All 6 Paper Mario games ranked from worst to best

Paper Mario
Paper Mario (Image credit: iMore)

Nintendo recently announced that the original Paper Mario would be coming to the Nintendo Switch Online + Expansion Pack on December 10, 2021. That means it will be joining the very best RPGs on Nintendo Switch, giving us even more to enjoy.

I have personally loved the Paper Mario series since the Nintendo 64 era and have played all of them through the latest version on Switch: Paper Mario: The Origami King. But how do all six games in the franchise compare against each other? I've ranked them from worst to best and explained why they've received the ranking they have.

6. Paper Mario: Sticker Star Nintendo 3DS (2012)

Paper Mario Sticker Star

Paper Mario Sticker Star (Image credit: Nintendo)

I was quick to snatch Sticker Star up for my Nintendo 3DS as soon as it came out, but as with many other fans out there, I was pretty disappointed by it. It isn't a horrible game on its own. The art direction is lovely, and there are some fun moments. However, Sticker Star failed to deliver the same soul and basic mechanics brought to us by previous entries in the series.

The biggest offender of all was that this was the first game that didn't include special traveling companions. In previous games, these partners added more background to the various locations Mario visited and often provided unique skills for Mario to solve puzzles with. So a massive amount of charm is missing from this game. On top of that, the sticker combat system, which did away with RPG battles in favor of one-off attacks is rather off-putting. The worst thing about the combat system is that your attacks disappear from your inventory after getting used. This keeps you on your toes, but also makes fighting a bit of a nuisance at times.

5. Paper Mario: Color Splash Nintendo Wii U (2016)

Paper Mario Color Splash

Paper Mario Color Splash (Image credit: Nintendo)

Players were already a little miffed at the fact that partners weren't in Sticker Star, but also not having them in the next Paper Mario game really made many folks upset. Mario's companions bring plenty of heart and unique abilities to the franchise, so their absence is strongly felt. Another negative is that Color Splash has a very similar battle style to Sticker Star. Players use trading cards to attack, but if there are multiple enemies, players don't get to choose which character they attack, making strategizing a bit of a nightmare. Worst of all, cards disappear after use, making fighting bosses a real hassle.

Granted, the updated art style is gorgeous, and the dialogue is funny. However, the plot isn't that great, and this entry lacked the charm seen in most of the earlier titles.

Moving on from here is where things begin to get a little dicey. Most people concede that Color Splash and Sticker Star are the least enjoyable games in the lineup. However, people have very strong opinions about what order the top four Paper Mario games should be placed.

4. Super Paper Mario Nintendo Wii (2007)

Super Paper Mario

Super Paper Mario (Image credit: Nintendo)

The fan base is split on this entry. On the one hand, Super Paper Mario offers hilarious dialogue. I'm not exaggerating here; this game has some of the most ridiculously funny writing I've ever encountered in a video game. It also allows you to travel with a star-studded team, complete with Mario, Bowser, Peach, and Luigi. The best part about this team is that each member has unique skills and problem-solving talents that help you get through each level. Plus, there is a history between the characters, which adds a lot of amusement to different scenarios.

However, instead of just having a traditional RPG combat system employed in the two previous games, this game also offers a unique platformer-RPG fighting style. The combat system is less challenging than the games before it, which is a huge downer. And while some aspects of the game are indeed hilarious, some of it misses the mark and just comes off as bizarre (in a bad way). Additionally, it sometimes feels like the plot wasn't completely fleshed out, and writers put in excess dialogue instead of plot development as a filler.

Super Paper Mario is unique because it allows players to manipulate the viewing window to see the world in 2D or 3D. Players were initially excited about this feature since it offers some unique puzzle-solving situations. However, the game hardly ever takes full advantage of this mechanic, so the missed opportunity makes it just feel like a gimmick.

