While the first chapters in Paper Mario are always charming introductions to their respective games, they usually aren't the most fun or flashy chapters to grace the series. However, some are much better and more inspired than others, making for a unique introduction to their respective games. The first chapters are typically some of my least favorite chapters in the game, but they do their job well as areas with a grassland and a castle! I also give you a trigger warning, as this ranking is... controversial. Now, without further ado, RPG Ranked presents... Paper Mario Series: All First Chapters RANKED!
6. Sticker Star's World 1 - C Tier
I don't dislike Sticker Star as much as many. I enjoyed my time with it overall, but it is far and away the worst game in the series! Nevertheless, Sticker Star's World 1 is one of its better chapters! I kinda enjoyed a couple elements of this chapter, from restoring a toad's flower field to the windmill and the Big Buzzy Beetle battle and the Megasparkle Goomba fight, which is actually a solid Paper Mario boss that has some phenomenal music! I liked finding the secret level, which was fun, and some of the level design of Whammino Mountain. However, even though it is one of the better Sticker Star worlds, it is the most uninspired chapter in the entire series. As the fourth Paper Mario in a row composed of a grassy area and a castle (without all the charm that made the chapters of the previous games non-generic), this is about as average and uninspired as a Paper Mario chapter can get. Outside of a few moments, this felt like RPG-ified New Super Mario Bros. Sure, it certainly isn't a chapter I hate, but it is still a top five worst Paper Mario chapter for me.
5. 64's Storming the Koopa Bros Fortress - B Tier
And now I've gone off the deep end. I'm ready for it; there's going to be at least fifteen people who find my address and kill me with a Peril Mario tactic and with the utter vengeance of Jr. Troopa. This chapter does a fantastic job of introducing the charm of Paper Mario 64, but it feels generic by later Paper Mario standards. I loved that two partners joined Mario in this chapter, and I loved the hilarious Koopa Bros—they are one of the best bosses in the series, and, unfortunately, they weren't re-fightable in the final chapter, as teased. However, as much as I loved the Koopa Bros and the two partners, the dungeon is a very generic castle, Koopa Village is very generic, and the path to the fortress is very generic. While this chapter is a little more charming than The Thousand-Year Door's, it isn't nearly as fun, polished, or well-executed, and without a narrative throughline to drive the plot of the chapter forward (like Koops did in TTYD), this is one of the weaker chapters in the series for me. As a whole, this is a charming chapter that I don't have any gripes with... it does what it set out to do well, but it simply isn't as engaging as most chapters in the series and on this ranking.
4. Super Paper Mario's Lineland - B Tier
Instead of having a grassland and a castle, this chapter has a desert and a mountain! Okay, that means nothing, as Sticker Star had that, too, but it was an excellent addition! I loved Red and Green, and basically, the whole town present in level 1-2, and the boss fights against O' Chunks and Fracktail—Fracktail is one of my favorite bosses in the series! The whole 1-4 is an enjoyable, engaging, and memorable castle level! I loved the writing of Fracktail, Red and Green, O' Chunks, and that one weird lady at the end that most people forget exists. I also loved getting the 3D ability and the Thoreau Pixel for the first time! However, while Lineland has its moments, it isn't an incredibly intriguing chapter. Nevertheless, it does an excellent job for what it does as a first chapter, but it didn't hook me into the game as much as the following three chapters on this list.
3. TTYD's Castle and Dragon - B Tier
And this is where I'm officially going to be mugged and killed on the side of the street. I've put three original trilogy first chapters below those in Color Splash and The Origami King? I'm just as shocked as you, to be quite frank. This chapter is fantastic, with my favorite part being Koops's story of learning to be confident in himself, save his dad, and mature for his girlfriend! Hooktail's Castle was a well-designed dungeon, and Petalburg was lively and fun! However, this chapter did have some backtracking, and the chapter slows to a halt with the Shhwonk Fortress... to be honest, that whole part of the game didn't need to exist. However, as much as this chapter has lower lows than the other first chapters of the original trilogy, it also has higher highs. But in the end, I can't shake the fact it still feels a little more meh than the following two more inspired chapters on this list.
