Ranking Every Paper Mario Game | Teen Ink

Ranking Every Paper Mario Game

December 15, 2022
By DarkTetra GOLD, San Jose, California
DarkTetra GOLD, San Jose, California
10 articles 0 photos 1 comment

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Ranking Every Paper Mario Game

The Paper Mario series consists of 6 games: Paper Mario 64, Thousand-Year Door, Super Paper Mario, Sticker Star, Color Splash, and The Origami King. One would only have to google “why is sticker star bad” to understand the controversy of the newer, or “modern” Paper Mario games. But I, having played the original Paper Mario and Paper Mario: The Origami King, wanted to see for myself just what was it about the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th games that were causing all this hatred towards Sticker Star and Color Splash. So I watched many playthroughs and ranked every Paper Mario game from worst to best.

And no, I’m not doing Mario and Luigi: Paper Jam. That’s a Mario and Luigi game.

The Origami King

Paper Mario: The Origami King is the newest installment of the Paper Mario series. The story is based on a normal piece of paper that was folded into life by an origami craftsman toad and named Olly. Olly, his sister Olivia, and their miniature origami castle were supposed to be displayed at the Origami Festival held in Toad Town, but after Olly came to life, he trapped both the origami craftsman and Olivia, folded Princess Peach and most of Bowser’s minions into folded soldiers, and lifted Peach’s castle onto a volcano and covered it with streamers. Mario teams up with Olivia and goes on a journey to unravel the streamers. This is already a bold and creative story, but it gets even wilder as new characters and smaller plot arcs are introduced. The Origami King’s plot earns an A.

A common source of controversy is The Origami King’s battle system, though. Like Super Paper Mario, it completely ignored the classic turn-by-turn attack and defense battle mechanics and swapped them out for something a LOT more puzzle based. In TOK, when you encounter an enemy, it transports you to a ring, with many enemies standing on it. You have to rotate and/or slide the rings to line up the enemies in a way so you can hit them with a single jump/hammer attack. This means that battles are mostly devoid of strategy, especially once you realize the toads you rescued can rotate some of the rings for you, meaning that if you have enough coins, even the ring puzzle is completely optional. Most enemies die from a single strike from a sufficiently powerful weapon, so if you line them up correctly, you’ve pretty much already won. This new battle system isn’t too bad, though. You sometimes have a lot of fun trying to figure out which way to rotate and slide the rings before time runs out, and this gimmick makes the boss battles much more unique from regular fights, as the boss is the one in the middle of the rings, and you have to use arrows on the rings to navigate around. The Origami King’s battle system earns a B+.

TOK’s overworld is pretty awesome; it has 6 different areas (each belonging to a streamer/the final level), each with its own subsections. In order from first encountered to last encountered, the named areas are:

Whispering Woods (Prologue)
Toad’s BBQ Foodeatery (Prologue)
Toad Town (Prologue)
Graffiti Underground (Prologue)
Picnic Road (Red Streamer)
Overlook Mountain (Red Streamer)
Earth Vellumental Temple (Red Streamer)
Overlook Tower (Red Streamer)
Autumn Mountain (Blue Streamer)
Chesnut Valley (Blue Streamer)
Water Vellumental Shrine (Blue Streamer)
Eddy River (Blue Streamer)
Shogun Studios (Blue Streamer)
Sweetpaper Valley (Yellow Streamer)
The Great Sea (Yellow/Purple Streamer)
The Princess Peach (Yellow/Purple Streamer)
Breezy Tunnel (Yellow Streamer)
Scorching Sandpaper Desert (Yellow Streamer)
Shroom/Snift City (Yellow Streamer)
Fire Vellumental Cave (Yellow Streamer)
Temple of Shrooms (Yellow Streamer)
9 different islands (Purple Streamer)
Diamond Island (Purple Streamer)
Ice Vellumental Mountain (Purple Streamer)
Sea Tower (Purple Streamer)
Shangri-Spa (Green Streamer)
Spring of Jungle Mist (Green Streamer)
Spring of Rainbows (Green Streamer)
Bowser’s Castle (Green Streamer)
Hotfoot Crater (Finale)
Origami Castle (Finale)
As you can see, there’s a lot. And every single of them has a unique atmosphere, too. They consist of many different subsections, but generally, the overworld is mostly open-worlded. The music is pretty great too, with a different one for every area. The Origami King’s overworld gets an S.

