On March 9, 1996, Super Mario RPG was released in Japan for the Super Nintendo. The game went on to achieve great success, creating a new sub-genre for the Mario series. Now 20 years and nine games later, I want to see where these games stack up in my opinion. And because I want to get this out before Color Splash comes out.
10. Mario and Luigi: Partners in Time
Let’s start with what is easily the worst Mario RPG, Partners in Time. Why is this the worst you ask, well let’s start with some key problems: the plot is boring, the Shroobs are not good villains, the time traveling is very confusing and complicated, the attacks are not very good and are a pain to use. Other complaints include the core gameplay with the baby Mario Bros., and that damn final boss which takes FOREVER to kill! Partners in Time is what Sticker Star is to everyone, but a 1000 times more tedious and boring.
9. Super Paper Mario
Okay, if you’ve taken a look at my previous blog in which I compared this game against Sticker Star, I said that I liked Sticker Star more. I still hold that opinion to this day. And don’t get me wrong, I still like Super, I was one of the first people to defend the game when it came out in 2007, but I can’t overlook the problems of Super. Now there are plenty of good things in this game, love the story, characters, dialogue, sounds like a Paper Mario game, looks like a Paper Mario game, the unexpected twists and turns. The big problem with this game is that the gameplay is SO DAMN BORING! Let me put it this way, Paper Mario is known for being a RPG, Super is a platformer that switches its perspective from 2D to 3D, this wouldn’t be a big problem, except Super Mario Galaxy came out IN THE SAME YEAR! There was no need to turn this into a platformer. The platforming is boring and frustrating; this is a guide game to me, which means you can’t beat it without a guide, due to getting lost so easily and the constant flipping. Everything else is fine, but the gameplay makes me want to watch someone play it rather than me playing it. The thing that bugs me the most is that Super Paper Mario hides a meh gameplay behind a great story, characters, and dialogue, it makes the mediocrity of the gameplay much more apparent.
8. Paper Mario: Sticker Star
Wait, let me get ready… Okay, bazookas, vibranium shield, holy cross, okay ready! Yes, despite the outcry against this game, I prefer this game over Super, barely. Let it be known that I will not be a Sticker Star apologist; this game has plenty of problems. For starters, Bowser doesn’t talk! WHY?! He’s one of the best parts of the Mario RPGs. Also the areas are back to the Mario areas, which for a Mario RPG is disappointing, and the side characters are just toads which are another disappointment. There are some things I did like, the music for example was pretty catchy, the bosses with some of the most memorable music. Of course the gameplay was the big thing, I found that while it was different, it was to the point of not being an RPG like Super, to quote ProJared, this is a bare bones RPG, but sill an RPG. So despite the near universal hatred, I quite enjoyed Sticker Star more than the previous two games… barely.
7. Mario and Luigi: Bowser’s Inside Story
Now we can finally get to the good Mario RPG games. Starting with Bowser’s Inside Story, and here we get to play the iconic koopa king after God only knows how many times the Mario Bros. have kicked his ass. Make no mistake about it; even though you still play as Mario and Luigi, Bowser is the star of this game, without a doubt. Traveling through Bowser’s body is one of the more interesting things that happen in the game, while it affects what happens to Bowser on the outside, Fawful is as great as he was in Superstar Saga, and everything else is your typical Mario RPG. The only thing that I would say isn’t good is the giant battles, the touch screen controls are bad. Bowser’s Inside Story still has the best final boss theme of all the Mario and Luigi games.
6. Mario and Luigi: Dream Team
The third Mario and Luigi game on this list, Dream Team makes Bowser’s Inside Story look bad in comparison. Dream Team lands on this spot for the fact that it fixes what Bowser’s Inside Story got wrong, but it still has its own problems. For starters, the bros. attacks are better, but they’re the most complicated in the series. The giant battles are done much better in Dream Team minus a couple of stylus only controls. Traveling in the dream world is much more interesting than inside Bowser’s body, and the music is overall better. The side quests are also very manageable, without having a major detour or being a complete pain in the ass. However, the thing that is a big drawback is the tutorials, there’s so much and it goes on for too long! For a seasoned veteran who knows his way around a Mario and Luigi game, just why? For being the fourth game, there’s no need for so much tutorials.
5. Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars
The original, the one that started it all and anyone who calls themselves a gamer has at least played this game once. The granddaddy of Mario RPG’s, Super Mario RPG showed us that Mario really can go into pretty much any genre and be a massive success… It’s also the hardest Mario RPG. This created the unique turn based combat that would become a staple of Mario RPG’s for years to come; being able to deal more damage by pushing the button at the right time and defending the same way gave RPG players a brand new way to play. Of course, this marks the first time Mario, Bowser, and Peach come together to fight an evil that threatens everyone. Let’s not forget characters like Geno, Mallow, Axem Rangers, and tons of other memorable characters. Combine that with some of most iconic music in the Super Nintendo library and you have a classic that’s earned the right to be called one of the greatest video games ever.
4. Mario and Luigi: Superstar Saga
When Superstar Saga was coming out, I didn’t know what to think of it. It was very different from the Paper Mario series which I was used to, and seeing Luigi tag with his brother made become more interested. It wouldn’t be until I got my hands on it that I realized how different it was from Super Mario RPG and Paper Mario. From the very beginning, Superstar Saga shows that it’s a unique Mario RPG with its own rules. A good thing to point out, the Mario and Luigi series is where Mario and Luigi are the most expressive, remember those Super Mario comics where Mario and Luigi showed so many different emotions? Well take that and put in in an official Nintendo game and you get some of the funniest things in the Mario and Luigi series. The best thing about Super star Saga is that it brought us to brand new territories and had fun with the new and interesting characters, though it gets points off for how it starts the second half of the final boss, one hp and if you die you have to start over? Come on. Besides that, the fact that Superstar Saga is still one of the best Mario RPGs is a testament to how well the game has aged.
3. Mario and Luigi: Paper Jam
Yes, the most recent Mario and Luigi game has become my favorite of the series. Paper Jam is easily the best Mario and Luigi game when it comes to the core mechanics of the game; it makes BIS and DT look like crap in comparison. The bros. and trio moves are all very fun and easy enough to use, Paper Jam takes out the giant battles in favor for papercraft bosses, which are just infinitely better than any giant battle. The sidequests are actually much more involved and short compared to Dream Team with collecting paper toads, the interactions between the characters and their paper counterparts are some of the best things in Paper Jam (Paper Bowser talks again!), the only bad thing I have to say is the locations are very bland for a Mario RPG, but that’s one minor issue in a game that gets everything else right.
2. Paper Mario
For many gamers like me, Paper Mario was the very first Mario RPG that we ever played. Paper Mario was very different in comparison to Super Mario RPG, the whole game was portrayed like a storybook, the characters are much more interactive, and you have more ways to attack and more than once. This is the game that proved that Bowser could be a legitimate villain, beating Mario and taking Peach’s Castle into the sky made Mario’s journey that much more challenging. For Paper Mario, the addition of partners was a huge step not only in assists during battle, but interaction and narrative since Mario is the silent protagonist. It wouldn’t be such an iconic game if it didn’t have great bosses and great music to go with it, and even though a lot of the locations in Paper Mario are typical Mario tropes, Paper Mario spices them up enough to make it feel different. In short, Paper Mario felt like a breath of fresh air for many gamers looking for a new experience.
1. Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door
Come on, was there any doubt that this would be number one? Of course not! Any time you hear someone discussing Mario RPGs, Paper Mario and Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door is usually the main topic, and for good reason since they’re great games. These two transcend past great Mario RPG games and have become among the greatest games ever made, in the end Thousand Year Door is the ultimate Mario RPG. Everything that Paper Mario did great, Thousand Year Door does even better, from the new uncharted territory of Rougeport, to the much more involved combat system, to the most minor of NPC with their own backstories. Putting Mario outside of the Mushroom Kingdom, making Bowser a hilarious element, and having to fight a brand new enemy set Thousand Year Door apart from Paper Mario. Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door set the standard of what it takes to be a Mario RPG, creating a world and characters of its own and sticking to the formula that worked before, there’s a reason Thousand Year Door is such a beloved game to this day.