In the realm of Nintendo's iconic mascot, Mario, the Paper Mario series has been known for its unique blend of RPG gameplay, whimsical storytelling, and distinctive papercraft aesthetics. Paper Mario: The Origami King is the latest installment in this beloved franchise, released to a mixed reception from fans and critics alike. As with any game that carries the weight of a beloved series, opinions on The Origami King have been strongly divided, with some hailing it as a return to form and others expressing disappointment at the departures from the series' RPG roots. In this review, I, Brighton Nelson, will endeavor to provide an analysis of the game's various aspects, from its customization system to its characters, offering a comprehensive perspective on the merits and potential drawbacks of this intriguing addition to the Paper Mario series. Now, without further ado, RPG Ranked presents... a Paper Mario: The Origami King Review: One of the best games ever crafted.
Customization System - 4.5
This is easily the worst part of Paper Mario: The Origami King. With a minimal equipment draw that pales in comparison to even Sticker Star and Color Splash, this is utterly disheartening. With only three varieties of boots, five varieties of hammers, six types of items, and four battle-related accessories, this game lacks the way Mario can deal damage in this puzzle combat system. Ultimately, more variety would've made the combat more engaging in this game. Imagine fan-favorite items such as the Shooting Star or Volt Shroom appear here. Imagine if you got accessories that let you call on Vellumentals at a moment's notice in battle, accessories that let you control partners or summon previous partners from other areas, or accessories that allowed you to manipulate the field like the Legion of Stationery... if there was like OP for Origami Points (don't let that name stick) that allowed you to call upon Vellumentals and the Legion, that could be so incredible! As much as I adored the Ring Battle System, due to its lack of meaningful character customization, I can't give this any higher of a score.
Battle System - 10
This is the most controversial aspect of Paper Mario: The Origami King... but I am one of the people who freaking loves this battle system. I'm not going to pretend like I don't miss the Badge System, but the battling itself? I can do without the old combat because I loved this battle system so much. Solving these puzzles and beating up enemies was so fun, and I found myself purposefully running into battles in this game more than any other game in the series. Sure, I may not have gotten experience from battle, but I got plenty of coins that I could use to permanently (or semi-permanently?) upgrade Mario. I understand the claim that there isn't much incentive to battle, but at the same time, even if there was literally no incentive to battle, I still would because, in the end, having fun is the biggest reward of fighting for me. However, this would probably only score an 8 or 9 just considering the mechanics for regular encounters, as it does have its flaws. However, this game might have my favorite boss battles of any RPG I've ever played, and at the least is in my top 5, up there with Blue Dragon, Lost Odyssey, Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch, and Final Fantasy X. The mechanics flip around, with the boss taking center stage instead of Mario, making the boss battles into some of the most confuzzling, cinematic, and satisfying boss fights in all of gaming. Ultimately, while the regular battles are a little flawed, the boss battles are better than perfection... and I've replayed the bosses an unhealthy amount of times in the Battle Lab...
Story - 10
I've never played a game that took such a simple concept and narrative and hooked me in to become one of my favorite stories ever told in media. The game starts with a fantastic, ominous beginning and instantly takes a demented twist with literal body horror. This game is one of the darkest RPGs if you really think about it! Also, no spoilers here, but there are some of the most emotionally charged moments in Paper Mario: The Origami King I've ever seen in a video game. There are two moments specifically that made me cry for over ten minutes each that involved Bobby and Olivia, respectively. I'd be embarrassed to say that if they weren't genuinely that good, but they are literally such phenomenal moments. On top of those two scenes, Bowser comforting Olivia and Bowser finally accepting Bowser Jr. and Kamek were also very good. Also, this game was by far the least segmented Paper Mario game as, while it was split into chapters, it always had a forward, driving momentum in which every little moment had a big payoff, and then the story whimsically whisked the player off in another direction. Outside of the underutilization of Captain T. Ode during the Purple Streamer chapter, this game has a perfectly crafted story. This is the best example I've ever seen of a simple, charming story bringing out huge emotions and being an unforgettable experience, and I adore that about this game. I could rant about this story for hours, but for the sake of brevity, I will end this section here.
Art & Graphics - 10
I could shout from the rooftops for hours about how I believe this is the best-looking game ever made. Will I? No, I'd rather just talk about it here. The scenery here, the beautiful worldbuilding, the contrast of here, the beautiful worldbuilding, the contrast of paper and origami, the colors... it's all just perfection. I could never imagine liking any other graphics better, but maybe Paper Mario 7 will blow me away.
