Fans have been clamoring for a remake for decades, and the day has finally come: The Nintendo Switch remake of Super Nintendo classic Super Mario RPG is here. Although I have yet to try out this version of the game myself—and, to be honest, I never actually finished the original—I can’t wait to get my hands on a fresh new take on one of Nintendo’s most beloved titles of the ’90s.
While the remake includes a complete visual overhaul, new pre-rendered cutscenes, and some enhancements to the combat system, something I know fans can’t wait to hear is the updated soundtrack. Some tracks in the original 1996 SNES game—whose full title was Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars—belong in the console generation’s audio pantheon. The game includes some of the finest work from industry luminary Yoko Shimomura, which is saying something, considering some of her other work includes Street Fighter II, Kingdom Hearts, Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga, Xenoblade Chronicles, and Final Fantasy XV.
One of Yoko Shimomura’s Best Compositions
One particular earworm from the SNES version has been lodged in my brain in the weeks leading up to the new release. “Beware the Forest’s Mushrooms” plays during the Forest Maze section; it’s a dark yet whimsical melody that perfectly encapsulates the RPG experience of traveling through foreboding woods. Here’s the original:
And here’s a sample of the revamped version for the remake:
Why the Forest Maze Theme Slaps
I could have gone with several other standout compositions (such as the phenomenal battle theme), but what sticks with me about “Beware the Forest’s Mushrooms” is how it sounds unlike any other Mario theme up to that point. Most of Super Mario RPG’s original score teems with the same kind of vivacity and delight you’d get out of Super Mario Bros. or Super Mario World, but this one track exudes a faint eeriness reserved for medieval-inspired role-playing games. Sure, the track contains some goofiness and pluckiness you’d expect from a Nintendo adventure, but the air of mystery and spookiness is ever-present, making it particularly memorable within the context of a Mario game.
In terms of the differences between the two versions, the newer one seems to include an additional layer of intrigue with more tinny background instruments, and the softer take on the core melody connotes a sense of fogginess—which makes perfect sense given the woodland environment in which the song is played. Meanwhile, while the original’s pounding MIDI notes create a sense of urgency for the player, the updated version feels slightly more laid-back, as though it’s encouraging the player to take their time and explore the labyrinthine woods even more.
Either way, “Beware the Forest’s Mushrooms” remains a terrific composition from Shimomura. Whether you prefer the Super Nintendo version’s staccato nature or the Switch version’s quieter vibes, the track is undeniably great. It’s great to see Nintendo recognize this, too—the Switch remake of Super Mario RPG allows players to toggle between the original music and the modern soundtrack, so you can listen to whichever version you prefer!
Embrace the Strange
As the first notable collaboration between Square Enix (then just Square) and Nintendo, Super Mario RPG may have been the most idiosyncratic game on its platform. Released just months before the release of the Nintendo 64, the game includes all the hallmarks of a classic Mario title—Toads, Bowser, mushrooms, coins, jumping— yet contains the narrative, mechanical, and architectural structures of a Final Fantasy or Dragon Quest title, including turn-based combat, an isometric view, and sidequests.
Most of Super Mario RPG’s original score teems with the [familiar] kind of vivacity and delight… but this one track exudes a faint eeriness reserved for medieval-inspired role-playing games. The air of mystery and spookiness is ever-present, making it particularly memorable within the context of a Mario game.
While music is certainly not the sole aspect of Super Mario RPG that separates it from its fellow Super Nintendo Mario titles, the soundtrack at times encapsulates just how groundbreaking and bizarre this collaboration was at the time. As the later RPGs in the Mushroom Kingdom (e.g. Paper Mario and Mario & Luigi) felt in many ways like logical extensions of the iconic platformers, the original Super Mario RPG stands alone in its peculiarity, and tracks like “Beware the Forest’s Mushrooms” underscore that strangeness.
The remake of Super Mario RPG, developed by ArtePiazza and published by Nintendo, releases November 17 exclusively for the Nintendo Switch. MSRP: $59.99.