It’s No Secret Why Secret of Mana Is Still Magical 30 Years Later

Secret of Mana is celebrating its 30-year anniversary today, August 6, 2023. Below, we look back at what set it apart from other RPGs of its era, and how in some ways it was ahead of its time.”

Secret of Mana is celebrating its 30-year anniversary today, August 6, 2023. Below, we look back at what set it apart from other RPGs of its era, and how in some ways it was ahead of its time.

The SNES in the early ’90s ushered in the next generation of games with its 16-bit power, far more than that of its predecessor, and graphics that almost felt unbelievable at the time. RPGs came in by the dozens: Illusion of Gaia, Final Fantasy 3 (aka FF6), Breath of Fire 2, Chrono Trigger, Earthbound. All of these became instant classics or cult favorites down the line. Some were even rereleased on later consoles like the 3DS or even PS1. But one stands out as particularly special, drawing me back to it every year because it’s just as good as when it was released in 1993: Secret of Mana.

Secret of Mana’s lineage actually comes from other legacy titles. The brainchild of Final Fantasy alum Koichi Ishii, it is the sequel to the 1991 Japanese game Seiken Densetsu (meaning “The Legend of the Sacred Sword”), which was released in North America as Final Fantasy Adventure and in Europe as Mystic Quest. Ted Woolsey, a video game producer and American translator, admitted in interviews that the word “mana” used in the game is not a literal translation of the original game. “Seiken” was close enough to “secret” phonetically, and the game was rebranded for the States. That makes Secret of Mana the first Seiken Densetsu title to be marketed as part of the Mana series, rather than a Final Fantasy game.

Secret of Mana’s success can be attributed to a number of factors. The game’s story is engaging and features memorable characters, like the lovable and stubborn protagonist, Randi, and the wise and powerful wizard, Terra. The combat is challenging but fair, and the game’s world is expansive and filled with secrets to discover. The game’s graphics are also impressive for their time, and the music is catchy and memorable.

Secret of Mana is still popular today, and it continues to be rereleased on newer consoles. It’s a classic that everyone should experience at least once.

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