3. Paper Mario: The Origami King Nintendo Switch (2020)

The Origami King has some of the silliest dialogue in the whole series, with plenty of moments that will get you laughing. However, the story also has surprisingly serious moments that will pull at your emotions, giving this adventure more depth than others. Additionally, companions are back, even if they look somewhat generic-looking. They provide specific abilities for puzzle solving, which had been missing from some previous games in the series, but they're still limited compared to the first two Paper Mario games.

You get to travel to several new locations that are bursting with character. Plus, this game introduces origami and Papier-mâché baddies for you to fight with. The clever visual stunts and tricks they pull are very entertaining to watch.

The most significant point of contention lies around the game's unique-but-strange battle ring system. Most players either love it or they really really hate it. Basically, you have to solve a puzzle within a certain number of moves to even get the chance of attacking. While this is fun at first, it becomes pretty tedious after a few rounds. That's especially true when it comes to boss fights, which require you to figure out specific maze-like pathways through this ring system to land a hit.

2. Paper Mario Nintendo 64 (2001)

Paper Mario

Paper Mario (Image credit: Nintendo)

This was the first Paper Mario game ever. During a time when 3D graphics were brand new and exciting, it brought things back to the basics with its simple paper aesthetic. It also allowed us to experience the Mushroom Kingdom within a turn-based RPG game, which we hadn't seen since the SNES era with Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars. There's plenty to love with the straightforward turn-based fighting style, the various partners that travel along with Mario, and the many hidden extras that players can find simply by dinking around in the game.

This game is oozing with charm and class, plus it changes up the whole Peach-getting-kidnapped-by-Bowser thing since you get to play as the princess at the start of each chapter. I loved the princess sequences, whether I was sneaking around the castle gathering intel on the Koopa King's next move or bribing a fat Shy Guy by baking a strawberry cake. The plot is excellent, and the characters are super fun.

1. Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door Nintendo Game Cube (2004)

Paper Mario Thousand Year Door

Paper Mario Thousand Year Door (Image credit: Wikipedia)

Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door took what the original N64 game brought to the table and added magnificently upon it. There are plenty of fun traveling companions for Mario to meet, each with a distinct look and skill. The turn-based RPG battle system is challenging and yet fun. There are also plenty of unique badges to find, which helps the player influence Mario's fighting style and his companions' abilities as well. Customizing their attacks is very rewarding and can help make fighting that much more enjoyable. If that wasn't enough, the plot is perfect.

Paper Mario Thousand Year Door (Image credit: Wikipedia)

As with the original game, players control Princess Peach between chapters. This time, it's not Bowser but rather a mysterious new enemy named Sir Grodus who has kidnapped her. Peach does all she can to undermine Sir Grodus' crew, the X-Nauts. She also meets TEC-XX, a computer that decides to help her e-mail Mario in exchange for learning what love is. It might sound cheesy, but these interactions are some of the funniest ones you experience in the game.

While Peach is busy undermining things from within the enemy's stronghold, Mario and Co. are out to save the princess and bring peace to the land. You get to go to so many fun locations and meet exciting characters. During the game, players must fight several interesting bosses, including ghosts, evil pirates, a dragon, and various other baddies. There are more puzzles to solve and more secrets to discover. Offering a great plot, fun traveling companions, witty dialogue, and a fun battle system, Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door, seriously, is not only the best Paper Mario game but also one of the best RPGs of all time.

The final cut

There you have it; all six Paper Mario games listed from worst to best. With any luck, we'll be seeing HD ports for each of these games on the Nintendo Switch eShop soon.

Rebecca Spear
Gaming Editor

Gaming aficionado Rebecca Spear is iMore's dedicated gaming editor with a focus on Nintendo Switch and iOS gaming. You’ll never catch her without her Switch or her iPad Air handy. If you’ve got a question about Pokémon, The Legend of Zelda, or just about any other Nintendo series check out her guides to help you out. Rebecca has written thousands of articles in the last six years including hundreds of extensive gaming guides, previews, and reviews for both Switch and Apple Arcade. She also loves checking out new gaming accessories like iPhone controllers and has her ear to the ground when it comes to covering the next big trend.