2. The Origami King's Red Streamer - A Tier
This chapter was fantastic and instantly hooked me into Paper Mario: The Origami King, which, quite controversially, is my favorite game in the series. Before you come at me with torches and pitchforks, which is inevitable, hear me out: this chapter takes the formula of a Paper Mario Chapter 1 and brings a new spin on it—a spin I loved. There's Picnic Road, the typical grassland that comes before the good part of the chapter, but this time, it is filled with tons of unlockable secrets, shops, and the main Sensor Lab. There's also the entrance to the Earth Vellumental Temple, a location I absolutely loved. However, to enter the temple, you must find Shell Stones to unlock the temple, which means you have to go to Overlook Mountain. In doing so, you get to explore the mountain as nonlinearly as you'd like! You get to fish, knock down a secret wall, interfere in a Shy Guy soccer game, bargain with a vendor... there's lots of fun here! The Earth Vellumental Temple is an interesting dungeon, as it is a religious shrine for Koopas, something we've never seen before in a Paper Mario game! And I will never forget the first time I fought a boss in this game—that was one of my favorite moments in gaming; I adore the bosses in this game! And when I thought the chapter was already a blast, then came Overlook Tower, a unique and slightly unsettling area with beautiful art across the walls and a fun restaurant... and then there's the boss fight against Colored Pencils, which shocked me yet again. This chapter had so much charm, and as one of the few who loves the battle system in The Origami King, this chapter hooked me into the game more than any other chapter on this list. And without me loving this chapter, I wouldn't have continued playing this game after hearing all the backlash (which I now can confidently say I disagree with). I will say the only reason this chapter wasn't a perfect start to the game was because parts of this chapter were swamped with an overabundance of tutorials, but all in all, I loved this chapter. But somehow, there's one opening chapter that I still love more.
1. Color Splash's Red Paint Star - S Tier
Don't get me wrong—Color Splash is not my favorite game in the series, as much as I love it more than most. But this chapter is my favorite first chapter in the series, and it quickly proved to me that Color Splash was a remarkable game that has proven to me that the Sticker Star formula could be good when executed correctly. This chapter was so special for me because of its world-building and open-ended nature. I was constantly searching for clues about what to do next as, at first, I had no idea what the end goal of the chapter was. I talked to the NPCs in Port Prisma to discover clues, and then I stumbled upon the toad with the newspaper telling me what to do next. I was intrigued, trying to figure out what this level was about. And then I finished Cherry Lake and was utterly shocked at the insanity that was a Toad with superpowers and a weird key head. Then I stumbled upon the Crimson Tower, seeing I had to find two more of these wacky Toads. I hadn't found the Blue and Yellow Toads yet, even though I had finished every chapter, and I had to revisit the chapters to find the clues on how to find them. I felt stupid afterward because it should have been somewhat obvious, but I loved that this chapter didn't stream you along a boring slew of generic levels like in Sticker Star's first chapter. This chapter singlehandedly hooked me into Color Splash... after hearing how this game was just Sticker Star 2 for years and neglecting to check out the game until recently, this chapter holds a special place in my heart for proving to me that, while new Paper Mario isn't as good as the original trilogy, it still could return to being my favorite game series of all time. And in the end? This chapter impacted me the most of these six chapters, and it certainly was the least generic. Even on top of finding the magical Toads, we got some fun locations here, with the first Roshambo Temple, the beautiful Cherry Lake, the Ruddy Road (and that fun cafe quest), and Daffodil Peak, one of my favorite levels in the game. While the plot of this chapter didn't have the emotion or charm of the other chapters, it had an open-ended story and a true sense of adventure—two things Color Splash excels at. It may just have been me, but I accidentally stayed up three hours past my self-set curfew because I was hooked by this chapter and was utterly shocked that I actually liked this game. All in all, Color Splash's first chapter blew me away with how fun and exploration-focused it felt, and it is definitely my favorite first chapter in the series (as controversial as that may be).
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