Cary Ranks the Paper Mario Games

Of all of Nintendo’s game series, the Paper Mario titles have probably had the most ups and downs.  On one hand, you have what many consider to be one of the best RPGs ever made!  And on the other end, you have what others, including myself, believe to be one of Nintendo’s worst games!  Ouch!  The newest game in the series, Paper Mario: The Origami King, came out earlier this year, so I thought it might be fun to rank them.

With the exception of one game on here, I decided to limit the list to just Paper Mario games only, just to keep it focused.  So the other Mario RPG games aren’t on here.  But if I did put them on this list, just know that most of them would rank around the middle, with a few being ranked very high, like Mario & Luigi: Bowser’s Inside Story and the original Super Mario RPG.  And I’ll try to keep this blog spoiler free, but a minor spoiler may seep in here and there, so you’ve been warned.  I’m going to do the ranking list from worst to best.  OK let’s begin!

Paper Mario: Sticker Star (3DS)

I consider this to be one of Nintendo’s worst games ever made.  Right up there with Donkey Kong: Barrel Blast and Star Fox Zero.  I was really excited for this game, too!  It was the first Paper Mario on a handheld and I loved the other Paper Mario games that came out before it.  The problem with this game is they ditched getting experience points after battles.  You also must use stickers to perform attacks, so a lot of not-fun item management is involved.  So you’re basically just battling to get more stickers so you can battle again and the cycle repeats itself.  Gets very tedious quickly.  Most people just tried to avoid enemies, which isn’t good in an RPG where battles are the meat of the gameplay.  Also, there were no vast areas to explore, just stages on a world map.  I thought that would be a good idea for a handheld, but it really isn’t.  Also, aside from the beginning premise, the game has no story.  For me, gameplay is more important than story, but it was sorely missed here and the gameplay wasn’t fun either.  Needless to say, I never beat this one.

Paper Mario: Color Splash (Wii U)

Color Splash is only MARGINALLY better than Sticker Star.  It certainly looks nicer, being on a HD system.  There’s more areas to explore, too, and a bit more story.  I also liked how you fought the Koopa Kids as bosses.  A lot of people don’t like the Koopa Kids, but I’m a fan.  You still don’t get experience points, but there is a little bit more of a reason to battle as it fills up your colors, which you use to color the world.  You use consumable cards to attack, but now you have to add color to them as well.  So it really just adds more steps to the already tedious battle system.  I played this one a little more than Sticker Star, but I still got tired of it rather quickly and never beat it either.

Paper Mario: The Origami King (Switch)

This is the newest game in the series, and came out earlier this year.  I’m still playing it off and on, it’s just hard to stay focused on it when I have so many other games to review.  It’s VASTLY better than the first two games on this list, but it’s still not there yet.  I’m still playing it way longer than I did the other two games on this list, so I’m still liking it a lot better, but there have been a couple of times I’ve considered stopping.  Battles still get a bit tedious at times and I tend to avoid them.  You still don’t get experience, just coins and confetti for progressing and buying more items.  So I really only battle when I need to.  They changed the battles so that they take place on a circle, and when you fight regular enemies you must arrange the enemies on the circle so they are in a line.  But in boss battles, they change it up so you must arrange the circles to create paths for Mario to reach the boss in the center to attack.  I appreciate them trying something different, but it can still be tedious at times.  I liked how they added a Toad audience in bleachers to help you in battle, and the more Toads you find hidden in the world, the bigger audience you have.  But using the audience in battle isn’t as fun here as it was in The Thousand Year Door.  The worlds are fun to explore so far, though.  Some you just walk around, but others you must drive a shoe around a vast desert looking for ruins, or you steer a boat on a sea searching for uncharted islands and sunken treasure, similar to Wind Waker.  We’ll just see if I play it all the way to the end.

Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam (3DS)

OK this isn’t really a Paper Mario game, just a crossover with the Mario & Luigi series.  But it’s my list and I’m putting it on here because I want to.  It’s really just a Mario & Luigi game with some Paper Mario rules in battle thrown in.  There are also paper structures that act as obstacles and 3-D papercraft battles that everyone seemed to hate but I didn’t think they were THAT bad.  At least they were different from the giant battles in the two M&L games before it.  I’d say this game is decidedly average, but I still finished it so I must’ve found it somewhat entertaining.  I didn’t even finish the Mario & Luigi game that came before it: Dream Team.  That one just dragged on for too long and I didn’t like how boss battles took a whole entire lunch hour to beat.  I liked some of the story bits in Paper Jam, too, like how they explained the Paper Mario world was just a pop-up book in the regular Mario world.  And how Bowser Jr. and his paper self became best buds when they met.  Really made the character more likable, and normally I can’t stand Bowser Jr.

Super Paper Mario (Wii)

A lot of people rag on this game, but I really liked it.  Sure it’s not perfect, but I liked how they combined 2-D Mario platforming with RPG elements.  And yeah you can ‘break’ the game and make it super easy.  Like I remember beating the last boss with only two stomps by playing as Bowser and giving him strength buffs.  But the game was still fun.  Only thing I didn’t like about it was the gimmicky Wii controls they tacked on (it was originally going to be a GameCube title).  But switching between 2-D and 3-D to solve puzzles was fun, and it was neat to have other playable characters besides Mario as well.

Paper Mario (N64)

This was actually the second Mario RPG ever made.  In fact, for a while it was called Super Mario RPG 2.  While I still adore Square’s take on Mario’s RPG endeavors, I think the first Paper Mario really nailed down the Mario theme better than Square did.  Square’s game felt a little like Final Fantasy Mario, but then, that’s almost to be expected.  Anyway, it was really cool to see Mario in a pop up paper style.  I think the only other game that has been able to pull off that paper style well is the PlayStation game Tearaway.  And the action timed battles were even more fun, too!  Definitely one of the best RPGs on the N64.  Although it didn’t have much to compete with.

Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door (GameCube)

I would say this is the GameCube’s best RPG.  Even better than Tales of Symphonia.  I’d also say it’s the best Mario RPG game period.  They took what was great about the first Paper Mario and just improved upon it.  The battles were still kind of the same, but still fun.  I liked how they added an audience who would give you extra points if you performed well while in battle.  And later on in the game, one of the final bosses would eat the audience of Toads and spit them back out at you as an attack!  But the best part of the game was the writing.  To this day it’s one of the best scripts in a video game.  There’s one part where you’re in a spooky forest and these crows in trees are talking to each other, and it’s just golden.  I know that game developers oftentimes don’t want to make the same game twice, and that’s why each Paper Mario game is different.  But I still wish they’d go back to the formula found in this game because it worked so well.  No more gimmicky fiddly battle rules or watered down interactions with characters.  If Nintendo released an HD remake of this game on Switch, I’d be very tempted to buy it.

And that’s how I’d rank the Paper Mario games.  Let me know what you think of my list, and tell me how you’d rank them!  Later!  –Cary

One Response to “Cary Ranks the Paper Mario Games”

  1. I really enjoyed Origami King, but I understand why it’s not everyone’s cup of tea. It’s pretty similar to Sticker Star in a lot of ways, which another game I liked that most people didn’t. I’m actually hoping to try out Color Splash at some point, because I think it was poorly received for similar reasons. (It’s stayed at $60 on the eShop since it launched 4 years ago, never going on sale once — it looks neat, but not *that* neat.)

    I agree that Thousand Year Door was the best one. I lent my copy to a friend and never got it back, and now it’s almost impossible to find, and goes for well over $100. I think my kids might enjoy it but there’s no way for them to try it out 🙁

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