"It may play like a platformer, but Super Paper Mario is an RPG at its core." - The Official Guide from Nintendo Power. While this is certainly true, the chapter system closely resembles your typical Mario platformer. Super Paper Mario has 8 chapters, each with 4 levels (with the exception of Chapter 6, which is just confusing). In this article, we will go through the game's eight chapters and rank them from worst to best.
#8 - Outer Space (Chapter 4)
I like the concept of Chapter 4, I just don't enjoy it all that much. As soon as you enter the chapter, you will immediately be thrown out because of lack of oxygen. You then must do a fetch quest to find a fishbowl which somehow manages to infinitely contain breathable air when put loosely on a character's head. In Chapter 4-1, Mario is joined by Squirps, a green alien with the ability to shoot lasers out of its face. This first level isn't bad, per se, but it can be a little bit boring and confusing as the entire level is just asteroids and warp points until you reach the Star Block with a few items on the way. 4-2 is different, returning to normal platformer gameplay, but with low gravity. The entire point of the level is to give a Pixl that's been in the bathroom for 2,000 years some toilet paper: in the shape of an ancient clue to treasure (nothing weird about this concept at all). This level has some backtracking, having to go far through the level to find the Ancient Clue, then you have to return to the bathroom to give it to Fleep in order for Squirps to be able to use the bathroom. Low gravity is always fun, but 4-2 can feel a little bit slow. Chapter 4-3 ain't bad, but it's also not that good. Squirps just sent Mario on a fetch quest to find toilet paper, and now he makes you find him some chocolate. This level is a bit more interesting than 4-1, but it can still be a little annoying sometimes. The Whoa Zone, 4-4, however, is a solid level. The music is slappin', and the concept of traversing on the ceiling and walls is awesome. Pigarithms and Tileoids can be quite annoying, but they're still fun enemies to fight. The Brobot battle is an epic shoot em' up button-mashing experience, which adds a lot to this chapter. Chapter 4 is not necessarily bad, but I'm just not a huge fan.
#7 - Land of the Cragnons (Chapter 5)
I actually really like the second half of Chapter 5. The problem is, well, the first half. Downtown of Crag, 5-1 is the worst level in the game. It's just kind of bad. All there is to this level is finding blocks, going back to town, figuring out the pattern, and then hitting the blocks. And then it happens again, but with 25 hits instead of 3. Seriously, Intelligent Systems, what the heck is this? I am not a huge fan of the theme with the Cragniens, and although it isn't bad, I just am not interested in cavemen. 5-2 is a fun concept, but I don't find the actual level fun. After placing the tablets in the pedestals, Cudge comes out, and while he is a really good Pixl, that doesn't save this level from being very mediocre. Both levels in the Floro Cragnien Caverns, however, are really good. I loved the rollercoasters when I played this for the first time when I was like seven, and even today they are fun (especially if you just bypass the actual cart and use 3D to get past the loop-de-loops). The music is one of the absolute best in the game, and it's just a fun and well-designed level. The final level in the Land of the Cragnons is more compacted than the previous, but it's still great. There's the O'Chunks fight, having to bypass the intruder alarm, and, for the first time out of like 3, Dottie is actually used for a puzzle! Of course we can't forget about the fight with King Croacus, one of the better and more difficult chapter bosses in Super Paper Mario. If every level in the chapter stood up to the standards of the final two levels, then this chapter would rank higher. But the first couple of levels are not very good.
#6 - The Bitlands (Chapter 3)
I know people love the Bitlands, and I can see why. My problem with this chapter is, well, I just find it a little bit boring. The pixelated art style looks really good, but I'm not a huge fan of the gameplay. At the beginning of the chapter, Tippi is stolen by a nerdy frog perv, and you don't get her back until after defeating Francis at the end of the chapter. 3-1 has always felt boring to me. While it's not bad, I've never been a huge fan of the music and the level has always just felt a little bit too long and repetitive for my liking. Exploding Bowser's castle was fun though. The Tile Pool is also not bad, but it is also kind of repetitive. As an underwater level, 3-2 inherently won't be amazing, but it's certainly good for an underwater level. While the level contains some backtracking, it isn't horrible. This level houses Thudley, one of the best Pixls in the game, and the Big Blooper makes for a pretty fun fight. 3-3, the Dotwood Tree, is my favorite level in this chapter. The visuals are awesome, the platforming is difficult, and the Dimentio boss fight is great. The problem with this level is that if you make a mistake, you could be sent all the way back to the bottom of the tree or the bottom of the inside of the tree and be forced to activate all the switches again. Fort Francis is interesting. Carrie is found here, but that isn't groundbreaking as she is, in my opinion, one of the worst Pixls in the game. Overall, Fort Francis is a good level. The easter eggs relating to previous games and the swoon.exe section make for a nice touch and the boss fight is fun (yet slightly forgettable). After Francis is defeated, Barry, a good Pixl, can be found after revisiting 3-1. All in all, Chapter 3 is definitely a visually appealing chapter with some great elements, but I just can't find myself to enjoy it all that much most of the time.