Overall, Paper Mario: The Origami King is a pretty decent game. It’s got a great story, a great soundtrack, and while the new battle system may be… unusual, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s horrible. So, I’m putting TOK in A-Tier.

Paper Mario 64

Paper Mario 64 is the first game of the series, and is considered by many to be the second best of the series (with the first usually being its successor, The Thousand-Year Door. The story is pretty simple: Bowser stole the magical Star Rod (Which has the ability to grant any wish in the world) from the dwelling of the Star Spirits, Star Haven, capturing the seven star spirits in the process). Bowser then uses his newfound powers to transport his castle under Peach’s Castle and uses it to lift it up into the sky. After a short fight with Mario, Bowser uses the Star Rod to defeat Mario and blast him out of the castle. Fortunately, the star spirits revive him and inform him that they have been imprisoned by Bowser’s minions and caged in different parts of the Mushroom Kingdom. As Mario journeys to save all of the star spirits, he meets makes many new friends, who volunteer to partner up with him and join him on his journey. All 8 chapters of the game have colorful and unique story arcs, and all of Mario’s partners are brimming with different personalities. Paper Mario’s story is almost flawless, with the only downfall being that Bowser is the main villain, which is one of the only things that fail to make this game unique and separate from other Mario games, as opposed to games like Super Paper Mario and Paper Mario: The Origami King, where the main antagonist is someone else. Everything else is pretty good, though, so Paper Mario’s story earns an easy A.

Paper Mario’s battle system is pretty simple. You enter a fight with enemies when you run into them, when they attack you or you attack them in the overworld they start the battle with lower HP. Your team takes turns with the enemy team, and you can use your boots for enemies who aren’t spiked or on fire and your hammer for enemies who aren’t flying or on the ceiling, just time things well for bonus damage. You can also use items or a star ability given to you by a star spirit to increase your HP, damage your enemies, or temporarily upgrade your stats. You can also do this by equipping certain badges and using Flower Points to perform special moves. If you kill the enemies you get some coins, maybe a heart or two. If you run out of HP it’s game over (unless you have a 1-up mushroom). While this may seem pretty simple, all of your possible moves, combined with all of your partners’ unique moveset, make battles require a lot of strategy, especially bosses. So the battle system is pretty much perfect… almost. When you defeat enemies, you gain star points, and when you gain 100, you go up a level and can upgrade one of your attributes: HP, FP, or BP. However, they all have a limit on how much you can upgrade them, and you stop gaining star points entirely once you hit the level cap (level 27, interestingly enough). This means that there’s a limit to how much you can customize your badges and there’s a certain limit to how powerful you can make yourself. This is a pretty insignificant flaw, though, as getting to level 27 in the first place is pretty hard, and on a first playthrough, you probably won’t reach it by the time you fight Bowser. Paper Mario’s battle system gets an A.

The overworld of Paper Mario is… not as good as the other aspects of it. Like other Mario games, most of the areas have pretty generic level themes, i.e. a grassland, a desert, a forest, and so on. It even ends with a lava-themed Bowser’s castle, which can be pretty disappointing if the aesthetics of a video game really matter to you. The areas are, in the order you encounter them:

Goomba Village (Prologue)
Goomba Road (Prologue)
Toad Town (Prologue)
Shooting Star Summit (Prologue)
Pleasant Path (Ch.1)
Koopa Village (Ch.1)
Koopa Bros. Fortress (Ch.1)
Mt. Rugged (Ch.2)
Dry Dry Desert (Ch.2)
Dry Dry Outpost (Ch.2)
Dry Dry Ruins (Ch.2)
Forever Forest (Ch.3)
Bow’s Mansion (Ch.3)
Gusty Gulch (Ch.3)
Tubba Blubba’s Castle (Ch.3)
Windy Mill (Ch.3)
Shy Guy’s Toy Box (Ch.4)
Yoshi Village (Ch.5)
Jade Jungle (Ch. 5)
Mt. Lavalava (Ch.5)
Flower Fields (Ch. 6)
Cloudy Climb (Ch.6)
Toad Town Tunnels (Ch.7)
Shiver City (Ch.7)
Shiver Snowfields (Ch.7)
Starborn Valley (Ch.7)
Shiver Mountain (Ch.7)
Crystal Palace (Ch.7)
Star Way (Ch.8)
Star Haven (Ch.8)
Bowser’s Castle (Ch.8)
Peach’s Castle (Ch.8)
The music for the overworld is decent, but pretty forgettable. It fits the atmosphere of the place the player is in to some degree, but mostly it’s just in the background. The overworld of Paper Mario gets a B+.

