Video Games! Few of us can remember a time when our lives weren’t utterly consumed by the world of gaming; it’s practically become a sub-culture all on its own. These days mega gatherings such as PAX and E3 command enormous numbers of attendees and draw a great amount of media attention. Games made today are expected to turn out top notch production values, but that didn’t happen overnight. Sometimes we forget (or in some cases, never knew) about the classy little gems that set this cornucopia of augmented reality into full swing. To remedy that, I’ll be counting down my personal Top Ten Forgotten Favorites of Gaming!

#10: Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars

For many of us, it can be difficult to recall our earliest gaming memory. Regardless of which game (in whatever form) actually served as our first, many find themselves waxing lyrical over memories of Super Mario Brothers. What is it about this title that instantly triggers nostalgia? Maybe it’s the memory of sitting on the living room floor of your cousins’ either super early in the morning or super late at night, wantonly wasting away the hours playing “Mario Bros” on the NES. Or perhaps its flying around for the first time in the 3D rendered worlds of Super Mario 64. Whatever memory one chooses to latch onto, it’s undeniable that Super Mario is the most recognized symbol of gaming next to ‘Metroid’ or the ‘Legend of Zelda.’

First hitting shelves in March 1996, ‘Super Mario RPG’ was a radically fresh take on what had become a pretty standard formula. The plot of these games has never been particularly complex. Mario, the eponymous Italian plumber, and Princess Peach live happily in the Mushroom Kingdom; that is until the giant lizard, Bowser, who lives next door comes in to kidnap Princess Peach. The idea of taking something like Mario and making it into an RPG was a strange idea that nobody had considered. Some even doubted that “Mario” and “RPG” would even mesh well. It would be like making a Super Mario Brothers Movie starring Bob Hoskins and John Leguizamo – wait……..oh yeah.

When the advertising began hitting our TV’s we were hyped as hell. The commercials presented a new Mario adventure with a grim tone and more mature atmosphere. Like comic movie trailers today that promise the same thing, it had a lot to live up to.

The plot of SM RPG takes the simple story and actually manages to expand it into an interesting narrative. Peach, who, at this point, we can only assume has a disturbing fetish for being kidnapped, has once again been kidnapped. However rescuing her only encompasses a mere fourth of the complete run time. The rest of the game’s length consists of a surprisingly gripping and dark turn. It was just as the commercials said it would be.

Who knew that RPG elements could make Super Mario so exciting? The dialogue (yeah! dialogue!) suddenly made these long established characters even more fun and interesting. It brought them to life in a way we hadn’t seen before. “But what about the score?” you might ask. This is true. RPG’s always seem to get the best composers for their soundtracks, and SM RPG is no exception. The boss battles contain tracks so exciting and epic that you soon forget you’re playing something based on Super Mario. Each character is given special powers and attacks inherent to their personality and aesthetics.The animations for each attack were very well animated for the technology available. The stage designs were also very unique to the Mario universe. Battles commenced whenever the onscreen character touched a patrolling enemy, eliminated the ever frustrating RPG trope of random encounters.

Much like the Olympic Masterpiece that is Super Mario Brothers 3 on the NES, Super Mario RPG stands tall as a title within an established franchise that took risks. There is something for a variety of gamers; cartoon violence, an engaging story, RPG strategy, and lovable fan favorites unleashing a mushroom can of butt-whoop. Copies of the game tend to sell for a fairly steep price these days, but the game can also be downloaded through Nintendo’s Wii Shop channel. Pick it up, download it, or loan it from a friend. You’ll be glad you did.

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