Mario, Nintendo’s icon and presumably video game’s icon all over the world. Mario is most famous for his jumping skills, hat and overall combo, and looking endlessly for Peach in wrong castles…or just in general. Mario has jumped in all gaming aspects, from platformers, to adventures, to even party and sports games. But there is another title to add to the Mario legacy; his involvement in RPG. Mario first starred in a RPG during his Super Nintendo days, where Nintendo teamed up with Squaresoft (their Final Fantasy partners of the time) and created a game we had never seen before: Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars. The game was was a traditional turn-based RPG with a twist of action-RPG, as pressing the trigger at the right moment would do extra damage. This game left a craving for the Nintendo audience, which in turn led to a spawn of Mario RPG series’ : Paper Mario and the Superstar Saga series.
In playing all these Mario RPGs and being an avid Square[-Enix], s
quaresoft, square, fan I have come to say most of Mario’s games are very consist in the RPG world, which is something of a rarity. Most RPGs, that I’ve noticed, are something of a hit-and-miss kinda thing. You look at Final Fantasy IV and say the game was a very good game, then you look at Final Fantasy V or XIII and you are going what happened!? If you look at reviews from Mario’s RPG adventures and games they all have very favorable reviews, where the game with lowest score would be Super Paper Mario for the Wii (which in turn is it’s most recent and not much of an RPG). The dialogue of each story are great, funny, memorable, the battle systems are always unique and work to perfection, the side-quests are simple enough, every character has his own story (think of Luigi in each Paper Mario Game), the graphics are always well-done and clean, and the games itself are pretty innovative. While most Mario RPG games are welcome with open arms, a few have criticized the easiness of an “RPG” the Mario series has.
While the Mario role playing series games don’t jump my top RPG games of all time (FFIX, KH) they do come close to them.
Lets rank the Mario RPG in bottom to top order:
#7- Mario and Luigi Partner’s In Time (DS)
Partner’s in Time was the long awaited sequel to the GBA hit-success Mario & Luigi Superstar Saga. This game had high expectations going in, considering how well M&L did, but all in all could not live up to them. The game ran a similar system to Superstar Saga, and while it added new elements it took away at the same time. For example, Bros’ Supers did not exist, they were replaced with items. In addition, you technically had 4 players to control and the baby Mario and Luigi were almost like backups in case you were losing a fight. The over-world was done very well but its puzzles were less than enjoyable and you constantly had to do ‘solo’ adventures with your baby forms which weren’t all that pleasant. This game had me drifting in and out because it just wasn’t…Mario. The dark story was a good, but it wasn’t well presented or played and there really wasn’t anything memorable about this game.
#6- Super Paper Mario (Wii)
Super Paper Mario is actually a great game that only gets ridiculed for changing the “Paper mario way” (which does upset me too). In SPM, you play old classic Mario style side-scrolling platformer style, but you level up in it…so think Super Mario meets RPG. Goombas don’t die in one hit like an old game they have HP as do you. The unique feature in this game is obviously battles are faster since it is open world and there are no turn-by-turn battles. It really plays as in what if Super Mario Bros was an RPG? This game finally allows you to play as the other main characters of the Mario gang, but at the cost of not having a partner (quick note this is a first in the Paper Mario series as in Mario RPG you play as Bowser and Peach). Each has a unique special power. Mario can go “3-D” and see the world in both vision, Peach can float and use her umbrella as a shield, Bowser has x2 power (cause he has no double attack a la double jump) and can breathe fire, and Luigi can super jump. The game’s story is fantastic, possibly the best in the Paper Mario series, the gameplay is fun, the game is long so you get your RPG hours in, has some memorable characters, and creative worlds. Nothing bad to say about this game except for the overworld; because it is the only world with a town and real explorartion.
#5- Mario and Luigi: Bowser’s Inside story (DS)
Bowser’s Inside story was a save from the disgrace that was Partner’s in Time. This game combined elements from PiT and M&L SS well enough to make its own game, along with a few new tricks. The biggest new feature was playing as Bowser of course, who had his own reckless and fun adventures. The time you weren’t spent as Bowser smashing things, you were playing as Mario and Luigi inside his stomach. A very cool feature was that of solving puzzles in this game, as some of the puzzles required you to control both sets of characters to get to further areas, thus Bowser needed Mario’s help and vice versa. The story connects well but isn’t all that amazing but the specials are “redone” again to make it more player orientated. The game overall is the easiest of possibly all Mario RPGs as it aimed at newer and older audiences, so that is understandable.