Overall Paper Mario 64’s a pretty good game. The classic battle system is extremely entertaining and requires lots of strategy, and the plot is super immersive and creative, too. So, I’m putting Paper Mario in A-tier.

Sticker Star

Ok, NOW I see why everyone calls Paper Mario: Sticker Star a bad game. It’s because it’s ABSOLUTELY HORRIBLE! I mean, let’s start with the story. The beginning cutscene is ridiculously short and has no dialogue in it, and Kersti’s explanation of what happened is minimalistic, all we are told is that the Sticker Comet that grants people’s wishes (cough, Star Rod, cough) that comes by every year during the Sticker Fest broke into 6 Royal Stickers when touched by Bowser and that we need to track them down, as well as the pieces of the comet that were scattered all over the world when the comet broke. That’s pretty much it. Even as you progress through the game, little information about Kersti’s backstory or the history of the Sticker Comet, the Sticker Star, or the Royal Stickers is given. Honestly, the story just feels so frustratingly incomplete. And the levels aren’t that special either, they’re just standard Mario levels when you think about it, the only ones that connect to the main story are the ones where you encounter Kamek, Bowser Jr, or a Royal Sticker. Sticker Star’s story gets a C+.

Sticker Star’s battle system is also pretty trash. Instead of your standard regular-super-ultra boots and hammer attacks along with the special moves given to you by badges (like in the first two Paper Mario games), you’re forced to use stickers that allow you to perform a variation of the boots and hammer attack, which is like badges except you can only carry a limited amount of them, there are “worn-out,” “regular,” “shiny,” and “flashy” versions of them, and they’re all single-use items. Like seriously, who in their right mind would prefer this over the classic battle system? It’s so annoying deciding which stickers to keep and which to throw out, and when you want a specific sticker but don’t want to search the entire level for it, you have to backtrack all the way to Decalburg, buy it, and then basically redo the level up to the point you left. It’s honestly super infuriating, even watching someone else do it was really annoying. Sticker Star’s battle system gets a B-. It would’ve been a B if there weren’t about 20 random stickers sprawled all over each level and you didn’t start your adventure with like, 2 album pages that can hold only 15 stickers each.

There’s not much to be said about Sticker Star’s overworld. It has a world map where you can access the levels, and the levels themselves aren’t much either, they’re like standard Mario Bros. levels except they’re a touch more puzzle-based than platform-based. That still doesn’t mean they’re as good as the open worldedness of the first three games or TOK, though. The enemies are usually easy to avoid and there aren’t that many required fights, plus there are way fewer friendly NPCs and most of them are generic toads, anyway. Sticker Star’s overworld gets another C+.

I used to think the modern Paper Mario games were way too overhated, but now that I’ve seen what Sticker Star is actually like, I now heartfully agree that it is THE WORST GAME IN THE ENTIRE SERIES. Like seriously, I don’t know about throwing The Origami King in there, but Sticker Star definitely sucks. Nice try, Nintendo. Maybe for #7, you can try something more like Paper Mario 64 or TTYD. I put Sticker Star in C-tier.

The Thousand-Year Door

So whenever I see someone complaining about the modern games they always refer to the gameplay mechanics of Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door. (or lack thereof). I thought this was pretty unfair since from what I could tell, TTYD copied a lot of things from the original game. However, I recently saw some videos about how TTYD was still unique and interesting while using some things from the original game. Let’s start with the story. Basically, Princess Peach invites Mario to a run-down town called Rogueport after acquiring a mysterious map from a hooded stranger. Mario arrives only to find that Peach is kidnapped again, and has to ward off Lord Crump, a member of the criminal organization later revealed to be the X-Nauts, the ones who captured Peach. After rescuing Goombella from Lord Crump and his underlings, Goombella decides to join Mario in going adventuring to find the 7 Crystal Stars that will open the door to a great treasure shown on the aforementioned map (which Peach mailed to Mario before she got kidnapped). However, like its predecessor, the story goes way beyond that, with each chapter having its own subplot. And what’s more, unlike the previous game, Mario’s partners are more fleshed-out, with more elaborate backstories and a character development arc that extends throughout their respective chapter. From what I’ve seen, all of the chapters have unique subplots and lots of different minibosses, plot twists, unexpected challenges, and more, while still correlating back to the main storyline. While that’s very impressive and definitely deserves an S, one problem I’ve seen even the most hardcore fans of TTYD complaining about is the backtracking. According to several Reddit posts and YouTube videos, there is a lot of it, which I guess can get a bit tedious after some time. So for that, I give TTYD’s story an A.

