Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars (1996)
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.