Music - 9.5
Said by many to be the best soundtrack in the Paper Mario series, this is a phenomenal soundtrack. While I find two other soundtracks in the series to be better, this game still has so many highlights. From the disheartening and enigmatic Sad Olivia to the beautiful, Japanese-inspired Autumn Mountain theme; from all the different Streamer battle themes that perfectly set the mood for the area to the heavy rock miniboss theme that took a new spin on more traditional Paper Mario boss themes; from the endlessly catchy Snif City theme to the unforgettable Vellumental boss theme, there's a reason this is a beloved soundtrack—it's so beloved that hundreds of fantastic musicians covered the soundtrack as a part of a virtual concert! Every single track in this game incredibly elevates the atmosphere and sense of adventure the game conveys, making every area feel distinct and memorable. I believe this soundtrack is the most impressive in the series, even if it isn't my favorite or the one I listen to the most, and it's one of my favorite RPG soundtracks of all time. It's. Just. That. Good.
Characters - 10
I'm ready for my inevitable fate of being hated by fans of the original Paper Mario trilogy, but I firmly believe this game has the best characters in the whole series. From Olivia, the best-developed partner in the series, who has so much that has charm, joy, and character growth, to Bobby, a character that has inspired me to try harder to make an impact in my life and one of my favorite fictional characters of all time; from Professor Toad, an absolutely hilarious character with fun motivations and fantastic dialogue, to Captain T. Ode, an enigmatic character with an intriguing aura around him; from Kamek, Luigi, Bowser, and Bowser Jr., who all get fantastic character development and moments to shine, to Olly, a menacing antagonist that actually feels like a huge threat and literally tortures people with body horror... this game has some insanely awesome characters. I fell in love with every single one, and for that, this game easily deserves a 10 in this category.
Quality of Life - 9
This game doesn't have many issues, but it has two flaws that hold it back from a perfect score: 1) the trophies are a little out there and having to refight every boss for one collectible, and 2) to 100% the game, you can't die, and you can't use accessories, ruining the fun of the game. However, these have to do with some wildly unnecessary side content, so I'm not complaining all that much here.
Sidequests - 10
This game is a phenomenally done collect-a-thon type game, and finding all of the hidden items was incredibly entertaining and promoted extraordinary levels of exploration. Finding the collectibles, Toads, ? Blocks and Non-Bottomless Holes was honestly a ton of fun. And even better than that? The Coffee Shops hidden across the world, where you can talk to enemies and just have a break from the game. This addition shouldn't have added so much to the game, but it did... it was just so well done! While all that is pretty much the only side content in the game, it is executed so masterfully and makes the world feel so alive, and for that, this more than deserves a 10.
Chapters - 10
This game has the most consistently fantastic chapters in the Paper Mario series! While this game continues to have fewer chapters than the original trilogy, it is able to spend more time fleshing out the chapters that are present. While the first chapter (the Red Streamer) is your typical Paper Mario affair, the rest of this game is phenomenal and memorable. I'd have to argue that I've never had as much fun exploring in an RPG as in Paper Mario: The Origami King—the locales in this game are just that good! From a beautiful, Japanese-inspired chapter with a fantastic story to chapters exploring the desert and ocean that are so expansive, to two streamlined, incredibly climactic, story-heavy chapters set in phenomenal areas! I don't want to spoil too much, but this game just oozes beauty, creativity, and unrelenting joy—it more than deserves a perfect score in this category.
Fun Factor: 10
Overall Score: 93%
Letter Rating: S+
While divisive, Paper Mario: The Origami King is one of the most beautiful, charming, innovative, and underrated RPGs of all time, and it is one of my favorite RPGs (and games) of all time—it's in my top five, at the very least! It recaptures and surpasses the feeling I felt playing The Thousand-Year Door as a young child, and I couldn't put this game down for days. I recommend this game to any RPG fan or Mario fan, especially as somebody who originally was so skeptical of this game and thought I was going to utterly hate it. This game is an absolutely magical masterpiece, one of those extraordinary journeys that may change your life like it did for me. It is one of those games that you will finish and instantly want to replay again for the first time. It is a game that transcends gaming as a form of media and will take you on a journey like no other. It is the best Paper Mario game, the best Mario RPG, and one of the greatest games of all time.
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Primary Version: Paper Mario: The Origami King (Nintendo Switch)