#5 - Lineland (Chapter 1)
Lineland is a first chapter done right. It's simple to understand, introduces the game's main mechanics well, and has one of the most epic boss fights in the game at the end. The game's first level, 1-1, does not start slow to get into the action, introducing Flipping, Items, Cards, and Powerups all within about ten minutes of gameplay. The music is also a medley of previous Mario themes, which is cool for longtime fans. 1-2 is another solid early level (and the music is just so slappin'). New mechanics, like ladders, flip blocks, and those weird square elevators or whatever they're called. Once Mario reaches Yold Town, there are the stupid Red and Green ripoff Mario Bros., shops, but more importantly than the rest: the first swappable Pixl, Thoreau. This level is perfect for the second level in the game. The Yold Desert has some backtracking because of the clues, but that isn't a big deal since this level has the same great music as the previous level, and introduces the first boss fight in the game: O'Chunks. The fight isn't too hard, but it also isn't free. 1-4, as the first final level, isn't amazing, but the puzzles are interesting, and the difficulty is on point. But the best part about this level, as stated earlier: Fracktail. The scale on which this battle is fought is phenomenal, like who doesn't want to jump on top of a giant dragon and throw baby circle things at it's antenna. That's just sick. The music is incredible, and the part where Dimentio posseses Fracktail is funny (at least to a computer geek like me). Overall, Lineland is a great first chapter, but that's just what it is: a first chapter.
#4 - Sammer's Kingdom (Chapter 6)
Chapter 6 is... well... to say the least, weird. At first, this chapter is just a tournament of 100 samurai warriors in order to get the Pure Heart. Sounds normal, right? Well, the Void is incredibly strong in this dimension; after just twenty battles, it's too late, and 6-1 ends. In the next level, King Sammer comes to give Mario the Pure Heart, but, as it turns out, who appears to be King Sammer is actually Bleck's minion, Mimi. After the battle with her, the Void consumes the entire kingdom. This event shows that Count Bleck is not messing around in his plan to obliterate the universe. The party is somehow warped back to Flipside (Mario game logic). Once the door to Chapter 6 is entered again, the destruction really shows. The entire world is completely empty for a while, until bits and pieces of the destroyed Sammer's Kingdom start appearing. The themes of this "6-3" are superb, but the problem is that there is just no gameplay here! Even with Dashell or Carrie, reaching the boss takes too long, at like 5 minutes. Brobot L-Type is also on the lower end of the spectrum when it comes to bosses in this game. After retrieving the now soulless Pure Heart, the party returns to Merlon's residence, and during a discussion, Dimentio appears and, for the purpose of simplification, he slaughters the entire party and sends them to heck. The Underwhere in Chapter 6 is a really good level, much better than the revisit in Chapter 7. Heck, some online guides say that both visits are part of Chapter 7, but, one cannot disagree with the official guide from Nintendo Power! In the Underwhere, Mario, separated from his friends, meets his brother Luigi, and helps Queen Jaydes find her "daughter", Luvbi. Playing through this level with just Mario makes it tricky due to the abundance of flipping puzzles and difficult jumps. Chapter 6 is the best story-wise (except for maybe Chapter 8), but half of the levels are just boss fights with no gameplay at all, which means this chapter just can't place higher than it is.
#3 - The Underwhere/Overthere (Chapter 7)
I've seen people rank Chapter 7 high before, but not for the same reason that I think. Some may find it a surprise, immediately after placing the Pure Heart restored by Jaydes in the pillar and entering the seventh door, that they end up back in the land of ended games. 7-1 is bascially just a sprint back to Jaydes' palace. Since the map is the exact same, there are no new treasures to be found. While this level is not bad, it's the same level you just played five minutes ago except shorter. The Underwhere Road is one of my favorite levels in the chapter. The ascent through the tower, while repetitive, is still fun, and the Underchomp, just straight epic. This is where the unpopular opinions begin. I like Overthere Stair more than the Overthere. I've always just liked 7-3, I don't care if it's good or not, I just find this level fun. With the knowledge of which apples are needed, the level isn't backtracking heavy and the gameplay is fun. My problem with 7-4 is that it feels just too similar to 7-3, and the gameplay feels slightly stale by that point. Getting the orbs is a little bit repetitive, but it isn't bad. I surprisingly actually like the Bonechill fight, and didn't find it too easy. The part with Luvbi at the end was touching when Jaydes and Grambi revealed that they weren't actually her parents and that she was actually the Pure Heart in disguise. Chapter 7 is very enjoyable to me, hence the placement in the top 3.
