Secret of Mana (SNES)

Pub & Dev: Square Soft | October 1993 | 16 MEGS
Pub & Dev: Square Soft | October 1993 | 16 MEGS

Today is September 29, 2017. It marks the launch date of the wildly popular SNES Classic Edition. One of the 21 classic SNES games on that device is none other than Secret of Mana. Therefore, I can’t think of a better time than now to review this heralded SNES fan favorite. My brother adored Secret of Mana back in 1993 as did an entire generation of gamers. I didn’t care much for it back then as I wasn’t a big fan of the genre. But my tastes changed (I like to think they’ve matured) over the years and I finally played Secret of Mana nearly 20 years later in 2010. Did the game live up to its massive hype? Let’s take a look…



I went from hating RPGs without cause to loving the genre without abandon. Talk about a major switch. I guess you could say I matured as I grew older, or at least, my gaming tastes did. Right around 2003 was when the shift happened. I came to appreciate the “story telling” aspect of these games, as well as their ability to sweep you away to another land far away. I trekked my way through Terranigma in late 2010 and loved every second of it. There’s nothing like playing an (action) RPG during the cold chilly winter months. There’s just something magical about those early darkening afternoons and bitter cold nights that’s conducive to playing these adventures by a cozy fire. No other genre in my book is more enjoyable to play than the (action) RPG during the winter season. So after finishing Terranigma and being blown away by what a magnificent game it was, I knew my next game had to be the one and only Secret of Mana. Coming back to the Super Nintendo in early 2006 (January 17, 2006) allowed me an opportunity at gaming redemption. There were so many awesome SNES games I missed out on. One of the biggest games I had yet to play was Secret of Mana. The stage was set, then, for one epic adventure…

Glad they went with the name Secret of Mana!
Glad they went with Secret of Mana








The infamous ring menu. Access is quick and easy
The infamous ring menu. Access is quick and easy
Learn magic and power them up as you go
Learn magic and power them up as you go
There are eight weapon types in all
There are eight weapon types in all
Gotta reforge them all...
Gotta reforge them all…
Watts is the man to see to upgrade your weapons
Watts is the man to see to upgrade your weapons
This made Mana stood out back in the day for sure
This made Mana stood out back in the day for sure





Glorious Mode 7 galore...
Glorious Mode 7 galore…


Timothy: Shh! That Steve idiot is coming our way!
“Shh! That Steve idiot is coming our way!”

Timothy: Oh hey Steve. What’s up? Funny, we were just talking about you!

Steve: Oh yeah? What were you guys saying?

Elliot: Good things only, of course.

That clumsy Steve
That clumsy, clumsy Steve
"See ya later, Steve!"
“See ya later, Steve!”

Timothy: WUH OH!

Elliott: I didn’t see that…

Timothy: Neither did I…



Steve, fortunately enough, lands safely in the water. He yells for help but oddly enough, no sign of either Elliott or Timothy. Imagine that. Dazed and confused, Steve dusts himself off and crawls for land in the life-threatening thigh-high water.


"Gee, if only I had... like... A LEGENDARY SWORD..."
“Gee, if only I had… like… A LEGENDARY SWORD…”
Like a shining beacon of light in the dark...
Like a shining beacon of light in the dark




Eat your heart out, King Arthur!

Just another day for our hero, obviously
Just another day for our hero, obviously


Unlike combat in most other action RPGs, you can’t attack repeatedly without suffering the ill effects. A meter keeps you honest.


After swinging your weapon, the meter will deplete and then charge back up to 100%. Any blows delivered before the bar is back at 100% results in reduced damage. This is awesome in theory. Unfortunately, it was mishandled a bit in execution. Even attacks at 95% aren’t much different from attacks made at 50%. If only the damage ratio was more accurate. Oh well.

Some helpful items to grab along the way
Some helpful items to grab along the way


The sword not only cuts down enemies, but overly long grass blades as well. Shame there are no treasures to be found here, though. A slight missed opportunity, if you ask me.

"Hey, why do you always assume the worst of me?" "Your track record speaks for itself, fool!"
“Hey, why do you always assume the worst of me?”
“Your track record speaks for itself, fool!”


“Hey Steve!”

“Sup Pradeep. Got anything new for me?”

“Nevermind that Steve, I heard the Elder is looking for you! Better see him ASAP!”

