Super Mario RPG: Battle Mechanics – A Longform Analysis

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This is the first of a multi-part analysis looking at Super Mario RPG. Here we’ll discuss the battle mechanics, and timed hits in particular, to find out what makes this game so special.


  1. Nah, it's just up to you. The shell game has an expected value of 0 (if you consider 'paying' 100% of your exp as part of the game), so whatever benefit or detriment is up to whether you like or hate to gamble. This is of course assuming the shells are all equally likely. Biasing it against the player seems too counterproductive since gambling is supposed to be fun, but biasing in the player's favor might lead to some skewed progression balance.

    As a side note, the first Final Fantasy random encounter formula might look impressive, but it's simply something like Beta(2,5) [<92] in a single line. The comparison is false if you are praising the former but criticizing the latter because there is nothing fundamentally different other than the PDFs themselves in those two examples.

  2. A game so legendary that it deserves representation in Smash just for the awesome legacy it has, sprouting the rest of the mario rpgs. Despite this I feel it is still hands down the best Mario RPG and easily the most charming and ambitious. It was the first game to portray the mushroom kingdom in an unabashed, charming japanese way

  3. I never really got the timed hits thing, there is no way to know when to press the button appart from on the basic mario punch animation or the gunba attack animation from the tutorial, how were we supposed to find out when to time hits?

  4. The she'll game is easier to follow with your finger. Back in the hay day, I used to have a really high success with it.

  5. "The observant player may notice this trend"

    I NEVER noticed it, with how rpgs are with bitch radon dmg and varying stats based on level I never noticed such a thing in this mess of randomness and arbitrary blunders

  6. Great video! Very in-depth and well thought out Game Soup! How do you see the timing mechanics have changed with the Paper Mario series and the Mario & Luigi series over time? Are there additional innovations that have been made which have been successful?

  7. Someone should make a video about the timings for the various attacks/blocks. I'm level 6 and still haven't seen a timed Thunderbolt by Mallow (if it's actually possible). Anyway I don't really like the system, probably because I suck at it.

  8. Well said, man. You hit the nail on the head why this RPG is so much better compared to most. It focuses on player skill as a means to attack, defend and so on. So, like you said, it's not just a battle of numbers, but a player having to practice his timing to maximize his team's performance in battle.

    Seriously, more RPG's need to follow this because I'm so sick of RPG's playing like a game of D&D with a roll of the dice. You might as well play a game of D&D in that case because what's the difference?

  9. i`m making a game extremely inspired on this game, this game changed my conceptions about RPGs, unfortunalety i can`t do the damage when pressing a button, there`s a demo available at gamejolt, search CG the seven knights virus, thanks!

  10. Wow, I did not know there was a 2x AND 1.5x multipliers for perfect and almost-perfect timing! My whole world is shattered! ๐Ÿ˜ฎ

  11. Wait wait wait. I'm pretty sure "freebies" are also generated by a timed button press with item.

  12. pfft while there at it why not play chrono trigger, and the soul blazer , illusion of gaia and terrinigma. you know the other good games?

  13. Mmmmmmm, Shining Force II, my absolute favorite game of all time. I'm not saying it was the best or better than most even, but for me singularly it was and always has been an absolute masterpiece. Whatever the game devs were trying to convey in that game, it came through loud and clear with me.

  14. I'm surprised lost odyssey wasn't mentioned in the timed attack section, that game added to it by having modifiers attached to the ring equipment. it was great

  15. Here's the trick with using Mallow.
    No basic attacks. Ever.
    Instead, use Thunderbolt. Pretend it was his basic attack. It's 2FP, hits everyone and does much more damage than you'd think, even at the very end of the game.
    You ESPECIALLY want to do that in the first Croco battle – it's literally the most damaging option you have. For 2FP.

  16. many items and spells i just conduct figure out the timing for… i dont know if its right before the hit or heal is applied on animation or not.

  17. I feel like it should be noted that Freebies can be timed. With the right press of the button, every item use can be a freebie.

  18. Thanks for all of your analysis videos Game Soup!
    I'm currently developing a video game with a team of a few people right now and these have been very beneficial to me, so thank you ๐Ÿ™‚

  19. I don't agree with part turn – part timed attacks. I have not played Super Mario RPG but I have played Vagrant Story, which seems very similar. I gave up on that game after a dozen hours. Having to precisely hit an attack every single time in every battle was just too stressful. The reason you play JRPGs (apart from the story and theme) is because you don't really want to exert yourself and play something relatively easy going. JRPGs have a specific Flow that timed attacks simply aren't compatible with. (Except if they are seen as special or a optional bonus to standard damage)

  20. This game is one of my favorite of all time! Also, I thought the Yoshi mini game was really easy when I was younger… But anyway, great job analyzing!

  21. I believe when you look at Geno's specials in the menu, it indicates that you'll be able to time Geno Whirl for a lot of damage in its description.

  22. Oh man, I had a rather terrible obsession with this game when I was a kid. But even all these years later, and all the masterpieces that have come out since it's release, it has still remained one of my favorite and most cherished games of all time. I just adore every bit it. The music, the aesthetics, the writing, and of course the gameplay.
    I just wanted to say fantastic video, I'm very much looking forward to the rest of the series. I wasn't subscribed to you prior, but I just happened to stumble upon this video, by chance and seeing this was an ongoing series I of coursed had to shoot you a sub right away. But now that I've been subscribed to you for a few weeks now, I gotta say I find myself liking most of your videos (I just got done watching you play an entire game of Stratego, lol). So keep up the good work. Later, man.

  23. Agreed, the battle system is solid. I also think it's important that the animations are quick and precise. You never feel like a random encounter is wasting any more of your time than it has to.

    I've long felt it was clear that this game was an RPG built primarily for non-RPG players. That's why there's so much beneficial randomness, why the levels also include things like platforming and minigames. It's also, I think, why the overworld is connected by nodes. It's extremely hard to get lost in an overworld like that.

  24. Awesome video. I think you made some really good comments and analyzed the game well. I love Super Mario RPG, and I'm working on making an old school turn based combat system, but am striving for it to be fun and interactive. This definitely gave me some stuff to think about.

  25. I completely agree on super mario RPG being my favorite rpg of all time. =p This is actually really informative and helpful as I'm debating making a game with a similar battle system. I'm looking forward to your further analyses as I'll be able to use it when trying to design my game. =)

  26. "Square Enix forces all staff to play Super Mario RPG in order to learn how to make good RPG's again"… Well, they could still certainly use a playthrough now. In fact, they could have used a playthrough every year in the last decade if the point was to teach them to make a good RPG.

  27. Enjoyed the vid, look forward to watching more.

    I feel like the video needs some music from the game in the background, though! Also, at 3:55, the audio sounds like you recorded it with two different mics and the L/R channels sound off. Other than that, content was great.

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