Nintendo had experimented plenty with Mario by 1996, but they weren't yet entirely used to handing the reigns to other developers. Yet what better studio to take over development of a Mario RPG (a genre Nintendo's talents had little experience with) than Square, the creators of Final Fantasy?
Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars was a revelation for anyone who played it. It turned every convention of the Mario universe on its head: Bowser and Peach joined Mario and fought unfamiliar enemies at his side; a deep and engrossing turn-based battle system replaced any semblance of platforming; and Mario's signature jump had made him a celebrity in the Mushroom Kingdom and beyond, throughout the game's vast world. For the first time, Mario and his friends were given a greater context, and thanks to Square's incredible writing, graphics that looked well ahead of their time, and a memorable soundtrack, Super Mario RPG remains one of the greatest Mario games ever.