“Oh, that’s no biggie. The old man isn’t upset or anything. Relax.”

“That’s not what I heard… you better go see him.”

“Fine… by the way, why do you keep dancing? I always get motion sickness when I’m around you.”

“Sorry, not my fault. It’s the DAMN tourettes, man!”



“Ooooh Steve, I heard you in BIG trouble!”

“Silly Prudence! Uh, where did you hear that from?”

“Some old lady walking these parts. She’s probably still wandering around here somewhere…”

“You shouldn’t listen to strangers. And I’m not in trouble, you little pop-fart.”



Elliott: Well, if it isn’t our lovely town hero himself!

Steve: Hey guys, what was the deal back there?

Timothy: What are you talking about? The bridge thing? We don’t know what you’re talking about.

Steve: Elder, what’s going on here?

Elder: My apologies, Steve. There’s nothing I can do…

Steve: Hey, watch where you be sticking that thing!
Steve: Hey, watch where you be sticking that thing!

Steve: Whadaya mean?

Elliott: He means, your goose is cooked! Done, finito!

Timothy: Yeah! Hit the bricks, pal!

Elliott: Go on, get outta here!


Elliott: Yeah and don’t ever come back, ya hear!?

Steve: So much for our Thanksgiving plans…

Prudence: Haha, I knew it Steve! I told ‘cha you were in big trouble…


A huge quake shakes the land
A huge quake shakes the land

Jema: Whoa!

Prudence: Duck, cover and roll! No wait…

Steve: AHHHH!!!

Jema: Hey, who is that kid?! I saw him earlier…

*Steve falls down the hole*


Our hero quickly discovers he isn’t alone down there. Meet the first boss, the Mantis Ant!

Hey, you gave it the old college try
Hey, you gave it the old college try


This is the first of over 40 bosses. Some say it’s overkill. And perhaps that’s so when considering that many of them are just palette swaps. Shame we didn’t get 40+ unique bosses, but hey, what cha gonna do?

Nice try, bub
Nice try, bub
The infamous pixie dust fist pump celebration!
The infamous pixie dust fist pump celebration!
"Can't get rid of me that easily!"
“Can’t get rid of me that easily!”

Jema: What happened down there?!

Steve: Well –

Elliott: Man, it was awesome! See, this towering mantis monster was about to eat Steve, but then I came swooping in to the rescue. The monster had to be 200, maybe 250 feet tall. But he was no match for the great Elliot!

Jema: Uh-huh…

Elliott: Yeah, I surprise myself sometimes.

Jema: Right…

There goes one delusional lad
There goes one delusional lad

Elliott: Well, I gotta get back now and tell the others what happened. Bye!

Steve: What a joke…

Jema: What’s your name, kid?

Steve: Uh, it’s Steve.

Jema: My apologies, Steve, for the way I treated you back in the bar earlier.

Steve: ‘Scuse me?

Jema: I know you were the one who pulled the sword out, and I also know you were the one who defeated the great beast down below. Come see me and Luka in the Water Palace later. But first, take care of your business here. We’ll be waiting for you when you’re ready.





"Alright alright, take a chill pill, Ned Flanders"
“Sure, whatever you say, Ned Flanders”
The infamous means of transportation
Who could ever forget this?
More Mode 7 madness
More Mode 7 madness


Jema: Here he is, Luka, THE ONE.

Luka: That’s it?

Steve: Whadaya mean, “that’s it?”

Luka: I mean as in, where’s the rest of ya?!

Steve: Very funny.


Luka: Only one way to find out. If the Mana Seed reacts to him…

*Steve steps up to the shrine and a blue glow suddenly bursts forth*

All: WHOA!

Jema: You see?! Steve is the chosen one!

Luka: We’re all f*cked.

Steve: Um, this has been one hell of a day….

Jema: I guess it has, eh?

Steve: If you don’t mind, I’m going to Neko’s Inn.


Steve always takes the time to hear people's needs
Steve always takes the time to lend a listening ear
"One time they experimented with my brain..."
“One time they experimented with my brain…”
"And then the time they all played NEKO JAM..."
“And then the time they all played NEKO JAM…”
The Super Play-Neko gimmick was good stuff
The Super Play-Neko gimmick was good stuff

“But probably the cruelest, most heinous act of all was when they gave me Ms. Neko. It took me a whole two weeks before I figured out she was just a blown up farce!”

