In honor of Paper Mario: Sticker Star being recently released, I thought I’d take a look at each of Mario’s (and Luigi’s) other RPG games and share my personal experiences and opinions of them. My list will go from least favorite to most favorite, but it’s not a definitive list, and even the ones at the bottom of my list are still fantastic games. I like them all!
Super Paper Mario
It’s hard for me to categorize this into the Mario RPG category since it is so different. But it does have the Paper Mario characters. I enjoyed the game a lot, and the 2-D to 3-D switching was neat and clever for the time. I also liked it when your character got an invincibility star and turned into a giant 8-bit version of themselves. But it’s really more of an action RPG than anything. You jump and stomp on enemies like any Mario platformer, but you and the bad guys have hit points this time, and you gain experience and level up.
I really only had two problems with this game. One was that it was way too easy. I don’t really mind easy games, though, but if you use your items right, the game really is a cakewalk. I defeated the last boss with three stomps and I wasn’t even trying. The other problem I had was I couldn’t help but think this should’ve been a GameCube game instead of a Wii game. But then, a lot of Wii games early on just felt like leftover GameCube games. I think the GameCube still had a good year or two left in it, and the Wii came out too early. At least Super Paper Mario was still a good game. Other titles, like Donkey Kong Barrel Blast, which was originally going to be a GC title, ended up horrible on the Wii.
Super Mario RPG
Even though this one is at the bottom of my list, I still think it’s a fantastic game. Square and Nintendo teaming up back then was a dream come true for me at the time, even though I felt an inkling that they wouldn’t always be best buds. The pre-rendered graphics were pretty good for the time, but other games like DK Country did it better. I think the only reason why I like so many other Mario RPGs more is they had more of a ‘Mario’ feel to them, while this one felt like Mario meets Final Fantasy. There’s even an optional boss made to look like a FF villain, and they even play FF battle music in the background! Culex (his name) is even harder than the final boss! Mario’s been seen with FF characters after, too, like in the sports games Mario Hoops 3 on 3 and Mario Sports Mix (you even fight a giant purple Behemoth in that one). And then there’s the board game Fortune Street. But you’ve gotta give credit to them for starting the whole Mario RPG trend in the first place!
I will say that Super Mario RPG certainly had the most memorable moments in any Mario RPG. Who could forget Luigi leading the Disney-like lights parade at the ending? Speaking of which, remember when printed game instruction manuals were actually GOOD? Well, since Luigi wasn’t in the game at all, he ‘hosted’ the instruction manual as well! Other memorable moments for me include playing Mario and Geno action figures with the mushroom boy, and battling the Power Rangers spoofs Axem Rangers (contemporary jokes and references were not as common in games back then). My younger brother Jeff was little bitty when this game came out, and he loved to watch me play it and always asked for “Mario PG.”
You know, it’s strange. Even though I like the gameplay in the battles better in this game, it doesn’t have as many memorable moments and music as Mario RPG did. So sometimes I debate putting this one at the end. But it was still fun and laid the groundwork for my favorite Mario RPG. I do remember some things about it, like a toy world where you had to battle Shy Guys. And at one point you go back to your house and catch Luigi reading your mail! And Luigi led the parade at the end of the game again, so you know the makers were giving recognition to the original Mario RPG with that. The N64 certainly needed more good RPGs, huh?
Mario & Luigi: SuperStar Saga
One thing I like about this GBA entry (and the others that followed on the DS), is that it focused on Mario & Luigi getting along and working together. I especially liked that, since Luigi is better than Mario in my opinion, and I think it’s good to show them being more like brothers. The action packed timing battles were really fun and sometimes tricky as you had to know what brother the enemies would attack, and when they would do it so you could counter them. There were lots of funny, comedic moments in the game as well. For most, the character who stole the show was the villainess’ sidekick Fawful, with his Engrish phrases. Fawful was so popular that he got to be the main bad guy in another Mario & Luigi game.
Mario & Luigi: Partners in Time
In this DS sequel, Mario & Luigi went back in time and teamed up with their baby selves. So in some battles, you had four characters to keep track of! This was actually a problem with the game, because keeping up with all of them was pretty hectic and confusing sometimes. But gosh darn it, those Mario babies were so adorable and made for some memorable scenes. I loved it at the end when Mario and Luigi had to go home, and Baby Luigi didn’t want them to leave and kept climbing on Luigi’s back and crying. Luigi made his baby self feel better by giving him one of Yoshi’s cookies that he swiped earlier. So adorable. If I were a video game character, I would totally adopt Baby Mario and Baby Luigi.
Mario & Luigi: Bowser’s Inside Story
Many Mario side characters have had their own games. Luigi has Luigi’s Mansion and Mario is Missing if you want to count that. Peach has Super Princess Peach. Wario has the Wario Land games and WarioWare. And even Toad got a starring role in the puzzler Wario’s Woods. Bowser’s Inside Story is probably the closest thing we’ll get to Bowser getting his own game, since here you play as him for more than half of the adventure. They eliminated the confusion of having to keep up with all those characters in Partners in Time by just letting you control Bowser separately, who had his own set of moves and skills. Through most of the game, Mario and Luigi were inside Bowser, and those parts of the game played like a 2-D platformer, which was cool. Fawful was the bad guy in this one. Making Bowser grow huge and having Godzilla like skirmishes was one of the highlights of DS gaming as a whole.
Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door
This is my number one favorite Mario RPG, and probably my favorite GameCube RPG as a whole. And that’s saying a lot, considering how much I enjoyed Tales of Symphonia. The writing was some of the best in any video game, and I’m glad I got to meet Erik Peterson of Nintendo’s Treehouse once so I could tell him that in person. There’s one part in a haunted forest where you can eavesdrop on crows talking in trees. Hilarious stuff. At another point, you control captive Princess Peach and see what she does. She manages to turn herself invisible and takes a shower, so for a while you technically get to control Peach naked. My favorite chapter was the third one, where you have an adventure in a wrestling stadium. Lots of jokes about the WWE which made me laugh, and I don’t even get into that stuff! The battles and gameplay never got old either. I was surprised when the last boss ate members of the audience and could spit them out at you! The game even made fun of itself with Luigi’s part in the story. In the main town, you could talk to Luigi and he’d tell you about his own adventures, which could’ve easily been in in the main Paper Mario game and just shows us that the makers were aware about how trite the plot was! Pure genius. Definitely one of the highlight GameCube titles.
Paper Mario: Sticker Star
And finally the newest Mario RPG, which was just released as of this writing. I don’t really know where I’d put it on my list yet because I just got it, and have only played the first level. You use stickers for attacks, so I’m a little leery about that because I’m not normally a big fan of item management in games. And boy you sure do have to be observant to find all the items in the stages! I’m sure it’ll be a fun game, though, but maybe not as good as the GameCube one.
And that’s all I feel like talking about Mario RPGs. Which ones are your favorite? What video game characters would you like to see in an RPG? Me, I’d like a Kirby RPG. That’s all for now, later! –Cary