The Thousand-Year Door’s battle system is pretty much the one from the original. You and your partner take turns with the enemy team, you can use your boots, your hammer, badges, items, or your partner’s moves to win the battle. However, there’s much more than that. First of all, partners have their own HP, so there’s that. There’s also an audience watching the battles. If you do stylish attacks by performing extra action commands or using certain moves or items, the audience can help you by giving you items, healing you, damaging the enemies, and so much more. The audience even differs depending on where you’re battling, and sometimes even Luigi helps you out by giving you some rare items. Some enemies even interact with the audience, like launching them from a cannon to damage Mario or his partner. Yup, the audience is a game-changer. There are a few more added gimmicks, like superguarding (completely negating an attack, instead of reducing the damage it does), as well as returning gimmicks, like star points and star power. However, this time, the level cap of Mario is 99 instead of 27, and the special attacks require a sort of microgame of action commands, instead of just pressing the button and watching it happen, like in the first game. There are also a few more items, badges, and status ailments, but most of them are from the first game. So, for improving the original battle system in every possible way, TTYD’s battle system earns an A+.

The Thousand-Year Door’s overworld is pretty great. Like the first game, it has different areas and subareas, all of which have different themes and atmospheres. Rogueport’s a run-down village where gangsters and criminals roam the streets. From there you move from bright, sunny grasslands to a dark, spooky town filled with doll-like inhabitants to giant, futuristic moon bases. It has way more unique world themes than most mainline Mario games, while not using overused ones like deserts and snowy mountains. Its room layout variety, however, is lacking in diversity and is mainly just left-to-right corridors, while the original game has open rooms with multiple exits, “tall” rooms with stairs and moving platforms, and single rooms that contain multiple paths. This is pretty insignificant, though, and it’s no excuse to not give TTYD’s overworld an A+. You know what is, though? The removal of the spin dash, and the several badges that came with it. Without the spin dash, moving around in the overworld can feel really slow, and while you can go faster when riding Baby Yoshi, that means you have to stop and swap partners whenever you want to engage someone in a battle, which I guess can get somewhat annoying after some time. So for that, I’ll give TTYD’s overworld a solid A.

Overall The Thousand-Year Door is an excellent game. It’s got a great story, an outstanding battle system, and a pretty decent overworld. However, it still has its flaws-in fact, it has too many flaws to qualify for S-tier. Sorry, TTYD. But you’re going in A-tier along with TOK and 64.

Color Splash

Paper Mario: Color Splash is basically The Thousand-Year Door of Sticker Star, in the sense that it copies a lot of mechanics from there. However, Color Splash does this very poorly and doesn’t really expand much on Sticker Star’s gameplay as much as TTYD, other than stealing a paint gimmick from Splatoon. However, the story is completely different, by which I mean exactly the same. Bowser gets possessed again, this time by black paint, and orders his Shy Guys (renamed Slurp Guys) to grab some straws and suck all the color out of Prisma Island, where Peach and Mario are invited to via a paint-drained Toad used as a letter. There they meet Huey, the guardian of the Big Paint Stars (cough, Kersti, cough), and team up to stop Bowser and rescue Peach, who gets kidnapped after Mario finds the first Big Paint Star. The individual chapters themselves (Color Splash doesn’t have any chapters, but I’m counting everything that happens while searching for a specific Big Paint Star a chapter) have slightly more elaborate subplots than its predecessor, but they’re still nothing compared to the first two games. And guess who the bosses are? Koopalings. Paper Koopalings. Whoever thought of that idea? Whatever. The story is absolute trash. That’s all you need to know. I give CS’s story a B-.

Color Splash’s battle system is pretty much the same as Sticker Star, but this time, you use cards instead of stickers. You can also turn things (real-life objects) into stickers and use them to use the thing, in battle or the overworld. There are a few more variants of the jump and the hammer, but mostly they’re from Sticker Star. And instead of using the regular-super-ultra or worn out-normal-shiny-flashy system of increasing the power of items, Color Splash goes super lazy and uses worn-out, normal, big, and huge stickers, which is ridiculous as 1) those names are much lamer and 2) the latter two don’t even take up more inventory space. The only real twist is that you can use enemy cards (dropped by enemies) to summon it as an ally and use it to attack your enemies. While this sounds like a new, fun, and innovative idea, most of the enemy cards just attack a single enemy one time for an amount of damage achievable by simply using a normal jump or hammer card. So yeah. Color Splash’s battle system is also pretty bad. I give it another B-.

