While it might be a stretch to call Nintendo a friend to game preservationists, there’s no denying that the company is in a class of its own when it comes to respecting its own history and curating its back catalog. Nintendo has been remaking and reissuing its classic titles for at least 30 years, all the way from 1993’s Super Mario All-Stars (which gave the 8-bit Mario games a 16-bit makeover) up to this year’s Metroid Prime Remastered and Advance Wars 1+2: Re-Boot Camp. Through initiatives like the Virtual Console and Nintendo Switch Online, Nintendo keeps a raft of retro games available in their original versions. It also lavishes select titles with remakes that go quite far in their reworked control schemes or reinterpreted art styles, but invariably stay true to the original’s spirit.
The further we get into Nintendo’s decades-long project of reexamining, repackaging, and reselling its past, the more interesting and surprising some of the choices get — few more so than Super Mario RPG, a new Switch remake of the 1996 Super Nintendo game, originally subtitled Legend of the Seven Stars. Despite its position as the first role-playing, narrative-forward adventure for Nintendo’s mascot character — and the progenitor of not one but two much-loved series, Paper Mario and Mario & Luigi — Super Mario RPG has been unavailable for long periods, especially outside Japan and North America. Nintendo has seemed to keep this curious episode in Mario history at arm’s length.