Nintendo recently announced that Paper Mario: The Origami King would be coming to Nintendo Switch this summer. I have personally loved the Paper Mario series since the first one released on the Nintendo 64 way back in 2001. In anticipation of the new game coming out, I decided to take a look back at the first five titles in the franchise. I've ranked them from what I believe to be worst to best order based on my own experiences with the games.
See if you agree with my ranking or if you would have listed them differently.
5.) Paper Mario: Sticker Star Nintendo 3DS (2012)
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, I don't like the sticker combat system, which did away with RPG battles in favor of one-off attacks. 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.
4.) Paper Mario: Color Splash Nintendo Wii U (2016)
Players were already a little miffed at the fact that partners weren't in Sticker Star, but not having them in the next game really made some folks upset, including myself. I know I missed the heart that Mario's companions bring to the game. Plus, this one has a very similar battle style to Sticker Star. Players use trading cards to attack and if there are multiple enemies, players don't get to choose which character they attack. Worst of all, cards disappear after use which can make 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.
This 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 three should be placed. Here's how I ranked them.
3.) Super Paper Mario Nintendo Wii (2007)
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 their 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 that was employed in the two previous games, this game also offers a unique platformer-RPG fighting style. I find the combat system less challenging than the games that came before it, which was a huge downer for me. 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.
Something unique about Super Paper Mario is that it allowed players to manipulate the viewing window to either see the world in 2D or a 3D perspective. I was initially excited about this feature since it offers the ability for some unique puzzle-solving situations. However, the game hardly ever takes advantage of this mechanic, so it just feels like a gimmick and a missed opportunity.
2.) Paper Mario Nintendo 64 (2001)
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 was something that we hadn't seen since the SNES era with Super Mario RPG. I absolutely love the 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: 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 one 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. Being able to customize their attacks is very rewarding and can help make fighting that much more enjoyable. If that wasn't enough, the plot is perfect.
As with the original game, players also get to control Princess Peach between chapters. This time, it's not Bowser but rather a mysterious new enemy named Sir Grodus who has kidnapped her. During her sequences, 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 between the princess and the computer 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.
⭐ Bonus — Paper Mario: The Origami King Nintendo Switch (2020)
It's hard to say where exactly The Origami King will land on this list since it hasn't released yet. All I can say is that I really hope the game includes several traveling companions, a good plot, a more traditional turn-based system, and plenty of puzzles to solve.
From the official trailer that Nintendo released, it does look like a Bob-omb might travel around with Mario since he's featured in several different shots. Hopefully, this means that there will be multiple partners with special abilities. I'm also really excited about the battle system since it looks like a modified return to the traditional turn-based RPG style, but with the added ability for Mario to rotate the field to line up enemies for a better attack.
Paper Mario: The Origami King is slated to release on July 17, 2020, and will sell for $60. Thankfully, if you're excited for it like I am, you can already pre-order it.
There you have it; all five previously released Paper Mario games listed from what I consider to be worst to best. It was kind of hard deciding on which games to put where, since I honestly did enjoy most of these. With any luck, we'll be seeing HD ports for each of these games on the Nintendo Switch eShop soon.
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