Color Splash’s overworld is pretty much the same as Sticker Star, with a world map and courses Mario has to play through to reach the courses next to his current course. The rest is pretty much the same, except that there are slightly more Toads and a lot of colorless spots, which act like not-so-bottomless holes from The Origami King, but are completely optional and are filled with paint from your hammer. There are also way more of them, and it’s really tedious to go out of your way to fill up the countless colorless splots in a course just to get a few coins, battle cards, or a single super flag during the credits. Unlike TOK, where the not-so-bottomless holes sometimes block your path, are necessary for story progression, or are required to unlock certain side paths or rooms, you have absolutely no incentive to color in these colorless areas, and when you’re just short of coins or battle cards (or you’re doing a completionist route), filling in the holes wastes your time and just honestly doesn’t feel rewarding at all. So Color Splash’s overworld gets yet another B-.

Overall, Color Splash isn’t as bad as Sticker Star, but it’s so an obvious copy of Sticker Star and Splatoon that I’m surprised Nintendo isn’t suing itself for copyright infringement. While the increased number of Toads and subplots is nice, it’s not enough to make up for the many, many things that are missing from 64 and TTYD. So I put Color Splash in C-Tier.

Super Paper Mario

Look, I’m not an expert in Super Paper Mario lore, but I can definitely tell you that Super Paper Mario has the most plot arc in the entire Paper Mario series. Each chapter has a carefully woven subplot that masterfully connects back to the main story, while still being elaborate and complete on its own. But just telling you how good it is isn’t doing it justice, as all of the chapters connect with each other to tell you a story deserving of its own TV series. Really, you should just play the game or watch a playthrough to really understand what I mean. Anyways, Super Paper Mario’s story gets an easy S.

The battle system, however… well, if you’re reading this, you probably know the controversy of Super Paper Mario’s gameplay. The game takes place on a 2-D plane, and all battles are in real-time, which means that there are no turn-based RPG battles, which is what the Paper Mario series is. But SPM doesn’t even go all the way, giving Mario a health bar, a level-up system, and giving enemies and bosses HP and attack power. This means that regular battles mean just repeatedly stomping on enemies’ heads until they die while jumping over their attacks (because the hammer is also removed) and boss battles mean avoiding and countering the boss’s attacks while trying to sneak up on the boss and stomp its head. This can be fun, annoying, boring, or just really difficult depending on who you ask, but it’s not what the series is about; even The Origami King uses a turn-based battle system with different boots and hammers. Now, I know I’m going to make a lot of fanboys angry, but in my opinion, completely ignoring the previous two games’ gameplay and just using the one from literally every 2-D mainline Mario game is deserving of a C.

Super Paper Mario’s overworld is… weird. Instead of using the traditional Mario world themes (or even some of the underused ones), Super Paper Mario’s worlds are all wildly unique, using an unusual mixture of colors and art styles for its various worlds. You go from big, maze-like mansions to outer space to the underworld itself, all with an explosion of pixel-like characters, brand-new enemies, and many side quests, such as the return of The Pit of 100 Trials. It’s not bad, but it’s super different from the rest of the series and honestly just really weird (I obviously can’t speak for everyone, but I bet most people who played the game found it weird that the color of the sky kept changing). Because of that, I really can’t decide which rank to give it, because I haven’t played the game myself. So I’ll just give SPM the benefit of the doubt and give it a B.

Yeah, Super Paper Mario really stands out from the rest of the games, but not in a bad way. It’s not as horrible as Sticker Star or Color Splash, but it doesn’t have the same charm as Paper Mario 64 or The Thousand-Year Door. The story is decent at worst, but the gameplay is questionable at best. Which tier am I supposed to place a game like that? Well, I’ll tell you the tier I did place it in: B-tier.

So, after looking over every single Paper Mario game and reviewing their story, battle system, and overworld: Here are the standings:

S-tier: N/A

A-tier: Paper Mario, The Thousand-Year Door, The Origami King

B-tier: Super Paper Mario

C-tier: Sticker Star, Color Splash

F-tier: N/A

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