#2 - Gloam Valley (Chapter 2)
There's no perfect explanation for why I love Chapter 2 as much as I do. I really wanted to place this as number one, but nostalgia and weird interests don't deserve to put an entry above a more well-designed one. Gloam Valley (2-1) is similar to Chapter 1-1 as it explains Peach's mechanics in a really good way, similarly to 1-1. Boomer, one of the better Pixls, can also be found here. The first level of the chapter isn't outstanding, but it's certainly a solid introduction to a chapter. But, as expected, the real reason the game's second chapter earns first is Merlee's Mansion. I just love this stupid place. All three levels here are some of my favorite. Every time I play through this game, I've gone into every trap room in 2-2 just to solve some puzzles and get some coins and points. Finding Mimi for the first time and learning that she is, well, just a little bit suspicious is always silly and fun. Ah, 2-3. I absolutely love this level. I don't care if the internet has the codes. I don't care that it takes over six minutes of running on a wheel to get enough Rubees for the passcode. I just love this level. It begins when Mario hits a block with Mimi's favorite vase on top of it, causing her to rage and force you to get one million Rubees, believing that Mario could never obtain that many and have him trapped forever (or something like that). Clearly, getting that many Rubees would take an obscenely long amount of time. So after hitting the blocks in the generator room enough times, a man will give you the passcode to the VIP room for the cost of 100 Rubees. After getting 10,000 in there, another man will trade for the vault passcode: where a million Rubees lie. Even with the internet and the official game guide, I always unlock the passwords myself because I just find it fun. A Pixl can be found here: Slim. While he isn't horrible, he's on the lower end of the list. Merlee's Basement, although it is far shorter than I remembered it to be, is also a phenomenal level. Every time Mimi appears in the room you're in and the music changes, it triggers that "oh heck" feeling that feels like a mini heart attack (obviously overexaggerated but I don't care). The "That's My Merlee" segment is hilarious, but it's too easy to find the real Merlee, just look for the fly. The Mimi boss at the end is fantastic, especially if you pick her up and throw her with Thoreau. I'm sorry for the small amount of reasoning on this chapter's placement, but it's hard to describe. Every level here is great.
#1 - Castle Bleck (Chapter 8)
The final chapter. Castle Bleck is incredible. After seven chapters of gathering Pure Hearts in hopes of stopping the growing Void, the party is ready for the final battle against the man behind the destruction: Count Bleck. This chapter is challenging, filled to the brim with puzzles, and perfect for a finale. Everyone in Count Bleck's crew is fought here (except for Nastasia). The theme of black and white is phenomenal, and every boss battle here is great because of the character restrictions. Each level is similar, but after every level, a character from the party is left behind and "dies" (but it's a Mario game). Every stage coincides with the boss fought there: 8-1 has lots of enemies which kind of makes sense of O'Chunks (that one is a stretch), and 8-2 has traps, a very obviously fake Merlee, and even the chance to rematch... Francis? (yeah I didn't know this until I started writing this article). Dimentio's level, 8-3, is full of mirrors, Dimentio clones, and rooms with required paths to take (similar to the light puzzles in FFVI). Every boss fight here is great: the big O'Chunks where Bowser is lost, the fast and furious Mimi battle with just Peach, and, of course, the Dimentio fight where Mario must run through each of the chapters before Luigi fights the real battle. After the difficult platforming section, Mario and the Pixls will finally reach the inner sanctum that you've seen many times over. At first, Bleck is invincible, but after the Pure Hearts' power breaks his shield, the battle against the Count will begin. This fight is amazing, but it, as with many other bosses in this game, is too easy. When Bleck is defeated, Dimentio reveals himself, and the Void begins to consume the worlds. The Super Dimentio fight is just as great as the Count Bleck fight. Also, the ending of the game is excellent. Castle Bleck is simply an outstanding chapter, with balanced quality over the music, theming, gameplay, and boss fights.
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