The debate over how long video games should be has raged since the 90s at least. I’ve certainly dipped my toes into this conversation before, including here on Destructoid. But for the recent release of Super Mario RPG, those asking “how long is it” may need a slightly more nuanced answer than usual.
For those just tuning in, the remake of the Super Nintendo classic Super Mario RPG is here. For my part, I absolutely loved reviewing the game. I do think there were missed opportunities with the remake. However, I remain confident in saying that everyone, in one way or another, should experience this adventure. It’s also a $60 remake of a 27-year-old game, and it doesn’t boast the longest run time.
Depending on where you look, you’ll maybe see the claim that Super Mario RPG takes 12 hours to complete. And while you certainly can finish the game in 12 hours, I’d hesitate to say that’s how long you’ll spend with Super Mario RPG. I’ll unpack this by sharing my experience.
How long is the Super Mario RPG remake?
I talked about this in my review, but I think a more dedicated breakdown is in order.
By the time I reached the end of the credits, my playtime was 14 hours and 45 minutes. I played the original quite a bit in my youth, but it had been a decade since my last playthrough. For this reason, I didn’t exactly remember each and every secret. I had to spend a bit of time looking for hidden chests and chasing down optional quests. I also talked to every NPC and looked for potential easter eggs. This included returning to Vista Hill every now and then, just so I could see if there was any new dialogue as my party grew.
I did, generally, try to skip most enemy encounters. This kept me from getting overleveled, which led to nicely-tuned boss fights. That said, I did have Mallow scan as many enemies as I could find with the Thought Peek skill. You better believe I want to read every single foe’s thoughts.
Though my playtime was a bit above the 11 or 12 hours that has been cited, I still fell quite a bit below the alleged SNES runtime of 17.5 hours. This could be because the remake is easier than the original game. I’d have to play the two side-by-side to really compare them and see what the difference is. However, I’d say the reduction is at least as much a result of how the remake streamlines the game. Again, as I cited in my review, there’s very little time spent on menus here. Additionally, battle transitions do seem to be a bit faster on average. The original game was already pretty light on filler, but the remake cuts the downtime even further.
But how long does the extra content in Super Mario RPG take to complete?
This is another area where the “length” conversation gets tricky. I’m going to remain spoiler-free with this topic, but as another recap, Super Mario RPG does feature some boss rematches. Like I said in my review, this feature wasn’t as comprehensive as I think it could have been. However, these encounters do add some teeth to the experience, so I do think they warrant some discussion as well.
I didn’t time how long I spent with these encounters, but I estimate they took around 1.5 hours. Part of what makes this estimate tricky is that, for the sake of exploring some of the mechanics at this stage, I did level-grind my party just to see how hard certain things could hit. I don’t think anyone has to grind to beat these encounters unless you just feel safer with more stats. I also spent some time replaying battles to get the strategies down pat. Someone who looks up a guide or already has the game’s best equipment might have an easier time.
However, even if you complete these rematches, you can still find things to do in the game. It’s just a bit weird since this is an area of content that’s closer to achievement hunting than anything. There’s stuff from the original game you can uncover, like trying to find items such as the Star Egg. Also, there are some remake-specific things you can chase down if you’re committed. This mostly consists of tasks like filling out the Monster List or going for better scores on some of the minigames.
I don’t necessarily think many people will get that into the weeds with the game. You aren’t exactly missing out by not seeing and doing every single possible thing the game offers. But, that is what I did, and it did push me to roughly 20 hours played all said and done. I’m happy with my time spent, but as always, your mileage may vary.
Is the Super Mario RPG remake worth $60?
So, with all that said, we arrive at the $60 question: is Super Mario RPG worth all sixty of those dollars?
The thing is, there’s not really a great methodology for factoring price into a game’s quality. Some people have more time than money, while others have more money than time. Some may straight-up prefer their games to be short. For me, how much game I’m getting per dollar kind of depends on the quality of the experience. There are titles that have more filler than something like Super Mario Wonder, but maybe those games serve a different purpose. For example, a long RPG might burn me out if I play it for several hours at once, but it may be something I enjoy returning to in short bursts. In those cases, I think the longer runtime can benefit, since I can treat it like a bedtime story to enjoy for weeks on end.
However, I think the unique thing about Super Mario RPG is that it isn’t a slow-burn RPG. The first weekend I had it, I played it for a good 10 hours and didn’t feel sick of it at all. That flow of charming dialogue, inventive dungeon design, and phenomenal music puts it closer to Super Mario Wonder in my mind than something like Octopath Traveler 2. Maybe that’s not what RPG fans in particular value most, but I do think that experience is part of why Super Mario RPG still commands so much admiration.
But Super Mario RPG is a remake of an SNES game, right?
Well, yeah, I can’t argue with facts. Despite my gripes about what this remake could have added, I do think it’s a comprehensive effort. It certainly doesn’t feel like corners were cut, especially when it comes to that delightful soundtrack.
Could Super Mario RPG have been sold at a lower price? Maybe. Obviously, a less expensive game is more accessible to more people, especially for anyone struggling just to make their bills every month. I also don’t know how much this remake cost to make, either. Nintendo didn’t include that information with the embargo guidelines.
The weird thing with remakes is that, if you never played the original game, then this functionally is a new experience. And while some may find ways to get their hands on the SNES original these days, it’s not like that cartridge is readily available. So for this audience, knocking it for being a remake is kind of an immaterial thing. Heck, some younger gamers may see it on the eShop without ever having seen a Super Nintendo!
But, if you do have that SNES cartridge on standby… then yeah, this remake may be a harder sell. Look, what the remake adds to the core game is very nice. That said, the main appeal of the package is just how good Super Mario RPG is at its core. Some extra features may not justify $60 for you, and that’s fine! I sort of feel like anyone familiar with the original probably knows how eager they are to jump into the remake. But at least for the time being, it’s not like this version of Super Mario RPG is going anywhere anytime soon. You can always choose to pick it up down the line.
It’s worth the money if you want the experience
Ultimately, I wrote this big ol’ post because, based on my experience, I don’t think Super Mario RPG is a game that everyone will just crush within 12 hours. However, even if you extend your time into the 15-20 hour range, it is still short by RPG standards. The thing is, even if there are other games that are as good per minute and take twice as long to finish, I don’t think that’s a point against Super Mario RPG. It’s just a different experience, and there’s room for long and short games on the market.
To give an analogy, sometimes I’ll treat myself with bubble tea. It’s an expensive beverage, so I probably could get a gallon of juice from my local grocery store for the same price. Surely, that’s a better value if we’re talking price-per-sip. But not every decision I make in life needs to be the most economical one possible. Sometimes I’m happy to spend that cash on a treat I’ll really enjoy every now and then. Would I make that financial decision every time? Of course not. But the experience is worth paying a premium to me.
For those who are not great with metaphors, Super Mario RPG is the bubble tea. It is very good, and I am happy to have given it that nine out of ten score. At the same time, maybe not all of you need to purchase it on day one, and that is totally okay. I do hope that everyone can enjoy this game as much as I did. But if you’re still on the fence about picking it up, maybe wait a week or two and see how you feel about it after the hype has died down. You don’t have to take my word or anyone else’s on whether you’re going to love a game. I promise you won’t hurt my feelings.
In short, I highly recommend the Super Mario RPG remake. However, it may not be for you depending on what you want in an RPG and how you feel about the original game, and that is perfectly okay. Even if you skip it, I promise I can still be your friend. Maybe a friend that will nudge you to play Super Mario RPG, but a friend nonetheless.