"Good night, Steve..."
“Good night, Steve…”

As Steve prepares to retire for the night, a thick cloud lingers over our hero’s head. Thoughts of saving the world, his lost mom, his “family” banishing him from Potos, and for some reason Steve keeps daydreaming about a girl he’s never met before. As the waning light gives way to dusk, an inexplicable burden has befallen the land. The innocence of childhood has passed, like sand slipping through the hourglass…

Steve had a crazy dream that fateful night
Steve had a crazy dream that fateful night…

Each night Steve is haunted by the same visions. He couldn’t make sense of it but he knew something big was bound to go down. These harrowing images were only the precursor of great and horrifying events to come…


The dreams always started with a vision of a fair young lady. She sported huge ring earrings, red parachute pants and long flowing golden locks. Steve had never seen this girl in real life before but every night she infiltrated his dreams and thoughts. Although he had no clue who she was or even if she was real, he had a sneaky suspicion that if they ever met they would form a powerful team to save the world from calamity and terror.


In his dreams Steve would always see the two of them gazing up high at something truly breathtaking…

The Tree of Mana was a source of great hope to all
The Tree of Mana was a source of great hope to all

It was no ordinary tree. It was the sacred Tree of Mana, a majestic sight and one of the eight wonders of the world. It never failed to leave Steve breathless, even in his dreams. A strange robotic creature stood alongside Steve, but it was a simple mix-up and he would later appear in Chrono Trigger

Chrono Trigger is one of the best 16-bit games ever
Chrono Trigger is one of the best 16-bit games ever


Then the dream suddenly shifts. In the robot’s place stands a strange dwarf. Flamingos fly overhead. You can feel a palpable sense of wonder lingering in the air.

Why am I so drawn to the Tree of Mana??
Why am I so drawn to the Tree of Mana??

The dream shifts yet again. Only this time, there seems to be an element of grave danger looming over the horizon…

Somehow, the three always ended up at Neko's Inn...
Somehow the three always ended up at Neko’s Inn…

Steve: Huh?! NEKO!??! What are you doing in my dream?

Neko: Hey, you’re in MY dream, buddy!

Girl: Stop bickering like two little girls!

Sprite: Steve and Neko sitting in a tree…

Steve: *gasp* THE TREE!

Could the legend of the Mana Dragons be real?!
Could the legend of the Mana Dragons be real?!

And as just as quickly the dream switches to the sprite befriending a cuddly white dragon. Steve heard about the legend growing up… but surely dragons were just a myth?

The dream then turns into a nightmare by the end
The dream then turns into a nightmare by the end
Steve's no longer dreaming. This is real!
Steve’s no longer dreaming. This is real!


Goblin 1: Let’s kill him!

Goblin 2: Let’s eat him!

Steve: Let’s free him!

Goblin 1: Yeah, let’s free him!

Goblin 2: Errr, wait a second…

Steve: Tee-hee… can’t blame a guy for trying.


Goblin 1: Let’s go check on the Rabite burgers.

Goblin 2: Sure. He ain’t goin’ nowhere! HAHAHA!!

Steve: God, it’s been a while but…

Girl: Hey! You!

Steve: Eh??

Girl: Over here, ya git!

Steve: Wow. That was fast. Thanks, God!


Steve: Who are you?

Girl: Does that really matter right now?! I’m here to save your scrawny little ass! Now c’mon, let’s get the hell outta dodge.

Steve: Thanks! Hey wait, you look familiar… *gasps* You’re the woman of my dreams! I mean, the woman IN my dreams…

Girl: *nodding* Yeah, I have to admit. I do get that a lot.

Steve: Oh wow, the destiny and legend is coming true! We’re the ones who will rescue the land and bring peace back to all!

Girl: Uhhh, yeah. Well, I’m off to see my dad. Nice savin’ ya! Maybe we’ll run into each other again some day…

Steve: I hope so! I mean, yeah, you know, whatever, heh.