#4- Super Mario RPG: The Legend of the Seven Stars (SNES)
This is the first Mario RPG game and the most classic of all of them, although that doesn’t mean it is my favorite. Yes, the game has an a die-hard story, awesome characters, and started the trend for the other Mario RPGs, but the game had a slower, more traditional RPG pace than the rest of the gang and I was looking for something new with Mario. The game uses the idea of open-world enemies in which you can see them and really changed the map for RPGs as it combined elements of Chrono Trigger, Final Fantasy, and Secret of Man all in one! The game keeps simplicity in its equipment/items area, making it easier to understand for new players, the trigger-action commands keep the gameplay more engaging, and you won’t forget the time you had in this game; from solving puzzles to pretending you were a statue, this game really brings out the best in RPGs.
#3- Paper Mario and the Thousand Year Door. (GCN)
Paper Mario and the Thousand Year Door, one of Gamecube’s classics. In this game there is awesome “paper” graphics, you can finally use the “Paper” element and transform Mario into objects to solve puzzles like a paper airplane, boat, etc., and there are a bunch ofcrazy sidequests which even lead to another character! Mario RPGs have always had a strong suit for story-telling and this game keeps the trend alive, from its own deep story, to that of Luigi’s own Paper Adventure. This game improved on everything Paper Mario had, making fights now in front of a live audience who may assist or hurt you, the ability to let your partner take the lead, and cool badges like the Wario and Luigi costume badge. Everyone should try this game!
#2- Paper Mario 64 (N64)
When I first put Paper Mario 64 into my N64 I was taken back. This colorful game, which I heard was the”sequel” to my favorite game not named Super Mario Bros 3 I had to get it. I didn’t know what to expect so I popped it in and started a file and went to Peach’s Party and saw Luigi and other Mario characters and was immediately ready to play. Right after fighting bowser with the simple no action commands and LOSING (cue gasps here), the game just picks up from there, with you fighting your “rival”, to getting your first partner in Goombario. I loved this game, the badge system, the random funny charcters, like old man goomba, having the best sidekick ever named Koops, fighting the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles x Power Ranger Koopas, using my assists powers to solve puzzles, and pressing Z to spin everywhere, heck even delivering mail is fun in this game. Nothing in this game ever bored me I couldn’t stop playing; the controls are magnificent, the story is funny and entertaining, the sidequests are amazing, like after each chapter playing as Peach sometimes in a quiz show), I love the soundtrack, and hey I love Mario. (Did anyone feel the wish rod was stolen from kirby though? haha)
#1- Mario and Luigi Superstar Saga (GBA)
THIS. I should end the summary here for Superstar Saga right now. I’ve beaten the game 15 times and I still play it the game just has that kinda hook (don’t forget the multiplayer of classic arcade mario bros with it!). This game added comedy (many laughs during each playthrough), drama, suspense, action, RPG all into one! In fact, the game feels like two plays for the rescuing Peach and destroying Cackletta and Fawful to the Bowletta part. The Bros Combos are absolutely fantastic, in addition every move has a hidden command in it and you can do them forever! Solving puzzles are a game of in itself, from Mario and Luigi combining to high jump, helicopter, or to just you going to the arcade to play games. The overworld is well animated and clear and vast, the characters, like Fawful are unforgettable, and the game is just really entertaining.
So is Mario the king of RPG? No…not yet but he will always be close behind with these innovative game he makes. The Mario RPG series are all fun games, no doubt about it, but they are only about 20-30 hrs each and the difficulty doesn’t make it stand up to other Final Fantasy and Dragon Age games. If I had to say where Superstar Saga my #1 Mario RPG game would rank it would be behind FFIX, KH2, KH1, Dragon Quest IX, Superstar Saga, FFVII, FFVIICC (no tactical rpgs are counted).
Don’t forget Paper Mario 3DS: Sticker Star is coming out!
So guys objections?
Michael Troina writes features and reviews Nintendo games for Analog Addiciton. When he’s not writing or playing games or sports, he’s out at his job at the Daily Bugle taking pictures as the web-slinger we all have come to love…either that or he’s getting sandwich saving one world at a time. Find him anywhere with this flavors.me/michaeltroina