On This Day in Gaming: Super Mario RPG
Welcome to a brand-new editorial column of GamingROI that we are calling “on this day in gaming.” With this new column, we will look back on some of the most important video games from the past and discuss their impact on the modern industry. Our goal is to introduce new players to some of the best games from the past while also providing a platform for discussion and nostalgia. It just so happens that one of our favorite games will serve as the catalyst for this new column: Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars.
On This Day in Gaming is a series that honors the anniversary of the most iconic video games in history. We analyze director and studio development decisions while also reminiscing on the enduring legacy that continues to influence the industry.
Released in North America on March 9, 1996, Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars is one of the most important role-playing games of all time. Although fans consider the SNES era to be the “golden age” of JRPGs, the genre struggled mightily in North America. Square had developed and published iconic JRPGs, such as Chrono Trigger and Final Fantasy VI; however, executives were disappointed by sales in the west. North American gamers, who were more interested in platformers and action titles, were put off by the slower-paced JRPG genre. Unsure of how to break into the western market, Square solicited Nintendo on a potential Mario crossover title. The “stars” began to align as Shigeru Miyamoto had also wanted to branch into the JRPG genre. Because Mario was already a global icon, Miyamoto proposed a role-playing game centered around the Italian plumber. In the November 1995 edition of Maximum: The Video Game Magazine, a Nintendo employee explained:
Square’s RPGs sold well in Japan but not overseas. There have been calls from all ages, and from young girls, for another character to which they could become attached. Mario was the best but had not been in an RPG. Nintendo’s director, Mr. Miyamoto also wanted to do an RPG using Mario. There happened to be a chance for both companies to talk, which went well.Nintendo Employee
Nintendo’s “magic” combined with Square’s expertise in the JRPG genre resulted in one of the most iconic games of all time. In just one month, Super Mario RPG sold over 200,000 copies in North America, which was more than Final Fantasy VI and Chrono Trigger combined. The game went on to sell more than 500,000 copies by year’s end and spent 14 straight weeks as the most-rented game in the United States.
Western fans were hooked. The game’s platforming elements combined with Square’s turned-based battle system made for a perfect blend of precision and strategy. Combined with a quirky cast of characters, Super Mario RPG proved that JRPGs could be tactical, witty, and fun. As other developers witnessed the game’s success, more became willing to enter the North American market.
- Enix stopped releasing Dragon Quest titles in the west after the NES title Dragon Quest IV. However, Enix revitalized the series 10 years later in 2001 with Dragon Quest VII: Fragments of the Forgotten Past.
- Square never released the Romancing Saga series in the west; however, they made the series available on the PS2 in the early 2000s.
- Namco held its Tales of series exclusive to Japan until the 2001 release of Tales of Eternia.
Super Mario RPG soon went off to spawn the Paper Mario and Mario & Luigi series, which are still beloved today. Finally, Mario JRPGs continue to be an important staple of Nintendo’s first-party IP.
So what makes Super Mario RPG one of the best games of all time? We are so glad that you asked. Here is a short list of what we love about the game:
- Simplicity. The game does not bog down the player with too many “JRPG” battle options. Mario and company simply can attack, use magic, or select an item in battle. Weapons, armor, and accessories are also simple and easy to understand. This streamlined system allowed players the ability to slightly customize characters while focusing on the story and platforming elements.
- Playable Characters. For the first time in a Mario game, Bowser is not the main antagonist! In fact, Bowser becomes a playable character midway through the game. This deviation added to Bowser’s lore and personality and can still be seen in the modern Mario RPG games. In addition, Princess Peach is also a playable character along with the likes of Geno and Mallow. This quirky cast made for humorous and memorable dialogue.
- Story. Until this point, Mario’s story had always been simple: Defeat Bowser and save Princess Peach. In Super Mario RPG, the narrative is flipped on its head. Bowser is no longer the antagonist and Mario must team up with his nemesis to defeat an even greater evil. This creative choice led to one of the most memorable story experiences in the Mario universe that is still admired today.
There you have it. The story behind one of the most important JRPGs of all time. But we want to know what you think. Did you play Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars during the SNES era? If so, what are some of your favorite memories? Let us know in the comments below or the social media links on the right. Also, be sure to check out our other news items on Pokemon, Modern Warfare, Capcom, Blizzard and more.
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