Girl: Boy, are you weird…

As you can see, Steve is a natural hit with the ladies
As you can see, Steve is a natural hit with the ladies


[What a realistic video game... -Ed.]
[What a realistic video game… -Ed.]
Multiplayer Mana with friends is where it's at
Multiplayer Mana is where it’s at


Remember leveling up here early on? You know you do
Remember leveling up here early on? Yeah, you do
Things begin to get a little tougher later on
Things begin to get a little tougher later on


Neko: Stevie! Welcome back. Oh, and you’ve brought some new friends!

Steve: Sup Neko. Yes I have.

Girl: Hey Neko, nice little place you got here.

Sprite: Yeah, I dig it too.

Steve: I’ve seen this before somewhere…

Neko: Mi casa su casa!

Girl: Sweet!

Sprite: Bitchin’!

Steve: *gasp* This is my dream come true — it is!

Neko: Oh come on Steve, it’s a nice inn and all but not THAT nice.

Steve: Oh my bad, Neko. I was just going on about something else… nevermind. Hey color me shocked to see you here! I thought this is the time of the year where your cousin takes over so you can head over to the Super Play offices for your monthly “assignments.”

Neko: Yeah, about that. I been doing some meditation exercises, you know, on top of my therapy… and my therapist and I agreed that it just wasn’t a healthy working environment for me over there. So I QUIT!

Girl: Hey good for you!

Sprite: Hi-five with the guy with nine lives!

Steve: About time! Have some respect for yourself.

Neko: Yeah, I even left them a note and all. Those bastards. That’s the last time they beat up Neko!

Stand up for yourself. Never let others walk over you
Stand up for yourself. Never let folks walk over ya
It's all around the world. La La La La La
It’s all around the world. La La La La La!
Which one is your favorite season?
Which one is your favorite season?

Not only will you travel all over the world but you will also travel through the four seasons as well. How many SNES games can claim that? I mean, this isn’t SHENMUE but it’s still very cool especially for its time. By the way, I just love playing (action) RPGs during the fall and winter seasons. No better time to be playing these adventure games! Something about those early darkening afternoons and frosty nights that provide a perfect backdrop to playing these games. Speaking of which, check out my Christmas Memoirs if you want to read more about my Christmas-SNES memories. And speaking of Christmas…

Santa of Mana: yup, even St. Nick makes a cameo!
Santa of Mana: yup, even St. Nick makes a cameo!
Yeah, what is the secret anyway? Play it to find out!
Yeah, what is the secret anyway? Play it to find out!


There’s much more but I’ll let you discover the rest on your own!

Happy adventuring!
Happy adventuring!


Super Play adored Secret of Mana = understatement
Super Play adored Secret of Mana to the moon

Secret of Mana graced several magazine covers and earned the accolades of mostly everyone who played it. Combining elements from both the RPG and action genre as well as providing a huge world to explore, Secret of Mana won the hearts of many. To top it all off, throw in a unique three player option and its fate as one of the most beloved Super Nintendo games of all time was sealed. This is evident by all the favorite lists the game has made over the years (and decades). EGM awarded it Game of the Month honors with scores of 8, 9, 9 and 9. GameFan gave it ratings of 86, 90, 91 and 96%. Super Play rated 94%. They ranked Secret of Mana as the 8th best SNES game on their top 100 Super Nintendo games list (February 1996).


EGM was king and ruler back in the day. My brother was a subscriber in ’94 and I always looked forward to that glorious day each month where the latest EGM issue would be sitting pretty in our mailbox. If there was one thing that my brother loved more than EGM it was definitely Secret of Mana. I remember watching him play it for hours on end. Even though there was a chance for me to jump in, I never did. As I said before, growing up I didn’t care for the genre. Looking back on it now, I wish that I had joined my brother on one of his binge Secret of Mana sessions.


Well, it’s funny how life works. When I finally played Secret of Mana 17+ years later in December of 2010, my brother and I ended up having a little playthrough. We were no longer kids now but we sure felt like it (for two hours at least). Afterward I introduced him to BS Out of Bounds Golf, one of my perennial favorites. He loved it, too. He and I had a cutthroat battle that came down to the last stroke. It was a glorious gaming afternoon. Super Nintendo — bringing brothers together and reminding us of the innocence of childhood :)

EGM's classic The Good, The Bad and The Ugly box
EGM’s classic The Good, The Bad and The Ugly box
Nobody worshiped Secret of Mana like Super Play did
Nobody worshiped Secret of Mana like Super Play did


