourite, retains the weirdness that gave the SNES original a special charm. Not a hair is out of place in this remake. We said in our preview that this is one of the most faithful HD adaptations we’ve ever played, and now that we’ve seen everything the game has to offer, we stand by that statement, and it’s all the better for it. This is a magical experience reworked to near perfection with high-definition clarity.
That’s true right from the moment you first look and hear the game. Nintendo has done an amazing job updating the visuals in a way that remains faithful to the clay-doll style of the 16-bit version while also giving it a new lease of life. It feels like you can reach into the screen and touch the fluffy clouds of Nimbus Land, and you feel the heat of the lava in Pipe Plaza as it glows and sizzles. All of this is accompanied by a rearranged soundtrack – supervised by original composer Yoko Shimomura, just as she did with 2022’s Live A Live remake – that’s as dreamy and catchy as the original.
It’s remarkable to see all of the towns, dungeons, and maps get this glow-up – grassy, blurry plains are transformed and you can now see individual leaves and specks of dirt on the ground. The new visuals also allow facial expressions to get even more creative. Every time Mallow smiles is irresistible, Bowser’s visible sobbing is funnier than ever, and the animation carries over into stunning cutscenes peppered throughout the story (every Triple Move also gets one of these). And, true to the original, there's no voice acting either, with only Bowser's grunts being vocalised. This initially feels a bit awkward during CGI scenes, but we're not sure we'd want full voice acting, even from Geno and Mallow.
The game aims for 60fps throughout, and for the most part, it hits that, with the exception of some fairly noticeable frame drops in certain areas. This happened in locations with lots of water such as the Kero Sewers, Tadpole Pond, and the Sea. It also momentarily occurs during Triple Moves right as the game transitions from the CG cutscenes back to the battle. This is only a small blemish on what is otherwise a gorgeous remake, but it’s a bit surprising, nonetheless.
What isn’t surprising is the story. Super Mario RPG’s narrative isn’t going for anything deep, but depth isn’t really the point. The game knows exactly what it is – a fun adventure featuring everyone’s favourite platforming plumber. And 'fun' really is the keyword here; Mario’s expedition to save the Princess might lead into a world-spanning quest, but the joy is in the journey and the details. We’ve talked about charm in spades, but the cutscenes and the dialogue in this game are riotous, and it’s exhilarating to go around every town and talk to everybody each time you progress to a new location.
A lot of the dialogue is exactly as it was on the Super NES, though a few pop culture nods have been swapped out (RIP Bruce Lee reference). Plus, we’re not sure we can forgive Frogfucius being changed to Frog Sage. Come on now. Though Mack to Claymorton might make up for it. Almost.
The simple story, abundance of humour, and visuals aside, the gameplay is where most of the smaller tweaks to Super Mario RPG come in, although the combat isn’t bringing anything new to the table in terms of the genre. At the time, the timing-based combat was a novelty, but the game isn’t much of a challenge even on the standard difficulty, though it's still a joy to play.
The timing-based button presses, which became a staple of Mario's subsequent RPG adventures, can take a while to perfect, even with the added exclamation point aid. If you do start to get better, the exclamation will eventually stop appearing, meaning you can’t use it as a crutch. Plus, the timing is different for every single character, weapon, and attack, so there’s a fair amount of skill involved. You don’t need to nail them to get through the base game, but you will need them for a lot of the optional quests and bosses.
The new features like splash damage, Triple Attacks, and the exclamation mark can’t be turned off, which means the Switch remake is even easier than the Super Nintendo original for the most part. But there’s a new wrinkle in the form of Special Enemies — stronger variants of enemies that can randomly appear in battle. These hit harder, have better stats in general, and require a bit more thought than regular encounters. They’re still manageable, but they do randomly add a bit more flavour for those who are looking for a little extra challenge. Oh, and if it's a challenge you want, then trying to do 100 jumps in a row is still hard.
In terms of difficulty, fans of the SNES game and RPG veterans do have something new to look forward to after the credits roll that's a big step up from the base game. While it doesn't provide anything close to the toughest the genre has to offer, it does add a few extra hours and another layer of joy for those who truly fall in love with Super Mario RPG.
And we reckon that’ll be a lot of people with this Switch remake. The 27 years between the Super NES version and its reincarnation have been very kind to Super Mario RPG. This is a timeless video game with simple controls, a colourful cast, and a boatload of humour that’ll have you grinning from ear to ear the whole way through. This remake has been handled with love and care which shines through in the gorgeous new visuals, beautiful rearrangements, and just how close it is to the beloved original.
Super Mario RPG is here in all of its weird, wonderful glory for a new generation to experience, and sets a new standard for how to do a faithful remake right. Delivering a beautifully preserved, pure experience for fans of the original and an accessible entry-point for genre newcomers, the game's infectious charm, writing, and polished gameplay do so much to elevate this beyond what might have been merely a simple RPG starring Mario.