It's as majestic and sweeping as the game itself
It’s as majestic and sweeping as the game itself

After hearing all the hype about this game for years on end, it was nice to finally sit down and quell a 17 year folly. Everything about Secret of Mana, from the visuals to the music to the gameplay, screams quality. Sure, the CPU-controlled allies are not too smart but the game is easy enough so their lack of AI never does become a glaring issue. It’s a treat playing this with a friend (or two). It’s not everyday that an action RPG affords you that chance. Secret of Mana is no doubt a Super Nintendo classic but one question remains…

Whoa, slow your role, Super Play. Three, not four
Whoa, slow your role, Super Play. Three, not four

Did the game live up to the massive hype for me? Not quite, actually. While I do like Secret of Mana a lot, I was expecting to wholeheartedly love it. Super Play was obsessed with this game and they made it seem like it was the Holy Grail. The combat system didn’t totally work for me. As I stated earlier in this review, the damage ratio is not to par, which took me out of the game at times as a semi-glaring oversight. Attacking at 90% didn’t produce much damage difference from say, 11%. Also, there wasn’t enough NPC interaction for my liking. The game had interesting dialogue early on but it seemed to go away completely in the middle of the game. There weren’t as many plot developments as I’d like, either. For a long while there I felt like I was just hacking and slashing, leveling up but with no big story advancement. It’s long been confirmed that the game is incomplete; it was originally intended to be released with the ill-fated SNES CD add-on. English translator Ted Woolsey admitted that’s why some areas, in addition to the lack of dialogue, appear to be missing. It’s such a shame because as great as I found Secret of Mana to still be, another part of me felt like it was missing that little something that would have taken it to the next level. Don’t get me wrong, Secret of Mana is certainly worthy of the title “SNES classic” but is it the greatest 16-bit Action RPG ever? Try the sequel Seiken Densetsu 3 (AKA Secret of Mana 2) first before you answer that question!

Graphics: 8.5
Sound: 9
Gameplay: 9
Longevity: 9

Award4Overall: 9.0
Gold Award


We certainly are... and to be continued indeed...
We certainly are… and to be continued indeed…

2 thoughts on “Secret of Mana (SNES)”

  1. I was originally going to wait until I played all the way through the Japanese Super Famicart Seiken Densetsu 2 (which I had for a few years but I’m only now recently trying to play all the way through) before leaving a reply, but I figure I’ll leave one right now (difference-wise, based from what I’ve played of the Japanese version, I’m sorry to say that there isn’t much).

    It’s a game that I personally feel is great (to a point), maybe not The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, SoulBlazer, Ys IV: Mask of the Sun, or Terranigma great in my book, but is enjoyable in its own right even if it’s one which I have qualms with (especially in retrospect after having played the far superior Seiken Densetsu 3 nearly seven years ago, but more on that later). =) As far as I’m aware, this might be one of the first, if not the first, multiplayer action-adventure games ever made (that it can be played up to three players with a multitap is certainly ahead of its time) at a point in time when generally games of this genre were single-player venues.

    Seiken Densetsu 2/Secret of Mana has got a very beautiful sense of aesthetic all around, its visuals are gorgeously detailed and immersive with its vast array of colors popping out at you (I love the location with the four different seasons and how in the desert the clouds’ shadows are pixelated) and Hiroki Kikuta’s soundtrack is absolutely brilliant (from the opening title to the somber themes, including the main sad theme, to the atmospheric shrine theme to the innocently flavored theme played in the four seasons location to the breathtaking snow theme to the flight theme with Flammie to the bizarrely composed theme that plays when fighting Dark Lich to the epic-sounding fight against the Mana Beast) and it really is among the best Nintendo 16-bit soundtracks of all time as it does such a succinct job at breathing life into this A-RPG’s diverse environments; I do find it interesting that during the early days of Yasunori Mitsuda’s (who’d go on to compose music for Chrono Trigger) tenure not only did he provide sound effects for this game and Final Fantasy V for SquareSoft but ALSO for Elnard/The 7th Saga for Produce (which, I might add, came out right before Seiken Densetsu 2/Secret of Mana). Amazing! =)

    I also like that you can go from taking control of Randi to Purim to Sprite via the Select button which can be very helpful amidst certain conditions, the ring-based menu system is a very innovative and clever one plus the choice to toggle different weapons is a really novel idea especially since some each have their own specific traits (like the sword and axe can tear away at grass or rocks and the whip can help you reach the other side of the gap) and I also like how the more you use the same weapon (or Mana spirit) the closer you’ll get to eventually leveling up in that regard. And considering Ted Woolsey has gone on record as saying this was the hardest game he had to translate to English and had no choice but to reduce much of the original dialogue because of the fixed-width font issues I think it’s worded and grammatically structured remarkably well, impressive even since he reportedly managed to accomplish that in only thirty days =) Also, Moogle cameos!

    So I said I had my qualms earlier, so I’ll go over them: occasionally there are moments when the CPU-controlled companions is hit and missed, the inventory system is incredibly restricting as you can only have up to four of the same item (Secret of Evermore would do one better by upping the item quantity limit to six, though that doesn’t necessarily equate to being a better game all around, and Seiken Densetsu 3 was far more forgiving in this regard as it had an EXCESS inventory system so you could technically collect as much of the same item as you want which is a HUGE lifesaver), it’s so easy to get lost in the sky when flying as Flammie as there is no map to guide you (well, there is, but it’s in a completely separate screen), and I’ve never been a fan of the delayed attack reaction that would take place as it can be rather annoying if it happens to you (it’s hard to explain in words, but because there’ll be moments when a character will be unconscious on the ground, enemy will attack, you receive damage a second or two after the hit’s been landed, rinse and repeat unless you switch to a different character and attack the enemy unless they stop, particularly the boxing wolfmen enemies), less so if it happens to the enemies you fight (but even so, it’s unfair and cheap whenever that happens). And while I do think this game is great (to a point), it is undeniably buggy and/or glitchy in places though that’s common knowledge at this point; it could be me, but I’m almost under the impression that Seiken Densetsu 2 MAY have been rushed somewhat because of said bugs/glitches? It’s a good game, don’t get me wrong, but WOW, is it replete with those in areas (considering Nintendo of America’s zero-bug policy at the time, I’m amazed it passed the localization test).

    I think it’s because of all this that I greatly prefer its successor Seiken Densetsu 3: there is a better sense of polish all throughout, the gameplay’s been heavily refined and improved upon, it fixes many of the glaring issues beset by its immediate predecessor so no more mandatory cheap shots sustained from the enemies, it’s got a very immersive day/night system like Infogrames’ Drakkhen, the Tokai Engineering-developed first installment of Sunsoft’s Albert Odyssey, and Capcom’s Breath of Fire, there’s a more forgiving inventory system, while riding Flammie up in the sky there is a map to let you know your location, you have a choice as to which of your stats you want to update upon gaining a level, and there is a hefty dose of replay value especially in regards to which characters you’ve chosen to be in your party, and most importantly it’s fun and is reasonably challenging (even if the boss battles ARE long) =) I’m not sure how I feel about the official Western title it received, Trials of Mana, but I’m glad Square-Enix finally gave Western gamers an opportunity to play the third title in 2019 on Collection of Mana for the Nintendo Switch (and soon, the remake) =)

    But regardless of what issues it’s got, Seiken Densetsu 2/Secret of Mana is nonetheless an adventure that is compelling while it lasts

    To each their own

    1. I too believe this may be the first simultaneous 3-player action adventure, certainly on home consoles I would think. I played through it for the first time back in 2010 or 2011. While I liked it a lot too, I know I would have been more blown away by it had I played it back in late 1993 when it originally came out. My brother was obsessed with this game, and it’s a slight gaming regret that I didn’t hop in on the action with him back when he played through it in the fall of 1993. I’m a MUCH bigger fan of Seiken Densetsu 3, AKA Secret of Mana 2. I personally think that’s one of the best action RPGs on the SNES. But back to Secret of Mana, this is one game that if I gave quarter increment ratings, would receive an 8.75. I rounded it up and gave it a 9 but in my book it’s a low 9. The gameplay is slightly clunky in places, but it’s a slight flaw that doesn’t hamper the enjoyment level much. Just slightly. A Super Nintendo classic, to be sure, but I’m not as fanatical about it as some others are.

      On a side note, I hope you’re doing well brother, and staying sane during these crazy times. Hang in there, hopefully better days are soon ahead!

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